The 2017 Patagonia Houdini Pullover appeared to take the top pick for best value. We found the Houdini to be one of the simplest pieces in this years running jacket roundup, and that's not a bad thing. Often times simplicity translates directly to durability when outdoor equipment is involved. When it comes to running jackets it's easy to feel overwhelmed by too many features. The aptly named Houdini disappears when packed and is a simple albeit functional running layer for wind and rain protection. We think this hoodless, pullover, half button-up version on the Houdini would make an excellent addition to your quiver of running layers not only for its protection from the elements but the reasonable price tag.
Patagonia Houdini Pullover Review
Cons: Less breathable than some
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Houdini has been an essential piece of equipment in our running kit for as long as we can remember. The pullover version is an excellent option for the running oriented adventure seeker. The Houdini has a superior storage system and as a jacket, it is a simple affair. No zippers to break, you control the venting with the button up front, and it does a decent job of protecting you from wind and precipitation. When you don't need the jacket, it stows easily in a hidden zipper pouch located inside the kangaroo pouch in the front of the jacket. It deploys as easily as it shows and also features a double sided zipper. Patagonia has clearly been around the block when it comes to technical clothing design with an eye to minimalism and the Houdini is no exception. The Houdini also comes with a very reasonable price point, making it our top pick for someone on a budget.
Breathability and Venting
The Houdini is constructed from 100% ripstop nylon treated with a DWR finish. This single layer construction gives it exceptional protection from the elements but detracts from its ability to breath. Yes, we found the DWR treated nylon of the Houdini to be breathable and it was a far cry from being the least breathable jacket in our test. Compared to the Brooks LSD, the Houdini material breathes like a champ, though when its pitted head to head with the Outdoor Research Boost or the Arc'teryx Incendo, the breathability and venting are both lacking. Outdoor Research and Arc'teryx seem to have designed their jackets specifically for running, which explains why they have put venting and breathability so high in the design priorities and the Houdini just doesn't stack up for a pure running jacket.
We feel like this might sound a bit harsh, but in all reality, the Houdini is more of an emergency piece that you can wear and expect reasonable breathability until the hills get steep. Most of the time, while we were cruising through the Canyonlands on gently rolling hills the Houdini was adequate. When we started to pile up the miles and hit the ups, we wished we had the Outdoor Research Boost.
The positives for venting come with the half snap closure system. We thoroughly enjoyed that we could leave the upper snaps closed and intermittent snaps undone, or just a few at the bottom to control venting without leaving ourselves wide open to the elements on our upper half. Out of the package, the snaps were extremely stiff but after several weeks of testing, they softened up to a point where they are easily snapped or undone.
We think weather resistance is really where the Houdini holds its own. The Houdini has lived in the bottom of countless backpacks as a reserve parachute protecting us against the unexpected rain shower or wind storm for years.
We have personally trusted the hoody version for years and the pullover is no exception. First things first, during the initial DWR test the Houdini performed at the top of the pack. No water leaked through in the first ten minutes of the test and we had to eventually just call it nearly 30 min into the test. We couldn't find any details of how they actually treat their materials with DWR but we can say it works.
Wind resistance was much the same story as the water resistance. On our frigid downhill bike ride, the Houdini kept us shielded from the gale force wind. We did experience air leaking in through the button up closure system, but we also experienced air leaking through the zipper closure systems of several of the other jackets in the test. All in all the Houdini has similar water resistance characteristics as the Arc'teryx Incendo and similar wind protection to Outdoor Research Boost. The cost of all of this protection is the lack of breathability, which is why we feel it is exceptional as more of a lower output running jacket or an emergency layer (for exposed times on a ridge when the wind is ripping or during bouts of rain or other precipitation).
Comfort and Mobility
We found several interesting pros and cons that came along with the Houdini's unique design. This was the only pullover jacket in the review and thus comes with some characteristics that are unique.
We tried two different sizes in the Houdini Pullover and discovered that either the jacket was a little baggy while we were wearing it in the size large. The medium size fit the main tester quite well but pulling the jacket on was a little uncomfortable.
We ended up wanting the jacket to fit like the medium but pull on like the large. Barring that little snag, we appreciated that we could leave our hat on as we removed and replaced the Houdini. The half elastic cuffs were comfortable on our wrists, not too tight or loose and we had our full range of mobility. We even took this jacket with us on a week-long trip to the City of Rocks and did a fair amount of climbing. The Houdini gave us plenty of arm-over-head mobility and protected us from the nearly constant wind.
An already excellent design for packing and transporting, a great jacket has been improved on the Houdini pullover. Our previous Houdini also had a decent transportation system, though it was a little overstuffed.
The new design is perfectly sized to accommodate the entire jacket without having to put much effort into the stuffing. It also has one of the smallest packed sizes of the entire range of jackets we tested. The only competitors for packability are the Arc'teryx Incendo and the Montane Featherlite 7. Both of which have excellent packing systems. All three of these jackets were small enough to fit snugly into the zipper pouch on our running shorts, or in nearly any of the compartments on our Nathan running/hydration pack.
Tipping our scale at a meager 3.3 ounces, we didn't even notice the Houdini in our running pack on long trail runs. On those 30% chance of rain or drizzle days where we were unsure if an extra layer would be needed, the Houdini was an excellent choice. We never regretted packing it along when we didn't need it, and the times where it was warranted it was a lifesaver.
Although the action of donning the pullover wasn't our favorite and was a little difficult to do while moving, we still found that overall the portability of the Houdini was excellent.
Day and Night Visibility
Houdini Pullovers come in a wide variety of color schemes. All of the pullovers have a reflective 'Patagonia' logo on the front left breast and the middle of the upper back. We found their reflective material to be of superior quality and just with they had added a little bit more, potentially on the arms or around the waist.
During our distracted driver test, we observed that having reflective material only in the front and back leaves you vulnerable when a car has a side view of you, like when you're crossing a street and are directly perpendicular to traffic. If there was reflective blazing on the cuffs of this jacket, the side view would be much more visible. The jacket we tested was a bright yellow and offered pretty good day and low light visibility - even during our distracted driver test. We found the overall visibility of the Houdini to be pretty decent considering it's born from a line of jackets more geared towards the outdoors and trails where reflectivity and nighttime visibility aren't necessarily a top priority. Some of the more reflective and visible jackets more geared towards urban running are the Nike Impossibly Light, which showed incredible nighttime visibility, and the Outdoor Research Boost.
The Houdini Pullover is there when you need it. Like the name suggests, when inclement weather zeros in and tries to stop you in your tracks the Houdini is there to help break you free. While we preferred the OR Boost and Arc'teryx Incendo for an all-day running jacket, we liked the peace of mind we had when the Houdini was along for the run. It's reasonably well suited for urban and mountain running and at 3.3oz you won't be burdened with extra weight.
The Houdini Pullover was our Best Buy winner. It is listed retail for $90 though we have seen it for much cheaper through several retailers. Even at $90, the Houdini is good value considering it gets high marks in every area we tested.
While we wanted a bit more breathability from the Houdini Pullover, we were still impressed with its performance. Weather resistance, portability, visibility, and yes the breathability and venting were all quite good. We would, and do recommend this jacket to anyone looking for an all-arounder that they can throw in their running pack and forget about until the going gets tough.
— Brian Martin