A lightweight, stretchy, and deluxe softshell, this is the ideal piece for high-exertion winter activities that require a lot of movement and breathability. It earns our highest honor award for its lavish comfort and mobility, as well as its adequate wind and water resistance.
Softshell testing at the scenic Whitaker Point, Arkansas. The soft, pliable Gamma MX is so comfortable that it is a joy to wear. Whether hiking, cross-country skiing, or climbing, this jacket moves with you.
Where the older version of this jacket was constructed from Polartec Power Shield, the recent versions are constructed from Arc'teryx's proprietary Fortius 2.0, which is 49% polyester, 35% nylon, 16% spandex. This shell is membrane-free and laminated to a thin fleece layer that adds soft against-the-skin comfort, a tiny bit of insulation, and helps to move moisture away from the body. The lack of a membrane in this material allows for exceptional breathability and also allows for more flexibility. Most of the other windproof shells in this review that have a membrane, such as The North Face Apex Bionic Hoodie - Women's
and the Patagonia Adze Hybrid have a stiffer, bulkier feel.
The pockets of the Gamma MX are lined with mesh, allowing the pockets to double as vents when left unzipped, increasing breathability.
If you are really working hard and need more airflow, the mesh-lined hand pockets can be left unzipped and used as vents, which is a helpful detail.
This piece is designed for mild weather and provides protection from light wind, snow, and moisture. It sheds water for a time and blocks a small amount of wind, but it won't shelter you from a storm or downpour. In that situation you would need a hardshell. It has a DWR finish to increase its water repellency and a hood that seals down against windy weather. If you need a windproof jacket, the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody - Women's
made from Polartec Windbloc or The North Face Apex Bionic made from TNF Apex ClimateBlock are both excellent and more affordable choices, though they are much stiffer and less breathable.
The 16% spandex, four-way stretch face material of the Gamma MX is laminated to a four-way stretch fleece inner layer, which together allows for exceptional mobility. This jacket virtually disappears on the wearer. Articulated elbows and gusseted underarms ensure that the jacket does not ride up when the arms are raised, and it moves with the wearer during any type of activity. Throughout our tests we have found it to be comfortable for hiking, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, and everyday wear.
The insualting fleece inner lining of this jacket adds a bit of weight, but it is on the lighter side when compared to other jackets in our test, only weighing 1.06 lbs. We do not think that is is so heavy as to be cumbersome, and we still recommend it for long days in the mountains. It weighs less than the Adze, the Apex Bionic, and the highly weather resistant MHW Alchemy, and is more comfortable than each of these as well.
The Gamma MX has the perfect list of features suitable to the ice climber, backcountry skier, or general winter athlete. The helmet-compatible StormHood adjusts for volume in the back and around the face. The hood features a stiff, laminated brim, which is a helpful for keeping the hood firmly in place on a helmet and for blocking sun or rain from your eyes. It fits over a helmet easily, and remarkably also adjusts down to fit well over a bare head. It does this better than any other hood in our review, and we find the adjustments to be smooth, clever, and easy to use.
We love the hood adjustment on the Gamma MX. It fits over a helmet if needed, but cinches down easily and unobtrusively if you want to wear the hood without a helmet. No other helmet compatible hood we tested works quite so sleekly.
This jacket has four pockets: one laminated sleeve pocket, one garaged chest pocket, and two hand-warmer pockets. Unlike the clever chest pockets on the climber-oriented MHW Alchemy, a harness or a pack waist-belt interferes with the placement of the Gamma MX's hand pockets, preventing access.
The chest pocket on the Arc'teryx Gamma MX is garaged underneath an outer flap, keeping wind and rain away from the zipper. We love the convenience of a chest pocket for stashing important items if you are wearing a harness or for keeping a phone or iPod when listening to headphones.
The stretch-woven cuffs are not adjustable, so they cannot be tightened around glove cuffs, but they do slide smoothly underneath gloves with a long gauntlet. This simple design keeps the jacket lighter and more streamlined. Although most of our testers prefer Velcro adjustable cuffs, there are some testers that dislike this feature, in which case the cuff configuration on this jacket is a bonus.
In general, we find the construction quality of this piece to be very high and the details to be well thought-out and useful. It has a a durable, thick windflap behind the zipper that prevents snagging and also prevents cold air from coming inside the jacket. The plastic zipper is durable and easy to zip. The material by the face is a very soft, fine fleece which prevents chin chap when the hood is zipped all the way closed. All these features add to the comfort and ease of wear of this jacket.
The Gamma MX is slim and contour-fitting, providing an flattering fit and look. Like all the other women's softshells we evaluated, the style is slightly more technical than a favored casual around-town piece, but this model looks decidedly less techy than the Outdoor Research Enchainment - Women's
or the Patagonia Adze Hybrid. We could see ourselves wearing this piece to run errands or walk the dog and not feel like it is overkill. We also find the available colors appealing, not to mention that the comfort of this jacket makes us want to throw it on every time we walk out the door.
Since the Gamma MX shines in the mobility and breathability categories, we find it excels at high-exertion fall and winter activities such as backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, ice climbing, running, hiking, and snowshoeing. The helmet-compatible hood provides some versatility, making it function well during sports like ice and alpine climbing where wearing a helmet is mandatory, but unlike the Mountain Hardwear Alchemy which are exclusively targeted towards climbers, the Gamma MX can transition just as easily to other sports such as cross-country skiing without seeming overbuilt. We find this shell to have a very wide range of uses, which is one of the reasons it takes our Editors' Choice award. From a casual dog-walk to a an intense day in the mountains, this shell will keep you comfortable.
Going for a fall hike in the Arc'teryx Gamma MX. This flexible, comfortable, softshell is ideal for cold weather activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing where it adds a level of protection from wind and weather but still moves easily with the wearer and breathes well.
Ranking up there with the highly weather resistant Mountain Hardwear Alchemy - Women's
, the Gamma MX is one of the most expensive jackets in this review, making it a commitment to purchase. However, as we mentioned before, since a softshell is already a luxury layer, paying a luxury price for the best option seems worthwhile. This jacket is exceptionally comfortable, which is where a softshell excels. If you do 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 as well.
The smooth and stretchy Gamma MX is quite durable. It has lasted this tester almost 4 years of frequent use and it doesn't show many signs of wear. This makes the high price tag even more worth it.
A high-end softshell, the stretchy Gamma MX Hoody offers exceptional breathability, mobility, and comfort. It maintains a classic style while still providing protection in mild weather. We think this piece exemplifies the desirable characteristics of a softshell more than any other piece we tested, which is why is takes the Editors' Choice award.