We take a look at Patagonia’s ultra light jacket option for fending off foul weather
Words: Misti Walbridge?
Photos: Toni Walbridge
The reasoning behind this review happened in reverse. Typically, when you are going to review something, you get it with that intention and then you use it with that in mind. You gather thoughts along the way about specific points to share and pay extra close attention to things the gear does well (or not so well). That is not the way this article came to be. I’ve had a Patagonia Houdini jacket for two full riding seasons. It has kept me comfortable on colder than expected lift rides, mountain summits and during surprise rain storms. This review came about because I love this jacket and I think it’s a vital piece of kit for mountain bikers (or people that go outside in general). Clearly, you won’t need to scroll to the bottom for a summary report on how this jacket fared.
I picked up my Houdini jacket a couple years ago when I lived near the Patagonia Outlet store in SLC. They were running one of the 40% sales they have a few times a year and it seemed like it could come in handy for trail activities (hiking, running, biking). I immediately took it home and folded it into the front pocket stuff sack to see the overall footprint for stowing. I found that I could easily fit it in the fanny pack I use for biking. No more riding with a raincoat tied around my waist when there was a chance of rain in the forecast! It was the thing I didn’t even know was missing from my riding kit and I couldn’t wait to start using it.
Two years later, this thing has saved me more times than I can count. Pop up thunderstorm? No problem! Cold wind on exposed lifts or mountain tops? Covered! Traveling with limited space in your suitcase, but want a raincoat just in case? Perfect fit! My Houdini is a size small and it feels like it runs true to size. There is a pullover version, but mine is a the full zip up version. It weighs 92 grams (3.3 oz) on a digital scale. The Houdini lives with my riding kit and is in my fanny pack on every ride except for the hottest days when there is little or no chance of precipitation. On cool days, or at elevation, it’s great to throw on to cut the wind or for the downhill after a long climb.
Admittedly, there are a couple instances where the Houdini does not excel. If it is actively raining and it seems like it will continue to do so, I usually wear a more substantial jacket that is Gore-Tex or some similar waterproof fabric. The Houdini is nylon with a DWR finish, but in sustained rain, it will soak through at some point. It’s also not amazing for storage since it only has the one small chest pocket. The fabric and zippers are not as bomber as heavier jackets, but after a lot of wear, I have not ripped it or had any issues with the zippers functionality to date. These drawbacks are tolerable considering the featherweight category this jacket belongs in, and kind of go with the territory in my opinion.
The fact that I love this jacket is no secret. I use it constantly. I have loaned it to riding friends who forgot their own jacket and I sing its praises to anyone who will listen. For at least the entire first summer I had it, I wouldn’t shut up about it. I believe I may have inspired some others to purchase one of their own. That is why, when I was thinking about what review to write up next, the Houdini came to mind. The price tag is relatively small given its usefulness. I have washed mine numerous times and it still looks new when it’s not mud spattered from the last ride. It is compact and incredibly handy in so many situations. I will happily continue to give up those few square inches in my riding pack as insurance that I will stay dry and warm in the rain or while I enjoy a long descent.
Patagonia Houdini Jacket (Men’s and Women’s available)
Featherweight 1.2-oz 15-denier 100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) finish
Zippered chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack with carabiner clip
94 g (3.3 oz)
XS, S, M, L, XL (classified as Slim Fit)
Currently comes in 12 colors that are always changing