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Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody - Women's Review

Burly weather protection and aesthetic design combine to make a great technical softshell for both urban and alpine winter environments
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Price:  $349 List | $226.85 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great weather protection, decent mobility, stylish, comfortable, excellent fit, helmet compatible hood
Cons:  Spendy, non-adjustable cuffs, heavy, not super breathable
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 7, 2020
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 5
  • Mobility - 25% 7
  • Weight - 10% 4
  • Versatility - 5% 6

Our Verdict

Year after year, the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody covers many of the bases for a great technical softshell for cold weather. It is well-tailored, comfortable, and features decent mobility. While this jacket isn't perfect for everything, we've found it to be one of the best choices for a broad range of non-summer activities — a layer you can take out without disappointment or frustration. The wrist cuffs are tight and not adjustable, and the hood is on the small side, but neither issue bothered us much when out in the field. The Gamma MX is also a bit heavy due to its lining, though that ups its weather protection considerably. The one major drawback with this shell is the price — it's the most expensive piece in our review. But if you're looking for a softshell for the long haul, a companion for many excursions over many years, this is an excellent candidate.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

Stretchy, comfortable, stylish, and warm: the Gamma MX Hoody is a great jacket for all manner of winter missions from hiking and snowshoeing to ice/mixed climbing, and backcountry or cross-country skiing. While it isn't the most breathable or versatile jacket in our review, we reach for it time and again when headed out for some winter fun.

Performance Comparison


The Gamma MX is a great layer for backcountry winter adventures.
The Gamma MX is a great layer for backcountry winter adventures.

Weather Protection


The MX designation on this shell stands for 'mixed weather,' which is where it excels. The Gamma MX is a plushly-lined technical softshell that is dang warm on cold days ice climbing or skiing. It is incredibly wind-resistant and is a welcome companion on windy ridgelines and in breezy canyons. The face fabric is treated with a DWR coating that will protect you from light precip or dry snow. In the shower test, the Gamma MX performed better than average but soaked through completely after four minutes.

After 4 minutes in the shower  the Gamma MX showed only minimal signs of wetting through  which is pretty impressive considering this jacket doesn't have taped seams.
After 4 minutes in the shower, the Gamma MX showed only minimal signs of wetting through, which is pretty impressive considering this jacket doesn't have taped seams.

Despite doing somewhat poorly on water resistance tests, the Gamma MX is a great jacket for cold days ice climbing in high winds. It handles well and provides sufficient protection from storms during blustery days with snow flurries, but given the low performance of this jacket in the shower tests, it would not be our go-to option for days with lots of wet snow or on days when the ice is super wet or spraying. That said, the Gamma MX fares well as a warm outer layer on most ice-climbing days in sunny and (relatively) dry Colorado. The likelihood of this jacket to soak-through would be much more of an issue in the Northeast or in the UK, where ice climbing is a far wetter affair on balance.

Breathability


The Gamma MX did not perform as well in terms of breathability, though it is decently breathable given its fairly impressive weather protection. We were psyched during approaches and while hiking, as long as it was properly cold or the hikes weren't too long. The Gamma MX has three mesh-lined pockets — two hand pockets and one chest pocket — which you can open up for extra ventilation. Overall, this jacket achieves a reasonable balance between sufficient breathability and excellent weather protection, which makes it a great option for almost all backcountry winter endeavors.

The Gamma MX does not have pit-zips or very breathable fabric  which means that it can be too toasty on approaches  but the fabric regulates sweat well enough to be a rad layer while ice climbing.
The Gamma MX does not have pit-zips or very breathable fabric, which means that it can be too toasty on approaches, but the fabric regulates sweat well enough to be a rad layer while ice climbing.

Mobility


In spite of the warm fleece lining on the Gamma MX, it scores surprisingly high marks in terms of mobility. It features four-way stretch and is well-tailored, which spells success for ice or mixed climbing, backcountry skiing, and hiking or snowshoeing. The design includes some serious forethought, including gusseted underarms, articulated elbows, and plush stretchy fabric. Our only real complaint with respect to mobility is that when your arms are over your head (as when climbing), the hemline tends to ride-up. This is not an issue with most activities but can be pretty annoying when you get to the top of a pitch of climbing and discover a draft on the small of your back and have to fuss with your jacket to pull it back under your harness. Additionally, when you wear the generous hood over a climbing helmet, it tends to fit a little snugly around your face — though not enough to be a real problem unless you have a long neck and torso. Whether hiking, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, or just running around town, this layer is comfortable and fairly non-restrictive.

The Gamma MX features four-way stretch and offers pretty decent mobility  though it does lift up in the back while climbing. You can just barely see our reviewer's insulation layer poking through between the Gamma and her pants.
The Gamma MX features four-way stretch and offers pretty decent mobility, though it does lift up in the back while climbing. You can just barely see our reviewer's insulation layer poking through between the Gamma and her pants.

Weight


In a size small, the Gamma MX weighs 16 ounces, making it one of the heavier technical softshells in our test suite. This is mostly due to the fleece lining and generous features. While it is a bit heavy on the scale, this jacket doesn't feel too cumbersome or heavy to wear and would be a great option for a winter jacket in the front or backcountry.

The Gamma MX performs like an absolute boss through blowing snow  frigid temperatures  and intense winds high in the Rocky Mountains.
The Gamma MX performs like an absolute boss through blowing snow, frigid temperatures, and intense winds high in the Rocky Mountains.

Versatility


For this metric, we considered each jacket's durability and features and then considered versatility in terms of the range of ideal activities and climates for each jacket. The Gamma MX offers excellent features suitable for ice/mixed climbing, backcountry/cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. However, while this jacket is great in bad weather, it is a bit too burly for fair-weather activities and would likely be too cumbersome for rock climbing. That said, it has a well-tailored fit that is awesome for moving between the backcountry and the front-country. The helmet-compatible hood adjusts for volume in the back and around the face and features a stiff, laminated brim, which helps keep it firmly in place on a helmet. The hood fits fairly easily over a helmet and adjusts down to fit well over a bare head as well, but is decently comfortable even without adjusting it down.

The hood on the Gamma MX is spacious enough for a helmet and comfortable even without cinching it down.
The hood on the Gamma MX is spacious enough for a helmet and comfortable even without cinching it down.

The Gamma MX has four pockets — one small laminated sleeve pocket, one garaged chest pocket, and two hand pockets. The stretch-woven cuffs are not adjustable, so they can't be tightened around glove cuffs, but they do slide smoothly underneath gloves with a long gauntlet. It has a durable, thick wind flap behind the easy-to-use zipper that prevents snagging, and that also blocks cold air from coming inside. The material by the face is a very soft fleece which prevents chin-chap when the hood is cinched down. The fabric is easy to keep new-looking, and the available colors are fun and appealing. Overall, this innovatively designed jacket is feature-rich, attractive, and is an ideal jacket for a wide array of winter activities.

The Gamma MX features wrap-around hem-line cinching that is easy to engage and release.
The chest pocket on the Gamma MX is the perfect size for most smartphones or food bars.
The hood on the Gamma MX is large enough for a helmet without looking ridiculous and can cinch down comfortably when needed.

Value


This is the most expensive jacket in our review, making it a commitment to purchase. However, paying a luxury price for an excellent item can be worthwhile. This piece is exceptionally comfortable, which is one of the main things you want in a softshell. If you decide to throw down and purchase the Gamma MX, we don't think you will be disappointed. Making your investment even more worthwhile is the fact that this jacket is extremely durable, and the classic look is likely to remain stylish for years to come.

The Gamma MX is a solid jacket for activities like ice climbing.
The Gamma MX is a solid jacket for activities like ice climbing.

Conclusion


A high-end softshell, the stretchy Gamma MX Hoody offers excellent weather protection, mobility, warmth, comfort, and style. We think this jacket illustrates some of the best and most desirable characteristics for a technical winter softshell, effectively protecting you from the elements and moving seamlessly between a winter backcountry adventure to dinner with friends.

The Gamma MX is an awesome layer for cold and blustery winter days.
The Gamma MX is an awesome layer for cold and blustery winter days.

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett