There are duffel bags, and then there’s the Showers Pass Refuge. Thanks to the design team at Showers Pass, the once-humble duffel bag smacks of luxury with with careful construction and a svelte modern aesthetic. I’ve been tossing it around for two months and have the scoop.
Showers Pass Refuge Duffel Bag Features:
- 100% waterproof, fully welded construction with a single-side TPU coating
- 840-denier 100% Ballistic strength Nylon is durable
- 3 separated waterproof compartments keep clean clothes away from dirty
- Soft grip carry handle and adjustable removable shoulder strap
- 3M reflective trim for high visibility from all angles
- A waterproof 36″x24″ changing mat folds out from back waterproof pocket
- Main compartment wide tooth zipper is weatherproof (not recommended for submersion).
- Inside of top flap features zippered mesh pocket
- Ridged divider in center compartment is removable/adjustable
- 2 water bottle nylon pockets
- 1 large mesh pocket with key clip
- Ridged bottom board is removable
- Right side compartment features fleece lined media pocket
- Bag is self-supporting for easy packing
- MSRP: $189
Bringing luxe to the duffel game
So it has to be said, the Refuge is a remarkably sleek beast. All of that shiny black TPU nylon with sophisticated color ways of white, green or gold coupled with silver reflective accents for safety. I’ve been using this bag for exactly what Showers Pass intended: beating it up at races, muddy soccer fields and trunks full of pointy ice tools and crampons. The Refuge is a far cry from the blue and pink Home Economics duffel bag that I made in middle school.
The basic layout of the duffel goes like this. There is one large center compartment that holds three organizational pockets. On either side are compartments that are sealed tight by a waterproof zipper. One side has an especially useful media pocket that’s lined with soft fleece. The back side of the duffel also has a pocket, but it’s intended just to hold the detachable ‘changing mat’ for days when the ground is soaked and you need a place to stand.
Theoretically, the Refuge has a 50L carrying capacity. I found it hard to fit that much gear into this duffel, but you have to remember that I’m a mountaineer – I’m used to fitting an extraordinary amount of equipment into a 40- or 50-liter pack. So my perspective may be skewed. Let it be said, though, that the Refuge always has enough room for your race-day gear or a weekend getaway. They’ve made it easy to pack, too. The Refuge has enough internal structure that it’ll stand up on its own when it’s empty, That’s a big boon over duffels where you have to plunge arm-deep into dark corners to stash stuff away. It’s a much easier, cleaner, and visible experience with the Refuge.
One of the key benefits here is the amount of organization the bag offers – twin water bottle pockets keep bottles upright and tips away from dank chamois, there’s a clip for your keys and other zippered pockets besides. If you’re like me and carry way too many small objects all the time (pen, notebook, headphones, etc) you’ll appreciate the ways to stash your things. Finally, there’s a handy moving divider that you can use to partition the main compartment along a Velcro track. I like the idea, but I found that the divider doesn’t make enough contact with the Velcro strips to stay in place. My solution? More Velcro on the sides of the duffel.
The duffel is bombproof from a number of angles. For one thing, it has 360-degree visibility thanks to the placement of 3M reflective accents. For another, it’s absurdly high-denier nylon – 840D 100% Ballistic strength nylon, as Showers Pass puts it. It might not stop a bullet, but it will handle just about anything else. From the weather resistance angle, the Refuge really shines. The main compartment zipper is a big, toothy thing that isn’t properly a ‘waterproof’ zipper, but it can hold its own against rain aided in part by a generous storm flap covering the entire zipper. Toothy zips usually pull easily, but I found this one to be very rough. Meanwhile, the side and back pocket zippers are waterproof and slide very well. They’re also exceptionally svelte. It’s a refined sort of functionality.
Carrying the Refuge is a breeze. There’s two options – a generously padded, articulated shoulder strap and two shorter hand straps. Either option works fine, and in typical Showers Pass fashion these critical points of user-product interaction have been given particular attention. The shoulder strap is comfortable yet sleek, the hand straps come together firmly for traveling thanks to a cushy Velcro clasp.
- Everything says ‘Quality! Quality!’
- Lines are exceptionally sleek, especially along zipper tracks
- Fully seam taped, weather resistant and PNW-approved
- Changing mat is a nice touch
- Plenty of internal organization
- Carries well in hand or over shoulder
- Excellent fabric and construction. Should last about as long as my titanium Litespeed
- Definitely priced at a premium
- Main compartment zip could pull more smoothly
- Main pocket divider could be sturdier
The Bottom Line: Refuge Duffel Bag
I really don’t know of a better duffel bag. You can find expedition offerings from Patagonia or The North Face, but obviously those are targeted at climbers who just need to haul a lot of gear. In contrast, the Showers Pass Refuge is sleek, refined and thoughtfully designed for the needs of cyclists. It’s an expensive piece of kit, but it will certainly last for your entire racing career.
Buy Now: Available from Showers Pass