Patagonia Houdini Air - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, very breathable, comfortable fit & feel, flexible, great cuffs
Cons: Slim fit difficult to layer, not ideal for really cold wind
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Houdini Air is a full-zip, hooded windbreaker made of 90% nylon (51% of which is recycled), 10% polyester double weave with DWR treatment. It features a slim fit and stretchy fabric and packs into a single chest pocket with a carabiner loop.
Despite feeling like its stretchy material won't do much to block the wind, the Houdini Air is right up there with the best of them when it comes to keeping you covered. Its minimalist design doesn't include a storm flap, but we don't miss it, as the tight zipper works just fine without it. Even with the hood down, the zipper comes up far enough to offer some neck protection against a chilly breeze. In more intense winds, the hood stays up without being so tight you feel like an astronaut and is even adjustable on the back to keep your noggin protected. It also has a small brim that helps mildly in a light drizzle, though won't do much if rain is blowing into your face or the setting sun is piercing your eyes.
Though this jacket is minimalistic, Patagonia managed to include a simple hem-tightening mechanism that we appreciate very much. It also has some of the most comfortable cuffs we tested. While most models have some amount of elastic to keep those sleeves tight, the Air is one of just a handful that features a layer inside to mitigate the feel of those crispy ridges against your skin, which comes in handy if you tend to push your sleeves up. It's also one of a small group of testees that features a longer, flat back of the cuff that better protects your wrists and backs of your hands against the elements. However, it is a fairly thin jacket with a slim fit. Since most of your warmth comes from keeping warm air surrounding your body, a stiff wind quickly dissipates that insulating layer of air inside this thin, flexible jacket. It's best used for milder days rather than 40-degree, 40 mph adventures.
This is one metric in which we absolutely LOVE the Houdini Air. It has not a single vent or venting feature, yet the fabric itself is exceptionally breathable. It's one of our favorite jackets to throw on when heading out for a windy spring run or a brisk fall bike ride. While some jackets have hoods that seem to catch the air like mini parachutes or pull the whole jacket backward during high impact sports, wearing this windbreaker feels like its name - Air. These high output activities are also where we appreciate the simple features and abilities of this model. The cuffs are soft and comfortable enough to push up your forearms. The zipper can also easily be placed exactly where you want it, with minimal fear that the whole jacket will go sliding off your shoulders.
We feel like we can't say enough good things about the actual fabric that makes up this jacket. Unlike most windbreakers, the Houdini Air isn't nearly as loud, is significantly less crinkly, and blows us away with how soft it is. It's actually comfortable enough to wear against your skin without feeling like you're donning a garbage bag. We're just as happy wearing this windbreaker over a long-sleeved shirt as we are directly over top of a sports bra. The inside of the coat has a texture that is both soft as well as slightly grippy, helping it to stay put even as you open the front zipper to cool off. And if all that isn't enough, it's also impressively stretchy, helping it to move as you move. This is great for just about any activity, from bending over while you pedal your bike to pulling the sleeves down over your fingers on a chilly neighborhood walk. We're truly impressed by how breathable this jacket is, considering its also high level of protection from the elements.
Weight and Packability
Once again, the Houdini Air exceeds expectations and is one of the lightest, most packable models we tested. Weighing a scant 3.4 ounces, this jacket meets the criteria for just about every pack-weight-conscious adventurer out there. Patagonia achieves this super small size without giving up on most of our favorite features while minimizing everything. From tiny zippers with fabric pulls to simplified adjustable toggles for the hem and hood, the Air packs easily into its single chest pocket on the left hand side. And it even has a carabiner clip, to make it even easier to bring with you wherever you go.
Made of a 90% nylon 10% polyester double weave (with 51% of that nylon recycled from other sources), the Houdini Air is ripstop and stretchy, which both help it to pack down small and withstand all the abuse it's sure to see as your new favorite go-to adventure layer. Whether you take the time to flip it inside of its own pocket or simply cram it into the bottom of your pack, it's hard to find a reason not to have this windbreaker with you on every adventure.
The impressive level of comfort, breathability, and protection the Air provides makes it an exceptionally versatile windbreaker. It functions well both for intense outdoor activities as well as everyday use and wear. It features a slim fit that's both athletic and still stylish, making it a great choice from biking to walking into the office. This same slim fit makes it a bit more challenging to layer over bulky fleece jackets or loose sweatshirts, but its forgiving stretch helps it to fit - though it can sometimes take on a bit of a marshmallow vibe.
It has few reflective features to help you stand out at night though, and a single pocket on the left side of the chest. This pocket is neither large enough nor placed correctly to hold an average-sized smartphone. It also lacks any hand pockets, which cuts down on weight but is also a slight bummer for everyday users. Overall, the Houdini Air is useful in ways that make it versatile across a huge range of possible purposes, without having specific features that peg it singularly into any one particular activity.
While a windbreaker is never a rain jacket, the Houdini Air does well among its peers when it comes to protecting you from light rain. Its DWR coating helps to keep you dry enough to make it back home in a sprinkle. Of course, it doesn't hold up for long in a true downpour or even for extended periods of rain - but no windbreaker is that good. And while all DWR coatings need to be replenished regularly, we're still impressed by the performance of this jacket.
Even when we left a puddle of water sitting on the face of the Air, it took quite a bit of time before the inside of the jacket felt wet, lasting 4-5x longer than some of the other models we tested. Patagonia advertises this layer to "shed light precipitation", and it does exactly that. Only a very few windbreakers came close to this level of protection from rain and water.
While it's true that the Houdini Air is one of the more expensive models we tested, it's also the best. For its price, it offers serious protection and breathability that work astoundingly well across a huge variety of activity levels. If you're on the hunt for a windbreaker that can truly do it all, we think the Air is well worth its cost.
The Houdini Air is an exceptionally well-rounded windbreaker. It manages to combine impressive protection from the elements with exceptional breathability, all while remaining one of the lightest, most packable models around. It strikes an extraordinary balance between being pleasant to wear and easy to use, while still offering the protection you'd expect from a much heftier jacket. Unless you're specifically looking for a cold-weather layer, we think this is the best all-around windbreaker for women out there.
— Maggie Brandenburg