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Well-designed gear like the Refuge jacket from Showers Pass makes winter riding more enjoyable.

When it’s time to buy good gear for crap weather, look to brands based beneath the clouds. Running their show from oft-grey Portland, Oregon, Showers Pass has an elite level testing facility at their disposal. Their designers wear their creations in harsh conditions, and like early bridge builders who were allegedly forced to sleep beneath their work, the folks at Showers Pass are incentivized to make awesome gear.

For riders who need uncompromised waterproof protection on cold and wet outings, the Refuge jacket from Showers pass is possibly the burliest option available. With three layers of Elite waterproof hardshell fabric and taped seams all around, this coat will provide ample refuge from the storm. Any “waterproof” jacket may keep you dry most of the time, but the material and overall feel of this one could inspire another level of cold weather adventure.

Torso length vents create an impressive amount of airflow through the jacket.

Designed for dreary-day cycling, hiking, and even skiing, each facet of the Refuge includes armor-like durability. The thick fabric has the feeling of a ski-shell, handily ready to take some falls as you slide across wet singletrack. Waterproof YKK Aquaguard zippers are sturdy enough to pull on with cold, gloved hands without worrying about them splitting or derailing. The zippers’ broad teeth make it easy to open and close the jacket once it is covered in mud and trail grit.

Showers Pass has recognized that waterproof jackets tend to lose their rain resistance at the shoulders first. Backpack straps are constantly rubbing and stretching the fabric, and eventually, water seeps in. To prevent leaks and wear they have added a dry-bag-like coating that covers the area from your neck to the head of your humerus. This does seem to reduce the fabric’s breathability, but it’s a worthwhile trade for the added durability.

The jacket is as well prepared for road riding or commuting across town as it is for backcountry snow trekking. There are hyper-reflective strips of material all around that light up like an airport under headlights’ glow. A long tail keeps road spray away and can fold up and away from your rear tire on the trail.

There are also four different places to hang lights on the jacket, including two proprietary Beacon light loops that snap into the tailpiece. I commute in the city daily and ride busy streets to get to our local trails, and I greatly appreciate the safety elements Showers Pass has woven into this rain shell.

The tail flap hangs low enough that you can sit on it, keeping your backside dry. There is one rear light hook on the collar, one mid back, and two places for Beacon lights to snap into the lower tail flap.

The Refuge fit is slightly tighter than a lot of rain shells, leaving little material to flap in the wind. There is enough room to squeeze a thin insulated jacket underneath or multiple base and jersey layers. The sleeves extend long enough that they overlap my gloves while in an aggressive riding position, and the adjustable wrist opening keeps them in place. The jacket sits just low enough to overlap at the waistline, without a lot of extra material to bunch up. The overall fit in size small is spot on for my frame, at 173cm (5’8″) tall and 68kg (150lbs).

Tech specs

  • Fully seam taped, 3-layer Elite waterproof-breathable hardshell fabric
  • Reinforced shoulder material to prevent wear from backpack straps
  • Torso length core vents
  • YKK Aquaguard Vislon water-resistant zippers
  • Reflective material for maximum visibility from all sides
  • Removable and adjustable hood fits over your helmet
  • Drop-down tail to keep your tail dry
  • Soft collar lining
  • Front hand warmer pockets, large back pocket, and chest pocket with internal audio port
  • Two rear light loops
  • Claimed weight is 19oz. in size medium
  • $280/€150

Buy at Backcountry.com

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flap shot
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Above: Internal media port in the chest pocket, magnetic rear flap folded under, and detachable hood in its designated storage pocket.

In the elements

My first ride in the Refuge jacket was on a brisk evening in early December. The thermometer read -2° Celsius (28°F) and the air was uncomfortably humid. I layered lightly with just a single wool base layer for the 40-minute climb to the main trailhead, and quickly found myself warm enough to open the torso-length vents on the jacket. This is a route I ride 4-6 times per week, depending on trail conditions, and I have quickly come to appreciate the amount of breathability in this warm shell while climbing. It’s counter-productive to keep water out of a rain jacket if I’m soaked in sweat inside, and the Refuge is designed with ample airflow to let the steam escape.

Both front and rear pockets are large enough for phones or snacks, and the two hand-warmer pockets on the sides ready the jacket for off-the-bike warmth.

Since that first spin, this jacket has seen it all. It has properly regulated my temperature in torrential downpours, snow, sunshine, and several of my annual mud baths. Each ride ended with a lightly sweaty and mud free base-layer. Nothing soaked through or ground in. I have washed the jacket four times now, and it comes out looking and performing like new. The Refuge is holding up to its name and is clearly built to last.

We recently experienced two unseasonably warm days at 16°C (61°F), and I rode with the jacket unzipped on part of those spins. On the climbs, I ended up storing the jacket in my bag, throwing it on at the summit to cut the wind while descending. For warmer weather, this piece is a bit too heavy for my liking. I will definitely bring it along on night rides during the spring and fall months, and wear the Refuge around town on cooler summer evenings.

In conclusion

I have owned several rain shells that keep me dry, but none that regulate heat and moisture as well as this one. Given its extensive features, fantastic fit, and promising warmth the Refuge is at the top of my daily ride pile. If you enjoy the wide open quiet of winter riding, this jacket will allow you to push your adventure further.

The Graphite color of the Refuge is proper camouflage in a deciduous forest, or in its native home of Portland, Oregon.

We would like to thank Showers Pass for providing the Refuge jacket for review.

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