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Hands-on Gear Review
Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody Review
Cons: Too many pockets, wrist cuffs only work with over-the-cuff gloves, bulky, too warm for highly active use
Bottom line: A robust go-to for cold weather activity, the mild insulation prevents it from use in high output activities.
If you chase the cold more often than not, then the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody will be your perfect winter companion. It cuts wind and blowing snow like a champ and offers a bit of warmth to keep you cozy as the temperatures drop. The fleece lining could be either an asset or a detriment to this jacket depending upon your intended use. For cold activities, many reviewers welcomed the extra warmth. But this also made the jacket useless for the summer. That said, we were surprised that this jacket weighs just 21 ounces, considering the added weight of the fleece lining.
At $350, the Gamma is an expensive jacket, especially considering that you could buy a softshell like the uninsulated Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell for $199 and purchase an extra layer to wear underneath if you venture into the cold. With all of that said, the Gamma MX remains an admirable piece that will be loved by many winter wanderers. Coziness is a great reason to buy a softshell and this jacket is the coziest we'd consider taking into the alpine.
If you don't need the hood, the the hoodless version saves you $50. The Women's Gamma MX is our highest scoring jacket in the women's softshell review.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Softshell Jackets for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Unlike previous iterations of this jacket, the Gamma MX no longer has a laminated membrane. This boosts its breathability, but decreases its weather resistance. This jacket is a durable and proven softshell fit for cold weather use all over the mountains.
Older versions of the Arc'teryx Gamma MX used Polartec Power Stretch Pro (the same membrane used in the Editors' Choice Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket); however, this year's re-vamped model uses Arc'teryx's own membrane-free material. As could be expected, this caused the jacket to be less water resistant than previous versions. In our waterfall test, the jacket wetted through on the hood and shoulders after several seconds. During this test, the Gamma MX performed slightly worse than the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol, but when used in the wind, both jackets performed quite well. The biggest differentiation between the two is that the Gamma MX has a brushed fleece lining that makes it a better choice if you tend to run cold. Additionally, the seams aren't taped, which makes them an easy access point for water to seep in.
Looking for a budget option softshell with fleece-lined insulation? Check out the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody that retails for $189.
Receiving a score of 6/10, this jacket maintains an excellent balance of weather resistance and breathability. Our only complaint would be that the jacket is too warm for highly aerobic activities in temperatures around 30-40 degrees F unless worn over just a t-shirt. Though the softshell outer fabric is capable of breathing well, the fleece lining caused us to overheat and sweat. However, once we stopped, the jacket allowed moisture to escape so we were dry within a short time. Bottom line: this jacket worked best for moderate activity in relatively mild conditions, or higher output activities in very cold and windy conditions. If you need a super breathable softshell, consider the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody.
Mobility & Fit
The Gamma MX ties for second in the mobility metric along with the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol and Patagonia KnifeRidge. The only jacket in our review that's noticeably more mobile is the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody. When used for rock climbing, the Gamma stretched and moved well enough to stay out of the way. This jacket fits true-to-size and has an excellent cut. When reaching up, the hem barely rises and the cuffs barely fall. We give it an 8/10 for mobility.
Weight & Packed Size
As with the other fleece-insulated softshells we tested, this piece scored relatively poorly in this metric. The medium size we tested weighs in at 21 ounces and packs down to the size of a loaf of bread.
Pockets, pockets everywhere! Some people love pockets, others don't, others are indifferent. But if you love the enhanced jacket organization that pockets provide, then the pockets on this jacket will be the trick up your sleeve. Two hand warmer pockets keep your mitts toasty. If you're a leftie, you may hate the fact that most chest pockets are made for the right handed majority. Well, this jacket is a moderate with chest pockets for those on the right and the left. Everybody wins. Finally, there's a small arm pocket that's great for chapstick.
Most jackets we reviewed used Velcro at the cuffs, but this jacket comes fitted with no-frills elastic wrist cuffs to keep your hands cozy without the inconvenient rip of Velcro. The hood adjustments are simple and work as expected, making the hood usable with or without a helmet. When it comes to the quality of construction, you can tell that the designers of this piece thought of every detail. The seams and features feel like they were created with care.
As an around-town piece, this jacket has the looks you need to avoid standing out too much or too little. Hooded jackets typically don't look as classy as those without, but this jacket does come in an un-hooded version if that's your thing. Six colors let you ensure that it complements your other outdoor wear.
The Gamma MX has been around for multiple seasons and has been a staple piece of many outdoor users. It is an excellent jacket for anyone who wants a warm softshell that will keep most of the elements at bay while still providing good breathability. Use this jacket for cold days of ice climbing, skiing, and rock climbing. Don't use this jacket if you need to dump heat during high output activities like cross-country skiing or running.
For $349, you're paying for the Arc'teryx brand, excellent stitch quality and design, and a sweet cold weather softshell. Unfortunately, what you aren't paying for is a bargain this is the second most expensive jacket in this review. One thing to consider, however, is that this jacket has a little bit of insulation. If this keeps you from buying a fleece to layer underneath, the increase in price could be a moot point for you.
The Gamma MX is a great softshell if you're looking for a warm active layer that breathes well and resists most weather. It is more expensive than comparable jackets, but the stitching and design is top shelf. It boasts an excellent balance of breathability and weather protection especially against the wind. This jacket feels at home in snowy environments but isn't as versatile in the summer where the fleece lining makes it too warm.
— Jeremy Bauman
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