Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Gamma LT Review

The 2017 Gamma LT
Price:  $189 List | $189.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Most water resistant, highly durable, great construction, good mobility
Cons:  Expensive, strange feel, not very versatile
Bottom line:  The most water-resistant model tested, this pant was not as versatile and the fabric left testers wanting.
Editors' Rating:   
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Color:  Black; Legion Blue; Rhyolite
Sizing (waist, length options):  5 W (S-2XL), 2 L (Regular, Tall)
Material:  84% nylon, 16% elastane. 160g/m²
Manufacturer:   Arc'Teryx

Our Verdict

Our Top Pick Award goes to the Arc'teryx Gamma LT for performing ahead of the competition in wet weather. No other pants in our review handled rain and snow as well as this model. Designed as a soft-shell hiking pant, this contender is more like a piece of technical outerwear. Indeed, the thin, slick nylon fabric made them feel more along the lines of a pair of rain pants; while they are not completely waterproof, they are in fact far more water resistant and fast drying than their competitors.

Product Update
Arc'teryx informed us that the Gamma LT received a make-over in 2017. A layout of the details and a side-by-side photo comparison of the two versions are below the table. We updated the photo above and the links to gear retailers to reflect this fresh model.

While they break the mold regarding materials and performance, they also might break your bank, setting you back $189 for a single pair; pretty much double the average cost of the pants in this review. In most cases, we would prefer our Editors' Choice Award-winning Prana Stretch Zion Convertible pants. They are our absolute first choice for long days of hiking or playing in cooler, wet climates like the Pacific Northwest.

Looking to get technical?
The Arcteryx Gamma AR Pant is the burly bigger brother of the Gamma pant we reviewed and is ideal for three-season rock and alpine climbing. For a slightly increased $199, you can expect better thermal performance and the same awesome durability. For hikers looking to take their pant game to the next level, look no further than the Gamma AR.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Pants for Men

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
April 6, 2017

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The 2017 Gamma LT vs. the Older Version


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 2017 Gamma LT
Gamma LT

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 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 positioned at a downward angle.
  • Hem Eyelet — The static cord adjusters at the cuffs are now accompanied by eyelets, presumably to assist in cinching the cuffs around the ankles and/or calves.
  • Colors — The latest Gamma LT is offered in Janus (gray), Cosmic (blue), Mortar (tan), and Black.

As we haven't yet gotten our legs into this new version, the assessments below continue to reflect the older model we reviewed in hand over several months.

Hands-On Review


At first appearance, these Gamma LT pants look and feel like a technical specific outerwear garment; 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 this pant offered great protection against wind and cooler temperatures, and they had an extremely fast 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 assured to have cool mountain temperatures for our entire journey, we would instantly reach for this pant, which is why we made it our Top Pick for wet weather.

Performance Comparison


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).
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 main tester had a tall and lanky frame and the fit of these hiking pants was nearly perfect; neither bulky and baggy, nor too tight. Athletic, as Arc'teryx describes it, seems perfect, and it is exactly 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 is also lined with 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.
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 them 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 very good, the feel not as much. 7 out of 10.

Versatility


We could only give these pants a 5 out of 10 for versatility, one of the lowest scores. This came from the fact that it is not very good in the cold, or in 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 good in the wind and a 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.
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.

Breathability


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 really 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.


Durability


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 ringer, rock climbing and working in them numerous days. We couldn't tolerate the idea of a pant that was 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 is top-notch, as you would expect from Arc'teryx, long known for their incredibly high construction standards.


Weather Resistance


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 really 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 designed for, but this pair performed the best.


It is not really 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.

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.
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.
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 simply 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 this pant certainly 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 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.
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.

Best Applications


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 this pant. 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.
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.

Value


This pant will set you back $189; by far the most expensive of any in our review. Arc'teryx is known for having a really 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 have no doubt about 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. In fact, 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.
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.

Conclusion


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.

Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: April 6, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Backpacker

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   May 23, 2016 - 08:57pm
TJ F · Backpacker · California

An excellent review that hit all the key points. I don't feel the same kind of extra warmth and actually find them very breathable. A little too much so in really windy, colder conditions given the thinner material. But in terms of durability,stretch and fit these are the best I've ever owned. A couple of years of hard use and they look brand new after a wash. I was able to pick them up on sale which was awesome because I gulped at the retail price. But this is one of the situations where you really do get what you pay for.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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