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Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack

Sam Shaheen reviews the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack for Blister Gear Review

Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack

Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack

Size: one size

Blister’s Measured Weight: 653 g

Stated Features:

  • Main compartment includes a padded laptop sleeve and lined tablet pocket
  • Front organization compartment features pockets for managing cords and accessories
  • Front stash pocket is sized for tickets or other small items you want close at hand
  • Two large water-bottle pockets stretch to fit your favorite vessel
  • Highly breathable mesh on the back panel and shoulder harness for all-day carrying comfort
  • Adjustable and removable sternum strap

MSRP: $89

Reviewer: 5’10”, 140 lbs

Days Tested: 15

Test Locations: Denver & Front Range, CO; San Diego, CA

Intro

The world of casual backpacks is a large and often perplexing one, with as much emphasis on style as functionality. Patagonia recently redesigned their line of casual daypacks, and I’ve been testing their most popular model, the Refugio.

Patagonia describes the Refugio as a pack where “zen design meets catch-all versatility.” So how versatile is it, and where does it fit along the spectrum of casual daypacks?

Fit

The Refugio comes in one size for men (there is also a women’s-specific version), and it definitely has a larger profile than I was expecting for a 28L pack. The Refugio is rather tall and wide while being slightly lower profile than other casual packs, and this makes for a comfortable carry. But it definitely looks a little large on your back.

Other than the large back panel size, the Refugio’s shoulder straps will easily accommodate frames from size S to XL, and everything in between. The height-adjustable sternum strap also helps to dial in comfort.

That said, let’s remember that this is a causal pack that’s not designed to carry a whole bunch of weight, so the fit really isn’t that important or hard to dial in.

Features

The Refugio is a pretty feature-rich pack, so let’s get into it.

The main compartment has a large laptop sleeve that should fit up to a 15” laptop easily (my 13” MacBook has plenty of room). The laptop sleeve closes with a strap/clip combo to keep everything in place, and also serves as the sleeve for a hydration bladder (with a port at the top for the tube). This compartment also features a fleece-lined sleeve for a tablet or other small electronics.

Sam Shaheen reviews the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack for Blister Gear Review

Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack — Interior

The next compartment has the standard issue litany of small pockets and drop-ins for phones, keys, headphones etc. — standard stuff.

The front pocket features a long vertical zipper and works great for stashing a rain shell, sunglasses, or other things you want to access quickly and easily.

The Refugio also features two large water bottle sleeves that will hold just about any water bottle.

The most important aspect of the Refugio is the construction — it’s extremely solid. I’ve used this pack for about 15 days and it looks brand new, and I am confident that the Refugio will withstand many years of heavy use. Sure, at $89 the Refugio is on the expensive side for casual packs, but it will probably last twice as long as the equivalent JanSport.

Around Town

The Refugio definitely shines for urban use. I can fit about five-days worth of groceries in it (including a gallon of milk), and the red color I tested adds a degree of safety while cruising around town on my bike. Plus, it looks professional enough to take into all but the stuffiest of offices (and it’s even more professional looking in black).

Sam Shaheen reviews the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack for Blister Gear Review

Sam Shaheen in the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack, San Diego, CA.

Daily use in the city is clearly what the pack was designed for, and it does well in this arena.

Travel

I took this pack on a 5-day surf trip to San Diego, and it easily held 5-days worth of warm-weather clothes, my laptop, chargers, toiletries, etc.

When packed full, it fit under the airplane seat in front of me, which, for all you budget flyers out there, is a very critical thing.

Hiking

The Refugio is definitely more at home in the city than on the trail — it’s pretty heavy, doesn’t have a waist strap, and just isn’t designed as a mountain daypack. That being said, I did hike Gray’s and Torrey’s peaks with this pack, and it performed fine. In fact, there is really no need for a more technical pack on 95% of the day hikes out there, but there are other options on the market that will work better.

Sam Shaheen reviews the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack for Blister Gear Review

Sam Shaheen in the Patagonia Refugio 28L Backpack, Grays & Torrey’s Peaks, CO.

If you’re looking for a pack that can handle the daily grind in the city but also survive just about any day hike you want to undertake, the Refugio will definitely fit the bill.

Bottom Line

The Patagonia Refugio is a solid, fully-featured casual daypack. It shines for daily use, whether traveling, commuting, running errands, and the like. But it also works just fine on the trail and in the mountains so long as your objectives aren’t particularly technical.

If you jive with the style and appreciate the added quality that a Patagonia pack affords, the Refugio should be on your short list of daypacks.

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