The 2017 Gamma LT vs. the 2016
The latest Gamma LT is a redesign of this great product. The new version features a new double weave fabric, zippered hand pockets and a new placement of the zippered thigh pocket, a metal belt buckle, and eyelets for the cord adjusters at the cuffs. The Gamma LT is now longer in Regular sizing (also offered in "Short" and "Long") and added 1.6 ounces of weight. While this seems like a lot of changes, they strike us to be minor tweaks, and we expect the performance and integrity of these pants to remain similar. Check out the two versions side-by-side in this photo comparison, displaying the new model on the left and its predecessor on the right.
The key differences in the new model are as follows:
- New Fabric — The new fabric is named Fortius DW 2.0 and consists of 88% nylon and 12% elastane. This material is an evolution from the previous Fortuis 1.0, which was 84% nylon and 16% elastane. Arc'teryx claims the new fabric stretches well and has next-to-skin comfort.
- New Belt Buckle — The webbing now has a metal belt buckle, which should be an improvement in terms of durability.
- Longer — The "Regular" sizing has increased 1.5 inches in length, now 32".
- Heavier — This new model weighs 12.9 oz (Regular size, M), which is 1.6 oz more than its predecessor, according to Arc'teryx.
- Redesigned Pockets — The hand pockets now have a zippered closure, and the zippered thigh pocket is now horizontal. The thigh pocket was previously at a downward angle.
- Hem Eyelet — The static cord adjusters at the cuffs now have eyelets, presumably to assist in cinching the cuffs around the ankles or calves.
- Colors — The latest Gamma LT is offered in Janus (gray), Cosmic (blue), Mortar (tan), and Black.
Hands-On Review of the 2016 Gamma LT
At first appearance, these Gamma LT pants look and feel like a technical specific outerwear garment; it turns out they are not. They are intended for regular, everyday use, and have been designed to such high standards, equating to the making of a quality pair of hiking pants. They have been constructed from softshell fabric, meaning that they are breathable but not waterproof, though they do retain the feel of a shell fabric. The feature set is streamlined and minimal to keep the pants lightweight: they have two front zip hand pockets and a sewn zip side pocket, and nothing else.
These pants are not convertible, instead featuring a cuff drawcord for tightening around the upper leg if you pull or roll them up. Despite their apparent thinness and seeming fragility, we found the fabric to be incredibly durable; we couldn't even put a nick in it (with many tries!). We found that these pants offered excellent protection against wind and cooler temperatures, and they had a speedy drying time; however, we do have to admit that their technical nature made them hot, uncomfortable, and seemingly inappropriate for warmer climates. If we knew we were going to encounter wet weather on our hike or backpacking trip or were sure to have cold mountain temperatures for our entire journey, we would instantly reach for these pants, which is why we made it our Top Pick for wet weather.
Testing our Top Pick for wet weather, the Gamma LT. In a sudden spring snowstorm, they kept us plenty dry, although not super warm. We were on a dry ledge beneath the overhanging cliff (next to the melting out Cascade Falls in Ouray).
Comfort and Mobility
The Gamma LT pant is unique in the bunch that we tested because it feels like a technical rain layer. But, the rub is not, in fact, waterproof. Instead, you are left with a slick, "nylony" feel that is a bit clammy on bare skin. Initially, we were quite turned off by this feel, but have to admit that as we wore the pant more often, we warmed up to it considerably and didn't find the feel so odd after a few days of wear. Perhaps the high performance started to bias our minds a little bit.
Our chief tester has a tall and lanky frame, and the fit of these hiking pants was nearly perfect; they were neither bulky and baggy nor too tight. Athletic, as Arc'teryx describes it, seems perfect, and it is precisely what you want out of an active garment. The 16% elastane woven in with the nylon fabric makes it perfectly stretchy, giving great mobility for hiking, backpacking, climbing, or almost any other activity you want to do. The legs run a little long, but that ensures good lower leg coverage in cooler weather. The waist comes with an integrated belt that lives inside the waistband, which also has soft felt for great hip comfort.
The Gamma LT are long in the legs and loose fitting throughout, although in no way baggy. Although they do have some stretch in the fabric, the mobility comes from the loose fit more than anything else.
Besides the clammy feel, our main complaint was that the pant is simultaneously thin and hot. Our test pair was black, which we found to be uncomfortably warm in the spring sun. At the same time, the thin material meant that we felt a bit cold while wearing them out in the winter with nothing on underneath — a bit of a paradox. In summary: the fit and the mobility were fantastic, the feel not as much — 7 out of 10.
We could only give these pants a 5 out of 10 for versatility, one of the lowest scores. This decision came from the fact that it is not very good in the cold or the heat. In reality, it is a shoulder season pant for mellow middle-temperature ranges. It also makes for a good summer pant if you are at high altitudes.
It is useful in the wind and light rain, making it our Top Pick for wet weather pant, and is by far the fastest to dry out after getting wet. But, there is no convertible option for when the temperatures get too hot, and for us, rolling up the bottoms and using the cuff tighteners didn't alleviate the heat build-up in the rest of the pant.
Without a convertible option, the best way to cool off in these pants is to cinch up the cuff drawcords above the calfs, creating a modified man-pris pants. This works great for quick river crossings, but is not nearly as cooling as a pair of shorts.
While Arc'teryx bills the Gamma LT pant as a softshell that is highly breathable, we can't say that we necessarily agree with them. This pant shines in cool and wet climates, though we found that in the heat of the direct sun, working hard to work up a sweat, we got uncomfortably sweaty in them. Granted, they are lighter and thinner than some of the other poorest performers in this category, making them feel slightly more bearable, but they also do not have the option to convert into shorts. In our opinion, if the temperatures are climbing, this is a pant to avoid wearing.
We gave this pant a 9 out of 10 for durability, rivaled only by The North Face Paramount 3.0 pant. While they are constructed almost completely of very light nylon fabric that doesn't seem like it would be very durable at all, we put them through the wringer, rock climbing and working in them many days. We couldn't tolerate the idea of a pant so expensive that wasn't highly durable, so we made sure to find out. And to be honest, we couldn't put a dent in these pants; they still look perfect. Internet reviews seem to back up this finding. The stitching and construction quality overall are top-notch, as you would expect from Arc'teryx, long known for their incredibly high construction standards.
After the beating we put these pants through, it was no surprise to us that a bit of the DWR coating had worn off when we shower tested them at the end of our test period. For the absolute highest performance, you would want to make sure that you reapply DWR coating before a wet backpacking trip. That said, there was a little bit of wetting through, and after many minutes in the intense shower, though not much water had made it inside, they were a bit damp. There was not a pant in our review that didn't get wet on the inside in the shower, as that is not what these pants are for, but this pair performed the best.
It is not possible for these pants to absorb water, and they were far and away the fastest to dry out. The only other pant that compared to these when it came to weather resistance was the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants.
These were the best pants in our shower test for water resistance. You can even see the water simply bouncing off of these pants. There was very little water that made it to the inside, and no absorption, meaning a very quick drying time.
Features and Conveniences
The single zippered cargo pocket is about the same size as a hand pocket and is double sewn into the construction of the pant for great longevity.
We couldn't give this pant more than a 6 out of 10 for features and conveniences, because in reality, there were very few. We enjoyed how the integrated belt functioned, and liked that there were zippers on both hand pockets and the one side pocket. We also thought that the cuff drawcords at the bottom of the pant legs worked well, although we didn't like how the little pieces of cord hung out and dangled around once tightened. Besides that, there weren't the other features found on pants like the Kuhl Liberator Convertible.
There was no convertible option or back pockets. While we liked the sleek look and design, we felt that the versatility of these pants indeed suffered by not having features to deal with different conditions.
The dual hand pockets are both zippered and the openings are tilted at an angle. Because of the angled opening it is nice that you can close them. Also notice the integrated belt with buckle.
The dual pull-tabs cinch through the single buckle on the inside of the cuff on each pant leg. Simply pull the tabs until they are tight, but this also leaves the loose ends of the cords dangling about.
This competitor is a good pant for hiking, backpacking, trekking, or other forms of alpine exploration in wetter, cooler climates or shoulder seasons; they would also be great at high altitudes in mellower seasons. Spring and fall, with their sometimes inclement weather and comfortable temperatures, are ideal for these pants. In most summer situations they will be way too hot; it is not quite the technical outer-layer that it seems and is thus not ideal for real winter use.
Hiking though the woods with a pack on, thats what these pants are meant to do. The Gamma LT was very comfortable fitting but the black color proved to be a bit warm on this sunny day.
This pant will set you back $189; by far the most expensive of any in our review. Arc'teryx is known for having a high price tag, so this shouldn't be a surprise, and rarely have we heard of an Arc'teryx customer feeling like they didn't get good value for their dollar. We do not doubt the durability and construction of these pants and believe they will have a very long life. That said, they have a limited range of use, and in our opinion, there are many fine pairs of hiking pants out there for considerably less money. You could buy two pairs of any other pants in our review and have all your bases covered for the same price as this one pair of pants.
The Gamma LT pants show no sign of liquid condensation or soaking through despite the fact that we just hiked through a driving snowstorm to arrive at this dry shelter beneath an overhanging cliff. These were our Top Pick for wet weather.
This hiking pant is our Top Pick for wet weather because it provides the best protection of all the pants we tested against rain and wind; they also dry out the fastest. They are an incredibly well constructed and highly durable pair of pants that certainly won't let you down. If we were headed out on a week-long backpacking trip and knew we would face days of rain, these are the pants we would choose. However, they have a limited range of versatility and are quite expensive, meaning that for most folks, we would sooner recommend one of our other favorite pants like the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible.