Gear Guide 2012: Arcteryx Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody Shell

The Gamma SL's design achieves optimum flexibility while creating a great fit.

[best fitting]

Superior mobility, softshell protection: This magic combination kept the Gamma SL on the backs of our high-octane hikers, trail runners, and snowshoers. “It’s a perfect outer layer for aerobic sports in most any season—light enough to pack anytime and tough enough to handle some bushwhacking or chimneying abrasion,” says a tester who wore it while snowshoeing through bitter headwinds at 9,000 feet on Utah’s Boulder Mountain.

Arc’teryx achieves optimum flexibility by employing two fabrics in key areas: A durable, nylon/spandex combo offers near-waterproof weather protection and a wide range of motion in high-wear areas like the shoulders, arms, and hips, while a thinner material lets vapor escape from the chest and armpits. The shell’s climate range and breathability are superb: In high-and-dry Colorado and humid coastal Washington alike, our testers hammered on trail runs and only felt minimal sweat.

The Gamma’s “immaculate” cut drew raves: Comfy, action-ready, and roomy without being baggy, and the “neck fit couldn’t possibly be any better—it’s snug enough to keep out drafts without strangling you,” says one tester. Bummer: The two large waist drawcord toggles fall right on the hips, where they can rub under heavily loaded packs. $269; 13 oz. (m’s M);