The Gore Oxygen Jacket is a classic rain cape: waterproof as a sippy cup, tail longer than a cat’s, less insulated than the feelings of a poet and only slightly more breathable than Tupperware. You expect those things in a rain cape the way you expect any car you drive to go fast enough to achieve freeway speeds. Without that, what’s the point? And I’ll say that while I have claimed not to wear windbreakers, I will wear a rain cape, but only when the conditions would be described as duress.
What I didn’t expect was that the $249.99 Oxygen jacket would fit better than my Assos ClimaJet rain cape. Virtually nothing ever fits better than anything I have from Assos. The best fitting bibs, jersey and gloves I’ve ever worn were all conceived and manufactured in Switzerland. Same for my favorite long-sleeve jersey.
But the Oxygen rain cape? The difference in fit between this and the ClimaJet is a matter of just slightly more deliberate and careful cut in a few key dimensions. Remarkably, fit of the sleeves and torso is a touch snugger on the Oxygen. The sleeves are also longer on the Oxygen and cover a portion of my hand, instead of just ending at my wrist. Plus, there are zippers at the wrist so that you can pull the jacket on and then add your long-finger gloves afterward. By zipping the jacket down over the end of the glove, your hands are likely to stay a bit drier, at least as dry as the glove will permit. What you won’t have to suffer is rain running down the sleeve and then into the glove thanks to the gap between the cuff of the sleeve and the beginning of the glove.
The tail of the jacket is both wider and longer. It actually envelopes my rather substantial trunk. Keeping the tail in place is gripper elastic, something lacking on the ClimaJet. This is significant because while no one without fenders will finish a ride with a dry butt, the difference between a good tail on a jacket and a bad one is whether your chamois is damp or a dripping sponge. Dripping sponge is bueno-free.
I need to acknowledge that in comparing the Oxygen to the ClimaJet, I’m almost playing a bit of dirty pool. Assos has replaced the ClimaJet with the ClimaSchutz, so I’m comparing a current jacket to a not current jacket. However, I’m doing this for two good reasons. First, I haven’t tried the ClimaSchutz, so there’s that. Second, the ClimaJet was absolutely the best rain cape I’d ever used until the Oxygen came down the pike.
On a rainy day that also happened to be cold, the ClimaJet would be better because it would allow me to layer more beneath it. Despite the lack of mesh panels for ventilation (like the ClimaJet), the Oxygen was every bit as breathable, presumably because of the Gore-Tex Active Shell fabric it is cut from. Gore claims it feels great against your skin, but I’d still prefer at least a light layer of wool or poly between me and this thing; certainly, that’s how I rode it. However, unlike other lightweight, stuff-in-your-pocket rain capes, this unit is a bit bulky for pocket duty. This is the sort of piece that you’re going to leave home wearing, with the likely expectation that you’ll have it on for the whole of the ride. It’s not impossible, mind you, but if you’re looking for something that wads up like a banned plastic grocery bag, this ain’t it. Ooh, I should also mention that the zipper is more watertight than some wine corks.
My only beef with this thing is that while it comes in eight colors (yay!), I was given the all-black version. What the hell? Going ninja couture on a rainy day makes as much sense as chumming for sharks from a canoe. Any of the other color ways seems a much better idea, even the white, which will probably be tan/gray permanently by the end of the first ride. It comes in five sizes: S, M, L, XL and XXL; I wear the medium.
It’s pieces like this that make me wonder why the hell Gore’s reputation for cycling apparel isn’t better. They’ve done the work. Now they deserve some credit.