Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket



Waterproof: Water resistant Windproof: Wind resistant
Hood: No Adjustable Hood: None
Cinch Cords: Dual Hem Insulation: Synthetic
Cuffs: Velcro & Elastic Pit Zips: Yes
Napoleon Pocket: No Handwarmer Pockets: 2
Sleeve Pockets: None Zipper Type: Storm Flaps
Inner Pockets: 1 Seams: None
Weight: 24 oz. Stowable: No
Chin Abrasion Guard: Yes MSRP: $375

Overview

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

The Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket is an exceptional display of technology that anyone involved in snowsports or consistently cold weather would be proud to own.  Its built-in heating mechanism keeps you warm and toasty in the coldest environments.  But, despite its innovation and high quality, its high price tag may hinder its success in the mass market.

The Refugium jacket is pre-wired to be compatible with Ardica's MOSHI power system (the battery pack).  The Refugium jacket will retail for an MSRP of $230 when it is released in the Fall of 2009.  Unfortunately, for the jacket to reach its full potential and radiate heat, you must separately purchase the Ardica MOSHI power system which will run an additional $145.  This bumps up to total cost of the jacket to $375.  Really, who is going to buy the jacket and not the power system?  There is no official word from any retailers yet if the jacket will ever be sold bundled with the power system for a slight discount, but you can be sure that the two will always be found close to one another.

The Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket is a snowsports jacket that is synthetically insulated with Thermic Micro (100% polyester, 120gm) insulation.  The body is made up of 30D Micro Taffeta (100% nylon), and the lining is Embossed Matrix Taffeta (100% nylon).

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Pockets and Zippers

The Refugium jacket has two zip, fleece-lined hand pockets.  The are in a good location for your hands and keep them nice and warm.  The pockets have storm flaps to cover the zippers.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

The jacket also features two-way pit zips.  The zippers on these pit zips are normal.  They are not water resistant.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Inside the jacket there is one additional pocket on the left side.  It is placed directly behind the heating element.

Body Adjustment & Fit

The Refugium Jacket is adjustable via dual hem cinch cords.  The cinch cords hold well and provide a nice seal on the bottom.  It does not have any neck adjustment available.

The cuffs are adjustable with velcro and keep a stretched, tight fit with elastic.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

I should note here that the Refugium Jacket was a bit short for me.  This could likely be fixed by offering tall sizes, which I am unsure of the availability.  When zipped up, the mid-neck area (just above your collar bone, where if pressed on would make it difficult to breath), is a bit tight.  The upper neck area is very loose.  I would prefer that the mid-neck area were more loose and the top of the neck were adjustable.  This may be partly due to the fact that the battery pack is weighing down the jacket, pulling it into your neck slightly.  The same weight also makes the back of the jacket begin to drift down your back if you have it unzipped.

Ardica Powered Heat: Where the Magic Happens

The Ardica MOSHI power system heats the Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket by plugging in to three flexible coiled heating elements in the jacket.  The first heating element is located on the back, opposite the battery pack.  This tends to get a bit warmer than the others because it stays closer to your body, weighed down by the battery pack, and it gains additional heat from the battery drawing power and getting warm.  The other two heating elements are placed towards each side of the bottom front near your rib cage, on the inside of where the handwarmer pockets are located.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Ardica MOSHI Power System

The Ardica MOSHI Power System is an array of six flat lithium-ion batteries joined together by a rubber-like foam shell (I believe a couple of the blocks on the pack are other electronics).  Weighing in around one pound, it slides into the back of the jacket and zips in.  It can deliver up to 8.6 hours of low heat or 3 hours of high heat.  It may also be used to provide approximately 20 mp3 player charges, 11 cell phone charges, or any combination of heat and power.  It is designed to be able to cycle 500 times.  A cycle is fully charging then discharging the battery.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket and Ardica MOSHI Power System

Ardica MOSHI Power System

To start the power, simply press the button on the outside of the jacket.  One press gets you low heat, two medium, and three high.  To check the status of the battery, simply hold the button down for a second and the three LEDs will flash.  The LEDs are directed upwards so you can easily see them and will not typically be visible to others in front of you unless it is dark out, in which case it is pretty obvious you are glowing.  While wearing this jacket around I once got asked if I was a cyclops.  At the very least, you're sure to get some weird looks as people wonder why your jacket is glowing or flashing.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

The better fitting the jacket is, the more effective the heat.  It is best to have the heating elements flat against your body.  Low heat is nice for cool temperatures, while high heat will hit around 100-105 degrees fahrenheit for those icy days.

In testing the Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket, the biggest flaw I encountered has to do with the Ardica MOSHI Power System.  Luckily, it is an easily fixable flaw that I am told has been fixed for retail.  The power system has two plugs: one plug that delivers power to charge the battery pack, turn on the heat, and charge devices, and another plug that connects to the heating system in the jacket to deliver heat.  Each of these plugs are not very secure and both came unplugged in normal wearing conditions during testing.  The power plug came loose only once, disabling all power features of the jacket, while the heating plug came loose or fully unplugged during almost every use while wearing the jacket with a backpack, but also very frequently in normal use.  Although it's easy to push back in, it does require taking the jacket off and possibly unzipping the compartment.  However, as mentioned previously, I am happy to note that this has been fixed for retail.  I have been told that a "locking strap" has been added to the power system to prevent the cables from coming loose.  I was very happy to hear this, because it would have been a deal breaker.

As a side note, the reverse side of the battery pack states "Improper use may result in fire."  A word to the wise: follow the instructions.

Ardica Device Charger

The Ardica device charger is an optional accessory available for use with the Ardica MOSHI power system.  It is basically a small square battery with device plugs for iPods, and any mini USB or micro USB device.  The battery must be charged by plugging it into the jacket.  I tried to charge it via USB on my computer, but the casing on the battery did not allow the plug to fit (perhaps there is a reason for this).  The Ardica device charger holds approximately one half of a device charge.  You may leave the charger plugged into the Refugium jacket for a constant stream of power to your devices, or you may disconnect it for portable power.

Yes, believe it or not this jacket has a USB port.  It's where you can plug things in.  The cable is located inside the left handwarmer pocket, but may be relocated to the inside pocket.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

Overall, I did not have very good luck with the Ardica device charger.  Its plugs feel flimsy, and it couldn't seem to make up its mind if it was charged or empty when disconnected from the jacket's main power.  Sometimes, on a full charge (indicated by a green light), the charger lasted under 30 seconds charging a V3c Razr phone before indicating that it was low on power (a flashing orange light).  On the other hand, I did manage to get a full iPod charge on one occasion.  The plugs are also not very conveniently located.

Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket

The Ardica device charger will retail for $50.  My recommendation would be to spare yourself the $50, unless you absolutely need its functionality.  It's slightly less convenient, but it's nearly guaranteed that if you plug your device straight into the jacket's USB port with the cable that came with the device that it will charge just fine.  However, it should be noted that plugging a Razr V3c phone straight into the jacket via USB cable during testing did not work.  The phone displayed a message indicating an unauthorized charger.  So if you have a picky device, the Ardica device charger may be the way to go.

In any case, you can always leave the device charger plugged into the jacket power to give you the additional connectivity and constant power.  This seemed to work fairly well.

Waterproof?

The Refugium Jacket is not waterproof.  Your initial reaction to an electrically heated jacket not being waterproof may result in thoughts of electric shock.  Yes, I suppose under some one-in-a-billion circumstances that this would somehow be possible.  However, it is more likely that the electronics would be fried and you would remain untouched.  The battery pack likely does not output enough current to do any serious damage anyway.

Although being shorted out is a possibility, I would say that it is highly unlikely.  Although not water proof, I found the Refugium Jacket to be highly water resistant.  This can be maintained by making sure the jacket keeps a nice DWR (water repellent) on its outsides.  In my observations, the jacket was able to resist a running faucet very well.  However, if you're planning to expose this jacket to a lot of moisture, it is recommended that you use it as a liner by zipping it into a waterproof shell.  To do so, it features loopholes on each sleeve and the neck area to secure it, as well as a double-sided zipper on the right side to be easily zipped into any hard shell.

The rubber control button with LEDs on the front of the jacket appears to be well sealed to protect against moisture or precipitation.

Washing the Jacket

The jacket will be washable, but not dryable.  Of course, you will want to remove the battery pack prior to washing.

Closing Remarks

The Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket will hit retail this Fall in 2009.  It will retail for an MSRP of $375 (including the power system), and be available in Black, Otter, Ranger, or Sapphire colors.

The Mountain Hardwear Refugium Jacket is a strong product, but may be hurt by its high price tag and minor fit issues.  But in all, it will likely be the strongest heated jacket available for Fall of 2009.

The Verdict: 8/10

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