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Patagonia Houdini - Women's Review

A truly featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great value.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $99 List | $78.99 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
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  ⋅  Nov 21, 2018
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 8
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 9
  • 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, continually earning our Editors' Choice award time after time. 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 the Houdini is only an average performer in breathability and water resistance, it makes up for it with great wind resistance, absurd packability, and downright usefulness. After years of testing, we still think it's the best wind/emergency layer to bring on your next climb, hike, bike ride, dog walk, or backyard barbecue to keep you sheltered from the wind or light rain.

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


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Year after year the Patagonia Houdini continues to impress our testers. We put this and all the other jackets in this review through a litany of tests, trials, and borderline torture to see how they all performed. To find out why the Houdini remains our Editor's Choice for the third year running, read on!

Holding Its Ground
The new version of the Houdini was recently tested against some of the newest and best windbreakers currently available and retained its title as Editor's Choice. Holding onto some of the features we loved about the old version and adding new attributes makes this one excellent piece of gear you won't want to leave home without.

Performance Comparison


Time and time again our testers love the performance and value of the Houdini.
Time and time again our testers love the performance and value of the Houdini.

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.


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

Breathability


With its recent redesign as one of the lightest windbreakers on the market, the Houdini became 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. That said, it's more breathable than many other highly wind resistant models like the Rab Vital Hooded Windshell or Arc'teryx Squamish.


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 air flow. The women's specific fit also allows for layering above or below this jacketing, according to the climate and exertion output. If you're looking for a slightly more breathable piece, check out the less water resistant Black Diamond Alpine Start.

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

Weight and Packability


The newly redesigned Houdini weighs an unbelievable 1.2 ounces. We are impressed that the lightest model is also the highest performing one. 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 package of any windbreaker we tested  belying its impressive performance.
The Houdini easily folds down into the smallest and lightest little package of any windbreaker we tested, belying its impressive performance.

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.


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.

If you're looking for a more fashion-focused piece, consider the Cotapaxi Teca. If you'd like a windbreaker that looks just as good scaling a granite face as it does browsing a bookstore, check out the Black Diamond Alpine Start, our Top Pick for Versatility.

You can see right through the thin fabric of the featherlight Houdini.
You can see right through the thin fabric of the featherlight Houdini.

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.


If you anticipate needing a bit more water resistance but don't want a full rain jacket, you might consider the Rab Vital for a similar windbreaker that is surprisingly water resistant. Or if you think you may find yourself in a cold drizzle, the fully insulated Columbia Flash Forward may be the right choice for you. 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.

Afternoon showers blowing through the Caribbean are no match for the Houdini!
Afternoon showers blowing through the Caribbean are no match for the Houdini!

Best Applications


This jacket is well suited to almost any outdoor pursuit unless you are somewhere notoriously wet where you need a proper rain jacket instead. It's also an outstanding choice for an emergency layer you keep in your backpack, purse, or car just in case. Whether you are rock climbing granite chimneys in Yosemite, sailing in the Whitsundays or navigating rocky glaciers in Patagonia, this jacket blocks out the wind, and you'll hardly notice it's there because it's so lightweight and compact.

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

Value


At $99, this windbreaker is about an 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.

No matter what you want to do outside  the Houdini can help keep you comfortable while you do it.
No matter what you want to do outside, the Houdini can help keep you comfortable while you do it.

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 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.


Maggie Brandenburg and Shey Kiester