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Patagonia Refugitive Review
Cons: Poor hood design allows rain into the face and neck.
Bottom line: Our favorite hardshell from Patagonia is a great choice no matter what the winter activity.
The Patagonia Refugitive, now in its second winter since its release, remains relatively unchanged except for color scheme. It uses a GORE-TEX 3L membrane with the new GORE C-Knit backer technology. Designed as an all-around winter jacket that is equally capable as either a ski jacket or climbing jacket, the Refugitive delivers on its promise. It has perhaps the best and most functional set of features in any jacket in this review, and the stretchy 30 and 40 denier face fabrics, combined with the GORE membrane, make it one of the more flexible and supple we tried. However, it has a few flaws that held it back from being rated quite as highly as the Arc'teryx Alpha FL or Outdoor Research Axiom. Nevertheless, the Refugitive is a high-quality offering from Patagonia and one that we would recommend.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Patagonia Refugitive is unique to this review due to the stretchiness of its face fabric paired with the GORE-TEX 3L membrane. No other jacket using this membrane was so stretchy and supple, one of the most valuable characteristics for a jacket designed for movement. The Refugitive goes a step further and adds in some fantastic features like the Cohaesive embedded cord-lock system — the single best draw cord buckle we tested that basically put all others to shame. However, at the end of the day, the single drawcord tightened Optimal Visibility Hood was woefully inadequate when put to the test, failing to protect the face from a downpour, and allowing water to run down the neck, and was thus ranked lower than most of the jackets in this review.
For those interested in how the Refugitive compares to the Patagonia Triolet, we would recommend the Refugitive first. Its stretchiness and much lighter weight face fabric combination made for a more comfortable jacket. It is lighter and much more packable, than the Triolet, but has fewer pockets and draw cords to help it cut down on weight. Despite different designs and methods of tightening, unfortunately, both jackets' hoods are inadequate, and do not prevent water from getting inside the collar during a true downpour. If money is not an issue, then the Refugitive, $100 more expensive than the Triolet, is the better value.
The combination of GORE-TEX 3-layer and C-Knit backer technology, a new interior laminate layer that supposedly allows a jacket to be lighter and more breathable, did a great job of protecting us from the elements. What didn't do a great job of protecting us from the elements was the storm hood. Like the Patagonia Triolet, the bill of the Refugitive is too small to adequately shield the face from water coming down from above. Additionally, Patagonia only used a single draw cord in the rear of the hood for tightening the hood and face enclosure. This feature didn't work well, which we found especially frustrating considering Patagonia's obvious attention to detail to all other aspects of this jacket.
In our shower test, we couldn't tighten the hood nearly as much as other jackets, and the result was that water poured in via the sides of the hood brim and literally ran straight down the neck. Despite being very protective in other ways, we couldn't award more than 6 out of 10 points for weather protection, tied with The North Face Fuseform Brigandine 3L and The North Face Free Thinker Jacket for the lowest score.
Weight and Packability
Our size men's medium Refugitive weighed in at 14.7 ounces, the same as the Best Bang for the Buck winning Outdoor Research Axiom. We find the sizing of Patagonia garments to be different than some other brands, and had to order a medium instead of a large, so a comparable men's large would be a little heavier. In reality, this is a light jacket that adds a little weight with extra features, like lots of pockets and pit zips.
Mobility and Fit
As a result of sizing down, however, we were rewarded with a fit that was sleek and trim, without extra room and bagginess to get in our way when looking down at our feet. Finally, the membrane/face fabric material was stretchy, supple, and very mobile, and not as constrictive in the chest and under arm areas like the Patagonia Triolet jacket. While it wasn't quite as mobile as the top scoring Outdoor Research Axiom, we still thought it was one of the best, and gave it 8 out of 10 points.
Venting and Breathability
The GORE C-Knit backer laminate is supposed to allow the GORE-TEX 3L membrane underneath as much as 15% more breathability than other laminates. Our primary breathability test was our treadmill test, where we found the Refugitive to be quite hot while running, and a slight bit of moisture built up on the inside around the back of our neck. This finding was in no way egregious, but doesn't allow us to substantiate the claims about C-Knit. The jacket does include pit zips for venting capability, which allows the user a more practical way of dispersing extra heat and sweat that builds up. These were not as prominently featured as on the top scoring jackets for venting, the Rab Latok Alpine Jacket or the Outdoor Research Furio. We gave it 7 out of 10 points.
The Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell was the only other jacket that employed a similar system. We also loved the Refugitive's large interior non-zip stash pocket for stowing extra gloves or a hat when it gets too warm. This jacket also comes with an elasticized strap in the back to attach to snow pants to keep the jacket from riding up in deep snow. The pit zips offer added venting, and the handwarmer pockets sit high enough above the waist to be functional with a pack or harness. Finally, this shell comes with an embedded Recco reflector for those who like to ski questionable terrain while in bounds.
The Refugitive is designed to be an all-around jacket that will excel at both backcountry skiing and alpine or ice climbing. We would have to agree and happily recommend it for all winter purposes. Due to the flaws in the hood, however, we wouldn't say it's a great option for rainy weather or super wet climates.
The Refugitive will set you back $499. While it is an excellent product, there is no doubt that it costs more than a whole host of other jackets that managed to outperform it in our tests. While we doubt people will be unhappy with this great jacket, there is better value to be found for the money conscious.
The Patagonia Refugitive is a great jacket for backcountry skiing and alpine climbing. While we happily recommend it, we have to warn that the hood is not up to the high standards of the other jackets in this review, and perhaps it costs more than it should. That said, we loved its lightweight feel, the supple flexibility, and the top-notch features. Despite its flaws, the Refugitive is a jacket worth owning.
— Andy Wellman
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