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Outdoor Research Refuge Hoody Review

A heavyweight insulated jacket that thrives when the temperatures drop
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $220 List | $109.83 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Warm, comfortable, looks great, affordable
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, sleeves a tad short
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 27, 2020
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 12
  • Warmth - 25% 9
  • Weight and Compressability - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 6
  • Breathability - 15% 4
  • Style - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Refuge is our favorite insulated jacket to wear when we simply want to be warm. It combines paneled sheets of 60g/m VerticalX insulation designed to aid in breathability with a slim fit that ensures you don't need to heat any extra space. The soft face fabrics look nice and are comfortably smooth to the touch; they don't give off that crinkly appearance so typical with other nylon jackets and don't make noise while you move. While it isn't the absolute warmest jacket according to our testing, it is really close, and also comfortable and stylish. If you are in the market for an affordable jacket that looks nice and does a great job keeping you warm, look no farther than the Refuge.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Refuge should not be confused with the OR Refuge Air, which is a much lighter active layer using many of the same materials. The Refuge is a beefy, burly insulated jacket that may incorporate all of the same breathable technologies found on the Air, but which is simply too warm for us to consider wearing when working out. We put this jacket on when we stop moving to trap the heat that our body is generating.

This jacket uses OR's VerticalX insulation, which is layered in sheets that don't need to be baffled and is arranged vertically to allow moist air to escape easier ("breathe"). It has two zippered hand pockets and another zippered chest pocket, while also sporting a helmet compatible hood that can be tightened via three separate drawcords. This jacket works best as a belay jacket on cold winter ice climbing or ski missions, as a stand alone jacket on spring or fall days when climbing in the shade or hanging outdoors in the mornings or evenings, or as an around-town piece all winter long.

Performance Comparison


Wearing the Refuge in front of the Parthenon  atop the Acropolis hill in the center of Athens  Greece. This jacket is very warm  stylish  and comfortable  and was easily one of our favorites for wearing around a city or for everyday use.
Wearing the Refuge in front of the Parthenon, atop the Acropolis hill in the center of Athens, Greece. This jacket is very warm, stylish, and comfortable, and was easily one of our favorites for wearing around a city or for everyday use.

Warmth


We tested the warmth of this jacket through the course of three late winter months, and on one day, took it to a local ski hill in a blizzard. We tested it side by side with the other jackets in this review to see how it performed. Our side-by-side tests revealed that this is indeed one warm jacket, easily warmer than most, especially all of the lightweight active layers, and even warmer than most of the heavier insulated jackets as well.


The Refuge accomplishes this with panels of 60g/m VerticalX insulation, which is notable because most it doesn't require baffling like the Rab and Patagonia competitors, while still managing to stay in place and highly lofted. Since this jacket is designed to be breathable as well, we think a bit of warmth may have been sacrificed by choosing to use breathable fabrics, but the large amount of thick, heavy insulation ensures that this is a jacket that will do a great job keeping you warm.

While we wore this jacket nearly every day during our testing period  we took it out in this blizzard in the Cascades in order to test its warmth against many other top competitors  head-to-head  in the gnarliest conditions. The dense  heavy insulation makes it one of the warmest in this review  and the hood  collar  and hem drawstrings all act to help protect you in the worst elements.
While we wore this jacket nearly every day during our testing period, we took it out in this blizzard in the Cascades in order to test its warmth against many other top competitors, head-to-head, in the gnarliest conditions. The dense, heavy insulation makes it one of the warmest in this review, and the hood, collar, and hem drawstrings all act to help protect you in the worst elements.

Weight and Compressibility


On our independent scale, we weighed this jacket at 19 ounces for a size large, which is curious because the weight listed on OR's website is 20.1 ounces for a size medium. Regardless, it tips the scale as one of the heaviest jackets in this review. Ignoring the scale and just going off of feel, it also feels present on the body when wearing it. That said, we are confident that most of the weight of this jacket will be found in its insulation, so at least the price in ounces is directly given back in heat.


It's possible to stuff this jacket into its left-hand pocket, which is zippered. We found that it takes a bit of time and effort to do so because the insulation in this jacket is so lofty, it simply doesn't want to easily compress. Additionally, the opening of the pocket isn't super large compared to the size of the finished package when stuffed, so you have to massage it into all the distant corners as you stuff. There is a keeper loop for clipping it on. While we think stuffing the jacket to get maximum compression for traveling or packing into a tight bag is appropriate, the effort required means that this isn't a jacket we are going to be stuffing every day just to carry in our daypack.

The Refuge is on the left  stuffed into its own left hand pocket  and is being compared to the two Rab jackets in this review. You can see that it is the largest one of the bunch  and compared to the nalgene bottle is not exactly small. Stuffing like this also takes a fair bit of effort  and so makes for convenient trip packing  but is likely not worth the time for day missions.
The Refuge is on the left, stuffed into its own left hand pocket, and is being compared to the two Rab jackets in this review. You can see that it is the largest one of the bunch, and compared to the nalgene bottle is not exactly small. Stuffing like this also takes a fair bit of effort, and so makes for convenient trip packing, but is likely not worth the time for day missions.

Comfort


This is a very comfortable jacket, and the comfort of wearing it day in and day out is one of the principal reasons we chose to recommend it as a Top Pick. In particular, we like how the soft interior fabric feels against our skin. It has a similar matte finish and look to the ripstop polyester used on the outside, and feels nicer and more natural than the many super slippery, techier nylon fabrics common on puffy jackets such as these. We also like the tricot fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, as well as the patch that serves as a chin guard when the front is fully zipped up. The large hood is deep and comfortable, and the hem is comfortably low to keep us protected.


The inside of the hand pockets are lined with tricot fleece  which is fine-grained and very soft. We love this nice touch which puts a smile on our face whenever we put our hands in there. You can also see the grey reflective stripe that lines the pocket opening on the upper side.
The inside of the hand pockets are lined with tricot fleece, which is fine-grained and very soft. We love this nice touch which puts a smile on our face whenever we put our hands in there. You can also see the grey reflective stripe that lines the pocket opening on the upper side.

If we had to complain a little, though, it would have to be about the fit of the sleeves. We found them to be a bit short, especially if we reached our hands over our heads, but also if we crossed our arms in front of us, or bent our elbows while raising our arms. Simply stretching our arms straight out to the sides was not enough to cause the sleeves to ride up our wrists; you can find some complaints about these problems in online customer reviews. Our head tester has long arms and broad shoulders, so he often encounters problems such as these, and indeed, OR is one brand whose sizing is often slightly problematic for him when it comes to the sleeve length and shoulder tightness.

The chest pocket is zippered and plenty large enough for a phone  wallet  or sunglasses. Also visible in this photo is one of the sleeve cuffs  which are not adjustable but are elasticized so they do a good job of sealing off the opening.
The chest pocket is zippered and plenty large enough for a phone, wallet, or sunglasses. Also visible in this photo is one of the sleeve cuffs, which are not adjustable but are elasticized so they do a good job of sealing off the opening.

Compared to many other OR jackets we've tested and reviewed over the years, this one fits well. That said, if you happen to fall on the threshold of sizing, you should probably opt for the larger option (in the Refuge).

Raising our hands in this manner above our heads reveals one of our primary issues with this jacket  the sleeves are a bit too short! You can see how they ride up our arms. This doesn't happen in other arm positions.
Raising our hands in this manner above our heads reveals one of our primary issues with this jacket, the sleeves are a bit too short! You can see how they ride up our arms. This doesn't happen in other arm positions.

Weather Resistance


While the Refuge will certainly keep you warm, our testing reveals that it is by no means one of the most weather resistant. Due to using fabrics and technologies that emphasize breathability, we found that the wind cut through this jacket a bit more than the jackets we tested that had a tightly woven, wind-breaker like nylon outer fabric. The thickness of the insulation itself does a solid job breaking the wind.


When it comes to water resistance, no insulating layer is designed to be as resistant as a shell. This one comes with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied to the face, as most do, that causes a light amount of water to bead up and drop off. When we tested it by spraying it with a hose after many months of use, the DWR coating on the front of the jacket had mostly worn off, and the fabric quickly wetted out and allowed water absorption. Left in the sun and breeze after this test, we found that it dried very quickly.

The Refuge comes with a DWR coating in place on the outside. This photo was taken after a few months of regular use. You can see that the coating remains effective on the sleeve  where water is beading up and sheds off easily with a shake  but on the front of the torso it is no longer working  and allows water to absorb into the face fabric. While these results are somewhat common among jackets of this type  the fact is that this one repelled the elements a little bit less than some others with tightly woven nylon face fabrics.
The Refuge comes with a DWR coating in place on the outside. This photo was taken after a few months of regular use. You can see that the coating remains effective on the sleeve, where water is beading up and sheds off easily with a shake, but on the front of the torso it is no longer working, and allows water to absorb into the face fabric. While these results are somewhat common among jackets of this type, the fact is that this one repelled the elements a little bit less than some others with tightly woven nylon face fabrics.

Breathability


The combination of VerticalX insulation and OR's ActiveTemp polymer treatment makes this a jacket that is designed to breathe well. These technologies are combined with air permeable face fabrics that do a good job of allowing some level of air transfer. Despite this, we found this to be one of the most intolerable jackets to wear once we had worked up a sweat, due in large part to how heavy and hot it is.


Frankly speaking, breathable garments and fabrics are great on lightweight layers that are thin enough to not superheat you while working out. However, big thick puffy jackets are simply too heavy and warm to consider wearing once you are sweating profusely. We were very hot the moment we started exercising in this jacket and immediately opted to vent heavily, or simply take the jacket off. No matter what technology is used on the inside to aid in breathability, we are stripping this thing off once we get warmed up.

Testing the breathability of this jacket by hiking up a massive hill in Meteora  Greece. While we appreciate the breathable fabrics and technology incorporated  we simply found the jacket too warm to really want to wear while working hard  and would sooner vent or remove the jacket than wear it while sweating.
Testing the breathability of this jacket by hiking up a massive hill in Meteora, Greece. While we appreciate the breathable fabrics and technology incorporated, we simply found the jacket too warm to really want to wear while working hard, and would sooner vent or remove the jacket than wear it while sweating.

Style


We tested the burgundy colored version of this jacket that is offset by a charcoal grey fabric as the interior liner. The stylish looks of this jacket make it a top contender to wear out on the town without looking like "outdoors guy," and were another reason we came to love this jacket.


The face fabric has a matte finish that doesn't easily wrinkle, crinkle, crease, or look shiny, and we especially love how the jacket is made without baffles. Rather than exude the familiar puffy look, it presents a smooth exterior with minimal seams. The two hand pockets are accented with a strip of reflective grey tape that lights up at night under a headlamp, although we don't think this effects the style much at all. Wear this one out on the town!

Out on a winter dog walk in Smith Rock State Park. We like the Refuge's matte finish that is shiny and flashy  and also think the solid fabric design  rather than with many sewn baffles  presents an intriguing look.
Out on a winter dog walk in Smith Rock State Park. We like the Refuge's matte finish that is shiny and flashy, and also think the solid fabric design, rather than with many sewn baffles, presents an intriguing look.

Value


While one or two jackets in this review can be had for a bit cheaper, the fact is this is one of the most affordable insulated jackets you will find. Considering it is very warm, and also comfortable and stylish, we think it is a solid value purchase and one that will not likely disappoint.

A cool  drizzly day at the Twin Caves crag in Leonidio  Greece. The Refuge makes for an excellent belay jacket and is super comfortable to hang out in all day. This jacket can be used in all seasons  and can be layered under when temps really drop.
A cool, drizzly day at the Twin Caves crag in Leonidio, Greece. The Refuge makes for an excellent belay jacket and is super comfortable to hang out in all day. This jacket can be used in all seasons, and can be layered under when temps really drop.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Refuge is our Top Pick for Warmth, not only because it's really warm, but also because it's comfortable to wear and looks great. We think it makes an ideal jacket for your everyday winter usage, but can also be pulled into service as a belay coat or as a warmth layer for under the shell when skiing on the lifts. To top it off, it comes at an affordable price, making it hard to go wrong.

Wearing the Refuge on a cold  but very pretty day  while sightseeing at the ancient Acropolis in Athens  Greece.
Wearing the Refuge on a cold, but very pretty day, while sightseeing at the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Greece.


Andy Wellman