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Patagonia Houdini Review


Wind Jacket

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Top Pick Award
Price:   Varies from $86 - $99 online  —  Compare at 4 sellers
Pros:  Lightest and most compactible jacket in review, breatheable, great in hot and cold weather.
Cons:  Expensive, few color options, no side pockets, no Velcro sealable cuffs.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Patagonia

Overview

The Patagonia Houdini is one of our favorite windbreakers and wins a Top Pick award. It is the lightest we tested and packs the smallest. It is our most used layer in our quiver because it is just so versatile. What other jacket can protect you from mosquitoes on a hot day, protect you from sun at the beach, block the wind on a bike ride, and keep you dry in a light rain?

That said, the Houdini is expensive. If you use it as much as we do, the price- per-day of use makes it a good value. But if you don't plan to use it every day the Marmot Trail Wind Hoody is very comparable and costs about half as much. Each has their pros and cons. The Trail Wind is a little heavier and does not pack down as small. The fabric does not breathe as well but it does have ventilation under the pits and back of the neck (which also is a con because it doesn't block the wind as well).

Our Editors' Choice was the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody because we felt we could do anything in it. The Squamish has a burlier feel, articulated elbows, and Velcro cuffs which meant we didn't hesitate to use it in the snow or in more burly rain and wind conditions. But, it is an ounce heavier and does not compress as well as the Houdini. So if your main focus with a windbreaker is to get the lightest possible jacket, then get the Houdini. The Houdini is also $50 less expensive and we see it on sale more often.


RELATED: Our complete review of wind jackets - men's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
September 13, 2011

Likes


This is one of the lightest jackets on earth and the lightest in our review. Like most ultralight gear, it made us want to take it everywhere…because we never had to make that decision "is it worth the weight and space?" Since it weighs nothing and takes up no space you just bury it in your pack and forget about it. It's the outerwear equivalent of the Petzl E+Lite headlamp: it's so light you always have it with you and therefor it becomes one of your most used pieces of gear.

We especially loved the Houdini for bike commuting in the San Francisco Bay Area where temps in the summer range from 50 and foggy to 90 and scorching, sometimes on a single bike ride. It is light and breatheable enough that we even used it when it was scorching hot just as sun protection. We tucked the hood into the back of our bike helmet to protect the neck. Because one of our testers has already had minor skin cancer at age 32, this became and ideal way to block the sun. (NOTE: Patagonia confirmed to OutdoorGearLab that the jacket does not have a UPF rating so use it for sun protection at your own risk.) It is also an ideal way to block mosquitoes. It is maybe the most breatheable layer that blocks bug bites.

The single zipper pocket is just big enough for an iPhone if you want to listen to tunes. The jacket packs into the pocket and has a small keeper loop, ideal for clipping to the side of a backpack or climbing harness. Once packed into itself it is about the size of your fist. This means you can put it in a fleece jacket pocket and carry it on casual hikes just in case it rains or gets too windy. It also packed the smallest of all the windbreakers in our tests. It was the only jacket that packed small enough that we consider keeping it in a pants pocket.

What really distinguished the Houdini was its breatheability. Most shells, when against even mildly sweaty skin, will stick and feel clammy. The Houdini doesn't stick to bare skin and therefore keeps the air circulating. The cuff lets air in, which kept us well ventilated when biking on warm days.

The DWR coating holds up well in most light rain situations better than we expected. And since so much of staying dry is keeping ventilated inside the jacket, this jacket does great. Many other windbreakers or rain jackets accumulate moisture on the inside and stick to your skin or base layer and create a clammy inside environment (even if the outside of the jacket is repelling water).

Click to enlarge
Climbing the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome with the Patagonia Houdini wind jacket.

Dislikes


When the jacket is packed inside itself, there is a convenient keeper loop so you can clip it to a pack or climbing harness. This keeper loop feels a little flimsy. It never ripped on us, but we always felt nervous about climbing with it, especially considering its price tag.

Keep in mind there are no hand pockets, unlike the Rab Cirrus. So if you are using this as a trail running or hiking jacket, you have to find some other place to put that beanie or energy bar.

There are only a few colors. We call the one we tested "CalTrans Orange," which we love for bike commuting. But we just noticed Patagonia discontinued that color. If you want a super visible safety color you have to with the chartreuse, which is not our favorite (although every other bike commuters we see seems to love that color).

Because there is no Velcro at the cuffs, it does not keep out the wind as effectively as it could. This was especially an issue when biking in the cold. You can solve this with long biking gloves with a Velcro cuff (and tuck the Houdini inside).

When we tightened the hood, the excess draw string did not stow away as cleanly as we would have liked.

Best Application


What does this not work for? We would take it to the beach, bike commuting, hiking, camping, fishing.…the list goes on.

Click to enlarge
Chris Simrell sports the Patagonia Houdini (green) and Nano Puff (blue) on the Prow, Yosemite.

Sizing


Our main tester is 5'10" 155 lb. and wears the Small. It is a little tight but that's the way he likes it. It barely layers over a lightweight insulated jacket. In general, we size Patagonia jackets small and find they fit best on thin frames. We have heard of people with wide frames not being able to fit this jacket easily.

Other Versions


Click to enlarge
Patagonia Houdini - Women's
  • Ladies version of the Houdini
  • Women's specific fit with different color options than mens
  • $99

Click to enlarge
Patagonia Alpine Houdini
  • Ultralight waterproof and breathable jacket
  • 5.5oz. (compared to 4.3oz, but remember this is waterproof)
  • Packs down tiny and stuffs into chest pocket with clip in loop
  • Technical Hood that fits over a helmet
  • $200
Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 2, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

75% of 8 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 63%  (5)
4 star: 13%  (1)
3 star: 13%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 13%  (1)
Sort 8 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jul 2, 2016 - 07:24am
sele · Mountain Biker · New York
Hi
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Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 8, 2016 - 12:55am
This review should be updated. The video is from 2012 and I'm assuming the written review is from around the same time. In spring of 2013 patagonia changed the fabric, it's a totally different product now. I think the old houdini was like 30 cfm and the new fabric is 3 cfm, so a huge change. The new houdini is not very breathable at all.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 7, 2016 - 09:04am
sele · Mountain Biker · New York
Hi Friends

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Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 2, 2016 - 11:46pm
Dan N · Skier · San Francisco CA
I like this jacket a lot but ultimately I think I will replace it. The hood is amazing, it really does move with your head which is rare in outdoor gear which generally stays still and blocks your vision when turning your head. I wanted it as a layer of warmth to take when going out at night on my bicycle. The reason I think I will replace it is that I want something that fits in my pocket and it is just a bit too big. I will likely go with a Montbell Tachyon just because of the size.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 11, 2013 - 05:32pm
Geoffrey gonzales · Climber · Pasadena, CA
Totally bonkers.

It breathes super super well.
Its crazy light.
Its durable.
It can fit an iPhone, headphones, chapstick, and ID and medical info into its pocket.
But more practically, it can fit 3 full snickers in its pocket. Woo!
I use it as my 99% alpine shell.
The best thing is that its cheep enough to replace. Brownie points.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 23, 2013 - 09:08pm
crøtch · Climber
Patagonia has changed the cut and features of the Houdini for Spring 2013. The new cut seems to favor runners more than climbers, it's tight through the shoulders and chest. I normally wear a Patagonia small top and had to go with Medium for the Houdini.

The stuff pocket in the new version has been cut in size by about half. It now takes quite a bit of time and energy to stuff the Houdini into its chest pocket, and would be difficult with gloves, impossible with mitts, and even with bare hands gets me a bit pumped and takes longer than I want to spend at a belay stuffing my jacket. It used to take me maybe 10 seconds to stuff the previous version, but the new one takes minutes to stuff. Seriously.

The material on the new unit has changed as well. It seems to be a bit stiffer and less breathable than the previous edition.

If you are a climber shopping for a Houdini, I'd recommend picking up a 2012 version if you can. Otherwise wait until Patagonia redesigns the stuff pocket.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 1, 2012 - 04:12pm
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
If you are looking into this, you have waited too long to buy the Houdini.

Seriously, go buy it. It has rendered most of my other jackets irrelevant. The only (and this is nit picking) complaint I have is that the cuff on the sleeves isn't as tight as it could be…ie: no way to adjust/cinch it down.

Highly water repellant, wind proof, compact, light, functional. What moer can you ask for?

W

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 1, 2012 - 03:52pm
Max Neale · Other · Alaska
This is one of top 5 favorite pieces of gear. I've worn it over over 200 days. Ridiculously durable and versatile for its weight.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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