Spring/Summer Gear Guide: Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Light and easy to pack, the Patagonia Houdini is that little something extra that makes a big difference. PHOTO: Kade Krichko

Light and easy to pack, the Patagonia Houdini is that little something extra that makes a big difference. Photo: Kade Krichko

Outdoor enthusiasts know better than most that summertime isn’t all tank tops and flip flops. Ever been caught in a hail storm? How about spending a night in the desert? It’s these types of extremes that actually make summer one of toughest seasons to gear up for.

One of my biggest issues has been finding a proper summer jacket; finding that balance between too warm and too flimsy. It’s a problem that led me to the Patagonia Houdini Jacket ($99), an ultra-light windbreaker. I gave it a run for its money during a recent hiking and surfing trip to the island of Oahu. Here’s what I found.

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The Houdini is so ridiculously easy to pack that I actually threw it in the water bottle sleeve of my day pack. Its featherweight nylon is also treated with DWR (not the most eco-friendly, but darn effective), providing a surprising amount of weather proofing that helped against the random jungle rain shower, in addition to any coastal winds whipping up.

I loved the streamlined approach of the jacket (only one chest pocket, and no extra pull cinches or zippers), but I could have used a bit of ventilation. Part of the Houdini’s appeal is its weatherproof fabric, but some pit vents could have really helped release some heat — a must in warm and humid conditions. I suppose I could have taken the jacket off and thrown it in the pack, but stopping and starting to unload a pack, undress, and dress again quickly made me unpopular on longer hikes.

Ideal uses for the Patagonia Houdini are coastal trips and hikes in windy terrain. The Houdini could also be a great piece for running and biking in unfavorable conditions.

The bottom line is this: The Houdini performed perfectly in the wind, and even held its own in rainy conditions. If this jacket breathed a little more, I’m not sure I’d ever take it off. For now, for the right conditions, the Houdini is a solid bet for summer hiking and excursions.

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