The Facewest Midweight Softshell Test – Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody

This is the third review in the Midweight softshell series.

Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody

The Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody is the most protective jacket in this test. Made entirely from Polartec Powershield (rather than Powershield Lite) with micro fleece backing. This slightly heavier fabric and the design with 2 lower pockets and 2 smaller Napoleon pockets also makes the Gamma MX Hoody the most ‘Jackety’ of those on test. The multi use nature of softshell jackets means that as well as for outdoor activity softshell jackets are often worn to work and about town. The very smart Arcteryx styling and the extra pockets mean that the Gamma MX Hoody is definitely the one with the edge in this category.

The Hood is the largest of all the jackets and definitely helmet compatible, both under (quite bulky) and over even the tallest helmet and longest neck.There is a circular volume adjuster which grips the head well and 2 side adjusters to cinch the face hole down. The ends of these adjusters are inside the chest pockets which keeps the ends from flapping about in the wind and means you can adjust them one handed but it did take me a while to discover them.

Helmet Over Hood (just)

Helmet Under Hood with ease

The hood cannot be rolled away or tabbed down so it can be pulled to one side when walking or especially running in a cross wind. This can be reduced by pulling the side toggles on the hood but  it does need a tab of some sort.

Flappy hood

Not so bad with neck zip up

There are 2 small napoleon chest pockets and an upper arm pocket for little things. A ski pass pocket is better on the lower arm so I haven’t found a use for the upper arm pocket yet. Lower handwarmer pockets are sat reasonably high so OK with a harness and OK to stuff your hands into comfortably when walking along. The pocket size is good. These pockets can be used for venting but as I said before if you do this then you can’t keep stuff in them. The hem elasticated drawcord adjusts from both hips with one handed pull. The jacket length is spot on, just about hip height for me. Cuffs are a stretchy softshell material and quite snug so anything other than a liner glove will need to go over the top. At 595g the jacket weight is on par with the others on test.

Snug softshell cuff

The Arcteryx MX designation is for Mixed. MX garments have the most versatility. They offer hoods, protection  and durability for the mountains, in all but the worse conditions, with good styling for more general use. The extra effort that goes into the tailoring, styling and construction of Arcteryx clothes is noticeable, whenever you put an Arcteryx jacket on for the first time you nearly always get the ‘Wow, nice jacket’ feeling  but it also contributes greatly to the Arcteryx price tag. The Gamma MX is the only jacket on test to cost over £200.

In use the ‘jackety’ element of the Gamma MX was reinforced. As an outer layer the Gamma MX is great and lasts the longest in poor conditions before the shell has to go over the top. However under a shell, the stiffened nature of the upper pocket entries does make the chest area a bit inflexible. Elsewhere the fabric is smooth and pliable so it’s only an issue in this area. The large hood is also a bit more noticeable under a shell but does fold reasonably flat, the stiffened but not wired peak also helps this.

Breathability was good, just as you would expect for a perforated membrane, much better than a shell but the lack of more breathable underarm panels on the Gamma MX is noticeable compared to the Astron Hooded and it was possible to get that steamed up clammy feeling inside. To test jacket breathability, I go running in them. This produces way more heat and vapour than the design brief has allowed for, so all the jackets get clammy inside but it does highlight the performance differences between them.

So the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody sits at the far end of the midweight softshell spectrum, almost bordering on heavyweight softshell performance at midweight softshell weight. If you want a softshell for 4 season use then the Gamma MX is a good choice but it will have to be a cold day in summer to use it! The Gamma MX is also top if you want to look smart in your softshell in general use, just not the one to get for high aerobic activity in moderate climates.

For those who would prefer not to have a hood then there is the Gamma AR Jacket and also the women’s specific Womens Gamma MX Hoody.

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