In the balance between waterproof, windproof and breathable the Gamma SL Hoody noticeably leans towards breathability, but it's still a very versatile jacket, and with street prices as low as £100 it's surprisingly inexpensive for an Arcteryx.
What Arcteryx say:
A hike can be an easy ramble or a destination-driven charge up to a backcountry lake or the start of a climb or ski tour. Whatever your mission, you need protection that adapts to shifting microclimates and weather. The Gamma SL Hoody delivers. Its light, durable Fortius™ 1.0 double weave resists wind and water, breathes, and offers four-way stretch. A StormHood™ adds protection without impacting peripheral vision, while the articulated trim fit and efficient design keep it streamlined on the move.
- Wind and water resistant
- Mechanical stretch textile for unrestricted mobility
- Trim, slim fit, increases breathability during high output
- Articulated patterning for unrestricted mobility
- Gusseted underarms provide a stationary hem that does not lift with overhead motion
- Adjustable low profile StormHood™
- Low profile elasticized cuffs
- Adjustable hem drawcord
- Two hand pockets with zippers
Arc’teryx Gamma SL Hoody on test:
First things first, the "Agra" colour of the test sample isn't our favourite colour but it's also available in "Labyrinth" - that's blue to you and me. Aside from the colour the first thing you notice with the Arc’teryx Gamma SL Hoody is the weight. At 290g it's extremely lightweight for a full softshell. At first look it appears very basic with just a pair of handwarmer pockets, single adjuster on the hood and no cuff adjustment, but anyone familiar with the brand will know this simplicity often hides a range of technical features you only discover in use.
Beyond the pockets and adjustment options the immediate stand out feature is the stretch fabric even before putting the jacket on. The Gamma SL Hoody is designed for high-output activities and the stretch of the fabric is an essential part of this, clinging close enough not to catch on bushes but with the capacity to take an insulating layer underneath without any undue pressure on the seams. Combining the stretch of the main body and the gusseted underarms you get a full range of arm movement without the jacket lifting at all.
Zips are typical Arcteryx zips, on the pockets they're barely visible thanks to their minimal width and a well positioned, reinforced, flap, while the main zip is almost perfectly colour matched to the fabric and about as thin as you can have a zip and still grip the zipper. Following the minimalist styling you just get the two mesh, handwarmer, pockets. No inside pockets, no chest pocket, no phone pockets on the arms, just the two, average size, pockets on the main body.
The cuffs don't avoid the minimalist treatment either; they're elasticated but only around a part of their circumference and put simply they're not going to form a total seal.
Hem adjustment isn't immediately obvious from the outside with the adjustment cords located next to the inner mesh of the pockets on the inside of the jacket, but the cord and toggles work very well and keep the hem (which is longer on the back) in place even with continuous movement.
In testing the Gamma SL Hoody proved to be one of the most breathable water/wind resistant jackets we're ever tried. It's lightweight and stretches on demand for scrambling or other high-stretch activities. In terms of wind and water it's important to note that the Gamma SL is only designated as "repellant" and not "proof". What this means in practice is that you'll have no problems with a short shower or light rain but it's definitely not a full waterproof shell for continuous rainfall. The fabric doesn't have a membrane, but uses a light DWR coating - so with rain long enough or hard enough it is going to wet out.
Despite the lack of a cuff seal and the water "repellant" nature it's turned into a favourite jacket over the early summer; perfect for British showers that come and go in 20 minutes. The soft fabric feels so comfortable against the skin that once on it often stays on. The hood has the perfect balance of fit and rigidity with its cord stiffener running through the reinforced, flexible, brim. With a list price of £140 it's tempting, with a street price of around £100 it's a quality brand that's ideal for mid spring to late autumn across a range of adventures.
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