Reaching the top of Lost Horse Wall, one of the tallest rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park, gusts of wind nearly knocked us over. To get to the rappel station and start descending, we would have to make one final exposed scramble up to the highest point on the wall — and the stout gales weren’t going to make that easy.
As we moved along the ridge and continued to get blasted by the wind, however, I noticed that my torso felt colder than my legs. I could barely feel the harsh conditions through the Arc’teryx Gamma Pants that I was wearing.
In short: If you’re scheming up a big climb in the alpine, it’s hard to beat the Arc’teryx Gamma pants. For a pair of light softshells, the wind and weather resistance are unparalleled. The features are exactly where I want them, and these climbing pants are my top choice for longer missions in the mountains or cold-weather rock climbing.
Arc’teryx Gamma Pants
- Weight 10.4 oz.
- Material 88% nylon, 12% elastane
- Number of pockets Three
- Special features All-zip pockets, gusseted crotch, DWR finish
- Fit Slim; straight leg
- Excellent weather resistance
- Highly durable
- Great stretch
- Three zip pockets
- High price tag
Arc’teryx Gamma Pants Review
I climbed in these pants throughout the winter season in Joshua Tree, often experiencing variable conditions similar to alpine rock climbing. As a climbing guide in the park, I need pants that can hold up to bushwhacking through spiky desert plants, repeated rubbing on coarse granite, and persistent gusts of wind.
After wearing these scrambling and scooching through boulder fields, onsighting trad routes, and guiding classic multipitch climbs in a wide range of weather conditions, I can safely say that the Gammas are my new go-to winter pants. Newly updated by Arc’teryx, the Gammas are what has been previously known as the Gamma LTs, and are joined in the line by the Gamma Lightweight, and the Gamma Tapered pants.
A Burly Weave
The Arc’teryx Fortius 2.0 softshell fabric features excellent freedom of movement; I never felt constricted while high-stepping or making wide-legged stem moves. The DWR (durable water repellant) finish sheds light rain, and this fabric cuts the wind better than any other pants I’ve owned, outside of hardshells.
During one climbing session with the Gammas, I started climbing in the sun, but by the time I reached the top of the route, there was mist in the air and a wall of rain on the horizon. We rappelled in a light sprinkle, and I watched the raindrops bead and run right off my pants.
The unforgiving desert plants and coarse rock are known to rip clothing apart, but this material showed great durability with repeated, rough use. Softer, more textured softshell or cotton pants that I’ve used end up with snags and holes after a season or two. The smooth, slightly thicker fabric of the Gammas feels less likely to catch on cactus spines or tear on sharp rock.
Fit and Features
As a shorter female climber with a small waist and larger thigh muscles, it’s often tricky for me to find pants that fit. I always appreciate when manufacturers provide different inseam lengths, and these are offered in short, regular, and long inseams.
The regular was a tad baggy for me at 5’2”, but the drawcord at the ankle cuff allowed me to adjust the length easily. I prefer an elastic waistband for climbing, because I find it to be the most comfortable style with the least amount of fuss. The belt and buckle on the Gamma pants are still pretty low profile, and I like the high-waisted fit.
For a pair of technical pants, the features are perfect. If I’m climbing high above the ground, I have almost no use for pockets without zippers, and the Gamma Pants feature entirely zip pockets. The thigh pocket is perfect for securing my phone, and I can stash a chapstick in the zippered side pockets for easy access midroute.
The main downside to these pants is the price point; at $190 a pair, they’re on the higher end of the climbing pants we tested. You’ll find more affordable pants for casual climbing, but for demanding, remote missions, the cost of the Gammas may be worth it.
Conclusion: Arc’teryx Gamma Pants
When your route is technical and committing, your gear must be up to the challenge: clothing included. With exceptional weather resistance, durable softshell fabric, and all the right features, the Arc’teryx Gamma Pants will not disappoint.
These pants allow you to move freely on challenging climbs while still protecting you from the elements. For warmer weather climbing, I’d choose something a little lighter, but the Gammas are perfect for those heading out on long routes in the mountains.