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Patagonia Houdini - Men's Review

The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standard
patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review
Credit: Patagonia
Price:  $109 List
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 7, 2022
81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 8.0
  • Breathability and Venting - 30% 8.0
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 8.0
  • Fit and Functionality - 10% 9.0
  • Water Resistance - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Houdini is the highest-rated wind jacket in this review; amazingly, it is also one of the most affordable. This piece sets the standard for this category, so it should be no surprise that we have awarded it our Editors' Choice. It is super lightweight, has an impressive DWR coating, and packs into its chest pocket to about the size of an apple. Clipped on the back of your harness, you will have no idea that this jacket is even there — until you break it out when the sun sinks behind the top of the wall. This jacket is not just a great option for all-day rock-climbing missions; it holds its own during any outdoor activity.
REASONS TO BUY
Low price
Simple and effective design
Tiny packed-size
Impressive DWR coating
REASONS TO AVOID
No feature to stow away the hood
Thin material can feel clammy during high-output activity
Editor's Note: The Patagonia Houdini remains unchanged, but we retested this jacket during Fall 2022 to ensure it should maintain its award as our Editors' Choice.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Low price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coatingSuperlight, tiny packed size, unique perforated back for improved breathabilityAbrasion resistant, ample room for layering, underarm ventilationAffordable, PFC-free DWR, elastic hoodBreathable, surprising water repellency, stylish and comfortable
Cons No feature to stow away the hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activityShort cut torso, perforations allow water in during rainstormsPoor water resistance, lack of articulationStuff sack instead of zippered stuff pocketWind cuts through elastane mesh, no storage pocket, specific fit
Bottom Line The best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standardAn impressively packable, highly-technical jacket that is perfectly designed for light and fast missionsDespite its flashy appearance, this is a technical windbreaker and is further reinforced with abrasion-resistant fabricA lightweight, versatile, DWR-coated nylon shell, all at an affordable priceThis running-focused shell isn’t the most wind resistant, but features an appealing balance of breathability and water resistance
Rating Categories Patagonia Houdini -... The North Face Flig... Outdoor Research He... Rab Vital Hoody - M... Salomon Agile Full-...
Wind Resistance (30%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Breathability and Venting (30%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Weight and Packability (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Fit and Functionality (10%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Water Resistance (10%)
8.0
6.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Patagonia Houdini -... The North Face Flig... Outdoor Research He... Rab Vital Hoody - M... Salomon Agile Full-...
Measured Weight (size M) 3.9 oz (size L) 3.7 oz 5.0 oz 4.8 oz 5.6 oz
Material 100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish 94% recycled nylon, 6% recycled polyester with non-PFC DWR finish 100% Pertex Diamond Fuse (100% nylon ripstop) 20D Atmos woven nylon with fluorocarbon-free DWR 100% polyester upper, 88% polyester / 12% elastane lower
Pockets 1 zip chest None 1 zip chest 2 zip hand 2 zip hand
Safety Reflective Material? No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible) Reflective logo on chest and back Yes, reflective logo Yes, reflective logo on chest Yes, reflective inserts
Stowable Pocket? Yes: chest pocket Yes: collar pocket Yes: chest pocket No; included stuff sack No
Cuff Style Half Elastic Quarter Elastic Half Elastic Half Elastic Half Elastic
Hood Fits Over Helmet? Yes No Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Patagonia Houdini is best known as an incredibly lightweight and packable wind jacket. It also features one of the best DWR coatings of any jacket we tested, giving you the confidence to go with it as your only layer, knowing that this versatile jacket will keep you dry enough to keep going in all but the worst of downpours. We love this jacket for climbing because it is so light you will hardly notice it hanging off the back of your harness.

In terms of the most important attributes of a wind jacket — wind resistance and breathability — the Houdini sets a category standard. It is stout enough to hold up against a chilly wind on a ski tour but also breathable enough to make a fantastic running shell. This jacket truly impresses with its ability to balance these two characteristics that might seem mutually exclusive. Regardless of your activity, there is hardly a better option than the Patagonia Houdini.

Performance Comparison


patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the houdini is a fast-packer's dream jacket: ultra-lightweight...
The Houdini is a fast-packer's dream jacket: ultra-lightweight, uber-packable, breathable, yet protective when it needs to be.
Credit: Jill Rice

Wind Resistance


The Houdini is made of a super-thin, lightweight nylon ripstop that is impressively wind resistant. It is downright difficult to force air through this material with one's mouth, and our field time definitely backs up this simple test. In a side-by-side test riding a bike down a long hill, we found that this jacket is on-par with other nylon ripstop layers, and only slightly more air permeable than insulated options.


While this jacket is not at the top of our wind resistance ratings, it balances certain qualities that make it superior to other jackets in this review. For instance, the Houdini might not be as wind resistant as other nylon builds, but it is much more breathable. We have worn this jacket in the mountains for countless days over many years, and our head tester will vouch that this jacket is a bombproof shelter from the wind.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - if you've floated the san juan river, you may remember the windy...
If you've floated the San Juan River, you may remember the windy mile just before Mexican Hat, UT; a perfect place to test the wind resistance of the Houdini.
Credit: Jill Rice

Breathability and Venting


For a jacket that is so tightly woven, the Houdini is surprisingly breathable. The jacket never felt heavy with heat during extended, high-output activities like ski touring. This jacket also has a magical quality, where it seems to dry off on your body — both in a constant wind or when you are in motion, like on a ski descent. Even on trail runs through the desert, the Houdini does a great job of managing body temperature.


We were a bit disappointed with the Houdini's lack of venting capability. With no pockets or underarm venting, there is no way for trapped air to escape except through the fabric itself, which sometimes makes the arms clammy with perspiration. The front zipper is the primary venting tool, or you can push up the sleeves. But this is often uncomfortable on trail runs due to the tightness of the half-elastic wrist cuff around our forearms. However, this slight criticism is still insufficient to knock any points off the Houdini's breathability and venting rating.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the balance of wind resistance and breathability makes the houdini...
The balance of wind resistance and breathability makes the Houdini an easy go-to jacket for long trail runs. An added bonus is that it packs up small enough to fit in the pocket of your running shorts.
Credit: Jill Rice

Weight and Packability


Our size large Houdini weighed 3.9 ounces. This is one of the lightest jackets in the review, despite its larger size — the majority of jackets in our lineup are mediums.


The Houdini receives high marks for its remarkably low weight and superb packability. It is actually tough to say which of the other lightest jackets packs up the smallest, but all are great options for hanging off the back of a climbing harness.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the houdini packs into its chest pocket, and is one of the smallest...
The Houdini packs into its chest pocket, and is one of the smallest and lightest-weight packages of any wind jacket in our lineup.
Credit: Jill Rice

Fit and Functionality


Our head tester is often on the edge of sizing in Patagonia clothing. After testing a size medium Houdini in the past, we decided to try out the large instead. We are happy we did, as the large afforded a nearly perfect fit. This jacket is well-mapped and fits like an athletic layer, but still affords ample room for movement in the arms and shoulders. A fit like this is particularly important when it comes to rock climbing and other alpine sports. This jacket is not quite as slim as previous versions and does allow for some layering underneath. But it is better suited to be worn over a fleece like a Patagonia R1, rather than a bulkier synthetic midlayer.


The Houdini has a minimal feature set to keep it feather-light. The wrist cuffs are half elastic, but do an excellent job of keeping the wind out. When you push the arms up to help out with ventilation, the half-elastic design can be uncomfortably tight around your forearms. The hood is tightened from behind with a single drawcord and cinch buckle, but one complaint is that there is no mechanism for stowing away the hood when not in use. The hood readily flaps around in the wind and can act like a sail with the speed of a ski descent. We would love a way to fasten it tight so that it isn't as prone to billowing.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the houdini is a favorite of climbers due to its durability and...
The Houdini is a favorite of climbers due to its durability and lightweight packability, but it is also one of the few jackets in this category that has a hood large enough to accommodate a climbing helmet.
Credit: Jill Rice

There are no hand pockets on this jacket. While the historically small chest pocket — which doubles as a stuff sack — has been updated to fit the increasing size of modern smartphones, don't plan on much carrying capacity. Overall the features are simple and work well for a light emergency shell that you can easily deploy on a moment's notice.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - sometimes, simplicity rules. the pull tabs on the houdini help this...
Sometimes, simplicity rules. The pull tabs on the Houdini help this jacket lock down when the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Credit: Jill Rice

Water Resistance


Water resistance is one of the Houdini's strongest traits, surprisingly so because of its lightweight construction. A few years ago, we used this jacket on a week-long backpacking trip in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado. During that trip, we traded off this jacket with a burlier jacket sporting a 2.5-layer waterproof-breathable membrane. While the methods the two jackets use to ward off the rain are completely different, we were amazed to find that the DWR coating employed on the Houdini was just as effective.


To back this up, we tested it side-by-side with similarly weighted wind jackets by using a garden hose to simulate a rain shower. Despite the fact that the thin material tends to stick to the body under the weight of falling water, we found that the Houdini's water resistance was far superior to any other ultralight jacket in our review.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the houdini features one of the better dwr coatings of any jacket...
The Houdini features one of the better DWR coatings of any jacket we've tested. Tests underneath a garden hose and in the shower back up our experience in the mountains: don't underestimate the weather resistance of this ultralight shell.
Credit: Jill Rice

Should You Buy the Patagonia Houdini?


Harry Houdini was once the world's most famous magician, and the Patagonia Houdini might make you feel like you are wearing his magic cape. Patagonia claims that the Houdini is the ultimate layer whether you are running, riding, or climbing, and we absolutely agree. This jacket is one of the best value purchases you could make thanks to its outstanding weather resistance and lightweight packability — it is perfect as an emergency piece to stash in your pack for almost any adventure. The best part is that you don't have to pay top dollar for a top-quality wind jacket.

patagonia houdini wind breaker jacket review - the patagonia houdini combines simple styling and outstanding...
The Patagonia Houdini combines simple styling and outstanding performance to create a truly timeless jacket.
Credit: Jill Rice

What Other Windbreakers Should You Consider?


The Houdini is lighter and less costly than much of the competition, and offers weather resistance that ranks right up there with the hardiest jackets in our review. We can't help but sing this jacket's praises, but there are still specialty pieces that outpace the Houdini in certain aspects.

Aaron Rice
 
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