Showers Pass gets commuting. Known for producing gear that makes wet weather bike rides bearable, their line of jackets, pants and accessories is time and torture tested the best way possible – by using it. Based out of rainy Portland, the only way to keep riding year round is to harden the f-up and dress for the occasion. Commuting through the wet season can have a big effect on one’s outlook; goals and priorities shift from personal records to simply attempting to earn a participation award; one that gets harder and harder to earn by the time January rolls around.
This crew gets it, and when their premier Refuge jacket was bestowed upon me for a review, it was more than welcome — even though it was bright neon green.
The Refuge Jacket utilizes Elite 3-layer performance fabric. Elite is a top level hardshell material that isn’t just waterproof, but contains the mystic combination of materials and hocus-pocus that allow it to be breathable. Every seam is taped, making it fully waterproof.
The specs of the Refuge read like a laundry list: Pockets; media Port in chest pocket; reinforced shoulder panels to minimize pack strap wear. The removable hood, with multiple adjustments, fits over a hood and actually stays on while pedaling. Rear zipper pockets; rain flap at rear. (for those without fenders) Full length ventilation zippers; cuff adjusters on sleeve. 3M Scotchlite reflective materials. Cinch toggles on the hem. Light loops, multiple locker loops for hanging to dry. The list is extensive.
The Refuge jacket has what we’d call a “regular” fit that allows for full mobility on the bike, even wrapped in layers. I’ve been pairing it with an under jacket plus a light insulated vest at times without feeling scrunched up. (This isn’t the jacket for fast paced club rides, but Showers Pass does offer a model for that application)
The relaxed fit works well for its intended use as a cross over piece and is extremely versatile. I’ve even worn it snowboarding, and it works just as well carving turns as it does on the bike. As you’d expect for a dedicated cycling pieces, the sleeves are generously long, ensuring wrist coverage, even stretched out on the bike, with wrist cuffs that can be cinched to block or allow air and ventilation.
On the bike
I’ll just come out and say it – until this year, I’ve never been a fan of neon cycling jackets. 16 miles a day in this muck has a way of changing one’s perspective though. I’ve simply grown tired of the close calls with ignorant and inattentive drivers that occur on a regular basis, and have embraced the neon.
Hell, I’ve learned to love it, and have added full time running lights in the front and rear of the bike. (ironically it still doesn’t seem to be enough at times)
The Refuge Jacket is legit; I’ll come right out and say it: I’ve never used a cycling specific waterproof jacket that performed at this level. On more than one occasion, riding home in a total downpour, I’ll pull off to the cover of some branches to wait out the worst of it. With the hood up over my helmet my upper half is completely comfortable.
My hands were a different story, as they were completely soaked. I don’t have Showers Pass socks, gloves or pants, something I clearly need to remedy in the near future. Getting back on the bike to wrap up the roll home, the removable hood on the Refuge works very well, and can be adjusted to stay in place over a helmet, even while riding.
Although the top level materials used in the jacket rank extremely high in terms of breathability, when cranking hard and getting anaerobic, you can warm up and get sweaty. To remedy that, the Refuge features no less than four (that I’ve discovered to date) zippered ports that can be opened up to create air flow and ventilation. That isn’t even counting the cuffs, which can help a lot. My mornings on the bike typically consist of bundling up with every possible opening secured, and sometimes adding a buff infinity scarf. After I’m warmed up a few miles in, I’ll start by opening the cuffs, followed by dropping the main zipper, then the main ventilation zips.
This is where the Refuge stands out over lesser waterproof jackets. Getting wet from sweat is as bad as being rained on at times; more importantly, who wants to put a wet clammy jacket on at the end of a work day? This is not an issue with the Refuge. It also has plenty of locker hooks to facilitate hanging it up to dry.
I’ve tried to avoid making this post a homage to Showers Pass, but they seem to have a knack for making products that evoke praise from their users. The only negative I can come up with is that the neon material shows dirt more easily, and can be hard to keep clean because of it. (which is why I’ve avoided trail riding in it)
That said, they also offer this jacket in black and red, both of which should be easier to keep clean. If you ride in crappy weather on a regular basis, this jacket is an excellent investment, well worth the $325.00.