Insulated Jackets

Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket

"Let me just say that the Refuge Air could be the most versatile midweight jacket I've worn."

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MSRP: $229

Magic is magic because you can’t explain it. The Outdoor Research Refuge Air, which I wore about 100 days last year doing any and everything, is a puffy with VerticalX Air insulation and an ActiveTemp “thermo-regulating treatment” that “dynamically regulates the internal microclimate and boosts comfort.” I could explain that, but that would be like David Copperfield revealing how he made the Statue of Liberty disappear.

Let me just say that the Refuge Air could be the most versatile midweight jacket I’ve worn. It’s filled with a quarter-inch thick of synthetic insulation, but is surprisingly warm, just enough so for most cold days in Colorado when you are doing something besides belaying knee deep in snow. Exert hard, and, due to those mysterious forces, the jacket vents excess heat and sweat. The upshot is you can keep the jacket on all the time, instead of stopping to “layer” as you must do with most jackets and coats.

The jacket is trim. You can wear it over several thin layers, but that’s it. A soft interior lining of tricot is as comfortable as a baby blanket, but the fuzzy lining grabs whatever is under it like a cocklebur in a sock, a minor annoyance taking the jacket off.

Whoever designed the the Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded must be a climber. It’s got five pockets. Two zippered exterior pockets are hand warmers, and a Napoleon will stash a couple of food bars. Two large interior pockets are handy for stowing extra gloves, or using to dry wet gloves. The cuffs are trim, lightly elasticized and do a good job of sealing without being over engineered. The hood is simple and trim. It just slips over a helmet and without a helmet it does a good job of sealing around your face.

The exterior face fabric feels cottony but is nylon and treated and repels light spray or a sprinkle like a soft shell, but on a wet ice climb the jacket will get wet. Fortunately, the various materials and treatments do such a good job of wicking you’ll hardly feel damp and the jacket dries remarkably quickly.

Who needs the Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket, besides magicians? Anyone who hits it hard and wants one jacket instead of two or three for getting business done.

—Duane Raleigh

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