Gear Review: Patagonia Houdini vs. Arc'teryx Incendo
A lightweight jacket is one of the few items I never (ever) leave home without. Whether it's a day of urban exploration, a week-long walking pilgrimage, or a month of backcountry hiking one of these is an absolute essential.
A few things to look for in a good jacket
- Super lightweight. One of the joys of these jackets is they are so light and compressible you never have to think twice about carrying them. Go as light as you can.
- A hood. The extra weather protection from wind and rain is worth the marginal amount of extra weight. Since I wear glasses, I find the hoody handy to keep rain off my glasses. And on windy days, it really helps keep you warmer.
- A zipper pocket. I love having a zipper pocket to stow small items like headphones, train tickets, or a key. I especially find a chest pocket valuable when flying. I keep my glasses and phone stowed there while dozing.
A note on function: these are not rain jacket replacements, though they do shed light rain for a few minutes when caught in a pinch. I've found that I often leave my heaver rain jacket at home since even on rainy days, one of these will due for short walks around town between the metro and the museum to the coffee shop or whatever.
For backcountry use, I find them super helpful for cool weather hiking and keeping moisture and wind off when aerobic activity is high. They also add a suprising amount of warmth via their wind protection when layered over a fleece sweater, while functioning on their own in milder weather. There are many days on the trail in which I hardly take these off at all, but just layer up or down as needed.
Check out the photo gallery and a comparison of these two jackets below:
Patagonia's Houdini weighs in at 3.6oz vs 4.4oz for the Incendo. These are both very light jackets, so I don't see weight as a distinguishing factor.
Another small difference is the hood design. Both work well in my experience. The Houdini adds an elastic pull to adjust the hood, while the Indendo has a more minimal approach with a well-fitting, non-adjustable hood. It does have a small snap enabling the hood to be rolled down and secured as a collar.
The main draw-back of the Incendo in my view is its lack of a chest pocket. It does have a small zipper pocket in the small of the back, which is great for active pursuits, but I find less useful for travel. The Houdini scores a point here for its handy zippered chest pocket.
The big advantage of the Incdeno is the fit. The Incendo size L fits my 6'2" frame perfectly. The arm coverage is great, the shoulders comfortable without being sloppy and torso trim but not tight. In contrast, the size L of the Houdini is too tight in the shoulders and the arms too short. If I size up to the XL, the shoulders feel good, but the torso is blousy. Sadly, neither size of the Houdini offers a satisfying fit.
The Houdini has longer rope tie pulls that I prefer over the plastic tabs on the Indendo.
Functionally they are very comparable. Both breathe very well, though the Indendo adds underarm vents. While the Houdini lacks these vents, but I haven't noticed overheating as an issue.
One last note on versatility and fashion sense. On balance I give the Arc'teryx Incendo higher ratings on fit and build quality but lower on fashion sense. The Incendo is well-made, nicely finished jacket. The downside in my opinion is it looks a bit more like athletic wear than the Houdini.
When walking around New York or Tokyo, I'd feel less like I just got out of the gym in the Patagonia. It's not like the Patagonia is Gucci exactly, but its understated design helps it blend in decently well in cities.
Don't be fooled by their featherly weight, these jackets are quite durable. The Houdini in particular has impressed me with how well its fabric stands up to tough abuse. I haven't used the Arc'teryx as extensively, but it seems quite rugged too.
These are both great choices.
The Arc'teryx Incendo gets excellent marks for fit, finish, and athletic capability. I really wish it had a chest pocket and a slightly more urban fashion aesthetic.
The Patagonia Houdini gets dinged for its fit, but makes up for it with its chest pocket, zipper pulls, and light but rugged fabric.
Send me a note if there are other jackets in this category you recommend!