I think I'll do a little product review for an item that I have to say might have been my single best purchase of 2009.
The Patagonia Houdini jacket is a layer that I use and abuse every day. In the summer, I'll use it on hikes – during the early morning starts before a big ski, on the top of a pass or if a light rain storm moves in (it's not rain proof, but it keeps the light Rocky Mountain showers out). It's the catch all coat. It's light enough to toss on for kicking steps up a couloir, and it's just heavy enough to keep the chill out for a snack of Brie and salmon on the top of Arapahoe Pass. It's compact enough that I can easily shove it in the side pocket of any pair of pants, and then can pull it out for emergency situations. It's also great for buggy situations. You can hike in it fairly well up to about 80° and not overheat, and nary a blasted mosquito can bite through it.
Even more surprising has been the Houdini's versatility in the winter. My common skinning layer system for the upper body now consists of:
25° and up – Lightweight capilene, silk weight-tee (worn over of course for the Kurt Cobain Seattle effect), Houdini
20° to 25° – Midweight capilene, silk weight-tee, Houdini
10° to 20° – light weight capilene, silk weight-tee, fleece hoody, Houdini.
You get the point. I always have the Patagonia down sweater available, and on really cold days will bust this out in the parking lot (Moffat, the least hospitable trailhead in the world), on the top of a peak, or even, on really cold days, will skin for awhile in it till I warm up sufficiently. But truth be told, the sweater lives in my pack 50% of the time (at least), while I'm wearing the Houdini 90% of the time. The only exception might be on a ski where I'm dressing to impress…in which case I'll of course bust out a Grizzly branded flannel shirt, which you purchase at any army store for sub $20. But that's a whole other review!
The Houdini is great for walking the dog, or basically anytime you plan to exert a little energy. I've even been known to wear it under a layer, as a stop-gap wind block. For example, in the above situation where one might be dressing to impress, I recommend putting the Houdini under a flannel shirt. That way, you'll look good and keep the wind out while you are traversing the Continental Divide in January in a 80 mph gale. Make sure to remove your knit cap to let your hair flow in the wind in such conditions, ala Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.
My Houdini is black, which I find gives the nice Anakin Skywalker tortured soul look when combined with my black Guide pants. The only problem is in the Wind Rivers, dark colors tend to attract mosquitoes, so in all honesty I'll probably switch it up this summer and go Mango. Not that I need too – after a summer of skiing peaks, two NOLS courses, lots of fall hiking and skiing this winter, the Houdini is in fine shape. A few tiny holes courtesy of an overly rambunctious campfire somewhere in the Winds, but that's user error and merely cosmetic.
So yes, I whole heartedly recommend to Patagonia Houdini Jacket.