Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RJ Review: Patagonia Houdini Full Zip Jacket

We hate to say it, it still being mid-August and all, but there are signs of fall here in the mountains of Idaho we call home. A harsh reality, to be sure, even as we still swelter on our afternoon runs in the blazing sun. But, time will march on, the temperature will drop, and before we know it we'll all be reaching for those lightweight shells we mothballed in spring. So, as that image slowly sinks in, we offer our review of one of Patagonia's lightweight running jackets - the Houdini Full Zip (retail $125).

To be honest, we at Run Junkie have yet to come across a perfect running jacket. The quest to find a lightweight, breathable, water proof, comfortable, and yes, good looking, running shell seems a near impossibility. That said, the Houdini Full Zip is the best shell we've come across these many years. It's extremely lightweight yet buffs up well as an outer layer on -10 degree, snowy morning runs. Sweat condenses a bit inside on long runs but not so much to bring on a chill, and the full zipper can help release some of the moisture as time goes on and the temp rises.

One Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of the Houdini is its integrated hood. On the plus side, it's great to have the hoody option when the rain or snow hits unexpectedly. On the downside, the hood can't be removed, and, because it's so lightweight, the thing can be a spinnaker in a stiff wind - blowing by the side of your face with a big tailwind and dragging you backward in a hard headwind.

As for precip protection, the Houdini performs pretty well - good in snow and light rain, OK in a downpour. We'd be dishonest if we didn't say we'd hoped for a bit more when the rain was really coming down.

Everything taken together, though, we have to say we really like the Houdini Full Zip. It's not perfect, but it performs well enough to get you through some really tough conditions comfortably. Plus, it has those inimitable Patagonia good looks that will keep heads turning before, during, and after your runs.

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