Arc'teryx Gamma SV softshell

Night descent off The Black Ladders in the Gamma SV, 58 kb
Night descent off The Black Ladders in the Gamma SV

I'll be honest, this is the first bit of Arc'teryx gear I have ever owned...

Why? Two reasons; 1. I'm a Yorkshireman, and we are pretty tight. There's no denying that Arc'teryx gear is expensive. 2. I also get style tips from my Grandad. Grey flat cap or brown? Depends what colour your whippet is.

So here I am, dragged kicking and screaming in to a new, fashionable era of my life. I have joined the ranks of the most slick and able climbers, who not only climb the hardest routes, but look good at the same time - the Arc'teryx pro-team. Climbers such as Ian Parnell, the British Alpine guru, Sean Isaac, master of Canadian mixed climbing, Josune Bereziartu, the Spanish sport climbing phenomenon, and who could forget Annabelle Bond ... erm ... the catwalk climber?

Look good, feel good, climb good. - Sounds Good! - Did it work?

What is it?

The Gamma SV softshell is a fleece backed, hooded softshell jacket designed for skiing and alpine climbing.

It has a large hood that will fit over a helmet, it has two large front pockets, sited high on the jacket and usable with a harness on, and it also has one smaller internal pocket. It has a chunky, well made zip up the front. It doesn't have any cuff fasteners, but does have drawstrings on the waist and hood.

I've taken mine winter climbing, rock climbing and walking. It is quite a bulky jacket, being both a soft shell and a fleece all in one, so it is more than just an emergency wind proof shell. It isn't waterproof though, so can't replace a full shell jacket completely. It is for those 'in between' moments – walking in, climbing in good weather and skiing. It is too heavy for fell running, so I haven't taken it out on my annual jog.

Self Portrait - after winter climbing in the Gamma SV, 97 kb
Self Portrait - after winter climbing in the Gamma SV

Arc'teryx say:

Designed for maximum mobility and breathability, the Gamma SV is a highly durable insulated Softshell for fast moving alpinists and skiers. This warm hoody is constructed with Polartec® Power Shield® High Loft on the torso and shoulders for maximum heat retention and mid-warmth Polartec® Power Shield® on the sides, arms and hood for reduced bulk. 4 way stretch and gender specific anatomical patterning.”

How did it perform?

The first thing I noticed about the jacket was the look and the fit. They have obviously gone to town on the style, and as such I have been the smartest man in the village.

Winter climbing, the jacket has been okay too. The hood is literally huge, swallowing my helmeted head with ease. The pockets are well positioned and the fabric is tough and seems to be wearing well. It is also exceptionally well put together, as you'd expect for this price.

My only gripes are with the lack of cuff straps and with the fleece lining. The cuffs are quite tight, but don't have velcro tabs to close them up, making them a bit too baggy to stop spindrift and a bit too tight to get your hands in and out easily with big gloves on.

Having the fleece laminated to the softshell makes for quite a thick jacket, which is nice and warm, but this does limit you in flexibility. You don't have as much layering choice as you would with a thin fleece and a softshell on top.

As an example, this jacket weighs in at 665g and the Marmot DriClime (which is clearly much less warm, but is still windproof) weighs only 340g.

Having not skied in the jacket, I am rather reticent about singing its praises in this department, but I think I will anyway.

I would say that the Gamma SV would be a great choice as a ski jacket, and can also be used as an ice climbing jacket and general winter pub jacket. The superb and flexible cut will suit skiing, and the added warmth (and bulk) of the fleece panels would be an added bonus on the piste.

The wind-proof fabric was top notch, not letting in any chilling gales, and is certainly tough enough to cope with the odd spill and thrill on the piste.

Features (from the Arc'teryx website):

  • Highly breathable warmth
  • Wind and moisture resistant
  • Composite materials
  • Helmet compatible Drop Hood
  • Past hip length with drop back hem
  • No-lift gusseted underarms

Gamma SV Hoody Softshell

In short:

A great jacket for ice climbing and skiing. Not my first choice for Scottish winter and true winter alpinism, as it's a bit chunky for my layering system. Superb fabric, excellent build quality and stylish. Reassuringly expensive?

  • Price: £275
  • Weight: 665g

For more information visit Arc'teryx Website
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