Lightweight, non-membrane mountain soft shell from Canadian innovators, Arc'teryx.
New for spring/summer 2012, the Arc'teryx Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody is a lighweight, summer-friendly mountain soft shell jacket - yes, with an eponymous hood - made from two grades of the Canadian brand's own Ascent woven soft shell fabric.
It works like this: the darker grey areas on the torso, hood and centre back areas are a lighter, thinner fabric, while the light grey bits on the shoulders, outside sleeves and hips/tail where racked gear is going rub, are a tougher feeling, thicker version of the Ascent material.
Both grades are wind and water resistant rather than being 'proof' and both are non membrane, which should mean much better breathability. The fabric gets a DWR, water repellent, treatment as well.
The SL designation stands for 'Super Light' and while 360g for a medium isn't super dooper light, it's still pretty damn good for what feels like a full mountain soft shell jacket with an adjustable hood and some neat features.
Really Rather Nice
So what's it like? Well, feel and cut are characteristically rather nice. Arc'teryx says the fit is 'athletic' but it's somewhat less fitted than our first generation PowerShield Gamma Hoody. Not loose, but not skin-tight snug either. It has two harness-friendly hand-warmer pockets plus a useful small chest pocket, all with beautifully neat inset zips with laminated surrounds. We like the carefully hidden draw-cords in the big, helmet-compatible hood too.
A final thoughtful touch on the drop-tailed hem, are two 'HemLock' foam rolls at the sides designed to stop the hem riding up under a harness. Neat idea and they're not obtrusive in more general use either. If you really dislike them, you can always slide them out of the hem for a cleaner line.
In use so far, we've been feeling the Arc'teryx love. The cut's great for general use and the material gives a nice balance between weather protection and breathability that's ideal for either hard work in cooler conditions or general use in milder weather. It's very breathable and while the fabric isn't completely windproof, it offers enough protection to cope with all but really cutting cold winds, particularly if you run hot. Plus so far, the DWR has managed fine with light to medium rain - the pay-off being that improved breathability.
Sleeves roll up over forearms for a bit of additional venting and the hood is decent with a helmet and still passable without. The peak is laminated, but not wired, which you'll either accept or not.
Overall, so far, it's been a very pleasant experience living with the Gamma SL. It feels durable beyond its weight and bulk, offers just enough protection for anything short of full-on weather gnarl and enough breathability that you can hammer along without sweating your little socks off. It even coped well with a super-heated exhibition centre...
If there's a fly in the Gamma ointment, it's the high-ish price of £170 - something like ME's Javelin, which does a very similar job and is just 30g heavier, sells for £50 less, though is a little less wind resistant in the body - but that's literally a value judgement and what we can tell you, is that the Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody so far has been an impressive balance of protection and breathability in a super neat package.
More Arc'teryx info at www.arcteryx.com.