The exertion and variability of ski touring calls for lightweight but technical top layers, so I tested the Patagonia Refugitive Jacket and Pants on December days with completely opposing conditions: a sun-drenched Saturday in the backcountry and in a whiteout storm on Vail Mountain.
Both days I wore a light top and bottom Bambool baselayer, and while ascending, my temperature stayed really regulated while in sunshine and in the blizzard. Patagonia’s Refugitive pieces are lightweight with a mild stretch, made from waterproof and windproof 3-layer GORE-TEX fabrics that stay breathable with GORE C-KNIT backer technology.
Skinning uphill on the sunny day got warm, but never enough to remove my jacket completely. I unzipped the two-way pit zips for effective ventilation, along with the large thigh vents on the pants.
In the snow storm, my temperature stayed ideal on the uphill with the kit all zipped up — including the large hood that stayed in place, but not obtrusively, on my head all the way up the mountain.
No extra layering was needed as I skied down fresh lines on the bluebird day, but in the whiteout I added an essential mid layer underneath the Refugitive shell to start down the hill: the Patagonia R2 Regulator Fleece Jacket. The full-zip piece is not only stretchy, light and packable, it keeps your core and arms comfortably warm beneath a shell. I felt fully protected from wind and snow as I carved through the sea of low visibility.
The Refugitive kit is perfect for uphill paired with downhill skiing (extra under layers are often need for colder descents), and some of the smaller features give the jacket and pants added technical advantages and convenience.
The two pockets on the jacket with watertight zippers are set high enough that I can get into them while the waist belt on my pack is clipped, and the interior zipper pocket kept my phone secure and close to enough to my body heat to stay powered on during my cold excursion.
Safety is also a priority with these pieces, which include RECCO reflectors to make you searchable in the event of an avalanche accident or if you’re lost in the backcountry. The reflectors require no activation to function and have an unlimited lifespan.
Kim Fuller is a freelance writer based in Vail, Colorado.