From wet London to snowy Ontario, Taylor Doyle has been testing out the top-end Showers Pass Refuge Jacket as part of our winter waterproof group test.
Showers Pass is a high performance adventure apparel and gear brand based in Portland, Oregon. Their main ethos is all about making gear that allows for riding 365 days a year, no matter what the weather brings, and that is something I can get down with.
I have been exclusively wearing their Refuge jacket, available in men’s and women’s sizing, for the winter season this past year and into 2021. My time with this jacket began in late fall in the UK, so it has been adequately exposed to the elements there for some off-road and urban riding in London, though lately I’ve found myself at home in snowy Ontario, Canada, and that is where all chilly pictures for this review have been taken.
About Showers Pass
The Showers Pass team is a small group who love the outdoors, and existing in a city known for its rainfall (on average 155 days a year), their gear should be suitable for cyclists of the UK.
One of the first things I do when getting to know a brand for the first time is check out their sustainability initiatives, if they have any, and they do. They have some modest goals that they have set for themselves to achieve by 2025. These include having all products made with 50%+ recycled material, having all garments made with an eco-friendly standard of dye, using only recycled and recyclable packaging, establishing an end-of-life recycling program, and having a carbon positive US headquarters.
Their main sustainability effort is creating products that last, which is important and absolutely good for our planet if the product holds true.
The Refuge jacket has the highest breathability and waterproof rating that Showers Pass designates. It is therefore the costliest jacket that Showers Pass carries, coming in at £240. It is designed for versatile use so can be used for other outdoor activities too, but has features with cycling in mind such as the fold-down rear flap to cover your behind when mud is splattering and the removable, adjustable hood which comfortably fits a helmet.
The Refuge is made with 3-layer ‘elite Performance Fabrics’, which according to their website feels drier on the skin, has a higher concentration of pores for vapour to escape, yet with less bulk, compared to traditional 2-layer garments that have hanging liners. A side note about the information on their website: it’s accessible and generously straight forward, instead of making me feel like the technology they use is lightyears away from my understanding, and I appreciate that.
The Refuge has fully taped seams, a must for complete wet weather protection. For such a high-tech jacket, I absolutely expected it to be totally waterproof the first time I wore it in the rain, and it was. Urban riding around London is a breeze knowing that I have the protection of the Refuge if it decides to pour down.
Fit and sizing
I am 5’ 3” and around 130lbs and have been testing a women’s model in size extra small: I am definitely a fan of the fit. I am personally not a fan of the accentuated hour glass shape you sometimes get with women’s jackets (just a preference) so was happy with the casual yet snug fit of the Refuge. The jacket is available in a wide size range, from XS to XXL for the women’s cut and S to XXL for men.
I usually wear a base layer with a lightweight long sleeved thermal underneath the jacket, though I can comfortably add a flannel button-up as a third layer when it is especially cold. With the wind chill it’s been dipping into the negative teens here in Ontario lately, with a polar vortex on the way, and this jacket has been the ultimate shell against the cold. There are two front zipped pockets where you can casually put your hands if you like. I have been keeping my phone in one of these when I run and it is always safe from the wet.
It is not the most packable jacket when it’s not being worn. This women’s XS jacket packs down to about the size of a small loaf of bread. This doesn’t bother me too much and I plan around this, but if you want a rain jacket that packs into a back jersey pocket this is not the one for you.
There are handy cinch toggles at the bottom hem of the jacket, which I always have slightly drawn to help keep the cool from creeping in the bottom. The cuffs feature velro straps too, to help you get a snug fit around the wrists.
The hood is also adjustable with three toggles to fit closely with or without a helmet. The brim is not too long but just right, for when you’re pedalling straight into some horizontal precipitation. The soft cuff around the collar is great for wicking sweat and feels pleasant on my mouth and chin when I am zipped up, breathing hard, and tucked in against a mean wind.
Vents and pockets
It has extra long zipped vents on each side for max breathability. I am still getting the vent zippers and the pocket zippers mixed up when I absentmindedly reach for them as they are right next to each other. The zipper grip on the vents are ergonomic and easy to grab. With cold hands and gloves on I have trouble grabbing the zipper on the pockets as it is smaller and metal, so I wish that the pockets also had that nice ergonomic zipper piece as I’ve had to take my gloves off to grab things.
In addition to the two side pockets there is also a small zipped pocket on the inside of the left breast with a headphone cable port, though it’s too small for my smartphone. There are also two long mesh compartments on the inside of each side with open tops, but being partial to spontaneous handstanding, I don’t think I’d keep anything safe in them.
Additional features and style
The shoulders of the Refuge jacket are reinforced so that wearing a backpack doesn’t damage the waterproof fabric, which is a priority for me. I always feel safe and seen in this jacket, with the inclusion of 360 degrees of reflective material which is not overtly obvious in daylight.
My favourite thing about this jacket is the rear flap which can be pulled down from its magnetic fixings tucked cleanly up the back in an instant. The flap generously covers your behind when fenders aren’t in the mix and also acts as a handy seat covering when taking a break on a snowy log or wet park bench. To be completely honest it’s also a welcome privacy barrier if you squat to pee in the wild too! I really like having the flap instead of a jacket with a longer rear because when it is tucked it looks like any other jacket and I’ve been using it for hiking and running as well.
I like the ‘Cayenne’ red colour I’ve been wearing, but I don’t love it. It is also available in Pacific Blue, Goldenrod, and Neon Green. I usually go for a more neutral or earthy colour with my gear so a less loud option would be a welcomed addition for this model in my opinion.
In terms of longevity, after a fall to winter season of use, my jacket is still protecting me from wet weather as it did when I first received it. Showers Pass recommends regularly washing your rain gear with waterproof apparel detergents to keep them working well, as well as applying DWR when the time comes. I will definitely do this before spring rolls around. All of their best waterproofing advice for their products can be easily found on their website, and this transparency and helpfulness only adds to their ethos of providing long-lasting gear to their customers.
In the cold of winter I’ve been wearing it every time I get on a bike, which I can’t say about rain jackets I’ve had in the past. This comes down to its protection not only from wet weather, but its effectiveness as a windbreaker while crucially maintaining its breathability. There have of course, been times on a ride when it has become too hot, and I’d say this happens once the temperature tips over 5-10 degrees celsius and you’re putting in an effort on the bike.
The Showers Pass Refuge Jacket verdict
I am impressed that I can confidently use this jacket for cycling, running, and hiking, knowing that it will keep me dry when I need it to. I am a big fan of the fold-down flap for bum coverage, the reinforced shoulders for backpack wearing, and the casual fit. It really is a functional jacket for all of the activities that I’m into. I only wish that this jacket came in some more muted colour options.
If you can afford the price tag of the Refuge, and aren’t looking for something ultra light, it is a trusty jacket that can get you through the worst of weather during different activities. If you are looking for a cycling-specific, packable waterproof that you probably wouldn’t use for anything else, this might not be it. I find this jacket to be a bit of a curious in-between for cycling. It is not particularly light (19oz / 538 grams for a men’s medium), compared to so many of the featherweight options that are out there for riding now. I personally appreciate it for its versatility in outdoor activities, and that versatility for me, makes it worth the price, but that might not be everyone’s priority.
Showers Pass Refuge Jacket£240 €271.04 $295 USD
An incredibly versatile high-end waterproof and windproof with some neat extra features for riding8.0/10
- Perfect versatile do-it-all jacket
- Waterproof technology you can trust
- Considered features without too many bells and whistles
- On the expensive side
- Not the most light or packable
- Only available in very bright colours
Last modified: 29th January 2021