The Arc'teryx Gamma LT is a perfect example of what a softshell jacket needs to be. Although there are lighter-weight jackets available, some of which offer slightly better weather protection, this one is a true all-arounder. It features a hardwearing fabric called Wee Burly that excels in the rough environments that alpine and rock climbers often find themselves in, yet manages to achieve this durability at a lower weight than many other softshells. Though 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. However, it is versatile, stylish, and performs well enough across a range of applications that we do not hesitate to give it our Editors' Choice Award.
Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable fabric, great fit, all-around usefulness
Cons: Limited water resistance, fitted cuffs
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gamma line from Arc'teryx comprises garments that are stretchy and breathable while being moderately weatherproof. The Gamma LT is the lightest weight model in this series and is designed to be worn with or without layers in warm to cool climates. The bulkier Gamma MX uses a fleece backing and has more warmth for colder weather, but the LT hits the sweet spot of being good at almost everything which is why it's an easy pick for our Editors' Choice.
The Wee Burly fabric used in the 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 our shower test, failing along the shoulders and back much sooner than other models; like all the softshell jackets we tested, it is merely water-resistant, not waterproof. The fabric is air permeable, which positively affects its breathability, and it holds up to cold gusty winds well, though it is not as wind resistant as thicker lined models.
The hood on the LT is sized to accommodate a helmet and can be adjusted with three separate cinches. The wrist closures are fitted, not adjustable, making them a bit too tight to place over gloves but streamlined enough to easily slide under larger gauntlet-style gloves.
The Gamma LT is unlined, which adequately allows moisture to pass through during strenuous activity. There are more breathable options available, but this one strikes a great balance between protection and ventilation, depending on what you are doing. During highly aerobic endeavors, having all the zippers pulled up can feel a bit stifling and hold more dampness in than a lighter option. However, opening up the mesh-lined pockets helps considerably to dump excess heat.
Given that this jacket is best used by climbers and skiers who are not racing uphill at an aerobic pace, we find the breathability to be appropriate for those activities. It's great for cooler days where your activity level is steady but not heart-pounding.
Arc'teryx has done it again with the Gamma LT, creating a well-tailored jacket that allows for freedom of movement without being too bulky. It is worn easily over insulating layers without feeling cramped yet is slim enough that it looks good and moves well. You can toss it on over a t-shirt and not feel like it is too baggy, versatility that allows for easy layering (or not) when climbing or skiing.
The use of a gusseted underarm area makes the Gamma LT easy to reach up and grab a climbing hold in, and the longer cut hem gives this better protection when worn with a climbing harness than many other options.
At 17 ounces, the Gamma LT is on the lighter side of average when compared to the rest of the jackets in our review. Given its durability, breathability, and climbing-friendly cut, it is a solid jacket for its weight. There are other options with marginally better breathability and mobility, though this one has better weather protection at a similar weight. Depending on your preferred activities and climates, this may be a very smart tradeoff.
Be sure to consider which traits are most important to you in this weight class. This jacket is our Editors' Choice winner because of its balance of strengths. It is less of a niche layer, not specializing in one metric in particular, and more of an all-around champ.
The Gamma LT utilizes interesting features that are useful and user-friendly. 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-Slip Zip down the front uses small teeth to keep it from inadvertently sliding down. We haven't found this to be an issue in other jackets, 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 like the style of the Gamma LT. It is clean-cut, fits well, and is available in attractive colors. This jacket is comfortable in the mountains but does not seem out of place worn around town or to the store.
The LT gives you a classic Arc'teryx 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. Arc'teryx is legendary for its extensive research and development process, and it pays off with a solid jacket that will hold up to abuse.
As the lightest jacket in the Arc'teryx Gamma collection, we like the LT 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. We heartily recommend this layer and reward it with our Editors' Choice Award.
— Ryan Huetter