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Patagonia Houdini - Women's Review

A true featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great value
Patagonia Houdini - Women's
Photo: Patagonia
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $99 List | $99.00 at Backcountry
Pros:  Helmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quickly
Cons:  Not the most waterproof, can see through thin fabric
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Maggie Brandenburg & Shey Kiester  ⋅  Jun 24, 2021
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 7
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 10
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Patagonia Houdini has been a favorite windbreaker among the outdoor set since its inception years ago, and it continues to satisfy today, earning our Top Pick for Ultralight. This classic layering piece is highly wind-resistant and boasts a bit of water resistance, and it's lighter than any of the other windbreakers we tested. The Houdini packs down so small that there is almost no excuse for not bringing it with you on even the most lightweight mission. Although it's only an average performer in breathability and water resistance, it makes up for it with great wind resistance, absurd packability, and downright usefulness.

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Pros Helmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quicklyMany pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wearHuge vents, large hand pockets, very breathable, water resistantDecently wind resistant, moderate precipitation protection, lightweight, less expensiveHand pockets, easy to layer, comfortable, inexpensive
Cons Not the most waterproof, can see through thin fabricElastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed sizeLets in wind, doesn't pack into own pocketSleeves a bit short, small pockets, sloppy constructionHeavy, doesn’t stow into pocket, relaxed style may be unflattering
Bottom Line A true featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great valueA blend of minimalist design and technical features, this jacket offers solid protection from the elements at a reasonable priceA highly vented jacket with solid water protection that's easy to wearA simple, casual jacket that's best for mild days and small budgetsA good, lightly insulated jacket to keep you warm in those chilly breezes
Rating Categories Patagonia Houdini -... Rab Vital Hoody - W... Active Pursuits Jacket Waterproof Hooded Flash Forward Lined
Wind Resistance (30%)
8.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
8.0
Breathability (30%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
4.0
2.0
Weight And Packability (20%)
10.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
2.0
Versatility (10%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Water Resistance (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Patagonia Houdini -... Rab Vital Hoody - W... Active Pursuits Jacket Waterproof Hooded Flash Forward Lined
Weight (oz) 3.1 oz 4.3 oz 6.1 oz 6.6 oz 12.8 oz
Material 100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment Hyperlite and nylon outer Nylon with polyester mesh 95% polyester, 5% spandex 100% polyester plain weave and 100% polyester microfleece
Pockets 1 chest 2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top 2 hand 2 hand 2 hand
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuffs Half elastic Half elastic Half elastic Elastic Elastic
Stuffs Into Pocket Yes Yes No No No
Safety Reflective Material Reflective logo on front and back Reflective logo on front and back Reflective logo, cuff stripes, and back vent stripe None Reflective logo and hood strings
Fit Slim fit Regular fit Relaxed fit Relaxed fit Relaxed fit

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Patagonia Houdini is a hooded windbreaker with a single chest pocket that the whole thing packs into. It's made of 15-Denier ripstop 100% nylon fabric with a DWR finish and only weighs 3.1 ounces.

Performance Comparison


Time and time again our testers love the performance and value of...
Time and time again our testers love the performance and value of the Houdini.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Wind Resistance


We put this jacket to the test on windy High Sierra mountain ridges, sheer granite rock faces, gusty bike rides, Caribbean boat rides, windy Midwestern fall afternoons, and interstate drives with the windows down. Despite being so thin we can see through the lighter colors and lacking any storm flap to cover the zipper, the Houdini still packs a lot of wind protection.


The durable ripstop fabric, drawstring hem, and half-elastic cuffs do a great job of keeping drafts out. The drop hem in the back helps add coverage during activities requiring a larger range of motion, and the half-elastic cuffs are comfortable even when pulled up your forearms a bit for extra ventilation.

The Houdini continues to impress us with its wind resistance despite...
The Houdini continues to impress us with its wind resistance despite its crazy light weight.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

This soft jacket's athletic fit also allows you to add additional layers underneath if the weather demands it. A full elastic-lined hood stays put well in strong winds and can be kept from blocking your peripheral vision by a single bungee across the back. The Houdini manages to have exactly the right features to block the wind without going overboard. It's a great three-season jacket, though a little too thin to be the one we turn to in cold weather.

A simple bungee on the back of the Houdini's hood helps you pull it...
A simple bungee on the back of the Houdini's hood helps you pull it out of your peripheral vision.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Breathability


The Houdini is very thin and reasonably breathable compared to a lot of other models we've tested. However, its more water-resistant and highly wind-resistant fabric blocks more elements coming in and body heat from going out. This more protective layer does still tend to collect some sweat inside during longer, higher-intensity activities.


The Houdini's very simple design only allows for modest adjustments to aid its breathability when you are hot and on the move. Obvious features like soft-cuffed sleeves are easily pulled up to dump heat, and you can loosen the drawstring on the hem to permit greater airflow. The women's specific fit also allows for dynamic layering above or below this jacketing, according to the weather and your physical exertion.

Thin and reasonably breathable, we think the Houdini is a great...
Thin and reasonably breathable, we think the Houdini is a great addition for a brisk morning of biking in Moab.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Weight and Packability


The ultralight Houdini weighs a minuscule 3.1 ounces. We are impressed that the lightest model is also one of the highest-performing ones. This is an excellent example of less is more. The absence of zippered hand pockets, a draft flap, hood cinch, and cuff tabs make this jacket ultralight. The compressible fabric packs down easily and stuffs into its own small chest pocket, taking up the same space as an energy bar. This is a tiny, featherweight package and still has a handy loop to attach it to the outside of a pack, harness, or even your dog's collar if you really can't stand carrying it.


The only complaint we can come up with concerning the Houdini's packability is the number of wrinkles it has after we pack it into its own tiny pocket. But after several minutes of wearing this jacket next to the heat of our skin, all the wrinkles fell right out. So we are left with no complaints whatsoever. We think even ultralightweight enthusiasts will love this handy windbreaker.

The Houdini easily folds down into the smallest and lightest little...
The Houdini easily folds down into the smallest and lightest little package of any windbreaker we tested, belying its impressive performance.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


The Houdini is a go-to piece for any outdoor adventure because its weight gives you no excuses not to bring it along. For all its technical prowess, it still retains a decent amount of versatility, particularly as an emergency layer that always lives in your pack or purse. It's managed to cut out most weight-giving features without losing all of its functionality. Cleverly integrated minimalist hem and hood adjustments still allow you to change the fit, while a single chest pocket keeps small items close by and out of the way of any backpack hip belt or climbing harness.


We like having this jacket on our alpine scrambles because the slightly water-repellent fabric fends off a light rain for short periods of time. The hood is well designed and fits well over a helmet. It has a slightly dropped back hem that provides extra coverage for cyclists and added breathability that lends itself to windy neighborhood runs.

This season's darker colors help combat the see-through nature of...
This season's darker colors help combat the see-through nature of the Houdini's thin fabric.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

But it's the Houdini's packability is what makes it shine when it comes to versatility. This piece packs down so small into its own chest pocket that bringing it along on every single mission is not a problem. The only downside to this amount of packability is that the thin fabric allows you to clearly see graphics or lettering on shirts worn underneath. This adds to an already fairly technical-looking garment that, though very functional, isn't the most stylish of jackets.

You can see right through the thin fabric of the featherlight Houdini.
You can see right through the thin fabric of the featherlight Houdini.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Water Resistance


The Houdini is made of a 15-Denier 100% ripstop nylon with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. This finish gives it a small amount of water resistance — enough to get you through a minor shower or brief drizzle. Though it is not a waterproof layer like a dedicated rain jacket, it does provide some water resistance, which comes in handy for activities where wind and water go hand-in-hand, like sailing or even kayaking.


While this layer won't keep you dry in a downpour, the durable water repellent (DWR) finish beads water in light rain and is quick to dry. If the weather forecast looks good, but you live in an area where brief storms are always possible, this is a perfect piece to throw in your bag.

Afternoon showers blowing through the Caribbean are no match for the...
Afternoon showers blowing through the Caribbean are no match for the Houdini!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Keep in mind, though, that no matter what windbreaker you choose, if you want to maintain maximum water repellency, you need to periodically treat your garment with a water repellent product like the Nikwax Tech Wash.

So light and packable, you can bring the Houdini with you just about...
So light and packable, you can bring the Houdini with you just about anywhere for the security of an additional layer just in case.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


This windbreaker is about the average price among jackets in this review. The high-quality, lightweight fabric and functional design at such a low price make this a high-value item. Unless you're out for a fashionable windbreaker or an ultra-breathable option to keep up with you on long runs, we love wearing this jacket in a ton of different situations.

The Patagonia Houdini is impressively light while still providing...
The Patagonia Houdini is impressively light while still providing excellent coverage and protection against the elements.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


Through repeated years of testing, the Houdini continues to deliver high-quality performance in a lightweight package. This jacket moves with your every rhythm, and the carefully chosen features, such as the slight drop back adjustable hem, are a testament to its simplicity and functionality. It is ideal for use with a layering system, is highly wind-resistant and also water-resistant for its class, and it is easy to move in no matter what your sport.

Hot and sunny at the bottom, but windy at the summit - we're glad we...
Hot and sunny at the bottom, but windy at the summit - we're glad we had the Houdini along for the ride!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg & Shey Kiester