When Spring kicked off this year I decided I needed a jacket that was far more flexible than the hard shell/fleece combo I’d been rocking through the frostiness of winter. It’s an old school The North Face mountaineering jacket and while perfect for the nasty stuff, it’s ‘boil in the bag’ overkill for anything else. I was also mindful that I’d soon be starting the eight month training to join Brecon’s Mountain Rescue Team and needed to add a decent soft shell to my outdoor wardrobe.
Arc’teryx have been around since 1989 and have a reputation for designing and producing top spec stuff that performs well and their Gamma MX jackets kept coming up in the ‘best of’ reviews by pretty much all the major outdoor sites with very few negatives among the many five star reviews. I popped along to my local stockist, friends of Arrse (bum chums?) Trekkit in Hereford, and gave it a whirl.
The outer shell fabric is the brand’s own Fortius 2.0. As I have zero idea what Fortius 1.0 was like, I can’t comment on how much improved the 2.0 is. I can, however, tell you that it’s fab! It has a nice stretch, a tactile softness, withstands abrasion superbly, has decent breathability yet is practically waterproof with the factory DWR and even when there’s plenty of mucky muck, a quick wipe and it looks like new. Mine has been through some interesting conditions over the last nine months and you could attach the tags and sell it as new.
The thin fleece lining is comfy and warming and when combined with the qualities of the shell it’s toasty. I’m happy to potter around with a T-Shirt, thin mid layer with the jacket on top down to freezing temperatures and I’m going to use it as my skiing shell this season. Anything warmer and just a base layer is plenty. Thankfully the four generous pockets have mesh linings so you can use them independently or together depending on the venting required to fit your workload.
The fit is slim and athletic with a dropped rear hem to keep your lower back sorted when bending over. It has a great fit around the shoulders so you can happily articulate and raise your arms above your head without feeling like it is being pulled up. Always a pain as you have to keep pulling stuff down or it becomes restrictive when you’re wearing a climbing harness. The hood is flexible and easy to get a good fit with or without a helmet so no dramas there.
It also looks good. It looks and feels like the quality item it is. The fabric has a matt finish that manages to be robust yet has a luxurious quality when you touch it. I suppose for the £200 plus you’re going to pay for one, it should satisfy that requirement and it does. I’d never been told I look posh wearing an outdoor jacket before, I have in this!
I have one criticism. The fixed cuffs. They are nicely snug and do a good job of keeping crap out, however, they are a pain when you try and get to a chunky watch such as a Garmin Fenix – and unless you are wearing decent gauntlet type gloves (the top end Mountaineering type and overkill for when you’d be wearing this type of jacket) that you can synch down over the sleeve, rain will run down into them as it’s too tight to get the gloves under. This is daft. A simple Velcro system as they have on many of their other jackets would have been perfect.
But that’s it. In all other aspects, the jacket is brilliant. If it was lost today, I’d buy another one tomorrow.