Hands-on Gear Review

Patagonia Houdini Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:  $99 List | $69.30 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Low price, sleek fit, super small packed size, good DWR coating.
Cons:  No way to stow hood away, a bit too snug for layering beneath.
Bottom line:  The best value if money is a concern, and also the best wind breaker to hang on the back of a harness.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Weight, size L:  3.7 oz
Pockets:  1 zip (chest)
Material:  100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish
Manufacturer:   Patagonia

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Houdini is not only the least expensive windbreaker in this review — it's also the best. With a list price of $99 and a model that is a standard setter for the genre, it's easy for us to call it our Editor's Choice. We also think that it is the best choice among the jackets that we reviewed for all-day rock climbing missions. It is super lightweight, fits like a glove, and stuffs into its own chest pocket smaller than any other jacket. Clipped on the back of your harness, you will have no idea that this jacket is even there — until you need it when the sun sinks behind the top of the wall and you are in the breezy shade for the rest of the day. We think this jacket is fit for almost any outdoor activity, whether trail running, mountain biking, or hiking, and are thrilled that a product this versatile is available for this cheap.

Color Update
Patagonia adds new colors to the Houdini color palette on a regular basis. Scroll down to see two of the latest hues.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Windbreaker Jackets For Men


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
October 20, 2016

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New Colors for the Houdini


The Patagonia Houdini is available in fresh new colors. Copper Ore and Viking Blue (pictured below) are two of the eight current options.

Hands-On Review


The Houdini's best attributes are its incredibly lightweight and super small packed size. It also features one of the best DWR coatings that we tested, giving the confidence to go super light knowing that this jacket will keep you dry in all but the worst of downpours. We liked this jacket better for climbing simply because of the fact that hanging on the back of the harness, it can take a beating against the rock, unlike some other models.

In terms of the most important attributes of a wind jacket — wind resistance and breathability — the super thin Houdini has you covered. It features what we found to be a perfect balance between the two, meaning it is stout enough to hold up against a chilly wind, but is also breathable enough that it makes a fantastic running shell. And indeed, running seems to be the primary target audience for this jacket. Regardless of your activity, there is hardly a better option than the Houdini, and there certainly isn't one for less money.

Performance Comparison


The barren and desolate Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place for a windbreaker. Here we are testing the Houdini  which fits as snuggly as any we tested. A wind breaker is great for days like this one where the sun beats down but the wind is chilly.
The barren and desolate Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place for a windbreaker. Here we are testing the Houdini, which fits as snuggly as any we tested. A wind breaker is great for days like this one where the sun beats down but the wind is chilly.

Wind Resistance


The Houdini is made of a very thin and lightweight nylon woven ripstop that is far less air permeable than the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody or the Outdoor Research Tantrum II. It is downright difficult to force air through this material with one's mouth, and this simple test is definitely backed up by our field testing. Having run in the mountains in this jacket for countless days over the course of many years, our head tester knows without a doubt that this jacket is a bombproof shelter from the wind. We awarded this jacket eight out of a possible 10 for wind resistance.

The Houdini is very thin and lightweight  and provides great protection from the wind as long as it is not too cold. Without the ability to layer underneath  we were honestly freezing in this strong cold evening wind in only a wind breaker.
The Houdini is very thin and lightweight, and provides great protection from the wind as long as it is not too cold. Without the ability to layer underneath, we were honestly freezing in this strong cold evening wind in only a wind breaker.

Breathability and Venting


For a jacket that is so tightly woven, the Houdini is surprisingly breathable. We found it to be about average amongst the test group, but certainly better than the fully waterproof/breathable Patagonia Alpine Houdini. One thing that we were a bit disappointed about was the lack of venting capabilities. With no pockets and no underarm venting, there is really no way for trapped air to escape except through the fabric itself. The front zipper is the primary venting tool, but for a running specific jacket, as Patagonia purports this one to be, it would be nice if it also included the chest button that the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie features. We awarded this jacket seven out of 10 points for Breathability and Venting.

The ten wind breakers in this review stuffed into their pockets'  from left to right: Sierra Designs Exhale Windhirt (green) does not fit into a pocket  Marmot Ether DriClime Hoody (orange)  Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Pro (light orange)  Patagonia Alpine Houdini (navy  discontinued)  Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket (glossy black)  Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie (neon green  discontinued) Patagonia Houdini (black)  Rab Windveil (white mesh)  Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (brown)  Outdoor Research Tantrum (neon yellow).
The ten wind breakers in this review stuffed into their pockets', from left to right: Sierra Designs Exhale Windhirt (green) does not fit into a pocket, Marmot Ether DriClime Hoody (orange), Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Pro (light orange), Patagonia Alpine Houdini (navy, discontinued), Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket (glossy black), Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie (neon green, discontinued) Patagonia Houdini (black), Rab Windveil (white mesh), Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (brown), Outdoor Research Tantrum (neon yellow).

Weight and Packability


Our size medium Houdini weighed 3.5 ounces, the third lightest jacket in the review, behind only the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket. We awarded it eight out of 10 points for this low, low weight, but bumped it up another point because it packs down smaller than any other jacket. This is a real advantage, especially when climbing.

Our Best Buy Award winner made an excellent choice as a trail running layer. Super light weight and packable smaller than any other jacket we tested  it fits close to the skin to maintain a sleek profile.
Our Best Buy Award winner made an excellent choice as a trail running layer. Super light weight and packable smaller than any other jacket we tested, it fits close to the skin to maintain a sleek profile.

Fit and Functionality


While we bought size large in almost every jacket that we tested for this review, we purchased size medium for Patagonia jackets, because we find that their sizing is a bit too large for us in almost every case. Our size medium Houdini was the slimmest and tightest jacket in this test. It fits very snuggly around the torso, and in our case was even a little tight in the chest. This is one jacket that we could have stood to size up perhaps. However, despite the constrictions around the torso and chest, we felt that the hem length and sleeve lengths were perfect. Regardless, this is a tight fitting jacket that doesn't leave much room at all for layering beneath, and that we would love to see made with stretchy fabric.

The single drawcord and cinch buckle at the back of the hood help fine tune the fit of the Houdini.
The single drawcord and cinch buckle at the back of the hood help fine tune the fit of the Houdini.

In order to keep it feather light, the Houdini has a minimal feature set. The wrist cuffs are half elastic, but do a good job of keeping the weather out. The hood is adequately tightened from behind with a single drawcord and cinch buckle. One complaint is that there is no mechanism for stowing away the hood. Having worn this jacket for years now, we find that the hood flaps incessantly in the wind when we are not wearing it, and we would love a way to fasten it tight, like what was included on the Alpine Houdini.

The wrist enclosures on the Houdini are half elastic and half simple nylon.
The wrist enclosures on the Houdini are half elastic and half simple nylon.

There are no hand pockets on this jacket, and only a very small chest pocket, which of course the jacket stuffs into. Overall we felt that the features that were included worked well, but it was missing a few very easy additions that wouldn't cost anything in weight but would make the jacket much better for running.

The only pocket on this jacket is the small chest pocket outlined in black. The entire jacket can be stuffed into this tiny pocket turned inside out pretty easily  making it the smallest packing jacket in the review.
The only pocket on this jacket is the small chest pocket outlined in black. The entire jacket can be stuffed into this tiny pocket turned inside out pretty easily, making it the smallest packing jacket in the review.

Water Resistance


Surprisingly, water resistance was one of the Houdini's strongest traits. We used this jacket on a week-long backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado, comparing it side by side to its burlier counterpart, the Alpine Houdini. While the method they use to protect from the rain is completely different, we were shocked to find that the DWR coating employed on the Houdini was just as effective as the 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable membrane of the Alpine Houdini. In our shower test, we found that the DWR coating plus the tight nylon weave was very effective at repelling water, with no soak through or absorption whatsoever, even after living through the abrasion and wear of four months of testing. Nine out of 10 points.

Best Applications


Patagonia claims that the Houdini is the ultimate layer whether you are running, riding, or climbing, and we would have to agree. We have used it primarily for trail and mountain running for years, and also love it as a great emergency piece while hiking and peak bagging. Really, there is not much in the way of outdoor activities that this jacket isn't good for.

The breathable and protective Houdini is a perfect shell for high altitude in the summer. Nearing the top of Columbine Pass during a week long backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado.
The breathable and protective Houdini is a perfect shell for high altitude in the summer. Nearing the top of Columbine Pass during a week long backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado.

Value


The Houdini retails for $99, tied for the lowest price of any jacket we tested. We think this presents such a great value that we slapped our Best Bang for the Buck Award on it. If money is a concern, but you still want a top quality wind breaker, then look no further than the Houdini.

Conclusion


Harry Houdini was once the world's most famous magician. Patagonia's Houdini might make you feel like you are wearing his magic cape. Granting you the protection that is right up there with the best jackets in our review for less than the competition, we can't help but sing this amazing jacket's praises.

In the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado the mountain goats are famous for being extremely curious. They are truly unafraid of humans  as shown by this group that wandered into camp one evening.
In the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado the mountain goats are famous for being extremely curious. They are truly unafraid of humans, as shown by this group that wandered into camp one evening.
Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: October 20, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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