The Chainlink

Product Review: Showers Pass Refuge Pant

By Brett Ratner (photos courtesy Showers Pass)

Last June, the good folks at Portand-based Showers Pass cycling apparel were kind enough to supply The Chainlink with a pair of their Refuge waterproof cycling pants.

This was in preparation for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, where ride organizers sternly caution participants to "...have rain gear on you at all times!"

The reason behind their ominous tone is that the weather atop 11,000 foot mountain passes can be wildly unpredictable. In other words, a balmy climb can easily be followed by a wet and frigid descent (and possibly a case of hypothermia).

I've already had a great experience with my Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Jacket, finding it to not only be effective in the rain, but also as a top layer on cold and windy days. On dozens of long rides in varying conditions, the jacket's high-end eVent fabric has proven to do a great job of keeping me dry and/or warm without making me feel hot and sweaty.

Since they are constructed of the same fabric, complementing the Elite 2.1 jacket jacket with the Refuge Pants would, I figured, make me ready for anything the Rocky Mountains could throw my way.

As it turned out, I dragged these pants in my seat bag over nine mountain passes in seven days and didn't see a drop of rain. One day, however, it started raining moments after I rolled into camp at Telluride, and over the next hour or two, I saw more than a few drenched, under-dressed riders shivering in the medical tent. So while I never actually needed the Showers Pass gear, I was very happy I had it just in case!

Fast forward to September, and I was starting to suspect these pants were magic. Specifically, months had gone by with them sitting in my saddle bag and I STILL hadn't had an opportunity to wear the Refuge Pants in wet weather. Maybe Showers Pass didn't design a waterproof pant so much as some sort of dry weather good luck charm.

I owed the manufacturer a product review, however, and was just about to do the next best thing - test the pants in the shower.

Fortunately, I didn't need to take these drastic measures. Finally, one day, it started pouring right before I was leaving work. Better yet, it was 81°F outside, so I could also test the breathability of the fabric while riding (something not possible in the shower test).

So while my coworkers scurried to their cars, I gleefully slipped my rain gear over my work clothes, got on my bike and took the long way home.

The Showers Pass Refuge Pants are designed to keep you dry, comfortable, and visible while riding in inclement weather.

Getting to the point - the Refuge Pants worked flawlessly. Despite a 20-minute, hilly ride in a very heavy downpour, I stayed completely dry, comfortable, and not clammy like you can often feel when wearing waterproof gear.

None of this is surprising considering that the Refuge is the company's flagship pant product, as demonstrated here in their product chart:

While more expensive than other offerings in the Showers Pass product line, the Refuge offers the company's best combination of water resistance, breathability, and light weight.

Being the company's top-of-the-line pant, the Refuge also offers a laundry list of features. I won't mention them all, but here are some highlights that immediately stood out to me when I tested them:

  • Ankle zippers for easy entry/exit with shoes on
  • Reinforced fabric where the pants contact the saddle
  • Velcro cinches to keep the pant legs from touching the chain and crank arms
  • Overbuilt zippers and overall sturdy construction
  • A roomier cut that fits nicely over clothing, is comfortable to ride in, yet still manages to not be baggy or flop around
  • Reflective trim

The cut of the Refuge pants allow them to easily be worn over clothing, without flapping in the breeze.

If you live in a consistently rainy climate like you encounter in the Pacific Northwest, I'd consider the Refuge Pants (paired with a Showers Pass jacket) an absolute must have. And if you're packing for a multi-day, unsupported bike tour (particularly in the mountains), these could literally be a lifesaver.

For commuting in the Midwest, you could probably get away without them...or perhaps opt for one of the company's less expensive and slightly lower-performing options. To be honest, any of Showers Pass' offerings will keep you dry when that unexpected spring or summer deluge strikes. And in the winter, they'd be a great for extra protection from sleet and freezing wind. 

But to me, it's worth the investment to know that stashed in my pannier is the best-available option to keep me comfortable no matter what Mother Nature has in store...especially if they're magic.

Suggested retail price is $225. Visit https://www.showerspass.com/ for more information.

About the author:

Brett Ratner (brett@thechainlink.org) has been a professional journalist for more than 25 years. He has contributed to dozens of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, The Nashville Tennessean, The Nashville Scene, Guitar Player and Musician. Brett began commuting by bike in 2005. Shortly thereafter, his interest in cycling expanded to century rides, bike camping, and trail riding. The competition bug bit in 2012 and nowadays he also occasionally races cyclocross, track, mountain bikes, criteriums and gravel for The Bonebell.

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