The Arc'teryx Gamma LT is a perfect example of what a softshell jacket needs to be. It features a hardwearing fabric called Wee Burly, that excels in rough environments like alpine and rock climbers often find themselves in, though achieves this durability at a lower weight than many other softshells. Able to withstand moderate winds and light precipitation, keeping your baselayers warm and dry, the Gamma LT does favor breathability over weather protection and is not as weatherproof as its more robust brother the Gamma MX Hoody.
Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable fabric, great fit, all-around usefulness
Cons: Limited water resistance, fitted cuffs
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Performing well in all metrics, the Gamma was edged out by the Rab Torque for Top Pick for Climbing, though we appreciated the clean, elegant style of the Gamma more and would recommend it over the Torque for those spending equal time at the crag as well as the coffee shop.
The Wee Burly fabric used in the Arcteryx Gamma LT has a tight, hard-faced weave and does well at beading water off in light precipitation thanks to an additional DWR (durable water repellent) treatment. It did wet through in the shower test, like all the softshell jackets we tested it is merely water resistant, not waterproof, though it failed along the shoulders and back much sooner than the lighter Psiphon FL. The fabric is air permeable which positively affects its breathability, and hold up to cold gusty winds well, though it is not as wind resistant as the Gamma MX which uses a fleece inner lining.
The hood is sized to accommodate a helmet and can be adjusted with 3 separate cinches. Like the Gamma MX, this coat does not have wrist closures and instead uses a fitted cuff which is a bit too tight to place over gloves.
Earning a score of 7, the Gamma LT is as breathable as the Mountain Hardwear Touren, a heavier jacket, but was not as breathable as the Rab Torque, another climbing oriented softshell that weighs the same. With an unlined fabric, the Gamma LT adequately allowed moisture to pass through during strenuous activity, though with all the zippers pulled up we found ourselves getting damper in our base layers than while wearing lighter jackets such as the Psiphon FL. Given that this jacket is best used by climbers and skiers who are not racing uphill at an aerobic pace, we found the breathability to be appropriate to those activities.
Arcteryx has done it again with the Gamma LT, creating a well-tailored jacket that allows for freedom of movement without being too bulky, is worn easily over insulating layers without feeling cramped, and is slim enough that it looks good and moves well without feeling baggy. The use of a gusseted underarm area makes it easy for us to reach up and grab a climbing hold, and the longer cut hem gives this better protection when worn with a climbing harness, something we wish the Gamma MX also included.
At 1.1 pounds, the Gamma LT is on the lighter side of average when compared to the rest of the jackets we reviewed, and given its durability, breathability and climbing-friendly cut this is a solid jacket for its weight. We narrowly awarded the Rab Torque the Top Pick for Climbing Award for its better breathability and mobility, though the Gamma has slightly better weather protection and style for similar weight, so it may be worth considering which traits are more important to you in this weight class.
The Gamma LT utilizes some of the interesting features that our Editors Choice Winning softshell, the Psiphon LT also uses. From the head down we are happy to see there is a full-sized hood with three-way adjustable cinches, with a stiffened brim to shed precipitation. The No Slid Zip zipper uses small teeth to keep the zipper from inadvertently sliding down. We haven't found that this is so much of an issue in other jackets to require a solution for, but it works well and does keep the zipper at a comfortable height when needing to dump heat out on a strenuous uphill climb.
We really liked the style of the Gamma LT. It is clean cut, fits well and is available in four colors that range from subtle to bright. This jacket is comfortable in the mountains but does not seem out of place worn around town or to the store.
We feel that the best application for this jacket is as an active softshell for climbers and skiers who also want their outerwear to look good and be versatile enough to wear in casual settings as well as out on adventures. Its durable weave and functionality make it almost as recommendable as a climbing jacket as the Rab Torque, and if the louder colors of the Torque are too much, then we strongly suggest looking at the Gamma LT.
For $249 you get a classic Arcteryx jacket, with excellent attention to detail, function and good looks. You do pay a premium for this label, but we feel that it is a good value for the price.
As the lightest jacket in the Arcteryx Gamma collection, we like this one the most for its pared-down simplicity. It can easily be worn with extra layers for more warmth or thrown over a light shirt in the summer climbing season. It is versatile, has a great fit, and is an excellent choice as a do-it-all softshell jacket.
— Ryan Huetter