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Outdoor Research’s aptly named Refuge Hooded Jacket has offered me sanctuary from wind, cold, rain, and hail in the four months I’ve been testing. This versatile midweight outer layer (18 oz, on average) is one of those garments that becomes an old, faithful friend that you wear for years and years until it’s more duct tape than fabric.
The first feature that sets the Refuge apart is the surprising warmth-to-weight ratio. In low temps like those I encountered while climbing and hiking in Colorado’s mountains or just working at my computer late at night when our home’s heat has shut off, the VerticalXTM polyester insulation and capacious, adjustable hood kept me warm and snug. Meanwhile, the light weight, precise cut, and stretchy material meant it moved easily and freely, so I didn’t feel like a stiff doll packaged in bubble wrap. Even when the water-resistant Refuge got drenched by a downpour while I was coming off a Colorado Fourteener, the VerticalXTM insulation retained my body heat surprisingly well. When the sun came out, I liked how easily I could scrunch up the sleeves and pull down the hood, or stuff the jacket into its own left pocket for storage. I also loved that the fill is synthetic, 100 percent polyester—so I don’t have to worry about whether geese were painfully plucked for down. The fill feels pretty even, distributing heat uniformly across my torso.
Also of particular note: Lots of pockets. Big pockets. Little pockets. Secret pockets. I just discovered a new one last week! Four have zippers, and one an internal key clip; others are deep shove-it pockets, and a couple are conveniently located at chest level, above your harness. Other nice features include an elastic drawcord hem and cuffs and a carabiner loop for clipping your pocket-stuffed jacket to your harness. Although I tend not to use the drawcords because I like a loose feel, the cords constricted smoothly and tightly, and kept heat in.
I am not very kind to my coats, constantly abrading them against rocks, tying them around my waist, sitting on them, and getting all manner of dirt, sunscreen, and other grime upon them while running around in the hills to hike and climb, often with our two little boys in tow. But the Refuge has been super resilient, with 20Dx30D ripstop fabric that after about four months of hard use is showing a single (that I can see), approximately one-centimeter-long tear, with no fill coming out. Although this is not the jacket for subzero adventures, the warm, versatile, wind- and water-resistant Refuge is my go-to jacket for almost everything else: It’s a three-season do-everything coat, with plenty of overlap into winter as well.