Patagonia Houdini Air - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Houdini Air is a great jacket fit for high-output mountain adventures. We love its ratio of breathability to comfort but find it missing a few key features.
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 30% of each garment's overall score.
The Houdini Air has above-average breathability, but it isn'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. That said, we did find this jacket a bit less breathable (though more protective) than its counterpart, the Airshed Pro.
One thing we would love to see on this jacket is panels. A few other models in our review have thoughtfully placed vents along the back and underarms to help promote airflow in the sweatiest spots.
Our expert crew of gear testers know 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 received an average score for weather resistance; it covers all the bases but does not have any exceptional qualities. This jacket repels light rain and moisture and is excellent at blocking wind. The hood adds some extra protection from the elements, but the fit isn't that great for moving quickly. The Houdini does not provide any insulation, which may or may not be important to you, depending on what sort of layer you're looking for.
Comfort and Mobility
Our team wore these jackets in a variety of activities to learn their ins and outs and push them to the limit. Comfort is personal, but when it comes to running, it also impacts performance. You need clothing that doesn't stifle your movements or cause any rubbing or chafing.
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 is definitely above average. The fit is great as well: long enough to keep you covered even when raising the 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 also love the stretchy wrist openings which allow the sleeves to be pushed up for more air and stay there. 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 or 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 3.6 ounces for a size small and is one of the very lightest jackets in this review. We also appreciate that it 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 a 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 is 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.
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 other jackets that are speckled with reflectivity, the Houdini is perhaps more focused on its use in the backcountry, where there's no traffic to worry about.
While we like the stretchy wrist openings, we love jackets with thumb loops to help keep the sleeves in place and block out bad weather — though we realize that not everyone is a fan. The one pocket on the Houdini isn't big enough for a smartphone, which limits its usability. While not a dealbreaker, we do appreciate headphone-compatible pockets and sun protection, two things also not found on this jacket.
The Houdini Air is pricey. It's a soft, lightweight layer great for all sorts of cardio-based activities, but other jackets perform similarly for a much more affordable price.
At the end of the day, we like the Patagonia Houdini Air a lot, but we don't necessarily like it more than some of its excellent competitors. It's soft, breathable, and protective, but it didn't blow us away in any one area. 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. That said, if you need to keep weight at a minimum and value having a hood, we certainly don't think you'll be unhappy owning this layer.
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