Arc’teryx Gamma AR Soft-Shell Pants Review

Arcteryx Gamma AR Softshell Pants Review

Arc’teryx’s Gamma AR Soft-Shell Pants are ideal for winter hiking and snowsports, with a double-woven softshell fabric that breathes well with a good deal of built-in stretch. The fit is roomy, especially for Arcteryx clothes that generally run slim, with enough room to wear them over a baselayer on very cold days. Feature-wise, they have three low-profile zippered pockets, a buried belt, lined waistline, and adjustable cuffs that fit over with all manner of winter boots.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s
  • Fabric: 46% nylon/46% polyester/8% elastane
  • Size Reviewed: 38″ Waist / 33″ Length
  • Pockets: 3
  • Leg Style: Straight
  • Weight: 19.6 oz

Softshell pants are great for winter use because they’re very breathable, relatively wind-proof, and usually coated with a durable water repellent that keeps you dry in snow and light rain. While Arc’teryx markets these Gamma AR (all-round) pants for year-round use, I’ve found them warm enough for winter use without a base layer down to about 10-20 degrees, but roomy enough if you run cold and feel you need to wear them with long underwear. I think they’re way too heavy for three-season use…at least for me.

The Gamma AR pants have three front zippered pockets which are all quite large and positioned for harness compatibility.
The Gamma AR pants have three front zippered pockets which are all quite large and positioned for harness compatibility.

While Arcteryx clothing and pants generally run slim, I find these Gamma AR pants to be surprisingly roomy around the waist and upper legs, with a nice leg taper that makes them easy to use for active sports like winter hiking, snowshoeing, and even cross-country skiing. The fabric also has a high degree of stretch built-in so you never feel constrained if you need to make a big “leg move” while scrambling or climbing. It is also quite durable, bombproof really if you have a habit of scraping up against granite and they show no signs of wear or abrasion after hard use.

The waist has what I call a buried belt, which is covered by a fabric tunnel all around except above the fly. This makes it much more comfortable under a backpack hip belt, although you have to be careful not to pull the belt out because it will probably be impossible to get it rethreaded again. The belt closes with a metal hook and is easily cinched, so you get a very secure fit that doesn’t depend on belt holes. The inside of the waist is also lined, which makes it comfortable when worn under a climbing harness.

The belt is buried except in front, where it closes with a hook. This makes it much more comfortable under a backpack hip belt strap and you never have to search for a belt.
The belt is buried except in front, where it closes with a hook. This makes it much more comfortable under a backpack hip belt strap and you never have to search for a belt.

The pants have three zippered pockets lined with mesh that are deep enough to be useful. There are two hip pockets and one thigh pocket which are all large enough for large smartPhones or bulging wallets, but no pockets on the back. The pockets might even be considered too large, although they make a great place to stash liner gloves and to keep your snack bars warm enough to eat.

Arc’teryx Gamma AR Soft-Shell Pants

Freedom of Movement
Fast Drying
Durability
Lots of Pockets
Venting and Air Ciiculation
Weight
Sizing

Classic winter softshell pants

The Arc'Teryx Gamma AR Pant is a warm, mid-weight softshell pant that breathes well during high output activities like winter hiking, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and skiing.

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The pants are gusseted and the knees are articulated to provide freedom of movement. The zipper is noticeably “high” and “short” which I know some men find inconvenient and awkward. There are many amusing theories on the internet about why pants companies design pants like this and it’s pretty common on winter-weight softshell pants. I believe these zippers are short and positioned high so the figure 8 knot in your climbing harness doesn’t get in the way of taking a piss, for guys at least. Whether it’s effective or not is debatable: you still have to be very careful with your aim.

The bottom of the legs (folded up here) have a lace hook, grommets if you want to tie in a stirrup, and an elastic cord (not shown)
The bottom of the legs (folded up here) have a lace hook, grommets if you want to tie in a stirrup, and an elastic cord (not shown)

The Gamma AR pants also have adjustable cuffs with an elastic cord that cinch them around mountaineering or ski boots with uppers to prevent snow from going up your legs. A gaiter hook is included in the front and there are grommets set into the hem to secure a gaiter strap or cord.

More Recommended Softshell Winter Hiking Pants

Make / ModelMen's ModelWomen's ModelFit
REI Activator 3.0 Softshell PantsMensWomensStandard
KUHL Klash PantsMensWomensRelaxed
Marmot Scree Softshell PantsMensWomensRelaxed
Arc'teryx Gamma AR PantsMensWomensStandard
Outdoor Research Cirque II PantsMensWomensRoomy
Black Diamond Alpine Softshell PantsMensWomensSlim
Patagonia Simul Alpine PantsMensWomensSlim
Norrona Falketind Flex1 Softshell PantsMensWomensStandard
Mammut Courmayeur SO PantMensWomensSlim
Mountain Equipment Ibex/Chamois PantsMensWomensRelaxed

Recommendation

The Arc’Teryx Gamma AR Pant is a warm and mid-weight softshell pant that breathes well during higher output activities like winter hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. They’re moderately windproof and quite durable with an excellent degree of built-in stretch. The fit is surprisingly roomy for Arc’Teryx clothing and they’re easy to layer over long underwear on really cold days without feeling constrained. The pockets are very functional and well-positioned, with a buried belt that makes them easy to use with a backpack hip belt. Finally, the legs have a nice taper and include a lace hook which is useful to keep the legs from riding up when climbing and skiing, if you don’t wear high gaiters. Overall, the Gamma AR pants are classic winter softshell pants that are hard to beat. They’re also available for men and women.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks Philip, this review shows that these pants were absolutely made for hiking in winter and shoulder seasons. Looks like they have not only great features but good quality as well.

  2. So if you could only have one, and had to choose between these and the REI pants, which would it be and why?

  3. Hi Phillip, nice review – it’s -39°C where I am in Canada (which is about the same in the other system) so long underwater are a fashion statement! FYI, your links don’t take me to Arc’teryx- just some random track pants.

  4. I prefer the Gamma LTs. I’ve worn them in -10-20*F weather with just a pair of Patagonia capilene bottoms. Less “saggy butt” than the ARs and just a more versatile pant in my humble opinion.

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