For all the thought that gets put into baggage, it’s rare that anyone comes up with anything that is measurably better. I’m always looking down at my gear bag wondering what I’ve left out and then pulling everything out to see what isn’t in there. I’ve shown up to rides with shoes but no pedals, pedals but no shoes, sans helmet, sans glasses and even sans bottles.
In short, if you can forget it, I’ve forgotten it.
So I can’t actually say I was looking for a better gear bag, but it’s true that when I ran across the Showers Pass Refuge Duffel, my heart skipped a beat, and that happened even before I looked in side.
A bag with it’s own changing mat. Beat that.
I immediately thought back to the number of times I’ve changed at the beginning of an event to brush all the sand off my feet to make sure I don’t end up with sand inside my socks. Because sand inside socks on a century or long road race = blisters.
Yeah, I’ve done that, too.
There’s room on the mat for your feet and two pairs of shoes, the ones you just took off and the ones you’re about to put on. When you’re finished, you fold the mat up and roll it into the zippered side pocket. It’s attached with Velcro, so you can remove it to clean it up.
The amount of genius that moved contains is staggering. It’s like a Mozart melody, so perfect it seems obvious.
Inside the bag you find the same level of genius. Lots of bags have pockets and dividers and slots and god knows what else. And it’s rare that I can tell what they are meant to secure.
The Refuge Duffel contains a main compartment with a divider that is secured with Velcro. You can move it left or right depending on your space allocation needs. I put street clothes and cleanup items in the left, kit in the right. Two roundish elastic pockets are obviously meant to hold bottles. Another pocket on the opposite side is perfect for food items like gels and chews; it includes a key fob for the absent-minded. There’s a netted pocket in the flap which is big enough to hold your number or RFID tag.
There are large, zippered compartments on the ends of the bag. One is perfect for your shoes. The other will just accept a helmet; you need to work it in rather delicately (those occipital devices are fragile), but it’s obviously meant for a helmet because it includes a lined and padded pocket perfect for … glasses! That pocket is also zippered so that even if the bag gets turned upside down, your expensive eyewear won’t be banging around inside your helmet.
I’d like a bit more room for the helmet or perhaps a bigger opening, but the folks at Showers Pass told me they were careful to keep the size down overall to make sure that it can be used as a carryon bag for flying. Pretty smart. The shoulder strap makes it airport-friendly.
The Refuge Duffel goes for $189. I’m hoping that I’m never in a circumstance where I find myself grateful that it is waterproof and has reflective stripes, but those features are a terrific just-in-case. I’ve probably just put the curse on my next cyclocross race with that last sentence.
Final thought: When I walk out the door with this bag, I know I’m fully packed.