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wesdyer

Gamma MX Hoody or R1 + Houdini

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A couple of years ago, I switched from using a Mammut Ultimate Hoody to a R1 + Houdini for my go to outerwear. I love the versatility of the combo although there are a few downsides: durability of the Houdini (especially in chimneys or on off-widths) and ability to shed a little water.

 

I've been thinking about switching to a Gamma MX Hoody thinking it might be able perform just as well while also addressing some shortcomings. And hopefully it is a bit more stretchy, breathable, and longer (for a harness) than the Mammut Ultimate Hoody was.

 

Has anyone out there tried both?

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I used to climb in a Gamma MX. Way too warm for most stuff in the PNW (at least for me). I climb in a R1/Black Spider Hoody and a windshirt most of the time now. If its super chilly or windy I'll toss on a barebones softshell over it (currently use NW Alpine's softshell). The windshirts can't handle lots of rock but are usually good at shedding snow. YMMV

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I used the R1/Gamma MX combo all last year and feel like I've struck gold. It has served me very well on water ice and alpine route here in the Northeast.

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Stopped using my Gamma MX a couple of years ago as I just found it too warm. (Great jacket otherwise!)

 

Patagonia Knifeblade is great - same fabric as Gamma MX (Polartec Power Shield Pro) but without the fleece backing. Amazing fit for climbing (though I don't have the new jacket version, yet) and good length.

 

Another good option is Arcteryx Gamma SL Hybrid - lighter fabric, not as windproof, highly breathable, stretchy and fairly durable. Long enough it stays tucked in, too.

 

For colder or windier days when using the Gamma SL, I will also bring a Gore-Tex Active shell - light (300g) but 100% wind and water proof.

 

For mid-layers I use everything from Arcteryx Phase Zips (mostly SL and AR weights) as more light-weight pieces to Patagonia R1 and Piton Hybrid for very cold days.

 

I'd also suggest you look at the new Polartec Alpha pieces (Westcomb, Montane, Mammut, a few others are using it) - I haven't used any yet, but the tech promises a lot, and the jackets I've seen are cut well for climbing and promise to be a one-item solution (insulation with protection and climbing comfort).

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I think part of the problem with those who say that the MX is too warm is that they wear too much underneath it. Forget about thick base layer crap. I climb with a simple wicking long-sleeve T underneath in mine through a PNW winter and it's just right.

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I think part of the problem with those who say that the MX is too warm is that they wear too much underneath it. Forget about thick base layer crap. I climb with a simple wicking long-sleeve T underneath in mine through a PNW winter and it's just right.

 

Do you mostly just use it in the winter in the PNW? Do you use it less often spring/summer/fall?

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Late fall, winter, early spring.

I wear a Squamish hoody in the summer season.

 

I find an R1 too hot most of the time in any season for active use although it's a great fleece for sitting around not doing anything in. I have a MEC T2 hoody and that's my ideal weight for a fleece underlayer.

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I own and use all:

 

R1 Hoody + Houdini (sub Rab Cirrus or Arc Squamish for better fit) is the winner for lightweight alpine climbing. mostly because the R1 hoody rocks but is too hot most of the time so you end up wearing the windshirt with a lighter weight base layer. I consider the windshirt a wear item you plan to replace. Lack of stretch has yet to bother me. I honestly dont think a houdini with good dwr is going to be THAT much more water resistant than arcteryx soft shell...maybe I'm totally crazy there...but it'll definitely dry faster!

 

Gamma MX is great for ice cragging and downhill skiing as it is very comfortable and very warm. The sheer number of pockets indicates it's not for real alpine use.

 

Gamma MX is NOT POWER SHIELD PRO. Pata Knifeblade is and is lighter weight. Gamma MX old version was regular power shield (more air permeable, less water resistant than pro) and new version is proprietary stretch softshell without membrane like powershield (anything). It will likely breath more, dry faster, be more stretchy and generally just better (I haven't used it but I always prefer a softshell without a membrane if possible).

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I have used the Arc'teryx Acto MX or Gamma SL Hybrid (usually with a Phase SL or Phase SL + Phase AR combo, depending on the temperature) underneath with good results in both the PNW and the Southeast. This summer I soloed Hood with the Phase SL + Phase AR + Gamma SL Hybrid combo; I didn't sweat at all until I was well on the way down and the sun was beating down on me. Perfect setup for light-and-fast movement.

 

I also really like the OR Radiant Hybrid and Centifruge hoodies. Both work great for ice climbing and mountaineering with only a wicking layer underneath, as long as you have a warm belay jacket. I climbed Rainier last summer wearing an Arc'teryx Ether t-shirt under the Centrifuge, with an Atom SV for stops and above 13k or so.

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I avoid wind shirts (ala Houdini) when they're likely to get torn up from rock. They're super great pieces, probably the best value per ounce of any piece of clothing for moving fast through variable weather.

 

The Gamma MX won't be as warm nor weather resistant (both in the wind and precipitation departments) as the Houdini + R1 combo, but it is durable, stretchy, and comfy to move in.

 

When I evaluate my shell options for my time out in the mountains, the first question I ask regards durability. A windshirt is the clear #1 choice if it will hold up, but when it might get torn (from rock or tree skiing), I turn to a softshell in the 16-24oz category. I take a Gamma LT for warm weather, low winds, or moving fast, but turn to the Venta MX for supreme weather protection.

 

If your Houdini isn't shedding water, take proper steps to restore the DWR. The first thing I do is give the old DWR a chance by tossing the jacket in the drier on medium-high heat for 20-30 minutes: enough to warm the jacket up for a bit, but not melt the plastic. If you aren't satisfied when doing a shower test, apply some Nikwax/Granger's and make sure to toss the jacket in the drier. Heat is the most overlooked way to care for this type of garment - it's seriously too simple.

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