I purchased my Patagonia Houdini Wind Shirt a few weeks before starting a week-long section hike in 2013. I needed a lightweight jacket for cool mornings in camp and windy hikes along ridgelines. Seven years later, I’m on my second Houdini and it is still one of my best pieces of gear. The Houdini is lightweight, packable, durable, and breathable. It has proven to be one of the most versatile and functional layers in my arsenal.
What is a Wind Shirt?
A wind shirt is a wind-proof outer layer. Most wind shirts are water resistant enough to handle very light rain or mist. Wind shirts are worn over base layers or mid layers when you need to add protection from wind or light rain. They also act as a barrier against biting insects and can help prevent sunburn. They are lighter, thinner, and more breathable than rain jackets or hard shells. Wind shirts are made from finely woven fabric treated with a water resistant finish.
Patagonia Houdini Wind Shirt
I have tried a few wind shirts, and my favorite is the Patagonia Houdini. It simply breaths better than any of the other products I have tried. The Houdini comes in men’s or women’s models in a variety of colors and sizes. The most recent version is made of recycled nylon fabric, keeping with Patagonia’s commitment to our environment.
Features and Specs
- 100% Recycled Nylon
- Drawcord waist
- Elastic cuffs
- 3.7 oz for size men’s medium
- Stufs into its own pocket
- Drawcord adjustable hood
Size and Weight
The Patagonia Houdini is an extra layer I never mind carrying. My men’s extra large weighs only 4.5 oz and packs down smaller than a soda can. This wind shirt literally disappears into my pack and I don’t even know its there until I need it. I once read in Backpacker Magazine that the qualification for a good wind shirt is that it “stuffs into your water bottle pocket with your water bottle.” The Houdini fits the bill.
How wind proof is it?
So how effective could a jacket this light and compressible be? In October 2015 I went up to Katahdin in Maine. We climbed the Saddle Trail from Chimney Pond in mild fall weather in nothing but our t-shirts. As soon as we crested the Saddle, we were exposed to a 50 mile per hour westerly wind blowing sleet in our faces. The estimated temperature was about 19 F. There was still a mile of trail up to Baxter Peak with nothing but boulders and scrubs for protection.
I dove behind a large rock and pulled on a light fleece and my Houdini. That’s all I needed for the remainder of my hike to the summit, despite the arctic conditions blowing in my face. Not only did the Houdini protect me from the freezing wind, but it kept me dry by venting as I continued to climb upward. Surely if I stopped for very long I would have needed more insulation, but while I was moving this jacket was all I needed or wanted.
Size and Fit
I’m a size men’s large, but I typically upsize my outer layers to an XL. I do this so that I can fit extra layers underneath. The XL Houdini fits just right for me. The waist has an adjustable draw-cord for keeping heat in and wind out, which is a nice feature for such a light jacket. The cuffs are elastic for simplicity. The hood adjusts with a single draw-cord out the back, which keeps the visor from falling over your eyes.
Over the past year, I’ve used my Houdini slightly less often. Modern waterproof breathable fabrics have gotten much better, which allow some rain shells to double up as a wind shirt. In 2019, I purchased an Outdoor Research Helium II rain shell. The Helium II is almost as breathable as the Houdini, but is a lot more water resistant. (The Helium II weighs 8 oz for a Men’s XL) When carrying the Helium 2, I don’t always carry the Houdini. I do continue to carry the Houdini with any heavier duty shell whos breathability is lacking. I also carry the Houdini whenever I opt for a poncho over a rain jacket.
I highly recommend the Patagonia Houdini if you’re looking for a light outer layer for 3 season hiking. It pairs up great with a light base layer or fleece. Such a combo may be the only layers you wear on many winter day hikes!
I wouldn’t recommend the Houdini when durability matters. This jacket is very light. It is not suitable for bushwhacking or sitting around fires. Rough use may develop small holes, although I have not experienced any tears. I have been able to easily patch holes in my Houdini with repair tape.
- Wind Proof
- Packs Small
- Well Priced
- Not Waterproof
- Slight fragile