An intriguing hoodie that takes breathability for fast paced adventures to a new level, while still providing a decent level of insulation. It works well as a lightweight mid layer or as an outer in mild conditions, though I found it a little warm to run in. The quality and eco-creds of its 100% recycled Polartec Power Dry fabric makes it a very pricey garment, though it doesn’t cost the planet as much as most.
100% recycled fabrics
As breathable as they come
Great warmth to weight ratio
Not as suitable as trail jacket on brisk runs
Fabric isn’t as soft against the skin as some
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Houdini is a Swedish brand that design beautiful, minimalist sportswear with the plight of the planet top of mind. Its philosophy is centred around versatile products that ‘deserve existence’. The garments are designed to stand the test of time and to be easy to repair or recycle when they come to the end of life.
One of the winners of Polartec’s 2022 Apex Awards (we’ve also reviewed fellow winners – the ThruDark Centurion Alpine Jacket and the Berghaus MTN Guide MW Hoody) the Houdini Pace Flow Houdi is a hooded top designed for fast-paced activities and year-round use. Featuring a holey mesh and Polartec’s Power Dry fabric, it has something of a unique appearance.
It’s not been pigeon-holed into a specific niche, thus aligning with the brand’s philosophy of versatility. The idea behind this particular top is that, when worn as a mid-layer, the air in the mesh holds heat, providing insulation. While as an outer, it’s designed to be a wonderfully cool and breathable jacket. In essence, it's a garment aiming for the Holy Grail – or Holey Grail, if you will – of maximum breathability and maximum insulation. I was intrigued to test it out on the trails.
Meet the reviewer
UK-based Alex enjoys nothing more than time spent in the mountains, whether its hiking, running, camping or climbing. He's a qualified Mountain Leader and the President of the London Mountaineering Club. As one of Advnture's outdoor gear experts, he always tests his gear to the max in often challenging mountain conditions.
RRP: $200.00 (US) / €200.00 (EU)
Fabrics: 100% recycled polyester: Polartec Power Dry Mesh
Sizes: XS to XXL
Weight: 286g (men’s large)
Colors: True Black, Big Blue, Morning Haze
The main fabric of the Pace Flow Houdi is an obvious eyebrow raiser. Hold it up to the light and its holey composition becomes clear. On first wear, it’s beautifully lightweight, weighing just 286g, and its ventilated feel is immediately apparent. It’s got quite a casual, regular fit and the simple hood puts me in mind of something a Jedi Knight might wear. Minimalist in appearance, there’s nothing you don’t need – perhaps other than the zippered chest pocket.
The mesh is woven from Polartec’s Power Dry, a highly moisture wicking fabric that allows for efficient evaporation. The fabric is 100% recycled polyester and is Bluesign approved, as we’ve come to expect from Houdini, staunch champions of sustainability. In fact, there’s just this one fabric across the whole garment, something that makes it easier to reuse at the end of its life.
The eco creds don’t stop there either. The filament fiber construction of the main fabric means that it sheds only a fraction of the microfibers that a standard fleece jacket does when laundering. Houdini also give detailed washing instructions on their website, making various recommendations to lower the environmental impact of laundering on the planet’s rivers and oceans.
As mentioned, there’s an approximately hand-sized zippered chest pocket that’s made from the same mesh fabric as the rest of the hoody. It can hold a smartphone or similar, but the fabric is so light that this kind of item isn’t really comfortable to carry in this way. It’d be ideal for something like a plastic key card or similar.
To tighten up the hem, there’s an elasticated drawstring, useful for when you want to hold that heat in, or to loosen when you want more ventilation. The hood is non-adjustable, though it fits relatively snugly and it needed quite a strong gust to blow out of place on test.
On the trails
I wore the Pace Flow Houdi in a variety of scenarios, from days spent hiking the mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park, to deploying it as an additional layer when running my local trails in winter. It’s also a perfectly comfortable top to wear around the house, though the fabric doesn’t feel as soft against the skin as some.
I feel the Pace Flow Houdi is really in its element when worn as a mid layer during dynamic hiking activities, like speed hiking and scrambling. Its blend of lightweight, breathable and insulating qualities helped me to regulate my temperature on the trail. It traps heat well beneath other layers, while still allowing moisture to work its way out. If I ever got overly warm, I’d unzip the front to quickly dump heat. Of course, when worn as an outer, it’s not as good a wind stopper as a fleece jacket, which meant my arms got a little chilly during colder hikes.
On its website, Houdini also name ski touring, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as ideal pursuits for the Pace Flow Houdi. While I didn’t test it during these kinds of pursuits, I can certainly see the potential, as it worked so well as a breathable mid layer on my faster hiking missions. The fabric also has enough give that it doesn’t restrict movement, which is vital for these kinds of uses.
But what about the Pace Flow Houdi as a piece of running apparel? Personally, I’m someone who ‘runs hot’, meaning I tend not to need many layers, even in really cold conditions. When others are wearing jumpers, hats and gloves on their runs, I shudder at the thought of the stuffy sensation of exertion under so much fabric. So, if I was ever to wear an additional layer over my running top, the idea of it being something like the lightweight, ultra-breathable Pace Flow Houdi is quite attractive.
However, the reality is that I was still too hot wearing it when running, even on wintry runs. When it’s really cold, the main reason I’d ever put an additional layer on would be either to block the wind or to keep the rain out on long adventure runs. The Pace Flow Houdi does neither of these things and it costs more than most running jackets. So, for me, this isn’t a running garment. But again, I must make it clear that I’m someone who ‘runs hot’; perhaps others would love to run in it.
Besides, as mentioned, the Pace Flow Houdi doesn’t pigeon-hole itself into any niche, be it running, hiking, climbing, snowsports, et al. So, how you make use of its benefits is entirely up to you. What you do get is a quality, minimalist and thoughtfully designed garment that’s kind to the planet.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com