/ alternatives to the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody

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terray on 02 Oct 2012 - whois?

Just wondering what alternatives people would recommend to the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody as a winter climbing softshell. Am thinking of ditching the hardshell and going for fit and comfort this year.


Morgan Woods - on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to terray:

Given how good hard shells are now with Gore Pro-shell (or whatever it's called) and because i do more skiing, i'm perhaps inclined to ditch the softshell jacket. I still have my Gamma Hoody but find my Beta AR a better all-rounder particularly in bad weather.
TobyA on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: "Fit and comfort" are rather tricky concepts because they tend to be so personal. Great fit in one brand for me may well be lousy for you! Having said that, there are softshells that basically work as hardshells - really its very hard to say where one finishes and the next starts now.

These are two reviews of Marmot 'soft'shells that fit that description:

Of the two, the Zion is better I reckon - its just more breathable. I just hope this year they've put a proper sized hood on it! If so I think it would be an excellent winter climbing jacket.
IceKing - on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: Never rated my Gamma Mx hoody, wets out far too easily and hasn't worn well. Having tried a myriad of softshells, both very expensive and not so much the best in use has been my Rab Vapourise. Exceptionally hard wearing, fabric far more protective than the Gamma and suitable in so many more conditions. That along with a Montane insulated Pertex jacket is all I need. If you want something like the Gamma, Patagonia are much better, the guide softshell is very similar but far superior.
IceKing - on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to IceKing: And the hood on the Rab is wired and large too. There is a guide version of the jacket, although I've not tried it.
Matt Forshaw - on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to terray:
I've had a Gamma MX hoody for several years and it has been my go-to jacket for winter climbing. In the 10/11 season I climbed 35 days and only once put on a hard shell. I think the Powershield Fabric is good balance between wind and water resistance, and breath-ability. In the worst weather you can feel the wind penetrate it, and on warmer days it does have the tendency to wet out in places, so its in your interest to keep DWR up to standard with frequent washes and re-proofing.

I have however, for the coming winter season, just purchased a Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover. I am yet to use the jacket, but from inspection it seems like a very good design. Firstly, I really like the clean streamlined design of smocks for climbing. The hood is helmet compatible and the sleeves are long with gusseted underarms. The Powershield Pro fabric is considerably lighter and thinner then regular Powershield but feels very tough and is effectively waterproof. The biggest disadvantage I can see to this jacket is that it may not breath quite as well as the Gamma, the upside of this though is what I expect to be considerably superior weather protection, so much so that I expect to be able to forgo carrying a hardshell all together.

terray on 02 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray:

interesting ideas so far, thanks
mhart - on 02 Oct 2012
The other thing to consider is that the Gamma MX ain't made of powershield anymore, something called Fortius, which is good but not quite as protective in my view as the older version (which I had in the past)...its more breathable, but not as weather resistant.

Personally would be a bit wary of ditching the hardshell for this particular jacket, if you were to go this route then powershield pro is supposed to be more weather resistant (the knifeblade as mentioned, or the insulated northwall, and I think rab do one as well...Baltoro pro I think-this has insulation built in too though), or there are some neoshell jackets which are softshell like in design-dunno what they are like.

I would be a bit happier going out in these types of jackets without the back up of a "hardshell". Some are a bit pricey though!
Mr Fuller on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to MJF: I used a Knifeblade for much of last winter and it was absolutely brilliant when the weather was good. On an Italy trip I didn't ever bother with the hardshell, but when the forecast was awful in Scotland I'd ditch it and just carry a hardshell as it's very shower proof, but not any good in six hours of rain (not that you should be climbing in that anyway!).

Softshell jackets that can be used under hardshells (things like Rab Vapour Rise) are more versatile than thin softshells like the Knifeblade, but they aren't as protective. As ever it's the comfort/protection trade-off.
cliff shasby - on 02 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: hi,the original gamma mx fabric is bulletproof...
ive had one for 8 years and there are no cuts/tears anything,just a slight bit of fraying at the cuffs,i dont know how anybody can say they are not durable.

any softshell wets out...if im climbing on continental ice and its like -5 to -20 cold and dry the softshell is best,if in scotland or warm days on the ice where its wet you need a hardshell,its as simple as that.

i looked at the waterproof softshell type stuff,but they are too heavy to use for everything,also the neoshell/softshell garments are no where near as soft and plush as powershield they are more like cardboard.

i bought a neoshell jacket this year(eider uphill) to give it a try,but on cold/dry days i'll go for the gamma.
Damo on 02 Oct 2012
In reply:

I agree the original Gamma MX were great, and durable, I used one a lot, still do. They were certainly the best of the woven type softshells and justifiably popular. I've not tried the new model/fabric.

Millet have always made several jackets very similar to both the Gamma MX Hoody and what was the Patagonia Mixmaster. I have a MM and it's good but too warm for summer/alpine and of course not at all waterproof for wet winter. The Pata Knifeblade looks good, haven't tried it.

For me, for climbing, one of the great advantages of the woven-type softshells over hardshells is that they stretch - it makes a huge difference to actual climbing movement and general comfort. I have a couple of VapourRise type garments and I rarely wear them as they pull and grab when I move so are neither comfortable nor practical to climb in - Buffalo, Montane, Rab, Marmot etc, all the same.

As Toby says, fit is very important, more so than brand. Especially if you have a hard-to-fit body shape, when you first try on a jacket that properly fits and moves with you it's a revelation and you realise that a lot of other jackets don't fit you well at all and aren't worth whatever they cost. Everyone is different.

I have Rab Stretch Neo pants and they are quite good, definitely more breathable than Gore and essentially waterproof, plus they have a little stretch, so I'd give the jackets a go if they fit. And I could afford one. And I didn't already have about seven jackets hanging up behind me.
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray: thanks all. the knifeblade looks like a good piece of kit - like rocking horse shit though, can't find one for sale anywhere!
edinburgh_man on 03 Oct 2012
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray: thanks for that. looks like a good piece of kit, but expensive + some! wish i could get an original MX
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to Damo: what millet jackets are you referring to?
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray: does the knifeblade provide any sort of insulation, or is it just a shell(soft)? any experiences of the pata guide series?
mhart - on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: Knifeblade does not but the Northwall is exactly the same material but with R2 liner bonded to it...but is even more expensive, though I think you can pick up last years colours a bit cheaper.

RE the MX, the changes between the old and new material isn't big and to be honest both would wet through after a while in the rain, I think the difference is a slight loss in wind resistance new vs old at the benefit of course of improved breathability. The outer material of the new one appears a bit more delicate as well. Like I said I wouldn't spend a day in the hills with an MX old or new without a hardshell in my bag for back up.
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to mhart: northwall looks a bit warm for scottish conditions
Alasdair Fulton - on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: I've used a Patagonia Ascentionist for a couple of years.

It's an unlined softshell which I pair with different thickness insulation depending on the weather.

I.e. If it's windy and drizzly/light snow I'll chuck it on over a long baselayer for the walk in, then chuck a fleece under at the base of the route.

If it's really cold I'll have a fleece under for the walk (rare) and double up at the base.

Much tougher than hard shell and it doesn;t matter so much when it gets abraded and catches little nicks.

Only bad sides? The hood is a little small for helmets and the fabric tends to bind to fleece a bit. I've been considering a synthetic midlayer to keep things a bit more slippy

As to their current range???

Knifeblade looks similar (obviously in smock form) but...hmm....£90 more than I payed for the Ascentionist!¬!!!

terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray: northwall looks good, some of the marketing vids suggest it would be great with minimum layers underneath, but then they are marketing vids! reckon a thinner more versatile piece makes more sense. was the mixmaster insulated? is the MX not insulated too? perhaps not as much as the northwall?
Alasdair Fulton - on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: I reckon the Northwall would be awesome if you walk in in something like a marmot driclime and then chuck the northwall on at the base of the route.

I don't think there's any way I could walk in wearing something as warm as a Northwall though.
mhart - on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: The MX has a very slight bit of insulation in that it has a brushed fleecy backer on the inside.
Fram_Climber - on 03 Oct 2012
The Marmot Zion looks pretty good.
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to Fram_Climber: hood looks sh't
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to Fultonius: yeah my thoughts too, but heavy for lobbing in a pack & bulky too probs. maybe best with something like the knifeblade & a layering system
iksander on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: Another vote for Ascentionist (sp?) type stretch uninsulated/ non-membrane softshell (I have a Readymix which is spot on if you can find one). I wear a close fitting hoody fleece underneath, chuck a primaloft vest or belay jacket over the top at stops depending on conditions.

ME Orion looks pretty good
TobyA on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to terray) I reckon the Northwall would be awesome if you walk in in something like a marmot driclime and then chuck the northwall on at the base of the route.

It's basically a high tech Buffalo. Patagonia said in their catalogue about a decade ago that's where they got the idea from when they first started doing furry-lined 'soft shells'.

I have the Speed Ascent from a few years back, It's probably not that much heavier than some thicker non-membrane stretch woven softshells, but much warmer.
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray:

ok looking like its a shortlist of

gamma mx old model

3 out of these are as rare as unicorns teeth!
cliff shasby - on 03 Oct 2012
In reply to terray: gamma mx's come up all the time,just make sure it has the polartec label in it and you will know its the powershield one.

dont know about the other patagonia jackets,but the mixmaster was way to baggy for my liking to wear under a harness.
terray on 03 Oct 2012 - whois?
HeMa on 04 Oct 2012
In reply to terray:

You might also consider OR Alibi, thats what I got to replace my old MX Hoody.
terray on 04 Oct 2012 - whois?
In reply to terray: cheers, another one for the list

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