Checking out the Patagonia Houdini

I have been using the North Face Verto wind jacket/shirt for over a year now and have got to say that I have been quite pleased with it. It is light weight, blocks the wind and is fairly water-resistant. As far as breathability, I cannot really complain about that either… on the few occasions that I have “overheated” inside it, this was quickly remedied by simply unzipping the front zipper. It fits me well and I can layer it with the rest of my clothing as I want it too. If there is anything I can complain about on this jacket, it is the hood and the elastic wrist cuffs…and maybe the chest pocket.

So, really though, everything was fine and dandy, until I started reading a recent thread about wind shirts over on BPL…

This thread has some real, actual, measured numbers concerning breathability of a few various wind shirts, and to no surprise, the Patagonia Houdini seems to offer a nice marriage of both being breathable as well as windproof. Now, I will say, the Houdini was in the running when I initially bought my Verto, but, what really spoke loudly to me about the Houdini at that time was the fact that they were $125 (more $ than the Verto) and on average 4.3 oz (also heavier than the Verto). So, in the end I went with the Verto, obviously.

However, earlier this week, REI decided to clearance their clearance, which means heavy discounts! The (Spring 2012) Houdini was knocked down from a strong $125 to a smooth $37.83… so yeah, after reading the above mentioned thread, and considering the ridiculously low price, I picked one up quick! After reading some threads on fit, I decided to go with an XL (as opposed to my Large Verto) and the only color available was “Red Delicious” (but at $37, I can’t complain…and it could be worse…) And it arrived today!

So, how about some initial comparisons based on my personal preferences:

  • Weight: The Verto is 1.6 oz lighter.
  • Feel: The Houdini has a much softer, more comfortable next-to-skin feel.
  • Pockets: The horizontal pocket on the Houdini holds items more secure when wearing.
  • Wrist cuffs: I do not like the elastic wrist cuffs on either jacket
  • Hood: The hood on the Houdini is a much better fitting hood.
  • Waist cinch: I prefer the simple, elastic waist cinch on the Verto.

So, for me, this is going to be a tough call. There are features that I like about both jackets, but, they are not all together on one… Maybe if the Verto had the better fitting, adjustable hood, or if the Houdini had the simpler, easier to use waist cinch… and lets not forget lighter weight…

But, what I really wanted to find out was the breathability vs wind blocking abilities of the Houdini. According to the numbers in the thread above, the Houdini sounds like it will be more breathable, but I question its ability to block the wind like I want it to. So, I plan to carry the Houdini with me on a few hikes I have planned starting in January through the end of May of 2013, and then I can make my decision from there…

UPDATE: I cut the cord lock, the nylon ribbons that held the cord lock in place, and about 10 inches of the shock cord off of the cinch around the waist. I simply tied the ends of the shock cord together to keep a little tension around the waist. Now, in my opinion, this is both easier to use and works better than before, and the fact is that this dropped an amazing 0.2 oz off the total weight of the Houdini, so now my XL comes in at 4.3 oz!

Thanks for reading!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I paid for this jacket with my own money. I am not obligated to write about this jacket.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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12 Responses to Checking out the Patagonia Houdini

  1. Pingback: Review: Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ | HikeLighter.Com

  2. Jonathan says:

    Hey Stick! I just cut out the cord lock and excess shock cord on my Houdini based on your suggestion. Now it is just about perfect! I agree on the huge toggle on the back of the hood being a pain. I attempted to sleep with my Houdini on once with the hood over my head and just couldn’t get comfortable. Anyway, thanks for the tip and keep up the good work on the blog and videos. Maybe we’ll cross paths out on the trail in the Smokies. Happy Trails.

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    • Stick says:

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for the kind words! Glad to hear you enjoy my blog & the videos.

      As for the hood and that awfully large cord lock, I really wish they would have went with something different. I have thought about cutting it all out and just tying the shock cord and leaving it cinched, but I do like to adjust it if need be. Also, I have slept with mine on and been ok. Usually I am wearing a boggin, so that helps a little, and I always use a pillow, which also helps it somewhat. As well, while I do start out on my back, I tend to sleep on my side in the fetal position…

      Anyway, thanks again!

      ~Stick~

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  3. Don Milligan says:

    Chad, I am very glad you did a review on the Houdiini, I saw it on REI’s facebook posting and looked at the specs section at REI and saw that it offered no wind or water proofing and that it had no reviews on their site so I decided against the purchase.
    have you since had a chance to test the wind and or water proofness?
    red isn’t my color but might help-out when hiking near hunters.

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    • Stick says:

      Don,

      Being that I just got the jacket last night, I have not been able to use it much. We did have some decent wind last night (sustained 16 mph and gust around 26 mph) and I wore it with my R1 underneath it while walking outside for a bit. I did notice that I could feel the wind blowing through the jacket a bit more than my Verto, which is to be expected though based on the CFM numbers…

      As far as being windproof, this is where one has to decide what is best for them. Check out the BPL thread that I linked to in the post and you will read all about the CFM numbers and how they correlate with actual use. It seems that the Houdini offers the best balance between having the ability to block x amount of wind while allowing normal amounts of sweat from a UL hiker to pass through the shell as it should. This means you won’t get hot and sweaty under the shell… if that makes sense.

      And no, windshirts are not meant to be water proof. They do generally come with a DWR which will resist small amounts of water, but not water proof. However, it seems that the Houdini also features one of the best DWR’s on windshirts too…

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

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  4. Dan K says:

    I am curious about whether you carry a more water-PROOF rain jacket, at least when rain is likely – since these (or, at least, the Houdini) are not water-proof. And, if you do, is it worth the weight to carry both – rather than just use the rain jacket as a wind shirt when needed?

    I had a Houdini as a rain jacket – got very wet on a neighborhood walk during a HEAVY storm – replaced it with a Marmot Mica rain jacket – and later added a Montane wind shirt. But I do wonder whether I should skip the wind shirt (admittedly, only 3.7 ounces) and just use the Marmot when I need wind protection.

    Great blog, by the way!
    Dan

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    • Stick says:

      Dan,

      I do carry a rain jacket, check the post before this one and you will see it is about a new silnylon rain jacket from Luke’s Ultralight I just got. Before this, I had a variety of rain shells, all of which are water “proof”.

      Just to be clear, a windshirt is not intended to be used as a rain shell, and yes, if worn in the rain, you will get wet. The idea of the windshell is to be able to throw it on while on the move (hiking) when it is cool, windy, or maybe even a very light mist and not overheat underneath it. The windshirt is breathable (the opposite of water proof) and will let the moisture pass through.

      The question of is taking both a windshirt and a rain shell worth it can only be answered by you.

      As for me, it is worth it. My rain shell is 4.7 oz, and my Verto is 2.9 oz, or now the Houdini is 4.5 oz. So, at most, I am carrying 9.2 oz (7.6 oz at least), but have versatility. If hiking and it is not raining, I can use the windshirt and hike comfortably. If it is raining, then I can throw on my rain shell and stay (mostly) dry. I will admit, it is fine line between the two, but if they are used correctly, a real difference can be noticed when in use.

      Hope this helps!

      ~Stick~

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  5. Steve says:

    Stick, nice review. I just got the same jacket with the REI deal. Not sure why you say you can’t remove the waist cinch cord? Just pull it out and snip it, should take less than a minute. I like the cinch though, I’d probably set the tension with a knot and get rid of the cord lock. I do like the fit and feel of this jacket.

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    • Stick says:

      Steve,

      Congrats on the score! As far as removing the cord though, I could do as you say, pull the cord and cut it, but there will still be a lot of cord left in the hem, so this is not something I would want to do. I would like to remove it all or none. But, as you mentioned, I will likely cut the huge cord lock out and tension the cord and tie it to so it is like an elastic hem. I guess that they use these huge pieces of shock cord and cord locks in the jackets so that they last a long time… I dunno, but I think it is way overkill…

      ~Stick~

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    • Stick says:

      Steve,

      Just wanted to let you know that I cut the cord lock and the 2 nylon ribbons out that held the cord up. I then tied a knot in the cord so that the bottom hem is just snug against my waist (it can easily be pulled away but then cinches back down to block out any drafts, like on my Verto). Surprisingly, just by removing the cord lock, little bit of nylon ribbon and about a 9-10″ piece of cord I dropped .2 oz! I would wager that if the cord itself was 1/16″ then it would be another 0.1 oz off… Anyway, now my XL weighs exactly 4.3 oz, there is no bunched up junk on the side and it works better. I am a little happier about that… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Steve says:

      Nice. I plan to do the same. It does seem strange that they used such large cord locks on a lightweight jacket. Maybe the smaller ones dont hold up. I want to keep the adjustability in the hood but wish I could sub in a smaller lock.

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    • Stick says:

      Yeah, if that cord lock weren’t sewn into the hood I would remove it too, but I would be too afraid that I would mess that up… Oh well, I do feel better that I dropped 0.2 oz from the total weight now… 🙂

      Like

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