I've tested my fair share of waterproof jackets over the years, and while some have stood out, none have come as close to the holy grail as Gore Bike Wear's stunning new One Active waterproof jacket.
Gore stands out in the cycle jacket market because it designs and develops its own fabrics, many of which are used by the leading brands in the market. Windstopper and Active are common labels on higher-end clothing, a mark of quality, a sure sign that the fabric will protect you in the most ghastly weather.
With its new One Active fabric, which replaces the durable water repellent treatment of its previous Active fabric with a new Permanent Beading Surface and allows Gore to reduce the construction of the jacket from three to two layers, it has created a simply superb bit of kit. This paring down of the jacket has several noticeable consequences, all of which contribute to this jacket setting a new benchmark for lightweight waterproof jackets.
For a start, it's highly breathable compared with any other waterproof jacket I've worn. The One Active prevents you boiling in the bag, the biggest problem with most waterproof jackets. So good is its breathability that I've been using it solidly over the past few months on days when the weather has looked iffy, with rain forecast but high temperatures ensuring there's no threat of getting cold. Even a mild summer day with a couple of cloudbursts has seen the jacket pulled into action.
What has most impressed is that even with the temperature in the high teens, the material of the jacket has displayed an amazing ability to prevent the nasty buildup of heat and sweat that normally occurs if you dare to wear a waterproof top on anything but a cold day. It's so good that I've ridden several hours with the jacket on, even when it's stopped raining, simply because it maintained a comfortable operating temperature.
Then there is its lightness and packability. It rolls or scrunches up into the tiniest package and takes up barely any space in a jersey pocket. It'll sit in the middle pocket alongside a mini-pump quite happily – that's impressive for a lightweight windproof or gilet, let alone a full-on waterproof jacket.
And it's so light. Light enough that it doesn't feel any heavier in that jersey pocket than an emergency gilet, and light over the body when you're wearing it. Only a clingfilm jacket would be lighter. It weighs just 103g on the road.cc scales. To put that into perspective, a Gore Active jacket tested previously weighed 208g, so it's been put on a substantial diet. Mike Stead raved about the Endura FS260-Pro SL jacket – no doubt a superb piece of kit, after all he scored it 10/10 – but it's twice the weight too, at 209g (though quite a bit cheaper).
That leads me to the other great benefit of this jacket: I've switched from carrying a lightweight gilet on mixed weather days and instead just take this jacket, because it's no heavier to carry around yet offers better protection when the weather turns foul. Which now means I've got a collection of gilets I no longer have a use for.
But is it waterproof? Indeed it is. I've ridden in the heaviest rain and it's kept me absolutely dry. All the seams are taped, and the rain noticeably beads off the surface and continues to do that during rainfall, and when it stops raining, you can simply shake the jacket to remove any water droplets sitting on the surface. How about windproof? It checks that box too, of course.
The fit and shape are excellent, which is good because there isn't much stretch in the fabric. I tested a size small (that's me in the photos) and it was as fitted as it needed to be, with no excess fabric to billow in the wind. There was no restriction on my freedom of movement, in the shoulders, arms or torso. It's a noticeably quiet jacket as well, something that surprised me, given how noisy some materials can be in the wind.
Any concerns over durability have so far proved unfounded. Gore suggests it's not a suitable jacket for off-road riding where the likelihood of snagging the fabric on a thorn is high, and that's a trade-off for its ultra-lightness. But as a primarily road jacket, it's still going strong several months down the line. I've not gone out of my way to be careful with it; it's been stuffed in a kit bag, stuffed at the bottom of the wardrobe, kept rolled up between uses, and it's been just fine. It's been washed a handful of times and the performance hasn't been negatively impacted one bit, simply because there is no DWR treatment to wear off.
If there's a downside, it's that it's sparely featured, but there's everything you need. The small zipped chest pocket is a nice touch for storing some valuables, or it can be used as a stuff pouch to roll the jacket up into. The cuffs and waistband are elasticated and draw a good fit around wrists and waist, with the rear of the jacket refusing to ride up when you're hunched over in the drops.
The tail is slightly dropped but the drop could be more generous for a bit of extra coverage. The full-length zipper is a high-quality item with a smooth action, and resides underneath a soft flap of material at the tall collar when done right up. You get a small smattering of reflective details, and it's only available in this one colour. No doubt some people will be along in the comments section to suggest going out in such a dark jacket on UK roads is asking for trouble.
Here's a jacket that's as compact as a gilet, as light and comfortable as a windproof jacket, and as waterproof as you need it to be to survive the dampest rides. It's highly breathable, extremely comfortable, very quiet and the fit is superb. It is a bit creasy in appearance when it's been rolled or folded up for a while, but it soon smooths out with a few hours on the bike.
The only drawback is the price. There's no getting away from it, it's a jolly expensive jacket. Remember, though, this is cutting-edge technology from a company that is heavily invested in developing new fabrics that enable us to cycle in horrid conditions. Given time, the price will come down, and other brands are looking at utilising this fabric as well. There will hopefully be some new colours soon as well, but personally, I don't mind it. It's available in five sizes (S-XXL).
Not cheap, but it's far and away the best lightweight waterproof jacket I've ever tested
road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore Bike Wear One Active Bike Jacket
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Gore says: "Setting a new standard in road cycling jackets featuring the lightest and most breathable GORE-TEX® innovation. The new permanent beading surface enables you to remain fast, comfortable and dry even on demanding rides and in all weathers."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
GORE-TEX® Active Jacket with NEW Permanent Beading Surface
Revolutionary membrane construction eliminates face fabric preventing a chilling effect associated with the face fabric wetting out and allowing you to quickly shake the surface dry
Jacket is durable waterproof, windproof and super lightweight
Reflective logo on sleeve
Reinforced hem for easier closure of the zipper
Front zip pocket doubles as a stow-away pocket
Reflective print on sides
Zip tags for easy opening
Ergonomically shaped collar
Reflective logo on front and back
Typical high-quality construction from Gore Bike Wear.
For lightweight packable waterproof jackets, I'd say this is as good as it currently gets. It keeps the water out and is highly breathable.
The lightness of the fabric has the potential to impact durability, compared with Gore's regular Active jacket, but provided you look after it, there should be no issues. The new DWR treatmen should mean it retains its waterproofness indefinitely.
It's lighter than most waterproof jackets (it's half the weight of the 10/10 scoring Endura FS260-Pro SL) and light enough to be used instead of an emergency gilet at this time of year.
The fit and shape is very good.
Yes it's expensive, but if you want what I reckon is the best lightweight waterproof jacket money can buy right now, this is it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provides impressive rain protection with excellent breathability, and packs up very small.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit and breathability, and keeps you dry.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Tail is a bit short. Lack of colour options.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's the best packable waterproof jacket I've ever worn. It's exceptional.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.