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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Houdini - Women's Review
Cons: Limited cuff adjustability, no hand pockets.
The Patagonia Houdini - Women's has been a favorite wind breaker jacket among the outdoor set since its inception about a decade ago, and it continues to satisfy even the most extreme and rugged athletes today. This classic layering piece is highly wind resistant but also breathable. It's also more water resistant and lighter than any of the other wind breakers we tested; this jacket packs down so small there is almost no excuse for not bringing it with you on even the most lightweight mission. The Patagonia Houdini - Women's had the highest ratings in almost every category that we tested it in, and it's our overall Editors' Choice winner. We did prefer the softer, more natural feel of the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody - Women's fabric, and if you plan on using your wind breaker jacket in cold conditions we'd go with that model or the Marmot Stride - Women's instead. Otherwise, this is the best of the lot and a great layer to bring on your next climb, hike or bike ride to keep you sheltered from the wind and even a light rain.
RELATED: Our complete review of wind jackets - women's
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Patagonia Houdini - Women's is made of a 15D 100% ripstop nylon with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. It has a drawstring hood that cinches in the back, a drop back hem, and elastic cuffs. There's one external chest pocket that the jacket stows into with a loop for clipping it onto your harness or pack. It weighs 3.6 ounces (102 g) and comes in five different colors.
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 Patagonia Houdini - Women's proved to be highly wind resistant. The durable ripstop fabric, drawstring hood, drawstring hem and half elastic cuffs do a great job of keeping the drafts out. The hood even cinches from the back so your peripheral vision is not obstructed, and it fits comfortably over a ski, bike or climbing helmet.
The Patagonia Houdini - Women's strikes a great balance between wind resistance and breathability. The DWR coating on top of the breathable barrier keeps the outer fabric from becoming wet, so the barrier can still breathe. The adjustable hem and full front zipper provide additional "airing out" options. The fine toothed zipper helps seal out drafts, yet allows for slight ventilation without compromising protection from the wind. The women's specific fit also allows for layering above or below according to the climate and exertion output.
The Patagonia Houdini - Women's ranked highest in water resistance among the seven different models we reviewed. Though this is not a waterproof layer like a dedicated rain jacket, it is nice for a wind breaker 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 a light rain and is quick to dry. Our Best Buy winner, the The North Face Cyclone Hoodie - Women's and our Top Pick for Alpine Climbing, the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody, were also water resistant, but did not quite match the performance of this model. 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.
The Patagonia Houdini - Women's weighs a scant 3.6 ounces (102 g) and is the lightest jacket of all the models we reviewed. We were very impressed that the lightest model was actually the highest performing one, and this is a good example of where "less is more." The absence of zippered hand pockets, a draft flap 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.
Even if you are going out for a light day hike and the weather is clear, stashing a wind breaker 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 Patagonia Houdini - Women's is a "go to" piece for any outdoor adventure because of its versatility. We liked having this jacket on our alpine scrambles because the water repellent fabric sustains a light rain for short periods of time. The drawstring hood fits over a helmet and cinches in the back to prevent blocking your side vision and it keeps the fabric from flapping in a strong wind. It has a slightly dropped back hem that provides extra coverage for cyclists. The hem's drawstring is positioned at the back so the frontside remains smooth and it doesn't get caught on climbing gear.
This jacket's trim fit and thin fabric works well in a layering system. There's enough room for a baselayer or two under the wind breaker, but it's not too bulky and also fits under a heavier layer like a fleece or down jacket. Its breathability combined with its adjustability work in unison to allow many different layering combinations to suit your energy output. At first we thought the draft flap was "missing," but now we believe the lack of a draft flap provides for just enough ventilation, but not too much, because of the fine tooth zipper.
Like the Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody, this model has no hand pockets. This prevents any hotspots that zippers or toggles create when wearing a climbing harness or pack hip belt over it, but it also leaves you with no place to put your hands when the wind is blowing. If hand pockets are an important feature to you, check out The North Face Cyclone Hoodie or The North Face Flyweight Hoodie - Women's instead. Also, be aware that the one chest pocket is small and is not fully attached to the inside of the jacket. If you carry anything too bulky or heavy in there it bounces around and causes the jacket to sag.
This jacket held up well in our testing and earned a high score for this category. It's made with 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.
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.
At $99, this wind breaker is the second most expensive jacket that we tested, but the high quality lightweight fabric and functional design make it worth the price. 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.
Patagonia set the standard for this class of wind breaker 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 breathes with every beat. The carefully chosen features such as the adjustable hood and 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.
Patagonia Alpine Houdini and Alpine Houdini - Women's
— Jean Tucky
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 5, 2015
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