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Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hoody - Women's Review

Stay warm and dry while tackling your most aerobic adventures in cold weather
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $229 List | $113.83 at REI
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Pros:  Very breathable, relatively warm for weight, good wind protection, packable and light, good price
Cons:  Lacks water resistance, absorbent material
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 6, 2020
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52
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 13
  • Warmth - 25% 5
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 5
  • Comfort & Coziness - 20% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 4
  • Breathability - 15% 9
  • Style & Fit - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Refuge Air offers unbeatable breathable performance. We tested it while hiking, cold-weather running, climbing, and for general wear around town. In the coldest days, it doesn't offer the most insulative warmth but functions perfectly as a mid-layer. Where it really shines is during aerobic cold-weather exercise. Whether you're summiting a huge mountain in the Northern latitudes during summer or hitting the cross-country ski track in the midst of weather, this jacket offers great wind protection and off-loads heat like no other. Unfortunately, it struggles when layering overtops bulkier layers and offers next to no water protection.

Color Updates

An up-to-date color choice for the Refuge Air Hoody is shown above. The jacket specs remain the same as the red version we tested below.

March 2020

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Outdoor Research Refuge Air offers an outstanding level of breathability. We are also surprised by its relative amount of stand-alone warmth for its lightweight design. If you need a jacket that breathes well, and will protect from the wind when you're not in motion, this is one to consider. Just know the fit is tight and a bit restrictive.

Performance Comparison


The Refuge Air Hoody offers a nice balance of warmth and breathability. It's a favorite for sweaty winter endeavors due to its awesome ability to breathe and offload heat.
The Refuge Air Hoody offers a nice balance of warmth and breathability. It's a favorite for sweaty winter endeavors due to its awesome ability to breathe and offload heat.

Warmth


For its lightweight design, this jacket is surprisingly warm when both wet and dry. Loaded with 70-g/m^3 of 100% polyester insulation, it holds warmth generated by the body in conditions that aren't too cold. We prefer to wear this jacket on its own in the shoulder seasons like fall and spring. It also functions well as a summer jacket in colder environments like the alpine. For the winter, it works wonderfully as an additional layer to wear underneath a shell when strolling through town, or as your only layer of warmth during cold morning runs, when temperatures are dipping well into the negatives.

It's thinner in design  but paired with gloves and additional layers it makes for a wonderful winter activewear piece.
It's thinner in design, but paired with gloves and additional layers it makes for a wonderful winter activewear piece.

When temperatures were seriously cold, and winds were ripping, this jacket was not the first choice to wear on a stroll at night with the dog, nor did we want to wear it simply to get the doorsteps of our friend's house during Thanksgiving.

The material is quite thin and doesn't offer the best warmth.
The material is quite thin and doesn't offer the best warmth.

Its aerobic warmth is unsurpassed by any other jacket, simply because it breathes so well. We often layered it with a wicking base layer when temperatures were hovering around freezing, and winds were ripping to make it feel like negatives temperatures. This jacket (without a shell) kept us warm while we were running. Since the inner liner absorbs quite a bit of water, it gets wet but the insulative polyester still provides the warmth you need on the go. Overall, it doesn't have the best stand-alone warmth, but the amount of heat it holds and lets off when moving, is impressive, offering great thermoregulation with just a simple merino wool base layer.

Weight & Compression


On the scale, this jacket weighs in at 13.45 ounces, which is just under one pound. Given its lightweight nature, it feels "airy" when you're wearing it and doesn't feel bulky or heavy when layered over a fleece or under a shell or heavier jacket.

The weight for a size small is heavier than most insulative jackets  but still light in the grand scheme of things.
The weight for a size small is heavier than most insulative jackets, but still light in the grand scheme of things.

That said, on rock climbing or running trips where space is seriously limited if you're not going to be wearing the jacket all the time, this one is not nearly as compressible as other jackets we've tested with continuous shell or baffled designs.

Comfort & Coziness


This jacket is comfortable and cozy enough for all-day wear. Our only real caveats are that it's harder to layer because of its wicking lining, and the material isn't as stretchy as other jackets out there. Aside from that, we appreciate the fabrics, build, and functional uses of all its components.

The pockets are large and offer plenty of storage.
The pockets are large and offer plenty of storage.

Let's start with the interior lining. The 50D high quality knit tricot is a polyester material. Against the skin, it's not as soft as fleece, but it still feels cozy. Those that are super sensitive to "scratchy" materials might find the polyester to be too rigid for their liking, but most of our testers thought it was comfortable, even when we were sweating while hiking, with a t-shirt under the jackets. If you're not sure, order it, and try it on. If you don't like it, send it back, or love it forever.

It layers nicely with thinner pieces  but thicker layers have a harder time underneath this jacket.
It layers nicely with thinner pieces, but thicker layers have a harder time underneath this jacket.

Another point about the liner is that it is 'grabby'. Unlike all the other jackets that have a less breathable lining, it can grab layers that have more friction, like a hi-pile fleece, that you might pull over the top of it. We found ourselves really wrestling with the jacket in these situations. However, pulling it over a t-shirt, base layer or a low-pile fleece is no problem. The fabric is fairly stretchy and offers good movement once on.

Though the hood fits a helmet  we wouldn't say it's designed for one.
Though the hood fits a helmet, we wouldn't say it's designed for one.

The single hem-string pull allows us to manipulate ventilation. By pulling it, you can attempt to keep warmth inside the jacket or keep it lose to let the heat seep out on its own. We also like the hood. It's fitted, but unfortunately doesn't have much room for a helmet or have any area for adjustments — so no pull strings on the back or around the hood lining.

Zipped up  the hood is tight and a bit uncomfortable with a helmet underneath.
Zipped up, the hood is tight and a bit uncomfortable with a helmet underneath.

The cuffs are simple elastics. They work fine with different types of gloves, fitting easily over or underneath with ease. The cuffs are not really tapered in any way, and we love that there is a thumb loop to make layering a little easier.

The simple thumb loop makes it a little easier to layer.
The simple thumb loop makes it a little easier to layer.

This jacket also has excellent storage! On the outside, it has one larger pocket on the breast (on the outside) and two handwarmer pockets. When running and skiing, we put our iPhone in the breast pocket and pumped the tunes.

The pockets are well ventilated and a point for breathability.
The pockets are well ventilated and a point for breathability.

The handwarmer pockets are medium in size, offering enough room to store a phone or a few snacks on the go. We could also fit our gloved hands inside, no problem. Inside the jacket are two storage pockets, perfect for storing a pair of gloves while hiking uphill. We could also use the zippers on this jacket with ease, pulling them up or down with a pair of gloves. The garage around the chin is helpful to keep the metal off the face, especially when you're skiing, hiking, or running into the wind.

The chest pocket.
The chest pocket.

Weather Resistance


This jacket offers decent protection in the face of dry, windy weather. However, when it comes to rain or snow, this jacket is one of the most absorptive that we've tested, in both field and at-home objective tests.

Spraying the jacket with water for about two minutes.
Spraying the jacket with water for about two minutes.

If the wind is your concern, have no fear. We tested this jacket in super cold temperatures, on several runs, early in the morning. When our faces were freezing off from stingy, cold, and fast winds, our core was kept quite warm and protected. The face fabric is built with a nylon and polyester fusion that both breathes and cuts the wind well. So if wind-cutting performance is what you need, this will definitely perform, and is another reason it functions well for climbing, skiing, or playing on windy summits and mountain tops.

The water initially beads  but then soaks in.
The water initially beads, but then soaks in.

Now moisture is another animal. On many of our runs, we were surprised at how well this fabric wicks and breathes. However, when temperatures did begin to rise, sweating (in any insulated jacket) is inevitable. Since it breathes and vents so well, we didn't feel the need to take it off. However, the water wicked away from our merino-wool baselayer absorbed into the liner fabric. While some of it was able to evaporate, the moisture (that couldn't evaporate) eventually absorbed into the fabric of the jacket. Given that it insulates when wet, this didn't affect warmth; however, when we got inside, we realized that the coat was actually wet!

Unfortunately  the water seeps all the way through the jacket  absorbing it all. This jacket offers some of the worst water resistance of all the jackets tested.
Unfortunately, the water seeps all the way through the jacket, absorbing it all. This jacket offers some of the worst water resistance of all the jackets tested.

When running in snow and rain, the fabric did a good job of wicking away water droplets. However, if a steady rain is predicted, be ready to get soaked. In our shower tests, the face fabric staved off a steady flow of water for about 20 seconds before completely absorbing. While the water didn't pool in the bottom of the material, it absorbed all the way (from the exterior fabric) into the liner. So is this jacket waterproof? No — far from it, but it offers the tiniest bit of water resistance.

Given that it has good wind protection, but isn't ideal in a downpour, it earns a lower score, but not a horrible one for weather protection. Knowing that it can't really stave off moisture means that if you run in super wet environments, a light shell will be needed to keep you dry.

Breathability


The Refuge Air offers excellent breathability. While many designs offer good breathability to keep you dry, this one is focused on it. Its lightweight and thin design, coupled with its breathable face fabric and ventilations make it a top choice for aerobic activities, especially in cold temperatures. It's a favorite of ours for backcountry skiing (the hiking uphill part), cold-weather running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more. Use it for any activity where you might find yourself breaking a sweat.

Here we take a snowy run. The breathable nature of the jacket makes it quite perfect for this application.
Here we take a snowy run. The breathable nature of the jacket makes it quite perfect for this application.

The interior polyester fabric mesh couples insulation and wicking power in a breathable package. The material is thin enough to off-load heat, especially when it's really cold outside.

The super breathable liner that wicks away sweat easily.
The super breathable liner that wicks away sweat easily.

You'll find great breathability throughout the face fabrics of this jacket. In addition, ventilation is offered in the pockets. The pockets are not lined with any additional fabric and open up to the liner of the jacket, offering more places to ventilate heat if temps outside start to heat up or if the terrain kicks back.

Style & Fit


This jacket looks good on the slopes, trails, and even out to dinner with friends. Its offered in many cute colors and features a fit that is versatile to accommodate most shapes and sizes. The fabric has a natural stretch, which adds to the versatility of this piece. Wear it as a mid-layer or on its own, on a date, out to the coffee shop, or while tackling several laps on your favorite skate ski loop early in the morning. This jacket isn't very technical-looking but has an outdoorsy-look that most women love.



The construction is quite plain in its design with subtle features that add to its flattery. While the back of the jacket features a wide stitching pattern, that creates a wide diagonal pattern that commences at a flattering seam, offering a trim, yet, simple look. The sides of the jacket, throughout the arms, and down to the hips have a strip of non-pattern, while the front features a wide diagonal stitching pattern that changes direction at the breast. The two-toned coloring from the interior to the exterior of the jacket offers nice contrasts that make this jacket look high-quality and well-crafted.

A look at the great fit and style of this breathable jacket. This is a 5'6"  145 lb  medium build tester.
A look at the great fit and style of this breathable jacket. This is a 5'6", 145 lb, medium build tester.

The fit is stretchy and versatile. Our 5'6 main tester weighs in at 145 pounds, with a medium build, and found the size small to be perfect and well fitted. A larger size would offer more layering potential, but the size is more or less true to fit.

The pull strings make for a more specific fit  allowing you to seal in warmth.
The pull strings make for a more specific fit, allowing you to seal in warmth.

The fabric does stretch while the arms are quite long. The torso reaches right to the tops of the thighs for this tester, and we believe that those with longer limbs would be nicely accommodated, with enough length throughout. We love the fit and style of this jacket.

Value


Sitting on the lower end of the price spectrum, this jacket offers superb value. If you're a woman that loves to get sweaty in the winter, climbs cliffs or mountains, or simply enjoys a more breathable jacket, this is one of our top recommendations. It functions perfectly as a mid-layer on the coldest days of winter, or on its own during the shoulder seasons. Enjoy its superb breathability and well-balanced warmth and weight.

Get ready for winter adventures with this awesome jacket. It works perfectly for skinning uphill  hiking  and adventuring when the temperatures drop.
Get ready for winter adventures with this awesome jacket. It works perfectly for skinning uphill, hiking, and adventuring when the temperatures drop.

Conclusion


The OR Refuge Air got our attention. This newly designed jacket offers some of the best breathability that we've seen from an insulated jacket for a long time. Not only does it breathe, but it'll keep you warm when in motion, even on the coldest days of the season. Functioning well in the shoulder seasons, it's a great choice for climbing, hiking, biking, and more.

Amber King