Hands-on Review of the Patagonia Refugitive
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.
Testing the Refugitive's ability to stand up to the harsh cold and rigors of multi-pitch ice climbing on the second gully above Eureka in the San Juan Mountains.
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 Free Thinker Jacket for the lowest score.
While the jacket was certainly waterproof, we thought the bill of the hood was inadequate for protecting our face, and some water was able to run down our neck while standing under the shower.
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
In a size medium this jacket was trim and athletically cut. You can see here how the brim of the hood is a bit too small and doesn't offer quite enough coverage, although overall we felt this was a great jacket.
We felt inclined to order a size men's medium rather than large for our head tester. He has a large sized frame but is skinny, and in our past experience, Patagonia's size large is simply far too baggy and loose fitting on him. If you tend to fall in between sizes, we recommend trying Patagonia garments on before ordering your normal size. For our size medium, the hem was barely
long enough for our liking, and likewise, the sleeves were barely
long enough. They were not too short, however, and the issue was probably due to us sizing down.
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.
This jacket was only barely long enough in the sleeves and hem. We had to order a size medium this go around because last year size larges from Patagonia were just too big. There is also an elastic attachment loop on the back of this jacket for joining it with snow pants to keep it in place while skiing.
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 pit zips and very flexible material on this jacket make it good to go for uphill skiing as well. On this day it was needed for wind protection.
While we like chest pockets for alpine climbing better than handwarmer pockets, we like that these ones lived above the harness so were still usable.
We gave the Refugitive
9 out of 10 possible points for features, which was second best. The only thing holding it back from getting the perfect rating was the lack of a couple extra draw cords around the hood to help keep the weather out, something we hope will be remedied in future versions. Overall, we thought this jacket had some of the best and most functional features in the review. The Cohaesive embedded cord lock system was by far the best draw cord buckle we used and was simple and easy to manipulate with gloves. This system was used on all draw cords, both on the back of the hood and on the waist.
The Cohaesive embedded cord lock system on the Refugitive was the single best draw cord buckle that we found on any of the jackets. It releases by simply pushing on the circle and was easily to manipulate with gloves on.
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.
We felt that the single draw cord of cinching up the hood enclosure was a bit insufficient. This jacket wasn't by any means the very lightest, so it would have been nicer to give side draw cords like all the other jackets did, a system that certainly worked better.
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.
Black is Peter Dever's favorite color, shown here as he drops into the top of the Granddaddy couloir on Red Mountain Pass. We like bright colors better as they increase the ability to spot a person in debris should they be caught in an avalanche.
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.
The Refugitive was designed to be used as either a backcountry ski jacket or for alpine climbing. Here Peter Dever drops a knee near Silverton, testing the snowproofness.