Fall weather is nothing if not unpredictable. So the perfect fall jacket needs to adapt to fog or rain or snow or sun or sleet or rain or—let’s hope—sun again. It needs to offer more warmth than summer outerwear, while accommodating moderate temperatures and workout-generated heat better than a winter kit. That’s not easily done. Enter the Arc’Teryx Gamma AR ($260), a classic softshell that continues to define the breed. A softshell? Yes. Softshells are the most misunderstood piece hanging in the closet because they’re not strictly insulation and they’re not 100-percent waterproof, but the right softshell technology splits the difference, offering enough protection for 80 percent of the weather you’re apt to encounter this fall. Maybe even more.
The Gamma AR has a tough, moisture-resistant woven outer fabric rather than the light waterproof-breathable material some makers have adopted. It isn’t simply a light rain shell, but a broadly versatile piece. Arc’Teryx’s proprietary polyester/nylon Fortius fabric provides warmth and breathability via a lightly brushed interior and an open weave of the face fabric. Even with all that, the coat sacrifices only a little in the moisture-resistance arena. True, it will wet through under hard rain, but a quick snow or rain shower won’t trouble it. When wet, it dries in a flash because polyester—which comprises 65 percent of Fortius—hates water. The Gamma AR also has Spandex woven in, which allows stretching across the back, or anywhere else you might need it.
The Gamma is cut fairly slim and is meant to layer lightly over synthetic or wool (or sure, cotton) tops, so it wears well with, say, Patagonia’s Capilene 1 Silkweight Crew. As temps drop you can add base insulation, Icebreaker’s Relay Long Sleeve Half Zip would be a perfect companion. If it’s really wet, the Gamma will slide easily under a hardshell like the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody to serve as the insulating layer.
No matter the weather, the Gamma AR plays well with others, which is the second most important factor in a fall coat. The first is an all-around ability to hold its own while providing comfort, whether that’s during a scramble up rock, ride down singletrack, or walk to that new craft brewery. With the Gamma AR, there’ll be no pulling out another piece of clothing to ward off the sweat-induced chill after a hard pitch or a mountain-bike climb, and no clammy skin beneath the “swish swish” of a hard shell as early evening toasts are raised.
Available in men’s and women’s sizing.