Patagonia Houdini - Women's Review
Cons: Limited cuff adjustability, poor breathability
Bottom line: A tried-and-true model that is a favorite for many an outdoorist, this model's $99 price tag won't break the bank.
Material: 100% 15D ripstop nylon with a DWR treatment
Pockets: 1 chest
The Patagonia Houdini has been a favorite windbreaker among the outdoor set since its inception about a decade ago, and it continues to satisfy today, easily nabbing our Editors' Choice award in a tough field of competition. This classic layering piece is highly wind resistant and boasts a bit of water resistance as well as being lighter than any of the other windbreakers we tested. The Houdini packs down so small there is almost no excuse for not bringing it with you on even the most lightweight mission. Although the Houdini lacks high scores in breathability, it makes up for this with high scores in nearly every other category. It's the best wind/emergency layer to bring on your next climb, hike, or bike ride to keep you sheltered from the wind or light rain.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Patagonia Houdini is made of a 15D 100% ripstop nylon with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. It has an elastic hood, a drop back hem, and half-elastic cuffs. The external pocket allows you to stuff your jacket into it; plus, there's a loop, which means you can clip it to your pack or harness. It weighs 3.4 ounces and comes in a rainbow of colors.
At $99, this windbreaker is among the two most inexpensive jackets in our test (alongside our Best Buy, the Eddie Bauer Uplift). The high-quality, lightweight fabric and functional design are surprising, especially at such a low price. Plus, as with all Patagonia products, you also get the Patagonia Ironclad Guarantee, so if you are not satisfied with the product's performance, you may return it for repair, replacement or refund.
We put this jacket to the test on windy High Sierra mountain ridges, sheer granite rock faces, and gusty bike rides. Even though it lacks a draft flap behind the zipper, the Houdini proved to be highly wind resistant. The durable ripstop fabric, drawstring hem, and half-elastic cuffs do a great job of keeping the drafts out.
Over the years, Patagonia has redesigned this jacket, removing the drawstring in the hood to cut weight. We found that this change was warranted, as the design of the hood is such that it remains tight around your face in high winds without blocking your field of vision. If you're willing to compromise a bit on wind resistance and want more features, consider the Outdoor Research Tantrum or the equally wind-resistant but more feature Arc'teryx Squamish.
Along with the other highly wind-resistant models in our review, like the Arc'teryx Squamish, the Houdini did not score well in breathability. This piece does not perform during high-energy, sustained aerobic exercise. However, because that's not a wind breaker's purpose, it is not a deal breaker.
Plus, the Houdini's design allows for slight adjustments when you are hot and on the move or cold. The sleeves easily pull up to dump some heat, and the women's specific fit allows for layering above or below according to the climate and exertion output. If you're looking for a slightly more breathable piece, check out the Adidas Shield or Black Diamond Alpine Start.
This jacket held up well in our testing and earned the highest score for this category in our test. It's crafted from 100% ripstop nylon, and although it feels paper thin, even after months of heavy use it showed no signs of snags or tears. If you do get a tear in the fabric, this jacket patches nicely with ripstop nylon repair tape. The tape comes in several colors, so it's easy to repair a tear without drawing too much attention it. Plus, it comes backed with Patagonia's Worn Wear program, which will often repair issues free of charge (or for a small charge).
If you're looking for other pieces whose design and material will stand the test of time, consider looking at the Eddie Bauer Uplift or Black Diamond Alpine Start.
Weight and Packability
The Houdini weighs a scant 3.4 ounces and is among the two lightest jackets in our test, alongside the Eddie Bauer Uplift. We were impressed that the lightest model was the highest performing one, and this is an excellent example of where "less is more." The absence of zippered hand pockets, a draft flap, hood cinch, and cuff tabs make this jacket ultralight, and the compressible fabric packs down easily and stuffs into its own small chest pocket, taking up the same space as an energy bar. Of all the jackets, this one compresses down into the tiniest package.
Even if you are going out for a light day hike and the weather is clear, stashing a windbreaker in your daypack or CamelBak is a smart choice. It won't weigh you down, and you never know how windy the summit will be or when an afternoon thunderstorm will roll in.
The Houdini is a "go-to" piece for any outdoor adventure because of its versatility. We liked having this jacket on our alpine scrambles because the slightly water-repellent fabric sustains a light rain for short periods of time. The hood is well designed and fits well over a climbing helmet. It has a slightly dropped back hem that provides extra coverage for cyclists. Plus, the hem's drawstring is positioned at the back, so the front side remains smooth, and it doesn't get caught on climbing gear.
However, the Houdini's packability is what makes it shine for versatility. This piece packs down so small that bringing it along on any mission is not a problem. If you're looking for a more fashion-focused piece, consider the Cotapaxi Teca or if you're in need of a windbreaker for running, try the Outdoor Research Tantrum.
The Houdini received a 7 out of 10 on the water resistance scale, along with the Arc'teryx Squamish and Eddie Bauer Uplift. Though this is not a waterproof layer like a dedicated rain jacket, it is nice for a windbreaker to have some water resistance to it, as often wind and water go hand in hand, particularly for sports like sailing. While this layer won't keep you dry in a downpour, the durable water repellent (DWR) finish beads water in light rain and is quick to dry. If the weather forecast looks good, but you live in an area where brief storms are always possible, this is a perfect piece to throw in your bag.
Keep in mind, though, that to maintain maximum water repellency you need to periodically treat this garment with a water repellent product like Nikwax Tech Wash.
This jacket is perfectly suited to almost any outdoor pursuit unless you are somewhere notoriously wet where you need a proper rain jacket instead. Whether you are rock climbing granite chimneys in Yosemite, sailing in the Whitsundays or navigating rocky glaciers in Patagonia, this jacket blocks out the wind, and you'll hardly notice it's there because it's so lightweight and compact.
Patagonia set the standard for this class of windbreaker some years ago, and it comes as no surprise that the Houdini continues to deliver high-quality performance in a lightweight package. This jacket moves with your every rhythm, and the carefully chosen features such as the slight drop back adjustable hem are a testament to its simplicity and functionality. It is ideal for use with a layering system, is highly wind resistant and also water resistant for its class, and is easy to move in no matter what your sport. The absence of hand pockets make it versatile for activities such as rock climbing or backpacking where you don't want anything rubbing under your climbing harness or pack hip belt, and it stuffs into its one small chest pocket with a loop to clip it onto you. You won't be disappointed if you include this high-quality garment in your quiver of weather protection, and even if it simply lives in your pack as an emergency layer, you never know when it might save the day.
— Shey Kiester
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