The Houdini Air is a great jacket fit for high-output mountain adventures. We loved its ratio of breathability to comfort but found it missing a few key features.
Chasing sunshine on the most bluebird day in Yosemite National Park
Whether you're a new runner or a veteran marathoner, you're going to work up a sweat during your workouts. Your clothing's ability to breathe and let air flow in and out is essential to keeping you comfortable and cool. Because jackets block your skin from the elements, making evaporation more difficult, our team decided that breathability was the single most important criterion in a running jacket, earning 25% of each garment's overall score.
The Houdini Air has above-average breathability, but it wasn't at the very top of the pack. It's made from cohesive material that is 90% nylon and 10% polyester. This nylon is much more breathable than many of the polyester models we tried, and it felt less sticky and clammy when we did start to work up a sweat. We did find this jacket a bit less breathable (though less protective) than its counterpart, the Airshed.
Showing off the internal breathability of Patagonia's new Houdini Air.
One thing we would have loved to see on this jacket was panels. A few other models we tested, like the Smartwool Merino Sport, had thoughtfully placed vents along the back and underarms to help promote airflow in our sweatiest spots.
Our expert crew of gear testers knew that running jackets are only in play when the weather is less than ideal, making their weather-resistant capabilities extremely important. For this category, we evaluated each jacket's ability to withstand wind, rain, and cold temperatures.
The Houdini Air's hood is a little baggy, but the rear drawstring helps with fit.
The Houdini Air received an average score for weather resistance; it covered all the bases but did not have any exceptional qualities. This jacket repels light rain and moisture and is excellent at blocking wind. The hood does add some extra protection from the elements, but we didn't find that the fit was all that great for moving quickly. The Air does not provide any insulation, which may or may not be important to you depending on what sort of layer you're looking for.
Our team wore these jackets in a variety of activities to wear them in and learn their ins and outs. Comfort is personal, but when it comes to running, it also impacts performance. We need clothing that doesn't stifle our movements or cause any rubbing or chafing.
We love the stretchy sleeves and design of the Houdini Air.
The Houdini Air is a very comfortable layer with a soft fabric that feels great next to the skin. We found that the material wasn't quite as luxurious as some of the other jackets we tested, but it was definitely above average. The fit is great as well: long enough to keep us covered even when we raise our arms and loose enough to layer over insulating pieces. The material has a small amount of stretch that helps make this jacket more versatile.
We appreciated the stretchy wrist openings, which let us easily push the sleeves up for some more air. Some of our team found the hood to be a little too big, but it does adjust via an elastic pull-cord on the back.
If you're in the market for a running jacket to help you keep up your habit even in less than ideal weather, it probably means you're on the go more often than not. We wanted to evaluate each jacket's ability to come along on any type of length of adventure, so we measured their weight and judged their packing size to come up with a score for this category.
The Houdini Air weighs in at a superlight 3.6 ounces.
The Houdini Air weighs 3.6 ounces, putting it on the lighter side of all the jackets we tested. The lightest, the Arc'teryx Cita SL is 2.33 ounces, but it lacks the comfort of this piece. We appreciated that this jacket packs into its own pocket with a clip-able loop. While we might not use the clip loop for running, the packing pocket is great for throwing this garment in our running pack.
You might be wondering what makes a running jacket different than a windbreaker-- and at first, so were we! One important thing we learned during the testing process was the importance of running-specific features. We awarded extra points for a jacket's inclusion of visibility, sun protection, useful pockets, and other small but thoughtful features.
Just one small pocket on the Houdini Air
The Houdini Air has virtually no reflective markings, making it a poor choice for night running in urban environments, something that many of our readers do. Unlike the Adidas Supernova Confident, which is speckled with hidden reflective dots, the makers of the Houdini may have been more focused on its use in the backcountry.
While we did like the stretchy wrist openings, we loved jackets with thumb loops to help keep it in place and block out bad weather. The one pocket on this jacket isn't big enough for a smartphone, which limits when and where we'll be using it. While not a dealbreaker, we do appreciate headphone-compatible pockets and sun protection, two things not found in the Houdini Air.
The Patagonia Houdini Air costs a bit more than we'd like to spend. It's a soft, lightweight layer great for all sorts of cardio-based activities, but other jackets performed similarly for a much more affordable price. The Patagonia Airshed, a more breathable but less protective sister, costs less, and we'd recommend taking a look.
At the end of the day, we like the Houdini Air, but we don't necessarily like it more than some of its excellent competitors. It's soft, breathable, protective, and lightweight, but it just didn't excel in any of those categories. Its lack of features and high price tag put it over the edge, and while it's certainly not a bad purchase, it probably wouldn't be our first choice.
How could you not love the Houdini Air on a day like that?