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Patagonia Houdini - Women's Review

A truly 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 and Shey Kiester  ⋅  May 30, 2019
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • 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 about a decade 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 far 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.

Color Options Refreshed
The Houdini is a staple in Patagonia's lineup and a favorite here at GearLab. Each season it is released in a new assortment of colors.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $99.00 at Backcountry$169.00 at Backcountry$98.95 at Amazon$159.00 at Amazon$159.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Helmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quicklyLightweight, very breathable, comfortable fit & feel, flexible, great cuffsMany pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wearVery flexible, flattering fit, long torso, comfortable cuffVery windproof, decent rain protection, easy to layer, great warmth to weight ratio
Cons Not the most waterproof, can see through thin fabricSlim fit difficult to layer, not ideal for really cold windElastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed sizeGets wet very easily, thicker fabric is heavierCrinkly material less comfortable, not very breathable, hood is difficult to keep up in strong winds
Bottom Line A favorite for years, the Houdini is a staple whose modest $99 price tag belies its impressive performanceA protective, packable, and very breathable jacket that keeps you on the move in just about any weatherWith more features than we expected from a technical jacket, this windbreaker offers excellent protection in the outdoorsThis versatile jacket can take you on grand outdoor adventures or just around the townA more traditional windbreaker in a lightweight package that keeps you protected but isn't the most breathable
Rating Categories Patagonia Houdini - Women's Houdini Air Rab Vital Hoody - Women's Alpine Start Squamish Hoody
Wind Resistance (30%)
8
8
9
8
9
Breathability (30%)
7
8
6
8
5
Weight And Packability (20%)
10
9
8
6
7
Versatility (10%)
7
8
7
9
7
Water Resistance (10%)
7
8
8
5
7
Specs Patagonia Houdini... Houdini Air Rab Vital Hoody -... Alpine Start Squamish Hoody
Weight (oz) 3.1 oz 3.4 oz 5.0 oz 6.7 oz 4.2 oz
Material 100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment 90% nylon (51% recycled), 10% polyester double weave with DWR treatment Hyperlite and nylon outer Schoeller® stretch-woven nylon with NanoSphere® Technology 100% nylon Tyono™ 30D, ripstop, DWR treatment
Pockets 1 chest 1 chest 2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top 1 chest 1 chest
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuffs Half elastic Half elastic Half elastic Elastic Half elastic
Stuffs Into Pocket Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Safety Reflective Material Reflective logo on front and back Reflective front logo Reflective logo on front and back None Reflective logo
Fit Slim fit Slim fit Regular fit Slim fit Slim 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 15D ripstop 100% nylon fabric with a DWR finish and only weighs an impressive 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. The latest version of the Houdini cut the jacket's weight in half, yet only lessens its wind resistance a smidge. Impressive! Even though it feels impossibly thin and lacks a draft flap behind the zipper, the Houdini is still highly wind resistant.


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. This soft jacket's athletic fit also allows you to add additional layers underneath if the weather demands it.

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

Over the years, Patagonia has redesigned this jacket, removing the drawstring in the hood to cut weight. We found that this change was warranted, as the hood remains tight around your face in high winds without blocking your field of vision. In case you have a smaller face and feel that your peripheral vision is compromised, Patagonia has included a bungee along the back to adjust the hood volume. Despite its recent transition from lightweight to featherweight, the Houdini continues to deliver an impressive amount of wind resistance.

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


With its recent redesign as one of the lightest windbreakers on the market, the Houdini has become a bit more breathable than previous models. However, as a decently water resistant and highly wind resistant jacket, the Houdini still tends to collect sweat inside during long, high-intensity activities.


The Houdini's design allows for slight adjustments to aid its breathability when you are hot and on the move. The sleeves easily pull 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 layering above or below this jacketing, according to the climate and exertion output.

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 newly redesigned 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.

Even if you are going out for a light day hike and the weather is clear, stashing a windbreaker in your daypack is a smart choice. It won't weigh you down, and you never know when an afternoon thunderstorm will roll in or how windy the summit will be.

The only complaint we could come up with concerning the Houdini's packability is the number of wrinkles it has after we pack it into its own teensie 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.


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 climbing 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 for versatility. This piece packs down so small that bringing it along on any mission is not a problem. The thin fabric also means you can clearly see graphics or lettering on underlayers though. It's also so technical-looking that it detracts a bit from the stylishness of the jacket.

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 15D 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 on the lower end of the average price for jackets in this review. The high-quality, lightweight fabric and functional design are surprising, especially at such a low price. Plus, as with all Patagonia products, you also get the Patagonia Ironclad Guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the product's performance, you may return it for repair, replacement or refund. However, if you can't quite bring yourself to spend that much on a windbreaker, you may also consider the Cotopaxi Teca, our Best Buy winner, which loses performance but adds style for a lower price.

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


Patagonia set the standard for this class of windbreaker some years ago, and it comes as no surprise that 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.

The absence of hand pockets makes it versatile for activities such as rock climbing or backpacking where you don't want anything rubbing under your climbing harness or pack hip belt. And it stuffs into its one small chest pocket with a loop to clip it onto you. You won't be disappointed if you include this high-quality garment in your quiver of weather protection, and even if it simply lives in your pack as an emergency layer, you never know when it might save the day.

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 and Shey Kiester