The Gamma Rock pant became an unexpected summer favourite for me. Unexpected, because when I first received these, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the design. For one, the legs are somewhat shorter than I’m used to and I felt as if my ankles were exposed (to what, exactly, I’m not sure but you should know that I hate shorts and wear long pants exclusively, so these felt like a capris, if that makes any sense). As well, the pant legs are tapered at the bottom, unlike other Arc’teryx pants I have. They look a bit ‘hipster’. And finally, there are only two pockets on the entire pant. Just two! So, yeah, it was a little odd to start off with.
The shorter cut of the pant leg started to make some sense when I put on rock shoes. That shorter cut, and the tapered leg design, mean the pants don’t get in the way of seeing your rock shoes, and by extension, foot holds. Ah-ha! Apparently, someone was actually thinking when they designed these. Though I am still not a fan of the pant’s leg length for hiking, approaches and alpine use, they are just the right length for rock climbing. I should also point out that Arc’teryx offer these in a Short and Tall version, as well.
Two hand pockets is an awfully small number of pockets to have, and I still haven’t made my peace with this. This is a personal preference, but for the record I would have liked at least one large pocket on the thigh, and preferably one on each leg. That said the existing pockets are very-well designed with an easy-sliding zipper and mesh-backing for extra venting when open. They’re also large enough to comfortably fit your hands for those chilly morning approaches (I’ve seen pants with pockets that can’t fit half my hand, so this seems rather important to mention!)
So, I’ve learned to live with the cut of the Gamma Rock but am still struggling with the lack of pocket options. But, this is a technical softshell pant and there’s one aspect where it truly excels and is the reason it’s become my summer go-to: performance.
The fabric is a mix of Arc’teryx’s Fortius 1.0 — a very lightweight stretchy nylon/spandex blend — and Burly Double Weave, a tough, stretchy fabric that is also used in the Gamma AR and Psiphon AR pants (winter favourites around here). Fortius is the main fabric throughout the pant, with the Burly acting as reinforcement over the knees and on the seat. It’s a great combination as both fabrics have inherent stretch, but what really impresses me is their breathability when working hard. I tend to walk fast (some argue it’s more like a light jog) so I generate a lot of heat. Somehow, these pants cope with it, never feeling clammy or hot. At the same time, the fabrics are woven tightly and effectively block wind gusts. It’s a fantastic combination of fabrics for summer weather in the Rockies, so much so that I’ve even started wearing these to some work shoots (I’m a wedding photographer, and yeah, I’ve worn these to some less-formal outdoor weddings. Freshly washed, of course.)
Being such a sparse design, there isn’t much else to talk about, though the belt deserves a mention: it’s a built-in webbing belt with a bit of elastic somewhere, and a small metal hook on the end. There are webbing loops to adjust fit, and the inside waistband is nicely finished with a soft, cozy lining. It’s all very minimalistic but functional, much like the rest of the pant itself.
Though they don’t insulate much (being a summer pant and all) the addition of long underwear adds a lot of temperature range and extends their functionality into ‘warmer’ alpine climbs. The Gamma Rock fits very well and performs incredibly well in varied conditions; I’d still prefer more pockets but I’m learning to live without them.
Pros: great fabrics, stretch, breathability, dry very quickly
Cons: only two pockets, hipster styling
Overall: These work so well they’ve become my go-to pants for summer mountain use.
Arc’teryx Equipment Inc. provided a sample of the product for The Alpine Start to review but this in no way influences our opinion — I didn’t even like them initially!