Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody - Women's Review
Cons: Thin, spendy, relatively heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gamma LT continues to reign over other jackets in our review, striking a balance between an active and technical softshell. This layer proves you can have a reasonably lightweight and weather-resistant softshell for technical pursuits that is also breathable with great mobility for more active/aerobic pursuits in warmer weather. Thie Gamma LT is lighter weight but less warm than other technical softshells; while being warmer, burlier, more weather-resistant, and slightly heavier than other active softshells. It's the Goldilocks of softshells. The rugged fabric features a DWR coating for water resistance and a four-way stretch for unimpeded movement. The hood is helmet-compatible, and the hem doesn't ride up while climbing, making it an ideal companion on alpine climbs or windy hikes in the mountains. It is also weather-resistant enough for warm weather ski touring, ice climbing, or snowshoeing.
The Gamma LT is the lightest jacket in the Gamma series from Arc'teryx. We love it for being a stretchy, albeit somewhat thin, softshell that provides excellent wind resistance and decent water resistance.
This jacket is unlined, so it is less warm than the heavier-weight Gamma MX, but when paired with a light fleece, it is a perfect layer for cooler weather climbing. In our shower test, the Gamma LT did wet out somewhat quickly around the shoulders, but the patented Wee Burly fabric resisted total failure, unlike other models in our review. If you're looking for something more waterproof, we recommend looking for a hardshell instead. That said, this jacket handled water surprisingly well for being a lightweight softshell. Out in the real world, when we would wear this jacket in a light rain or snow, it kept us warm and dry. Beyond warmth and water resistance, it is a fantastic wind layer, taking the edge off cold mountain winds.
This is one of the metrics where the Gamma LT truly shines. Instead of pit zips, Arc'teryx designed this jacket with large mesh-lined, harness-compatible pockets. The mesh ventilation extends above the usable portion of the pocket, all the way up to the collar, to give it extra breathability.
Beyond pocket ventilation, this softshell is unlined, which gives it more breathability than other technical softshells in our review. The Wee Burly fabric achieves an ideal balance between weather resistance and breathability — providing protection from wind, resistance from moisture, and still allowing for ventilation when you're on the move. That said, some of the lighter-weight, active softshells in our review offer greater breathability, but they also offer less weather protection. If you intend to use this jacket during early morning hikes to approach alpine climbs, it should keep you warm enough while minimizing the clammy feel of a less breathable layer. We love this jacket for warm weather ski touring, climbing in the shade, and all manner of alpine pursuits — from climbing and peak bagging to early morning trail runs and warm weather snowshoeing — because it keeps you protected but not stifled.
Mobility is another category where the Gamma LT truly shines. For climbing, few jackets move as well as this one. The hem doesn't ride up while climbing, and the stretchy fabric facilitates unencumbered movement.
One mark of an excellent softshell is forgetting you're wearing the jacket in the first place. The Gamma LT definitely meets and surpasses this criterion. Whether climbing, hiking, or ski touring, it feels like a second skin for how well it moves. Beyond stretchy fabric, the Gamma LT has several features that enable greater mobility than other jackets in its class. The cuffs have a small panel of stretchier — but burly — fabric that keeps the cuffs in place without velcro wrist straps, and the underarms are gusseted, so you can reach above you without the sleeves sliding down. The spacious helmet-compatible hood has two-way adjustable cinches so that you can dial in the fit, with or without a helmet.
Weighing in at 14.5 ounces for a size small, the Gamma LT is one of the heaviest active softshells in our review. When compared to all the jackets we tested — including casual and technical softshells — it scored in the middle of the pack.
While the Gamma LT is not winning any ultralight awards, this may not be a critical criterion for you. We appreciate this jacket for the features it affords for alpine rock climbing, ski touring, and mountaineering because it is breathable, mobile, and offers above-average weather resistance. If this sounds like you, you're unlikely to notice the heft of this jacket while stowed in your pack. If you're looking for an ultralight emergency layer, or if you want a lighter-weight jacket to stow in your pack (or on your harness), other options could better suit your needs. But for the functionality this jacket provides as an alpine climbing layer, we were unbothered by the weight.
To evaluate a softshell for versatility, we consider style, features, stow-ability, and the ideal uses for a particular model. In a field of stiff competition, we consider the Gamma LT to be a highly versatile jacket, which is why it earned high marks in this category.
Given the color options and the tailored cut, the Gamma LT could be at home on the mountain or in the brewery after a big day out. The two-way cinch on the helmet-compatible hood is a top-notch feature that we appreciate in any jacket suitable for the backcountry. The pockets are harness compatible and mesh-lined, meaning you can open them up for ventilation or to access your stowables without the hassle of reaching beneath your harness or the waist belt of your pack. This means you can also use the pockets to warm your hands without unbuckling the hip belt on your backpack. The cuffs feature a trim cut with a stretchy fabric panel, so you can't pull them over gloves, but they are compatible with gauntlet-style gloves. The collar is among the most comfortable of the jackets we tested, with a spacious neck gasket that never pokes you in the chin. We also love the so-called "No Slip Zip," not because there are other jackets in our review with zipper-slippage issues, but because the zipper is a bit burlier than others we have reviewed. All these features point to a jacket that is ideal for climbing long routes in variable weather conditions, though we would recommend an ultralight rain jacket if you expect monsoon-level storms. This jacket would also be great for ski touring or snowshoeing on warmer days or as an outer layer for bike commuting in the shoulder season. All-in-all a very versatile jacket.
We think this jacket is a good value for how well-designed, feature-rich, breathable, and mobile it is — all of which make it easy to recommend. While you can find less expensive jackets on the market — and in this review — the design of the Gamma LT and the fabric's durability will keep you satisfied for years to come. It handles like a champ on alpine climbs and summit missions, and it is also great for cooler-weather multi-pitches or on warmer ice climbing days. That said, if you're primarily going to be in severe weather, this layer alone won't be enough — you will want a hardshell to protect from the rain and/or an insulating layer to protect from the cold. If you're looking for a durable jacket for windy alpine adventures — be it climbing, warm ski touring, or peak bagging — we think this jacket strikes an ideal balance between mobility, weather resistance, and breathability. A balance that is well worth the steep price tag.
Striking the right balance between breathability, weather resistance, and ease of movement should be the goal of any softshell. The Arc'teryx Gamma LT does this without compromising on style — proving that you really can have form and function. The fabric is burly enough to withstand the abuse of alpine granite and features a DWR coating for water resistance. It offers excellent wind resistance while providing the breathability you need to keep moving. While it isn't as warm or water-resistant as other softshells in our review, you can always bring a rain jacket or an insulating layer to deal with colder temps or a rainstorm. For all these reasons, we awarded this jacket top marks for performing well across nearly all the metrics in our review.
— Mary Witlacil
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