Just landed is the new for spring 2013 Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody, a bombproof-feeling, double-weave soft shell that's intended as a tough all-rounder for everything from hiking through to full-on climbing.
First off, this thing feels tough. It weighs in at a substantial 630g for a medium and the fabric has a reassuringly rough outside surface that promises decent abrasion resistance and durability. It's stretchy too - the own-brand Burly Double Weave fabric is made from 50% Nylon, 43% Polyester and 7% Elastane.
Unlike membrane fabrics, double-weave materials like this rely on the close weave of the fabric for decent wind resistance plus a water-repellent treatment to fend off light rain. The pay-off is that they tend to be appreciably better in terms of breathability and wicking performance - good news if you run hot and fast.
With the Burly fabric, the soft-feeling, high-wicking polyester is on the inside of the fabric, where it can wick moisture outwards and add comfort and the tougher Nylon forms that durable outer face.
The jacket itself is 100% pure Arc'teryx. One of the things we love about the Canadian brand is that it refuses to compromise on cut or construction. That means a beautifully tapered cut that's engineered to suit athletic builds with slim waists and broad shoulders and that's just what you get with the Gamma LT Hoody.
It's not just about vanity either - closer fitting garments are more efficient. More contact means better wicking, the absence of air gaps reduces internal air currents that move insulating air around.
There's a drop-tail to offer protection for biking or alpine use, two harness-clearing, venting, hand-warmer pockets and an internal zipped chest pocket too. The detailing's lovely in a proper thorough way: the adjustable hem cord, for example, is housed in a laminated rather than stitched tunnel, the cuffs have a neat stretchy insert panel and the front zip is flapped and chin guarded for added protection.
Last but not least, there's a full, helmet-compatible Storm Hood with a laminated brim, which is what makes this jacket 'new'. It'll happily swallow a climbing or bike helmet with the stretch fabric aiding mobility even when things are properly cinched in, but it'll also adjust decently to fit a bare head or over a beanie and move seamlessly with your noggin.
Cords are neatly hidden away and the laminated peak, for once, seems to be actually substantial enough to do something, though it's not quite as stiff as a full wired brim. It's probably the best technical hood we've seen on a non-membrane soft shell jacket by some way.
If you had to sum it up, you'd say it feels like the sort of jacket you could bash around in day-in, day-out for a wide mix of activities in most weather short of torrential rain without worrying about durability and with the bonus of a fantastic technical fit and exquisite construction.
Beautifully Made, Beautifully Cut
That may sound pretentious, but it's the truth: Arc'teryx kit is simply beautifully made and beautifully cut. You do pay premium for that, the Gamma LT Hoody has a suggested price tag of £170 and while that may be expensive, we'd wager that the Burly fabric will outlast a lot of its rivals.
The Hoody is available in both men's and women's versions and a choice of four colours in each. Ours is in an orange colour called 'Chipotle' and we're looking forward to giving it a good hammering in what remains of this winter and into the spring.
More information at www.arcteryx.com.