The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is an ultralight jacket designed to help you stay warm in cool windy weather. It’s not waterproof or insulated but provides a windproof layer to prevent the cold air from stripping away the heat trapped in your baselayer or mid-layer clothing. Wind shirts and jackets like the Houdini are a remarkably versatile clothing layer used by many advanced hikers and trail runners. While they’re not strictly needed like a rain jacket, they fill a layering niche in mountainous locations and cool temperatures, that other garments don’t address.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 3.7 oz
- Gender: men’s (women’s model also available)
- Material: 1.2 oz (15d) recycled ripstop nylon
- Adjustable hood: yes
- Drawcord hem adjuster: yes
- Harness loop: yes
- Chest pocket: yes
- Wrist closure: elastic
- Drop tail: yes
The Houdini has a semi-adjustable hood, a full-length zipper, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem, and a zippered chest pocket that you can stuff the jacket into. It’s made with a textured ripstop that makes a slight crinkly sound when worn. The jacket has a factory DWR coating, but it quickly wears off when you stuff and un-stuff the jacket into a backpack repeatedly. That’s the problem with DWR coatings. They rub off. While drizzle does bead on the DWR when the jacket is new, you should not count on the Houdini or any other wind shirt/ jacket for rain protection because they don’t have a waterproof fabric layer like a proper rain jacket.
The Houdini is best thought of as a layering piece in a modular clothing system. It’s typically worn over a highly breathable base layer like a wool shirt or a fleece mid-layer to prevent wind from stripping away the warm air that they trap near your body. Most wind shirts and jackets aren’t all that breathable and rely on more mechanical means of ventilation, like half or full zippers, mesh pockets, or wrist cuffs, for releasing extra heat and moisture.
But the easy on and easy off nature of wind shirts or jackets is one of their key advantages over a bulkier jacket or shell. If you’re wearing a wind shirt like the Houdini and can’t get cool by zipping it open, you’d just take it off and stuff it into a pocket since it’s such a minimalist and easily packable layer.
The Houdini Jacket is pretty middle of the road as wind shirts and jackets go, in terms of weight, features, and performance. The Houdini hood has a rear volume adjuster, so you can shrink the crown of the hood for a better fit. But there aren’t any neck adjusters to let you crank down the circumference of the face opening, a feature that is desirable to prevent the hood from flapping loudly and violently in a stiff breeze.
The wrists cuffs are elastic and not adjustable and each cuff only has one elastic side so they can become very tight if you have beefy forearms and you try to pull them up to your elbows to release heat. The fit across the chest is fairly generous, which is good for layering, but the Houdini’s breathability, as with most wind shirts and jackets, is pretty lackluster. Your only real option is to drop the hood, pull down the center zipper, or to roll up your sleeves to dump excess heat.
Comparable Wind Shirts
|Make / Model||Weight||Hood||Zipper||Price|
|Arc'Teryx Incendo Hoodie||4.6 oz||Yes||Full||$139|
|Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell||1.6 oz||Yes||Full||$129|
|Black Diamond Deploy Wind Shell||1.7 oz||Np||2/3||$159|
|Marmot Air Lite||3.7 oz||Yes||Full||$100|
|Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket||1.7 oz||No||Full||$89|
|Monbell Tachyon Parka||2.6 oz||Yes||Full||$99|
|Montane Featherlite Smock||4.0 oz||No||1/3||$100|
|Outdoor Research Tantrum II||4.7 oz||Yes||Full||$109|
|Patagonia Houdini||3.7 oz||Yes||Full||$99|
|Rab Vital Windshell||4.4 oz||No||Full||$89|
The Patagonia Houdini is an ultralight, nylon jacket designed to keep the wind from stipping away your body heat when you’re running or hiking. It’s not waterproof like a rain jacket and relies on active venting rather than breathable fabrics to vent excess moisture. While it has a basic feature set, including an adjustable hood, elastic wrist cuffs, and a zippered chest pocket, its principal strength is its small size and portability. Weighing just 3.7 ounces and stuffing down to the size of an apple, the Houdini is a great jacket to grab when you’re off for a quick hike or run and don’t want to be bogged down by a heavier jacket or fleece. If you’ve never owned a wind shirt or jacket, you’ll be amazed at how functional an ultra-thin layer is in cold windy conditions.
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