The Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket is water and wind-resistant jacket insulated with OR’s Vertical X. Designed for cold weather wear, it claims to incorporate thermo-regulating technology that keeps you cool, dry, and comfortable during high-exertion activities. Named after its VerticalX Air technology, the Refuge Air is designed with adaptable insulation to keep you warm when you need it and rapidly move moisture away from your skin when you start to perspire. We found the actual performance to be adequate, but short of expectations, and wonder why companies keep trying to reinvent active layering when you can achieve better results with a combination of thinner and simpler garments.
Specs at a Glance
- External Fabric: Pertex Quantum Air
- Interior Fabric: 100% polyester 50D warp knit tricot lining
- Insulation: VerticalX Air 100% polyester 75D insulation, 75 g/m2
- Center/Back Length 31” / 79 cm
- Fit: Trim, but not as trim as you’d expect
- Weight: 17.4 oz in a men’s XL
The Refuge Air Hooded Jacket can be worn as an outer layer or as a mid-layer under a waterproof or windproof shell. I normally wear a thin long sleeve base layer inside the jacket. If you believe the temperature regulation marketing, the Refuge Air is designed to keep you warm during periods of inactivity, while moving perspiration from your baselayer to the outer surface of the jacket during periods of high exertion. In other words, it’s designed to eliminate the need to stop and take off or put on clothing layers that most people find annoying during start and stop cold-weather activities like winter hiking, mountaineering, ice climbing, or XC skiing.
The Refuge Air has two layers that are sewn together: an external Pertex Quantum softshell fabric and a woven tricot liner. The appearance and feel is similar to a component raincoat with a mesh liner, like the ones your mother made you wear in elementary school. It’s not entirely clear where the Vertical X insulation is located because you can’t feel a noticeable insulation layer.
The jacket has two zippered side pockets that are not hip belt compatible and a zippered chest pocket that is convenient for holding a phone. There are also two large interior pockets where you could store gloves or climbing skins.
Finally, the jacket has an elastic hem adjuster to help block drafts from blowing up your torso and chilling you.
The Refuge Air Hooded Jacket does not have an adjustable hood, which we consider a non-starter for winter use because it’s too drafty. While the hood fits well under, say a climbing helmet, or stretched over one, it lets in too much cold air along the side and neck if you don’t wear a helmet at all. The hem of the hood does have built-in elastic but stretches very little and not enough to seal out cold air around the face.
Wrists and Arms
The wrist cuffs are also elastic and not adjustable so drafts can find your wrists. They are loose enough however that you can pull them up your arms to cool down. The arm do have thumb loops that pull the wrists closed when used.
The arms don’t have a very good range of motion and feel constraining when you reach up or overhead, for ice climbing or XC skiing for instance. Personally, I prefer using a Powerstretch hoody as a mid-layer for both of these activities because it has so much stretch and conforms well to my body. Using a fairly long jacket like the Refuge Air that drops below my waist feels much more constraining and awkward.
The Refuge Air Hooded Jacket is a surprisingly cold jacket for winter weather. The best way to compensate is to add a mid-layer underneath the jacket, which seems like it undermines the jacket’s reason for existence since it’s also trying to be an “uber” mid-layer.
There are times during extended activity like snowshoeing, that the back of the jacket and in the armpits, particularly, gets noticeably wet with perspiration. This coupled with the jacket’s “cool” character becomes a bit concerning in colder temperatures below 10*F degrees. (Luckily I always carry a puffy layer.) Warmer than 20*F, the perspiration is less noticeable, probably because it’s just less uncomfortable.
If the purpose of therm-regulation is to keep you cooler and drier so you don’t sweat in winter and to eliminate the need for active layering in the process, then the Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket falls short of the mark. It’s not a terrible jacket and it’s quite stylish-looking, but it doesn’t even come close to being as effective at the layering you probably already do. If you’re a winter hiker or snowshoer, you’re likely to be too cold in this jacket when standing still and too warm and sweaty when you’re working hard.
Disclosure: Outdoor Research gave the author a jacket for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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