The 7Mesh Oro jacket might be expensive but it keeps the rain out, it's super-lightweight and it takes up an incredibly small amount of space in a jersey pocket. To give you fair warning, in a little while I'm going to describe the Gore Active fabric from which it's made as a 'game changer'. Yup. Prepare yourself.
Last year, Dave reviewed the Gore Bike Wear One Active Bike Jacket which is also made from Gore Active (the clue's in the name) and he described it as 'far and away the best lightweight waterproof jacket I've ever tested.'
I'll follow suit: the Oro is easily the best lightweight waterproof that I've ever tested, and the Gore Active fabric takes a lot of the credit for that.
Traditional Gore-Tex fabrics are three layer. You have a face fabric, usually treated with a durable water repellent (DWR), the Gore-Tex membrane, and then the lining. In between them are layers of glue.
Gore says that its Active technology eliminates the need for a face fabric so it can be used to produce the lightest and most breathable Gore-Tex products available. You know the outer layer of most waterproof jackets? The bit that's usually coloured? That's the bit that's missing from the 7Mesh Oro.
This is a two-ply construction with the Gore-Tex membrane sitting outermost. That's why the outside of this jacket looks so unusual. The lightweight lining that sits on the inside is integrated with the Gore-Tex membrane without the need for a glue layer (which affects breathability).
What's the point to all this?
'Gore-Tex Active products durably protect against wind and rain and reduce sweat accumulation in high aerobic activities,' says Gore. 'Uniquely designed, the technology eliminates the face fabric, preventing absorption of water in order to maintain comfort in high aerobic activities. Garments will retain these attributes during use, wearers will not experience the chilling effect that can result from a wetted out face fabric, and the garment drys out fast. The excellent balance of protection and comfort allows the wearer to leave the garment on – rain or shine.'
And do you know what? It's true. We're used to manufacturer's exaggeration, hyperbole and downright BS, but this is straight up truth.
I've worn the Oro in the rain a whole load of times over the past few months, most memorably on a ride in Italy where a couple of cyclists had to get bussed home for fear of getting hypothermia (really), and the results have been superb. If anyone's in danger of getting hypothermia it's usually me, but rain hasn't once got through the fabric or through the internally taped seams. You almost expect water to get in because the jacket is so lightweight, but it doesn't.
I guess you could say that a polythene bag is lightweight and keeps water out but one of the most impressive features of the Gore-Tex Active fabric is its level of breathability. Gore says that's down to the lack of that face fabric and layers of glue. You really notice the breathability when it stops raining. I usually whip a waterproof off as soon as the rain lets up so that I don't get too sweaty in there. Here, though, I've been able to keep it on and say comfortable, even when the temperature is up to about 14°C. I've started carrying the Oro rather than a windproof even on days when it's not likely to rain because it's waaaaay more breathable than I expected. It's a revelation as far as breathability is concerned, and if you do want to take it off when the rain stops, a quick shake and it's almost completely dry.
The other thing you need to know about the fabric is just how light it is. This jacket hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 93g which, in a stunning deviation from the norm, is exactly the manufacturer's claimed weight. That's crazy light. Admittedly, saving 100g, 200g or whatever on a waterproof probably isn't going to get you to the café stop a whole lot quicker but it does mean there's less weight dragging your rear pockets out of shape when the jacket is tucked away... and it really does tuck away. Folded up into its own stuff pocket, the Oro is about as large as a couple of Snickers bars.
So, there you go: Gore-Tex Active is a game changer (I did warn you).
Any negatives about it? Well, the lack of a face fabric does leave the membrane more exposed to damage. Our review jacket is still in perfect nick but I guess you could catch it on foliage overhanging the road or on a multi-tool in your pocket so it would pay to be careful. It's not going to tear as soon as it's within sight of a bramble but my impression is that it's not the toughest material in the world.
So far I've concentrated on the fabric but the jacket itself is also top notch. For a start there's the cut; it's slim and I like that. Both the body and the sleeves sit close so they don't flap as soon as you hit a descent (don't get me started on jackets that flap) and the collar is close-fitting too. There's no stretch in the fabric so you need to be doubly sure that you buy the right size. Thankfully, 7Mesh has a size chart on its website. The chest actually feels tight on me when I'm standing upright, but as soon as I'm on the bike with my arms reaching forward, it's spot on.
The tail is slightly dropped although there are other jackets out there that offer more protection from road spray back there. The full-length front zip is reverse coil and water resistant with a puller that's easy to grab even with gloved fingers. There are no pockets aside from that stuff pocket I mentioned (on a 93g jacket? You're having a laugh), but you do get two vents on the back that allow you to reach through to your jersey pockets. The raw edge hem is reflective, although it doesn't look reflective in daylight, and the chest and back logos are reflective too.
You can tell that I like this jacket, then! I'm pretty sure I've never written 1,000 words on a waterproof before. If you're after something that's going to stand up to years of abuse, perhaps this isn't the option for you. But if you want a minimalist, lightweight waterproof with loads of breathability, this is superb.
Stunning performance from a super-lightweight waterproof that offers superb breathability
road.cc test report
Make and model: 7Mesh Oro Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket 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?
It's a super-lightweight, highly breathable waterproof jacket in a sporty cut.
7Mesh says, "French aviator and adventurer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once declared 'perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." While Saint-Exupéry is better known for flying rather than riding, we know his impeccable design sensibilities align perfectly with the new 7mesh Oro Jacket.
"Built from revolutionary Gore-Tex Active fabric with Shakedry technology, the Oro easily achieves a previously unheard-of milestone: a truly waterproof breathable jacket that cracks the 100-gram barrier. We chose the lightest, most breathable fabric Gore-Tex offers. Then we paired it with intricate patterning to reduce seam bulk, a direct-laminated zipper innovated in partnership with our suppliers, a welded raw hem edge, 360-degree reflectivity, and multipurpose vents and pocket. The resulting package weighs in at an incredible 93 grams, size medium."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
7Mesh lists these features:
* Pass-through vent that allow access to jersey pockets
* Built-in stuff/storage pocket
* Raw edge hem with 360 degree reflectivity
* 8mm finish taped seams
* Reflective logo
It sits very well when you're in your riding position. I've put the jacket through the washing machine several times and the seam taping hasn't bubbled or puckered.
It's a minimalist design, but that's the idea. It keeps the rain out and the level of breathability is superb.
The lack of a face (outer) fabric (to drop the weight and improve breathability) means that the Gore-Tex Active membrane is exposed. You will have to be more careful than with most other jackets in order to avoid damage.
There's not much spare fabric here! It's cut slim in both the body and arms – in fact, I don't think I've ever known such close-fitting sleeves. I'm cool with that, but just be warned.
I sometimes take a medium, more often a large. I took a medium here.
It's the lightest waterproof I've ever used by a distance.
There's no give in the fabric but the cut is good and it's incredibly breathable.
It's a lot of money, there's no getting away from that. However, in Gore-Tex Active you are getting the best fabric of its kind, and the design is spot on. You're spending a lot, but you are getting a lot in return.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It has come out well through repeated washing. The taped seams still look good and the performance hasn't diminished noticeably.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It has performed superbly. It really is a bit special.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Waterproofing, breathability, light weight, cut...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Well, there's the price. We'd all like it to be cheaper.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Without a doubt.
Use this box to explain your score
This is clearly an exceptional jacket. The only issue is the price and you can either stomach that or you can't. I think a 9 reflects just how good it is.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.