Does the Arc’teryx Gamma Guide Pant have the durability, versatility and functionality that it’s name suggests?
Value for money: ****
The Gamma Guide Pant is described by Arc’teryx as:
Durable, breathable, wind and moisture resistant pant with reinforced instep patches, designed for alpine climbing. Durable Stretch Double Weave pant is rugged enough for industry use. Medium weight textile is resilient, breathable, modern. Hand pockets and fly zipper, integrated adjustable waist belt and static hemcord closure are discreet, durable, practical. Two large volume thigh pockets have one flap closure with Velcro® tab, one zipper closure for increased security. Keprotec™ instep patch prevents damage from ski edges or crampons. Has features for mountain guiding and backcountry pursuits with clean finishing to give an urban flare to an alpine piece.
The Gamma Guide Pant is one of the newer additions to the Gamma softshell range of legwear. I have worn the Gamma AR pant for a while now so was keen to see what the Guide version had to offer in addition to those. I’ve worn the Guide pants for about 4 months now, in a variety of disciplines and also in a variety of different weather types. Mixed climbing on cold and dry Alpine days, high winds, damp Scottish days, snow, ice and whilst skiing and ski touring.
The breathabilty of the pants is super, I don’t feel like I get too sweaty and I can layer underneath with anything from nothing to light long johns to Powerstretch, depending on the weather conditions or activity. And it is just as comfortable next to the skin as it is worn with a baselayer.
Although not 100% windproof I’ve found the wind resistance to be very good and even on windy days fighting back across the glacier to the Aiguille du Midi, with 80kph and high wind chill, I never felt as though I was being nipped by the wind. This may be a different case if I was stopped for long periods of time however, but in such cases I’d probably carry/wear a light windproof pant or hardshell pants. And whilst the Gamma Guide Pant is NOT waterproof (it’s weatherproof with a DWR finish) it is a weatherproof pant and as such it keeps the weather at bay quite admirably, repelling moisture, shedding snow and drying quickly.
I really like the stretchiness of the Burly™ double weave fabric. It provides great mobility for technical climbing, whilst also being super tough. The ease of movement is aided by the gusseted crotch and articulated knees. Despite a lot of granite and mixed climbing which usually serves to destroy my pants at an alarming rate I’m finding that the Guides are holding their own. I have managed the odd crampon nick, but these are minor. And annoyingly they’re just above the Keprotec™ instep patches (which are hole free) which leads me to ask whether these need to extend a little higher up the leg?
The cut of the trousers is not as close as that of the Gamma AR (which has a trim fit) and Arc’teryx describe it as ‘Athletic’. I would imagine that this is so the trousers can accommodate different disciplines, for example skiing and not just focus on being a climbing pant. Having worn the Gamma Guides with ski boots I’d say they do work but also, they required quite a bit of effort to get over the boots and this can be a pain when ski touring and having to adjust boots regularly for skiing and walking. Perhaps a zippered expansion system may be a better option? This would also mean that the trousers were neater on the ankle for climbing and less prone to crampon snags.
I found the leg length to be fine for me. I have a 30 inch waist and regular inside leg and my test pair were size Small with a regular leg length. Arc’teryx make many of their technical pants with a choice of leg lengths but from looking at the website, it appears that the Gamma Guides are now only available in a fixed length which if correct, would be a shame.
The trousers don’t have a built in gaiter or lace hook but do have a stretch cuff with a drawcord to cinch them round your boot cuffs. This is really my only major criticism of these pants. On cold snowy days I don’t really want to wear gaiters if I am wearing trousers of this type but the system on these is insufficient and the trousers ride up above boot cuffs despite the drawcord. On the Gamma AR pant there is a lace hook which goes some way to alleviating the issue but I STRONGLY urge Arc’teryx to look into adding tie down loops to the hems of all their technical trousers so that users have the option of adding an under the boot elastic, and thus very simply, getting rid of the need for gaiters at all! I actually added some to mine and did the same to my Gamma AR pants.
Other features that I really like on the Gamma Guide Pants are the soft chamois lined waist and integrated belt with easy closure. This is very comfortable, sits flat and doesn’t interfere with a climbing harness. The zipper on the fly is smooth but is difficult to operate when wearing gloves and requires a piece of cord to be added to make it more friendly. This should be a standard feature though and not one I have to add myself.
The pockets are excellent. Two zippered hand pockets store small items securely, but don’t interfere with a harness. However the thigh pockets are the most useful, with the velcro closure pocket being roomy enough to swallow a guidebook with ease and the zippered pocket being stretchy enough for sweets, headtorch etc but also flat and discreet when not in use. All 3 pockets (the fourth has velcro) come with glove friendly zipper tab as standard.
One final point. The Gamma Guide Pants come in 2 colours; I tested black but the Carbide option would be my first choice as it would be better for warmer weather, summer Alpine trips etc so more of an all-rounder.
To conclude: The Arc’teryx Gamma Guide Pants are a very versatile and durable pair of softshell trousers. The cut is great for climbing, they work with ski boots, and have awesome pockets and a comfy waistband. However, for the full 5 start package I would like to see tie down loops on the hem, a lace hook and the addition of a glove friendly zipper on the fly. All in all a great pair of pants though.
- Find out more about the Gamma Guide Pants and where to buy them at the Arc’teryx website