Tag Archives: review

Patagonia Houdini jacket review


Material: 1oz 15-denier Triple rip-stop nylon (w/ DWR treatment)

Features: Zippered exterior chest pocket, adjustable hood/hem

Weight: 4.3oz

Cost: $125.00

    This jacket fits in my other jacket’s chest pocket, no joke.  At 4.3 ounces, this is THE lightest ‘shell’ or piece of outerwear I have ever owned.  This versatile item deserves a place in everyone’s pack.

    Let’s set the record straight – I would NOT consider this a true shell or even a soft shell.  Patagonia describes this item as ‘soft, breathable, and ultra-light…weather-resistant protection…’.  This is fairly accurate but I wouldn’t count on this as your sole item for protection from the elements.  Even during a brief summer squall, this item gets wet fast.  Perhaps right off the shelf the DWR treatment will help it shed minimal precip but keep in mind the fact that DWR treatments wear off very quickly.

    My favorite application for this item is wind protection.  Lately I have been using the Houdini for skiing.  I wear a light-weight synthetic t-shirt, then a lightweight fleece, over that goes the Houdini, and finally a softshell layer.  The Houdini does breath very well and as long as the weather stays in the 20’s, I stay very comfortable.  In this application the Houdini blocks the wind that makes it through my softshell.  It also helps to hold in a little more body heat which keeps me warmer.  I like to wear the Houdini under my softshell to avoid ripping it on trees – it is EXTREMELY light-weight.

    Because of it’s small size and minimal weight, this item is unnoticed in a pack or even jacket pocket.  I have no reservations packing it on EVERY trip outdoors, in case I need just a little more then what I have.  I own an older version which had a fairly constricting hood that would NOT fit over a helmet and when zipped all the way up, felt like it was chocking me.  Apparently Patagonia has redesigned the hood to be more comfortable.  They have also redesigned the pocket on this newer rendition.  My version has an internal velcro pocket while the new version has an exterior zippered pocket.

    Overall, this unique item has been very useful and would be a welcome addition to anyone’s pack.  You might even be surprised at how often you use it, just be careful, it is ultra-lightweight!

Rab Alpine Trek Pants review

Material: Polyamide softshell fabric w/ cordura reinforcements (knees, seat, instep)

Features: Built in belt, multiple pockets (thigh, two side, one back, all zippered), articulated knees, reinforced inseam, UPF 50+

Cost: $80

The guys across the big blue pond know a thing or two about quality gear.  Rab is a UK company that I am coming to appreciate more and more for their well-designed, versatile, and quality items.  I personally dig the ‘techy’ appearance of their gear, allowing function to dictate form (but their stuff looks good too doesn’t it?).  And while I don’t own any super-expensive clothing items (except for stuff that I’ve managed to get for less then retail), I think Rab is appropriately priced for what you get.  After owning the Baltoro Alpine softshell jacket from Rab, I expected that anything else they made would be of similar quality.  I was right.

Getting on to the topic of this review, the Alpine Trek Pants – so far I’m happy with my purchase.  I decided to buy these as a multi-use pair of pants for any outdoor activity.  Based on their design I think they will be most useful for hiking and seem versatile enough to do other things as well.  From the description of Rab’s website I assumed these would be a little stretchier, one of the key defining characteristics of think of when I think ‘softshell’.  I was slightly surprised when I received these pants in the mail (ordered them online) because they have a distinctly nylon feel with very little stretch.  I was a little disappointed that they weren’t what I was picturing although I had never bothered to find a pair at a local retailer prior to ordering them.  Oh well, I decided to try and keep an open mind.

One of the other things about these pants that surprised me on initially receiving them was how light-weight they are.  The polyamide ‘softshell’ material feels exactly light some light-weight nylon hiking pants from Mountain Hardwear that I own.  In addition, when I read the description of these pants noting the ‘Cordura reinforcements’ on the seat, knees, and instep, I imagined a super burly, rough nylon material (similar to ski pants maybe?).  While these reinforcements are more ‘durable’ feeling then the rest of the pants, they are also light-weight.

So my initial assumption of what these pants were going to be was incorrect.  Even though these aren’t exactly what I had in mind, I’m still happy with them.  My initial test was taking my dog for a hike at Settler’s Park down in Boulder.  Temps were in the 60’s with a 10-20mph breeze (would have gotten a more comprehensive and accurate weather report but I haven’t received my Kestrel yet!).  Settler’s Park is pretty much all up-hill from the parking lot (Red Rocks trail).  I busted up the trail without taking a break, until I reached the high point.  Usually I work up a descent sweat on the ascent but I was pleasantly surprised by the breathability of the Trek pants.  No sweatiness, very comfortable.  I was also happy with the wind-blocking ability of the pants and was surprised that I didn’t get overheated wearing pants, hiking in 60 degree temps.

The Alpine Trek pants have some other notable qualities worth mentioning.  First – the waist and fit.  When I initially pulled these out of the box they looked huge (size small).  Upon putting them on I realized that the fit was just right – not too lose and baggy but with enough room to move and not feel restricted.  The waist has elastic built into the sides to help the pants fit snug without having bunched-up material around the fly area.  As I mentioned before, the pants have a built-in belt which works well and is not bulky like a leather belt.  Finally, they are rated at UPF 50+, offering great protection from UV.  This is a worthy design feature if you are planning on spending significant time at high altitude where the suns rays are stronger and more likely to give you a sunburn.

Finally I will mention the main limitation I see with these pants.  Because of the light-weight nature I wouldn’t recommend using them for rock climbing or any activity where they might see significant abrasion.  I may be wrong but the materials seem like they wouldn’t hold up very well on rock, and at $80, I am in no hurry to trash these pants by ripping holes in them.  If you want a light-weight, quick drying, comfortable pair of pants for hiking, trekking, or camping, the Alpine Trek pants will fit the bill.  I’m happy with them and looking forward to putting them through their paces in the backcountry this summer.