Certainly not the first soft shells available though as I had been climbing in wool blend Schoeller materials since the early '80s that came from Europe via Canada. The Arc'Teryx gear offered similar performance and a lot more stretch. The stretch is what impressed me the most. All of the garments have proven themselves durable even in the nastiest limestone off widths.
A few years climbing it the Polartec products had convinced me that I never wanted to be without that "action suit" again in the mountains. So I bought spares on sale and put them away for safe keeping.
Today my spares sit unwrapped in the closet and I have for the most part moved on from soft shells. The one strong hold is pants but even there my soft shell pants have gotten lighter and more breathable than my original Gamma MX gear. Gamma AR maybe. The Gamma Lt version I use a lot winter and summer. Or the NWAlpine Saloppettes.
But the new Gamma MX hoody...hangs unused for good reason.
An Arc'Teryx Gamma MX Hoody on Curtain Call, 2008.
The reason I mention all of this is I am about to start a new soft shell review. So to get much traction the newest soft shells have a lot to live up to. I have climbed and skied a lot in different versions of the older models. And I have indeed gone on to products I think work much better in a winter climbing environment, like the Atom LT and Nano Puff. We'll see if that still holds true from all our gear testers this time around.
What the newest versions can do different and better is worth looking into.
Here are the hooded jackets I will or want to be testing in this review. Currrently the list is stacked in Arc'Teryx's favor. No intentional just what I have easily available for comparisons.
old Gamma MX
old Gamma SV
new Gamma MX
new Venta MX
Baltoro Alpine Jacket
Baltoro Guide Pro Jacket
First Ascent Hyalite
I am open to any suggestions for any similar garments.
And if anyone has a contact they are willing to share at Mammut USA I could use some help there.
Photo courtesy of Dave Searler and Ally Swinton on Pinocchio, East Face of Tacul, Chamonix.
The kind of place a good soft shell garment excels.