If you would have asked me if I wanted a wind shirt two years ago, I would have looked at you with disgust and asked 'why?'. Why would I carry a windproof layer that isn't waterproof. For a few more ounces I could carry a layer that will not only protect me from rain, but also keep me warmer. Who would have thought that my Patagonia Houdini jacket would become one of my most popular pieces that I own. Trail running, backpacking, day hiking and cycling all have a use for this jacket.
Initial Thoughts- The Patagonia Houdini Jacket has been around for some time, and for good reason. The jacket comes in at 3.6 oz and packs down to a palm sized package. A full length zipper runs the length of the Houdini. Patagonia made the Houdini out of 15 denier ripstop and coated it with a DWR finish to fend off light rain. The jacket has a shaped hood with a single pull adjustment in the rear to lock it down. At the chest there is one pocket that the jacket stuffs into. Inside the pocket there is a carabiner loop that is only visible when the jacket is stuffed. Each sleeve has elastic cuffs to help keep the cool air from creeping up. The idea with this layer is that it can be worn over thick layers in cool temperatures. On the other end of the spectrum, if the weather is warm you can wear it over a thin layer.
Use in the Field- During the winter months in Phoenix the temperature drops, but never really gets that cold. Low 30's are typical for early morning runs. Every run during this season found me rocking the Patagonia Houdini jacket. The jacket kept the cool morning air from chilling my core. Combine that with the mini micro environment that the coat created and you have a perfect combination. The Houdini kept me warm on those runs but didn't breath particularly well. That lack of moisture transfer created the micro environment that helped to keep me warm.
The Houdini also found regular use in my cycling clothes lineup. The jacket did an excellent job of keeping the windchill factor down at high speeds. I especially liked the fact that it packed down so small and disappeared into my jersey pocket. Although I wish the hood was able to be stowed, tucking the hood into the jacket did a fair enough job of keeping it from flapping in the wind. Because the Houdini was designed with space for layers, the fit was a little loose for road cycling, but fine for mountain biking.
The Houdini almost always finds it's way into my pack on backpacking or hiking trips. The fact that the jacket weighs nothing makes it easy to add on to my pack list. I found that the Houdini works best as a shell in cool temperatures when climbing hills. My rain jacket is overkill and would leave me drenched in sweat, but the Houdini kept me warm and dry. While climbing up Colorado 14ers this year I found the jacket to be perfect for waiting on windy saddles. Because of the size I could keep the jacket handy.
Final Thoughts- The Patagonia Houdini jacket will probably be the most versatile piece you will own. From the trails to the road the jacket easily finds it's use. The lightweight material, minimalist styling, and breathability, combine to make the ultimate layer. I use it as my daily running jacket, backpacking layer and for mountain biking in the early mornings. You can find the Houdini here at Patagonia's website.
*This product was purchased for testing.