In his 1973 book Coast to Coast, Alfred Wainwright wrote, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Well, perhaps Alfred never experienced being blasted by sideways rain while desperately trying to gain traction on a rutted, sloppy trail! Let’s just face it, sometimes the weather can be crappy and when it is, a good jacket can be the difference between damp fun and fuckin’ drenched and dangerous.
In this review, we’re looking at the newly redesigned, Copilot Jacket from the good folks at 7Mesh. Based in Squamish, Canada, the 7Mesh crew definitely get bad weather. Afterall, Squamish regularly gets all four seasons in a day and has an average rainfall of over 220cm per year. That’s hella wet. Even by this Englishman’s standards.
At the time of testing the jackets, me and Bec were riding in Northern Thailand at the tailend of the monsoon season. But hold up! I know what you’re thinking: why take a rain jacket to Thailand? Isn’t it the home of tropical beaches, crystal water and full-moon parties? Well, yes and no. Unlike the flat, tropical south, Northern Thailand is home to the country’s tallest mountains, including Doi Inthanon (2,565m) which forms the tail end of the famous Himalaya range. Monsoon season (May-October) regularly brings 110cm of rainfall per year and the air humidity can regularly soar to a whopping 65%. Perfect conditions to test a rain jacket, both for water repellency and the dreaded “boil in the bag” feeling.
In the review, we’ll do a deep dive on the Copilot’s technical specs, construction, features and fit. Plus, we’ll also highlight a bunch of personal takeaways and the standout features that impressed us most.
Materials and Construction
Constructed from GORE-TEX Paclite Plus, the Copilot is a durable, 100% waterproof and windproof jacket that’s jam-packed with bike-friendly features. From its fully welded seams, dropped hem and elasticated cuffs, to its ‘watertight vislon’ zip, over-the-helmet hood and unique stash system – the Copilot packs a lot of jacket into a tiny form factor!
The men’s medium weighs in at just 252g (8.9oz)/women’s 224g (7.9oz) and the jacket retails at USD$280/£225. That’s pretty steep for a shell, no doubt. But if the materials and features live up to their marketing claims, this jacket might just fall into the mythical Goldilocks zone and be the one jacket to rule them all. Let’s take a closer look below.
Bec’s Take: Right from the get-go the Copilots’ GORE-TEX Paclite Plus construction impressed me. Not only does this magical fabric make the jacket ultra-light, highly packable and 100% waterproof, it also brings best-in-class breathability. I’ll be honest, I heat up real quick on rides, and in Thailand with high humidity, I’m always worried about feeling like a sous-vide chicken when riding in a shell. But despite pushing the Copilot to its limits – taking it out in non-stop downpours when we needed to cover more ground and couldn’t let the weather deter us – its breathability really impressed me. It kept me dry in sudden storms and effortlessly regulated the heat inside the jacket, ensuring I never overheated..
Sam’s Take: I’ve used a bunch of shells over the years and in my experience, ultra-light fabrics usually translate to ultra-rippable. I seem to have a knack for snagging jackets on thorny branches and destroying gear while fumbling around in the woods. But, despite its feather-light construction, the Copilot has proven to be way more durable than I originally gave it credit for. How do I know that? Well while riding in Thailand, I took a fall on a wet dirt road and was convinced the jacket was toast. But after brushing off the wet mud and salvaging what was left of my ego, the jacket showed zero signs of a crash. A real game-changer for me! Although, if you’re concerned about damaging such a high quality (and high price) piece, you will be glad to know that 7Mesh’s crash replacement policy should provide added peace of mind.
We both agree that from a construction perspective, we can’t fault the Copilot at all. It feels high quality, well made and with a technical finesse we’ve come to expect from 7mesh.
Fit and Aesthetics
The overall fit on the Copilot is relaxed and comfortable. A far cry from any aero-fitting, lycra roadie jacket, 7Mesh has designed the Copilot to adapt to the layers you’re wearing underneath it. A design choice we came to appreciate when climbing steep hills as the sun faded and the cool mountain air started to roll in.
Sam’s Take: At 185cm and 75kg I opted for the men’s medium in the ‘Hinterland” colorway. I tend to be a medium in most brands and the Copilot fit was true to that rule. I found the fit to be exactly as 7Mesh suggested: “relaxed and comfortable with a laid-back vibe”. It didn’t interfere with my riding and I especially liked the Hinterland colorway. A dark navy blue, split-toned with a rich gunmetal grey. Muted and considered, but stylish.
Another standout feature in the fit department for me was the generously cut hood. Designed specifically to fit over your helmet, the Copilot’s hood excels at shedding rain, keeping your head warm and dry. At first, I found the hood would fall back in the wind, but after locating the 3-way draw cords in the nape of the jacket’s neck, in-ride adjustments were a breeze and the hood stayed planted. However, due to its cavernous size, when it’s not over your helmet, the hood can act like a bit of an air brake on fast descents and I frequently found myself tucking it into the neckline of the jacket, which wasn’t ideal.
Bec’s Take: My first impressions on the Copilot from an aesthetics perspective, is that it’s one of the best-looking bike jackets I’ve ever used. In my experience, ‘technical’ usually means U.G.L.Y (especially in the colour department), so I’d almost completely resigned myself to wearing black shells with as minimal branding as possible. But happily for me, the Copilot – in the Elk colorway (a mix of peat and bright sunflower yellow) – is a completely different story. It’s unique, vibrant and I’ve loved adding a pop of color to my kit.
From a fit perspective, I’m often forced to buy men’s shells as I find the cycling-specific women’s jackets in many brands too tight and claustrophobic. They bunch up at my hips, rise at my waist and are generally too fitted for the type of bikepacking riding I do. My options are usually: buy a small mens’ and settle for its oversized and unflattering fit (but comfortable), or suck it up and the women’s cut in my size and risk feeling like a sausage squished into its casing.
So when I first received the Copilot, I was convinced it’d be more of the same. But to my surprise, it felt great! The jacket (in size small) felt like the perfect balance between fitted enough to be flattering, and loose enough to be comfortable – allowing me to ride all day with no restriction. I loved the fit so much that I found myself wearing the jacket not only on rides, but as my go to when we headed out for a late-night Pad Thai or our local coffee joint in Chiang Mai.
However, one thing to note is that due to its cycling-oriented design, the women’s Copilot does still have a pretty high cut waist. This works exactly as intended when you’re on the bike, allowing you to move freely. But when you’re using gear for expedition tours like us and layering for all weathers, the high cut waist means less protection from the elements resulting in, at times, a soggy bottom of my down jacket. Not a deal breaker (and potentially something a size up would fix), but something to bear in mind if you also suffer from shell-trauma like me.
Our Favorite Feature: The Stash System
Not too long ago, backpacks reigned supreme for hauling extra layers on the trail. Then, with the advent of bikepacking bags, gear came off our backs and into frame bags, hip packs and handlebar bags. But, with the Copilot, 7Mesh have pushed it one step further, introducing an on-bike storage solution dubbed the “Stash System”.
Once packed down into its large rear pocket, the Copilot straps directly to your bike via the integrated clip system. Although lightweight and discreet, once stashed on your bike, the elastic straps anchor the jacket down and effectively eliminate the need to carry a pack or stuff your shell in your trail shorts. But how does the stash system stack up in the real world?
Sam: At first, I thought the stash system might be a bit gimmicky and yet another example of bike marketing hype. I’ll admit, I was a bit reluctant to use the feature at first because I’ve never had a problem storing a shell in a bag or pocket. But then I was invited out on a 2 day gravel loop with an overnight stay at a guest house halfway. For this type of trip, I didn’t need my tent, quilt, or sleeping pad. I just needed my camera and a couple layers. Enter the stash system. Strapped to my toptube, it performed brilliantly and I barely even remembered it was there. No leg rub, no crunchy shell noise and importantly no moving around. So for me, the stash system isn’t a feature I’ll likely use every day, but once I did need it, I really appreciated its convenience and rock-solid construction.
Bec: Unlike Sam, I did use the stash system daily and found it super useful while touring in Thailand. Monsoon season doesn’t mess around and when it decides to rain, it often comes in unannounced and with serious force. So having a jacket strapped to my bike – rather than buried in the depths of my pannier – meant I was always prepared when Thailand dropped one of its tropical soakings. That said, I’d advise being mindful of where you stow the jacket on your bike. Although it will mount to the downtube, a fork blade or a seat tube, on wet days with plenty of slop, you’ll likely end up with a very wet and brown jacket. So stick to the top tube and handlebar and your jacket should be safe and sound.
You can find The Stash System feature on a bunch of 7Mesh’s lineup, including: The Northwoods Windshell, the Copilot Jacket, the Freeflow Jacket, and the Chilco Vest. All garments but the Freeflow Jacket are offered in men’s and women’s versions (the Freeflow is currently men’s only).
Overall, we feel the Copilot strikes the perfect balance of packability, breathability and performance – with its small details making a big difference in day-to-day use. The fabric choice alone makes it one of the best shells we’ve ever worn and when you mix in the durability and overall aesthetics of the jacket, we gotta admit – we’re pretty smitten!
There are of course a few choices that we don’t love. The hood (when not in use) can flap around and the cut on the women’s small size can cause the jacket to rise up when layering. But even with these very small annoyances, the Copilot jacket will 100% take pride and place as our bikepacking shells for the foreseeable future.
GORETEX Packlite Plus fabric is 100% waterproof, with no boil-in-the-bag
Both the “Hinterland” and “Elk” colorways
The premium construction and feel
The over-the-helmet hood (when in use)
The stash system feature for attaching to your bike
The weight and packability of the jacket
The zips feel like they could be better quality, or perhaps a little larger
The price – unavoidable at this level of quality, but it’s still a sting at $280USD
The hood (when not used over the helmet) could do with a stowable pocket
The women’s cut can rise up when you’re layering up