Lightweight, stretchy and super-breathable, the Outdoor Research Vigor Full-Zip hoodie is a great all-action mid layer for high-tempo hill and mountain days – whether you’re beasting a climb or freewheeling downhill.
Three useful pockets
Lightweight fabric designed to give only modest warmth
Some concerns over long-term durability
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The Vigor from US brand Outdoor Research is a lightweight microgrid stretch fleece that is designed to maximise breathability and regulate body temperature effectively – basically, to keep you warm when it’s a bit chilly but stop you overheating and getting too sweaty when you’re working hard. The gridded polyester fleece fabric is constructed to promote airflow and move moisture fast, just like many other lightweight layers (Patagonia’s R1 fleece being the classic example).
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But in addition, the Outdoor Research Vigor incorporates a thermo-regulating polymer that the brand refers to as ActiveTemp technology. This treatment has been applied to the inside of the fleece fabric, and since its moisture affinity changes with temperature, when you get hot, it activates to soak up more of your sweat, then releases it through the fabric as you cool down. It’s also durable – remaining 100% effective after 40 wash cycles, and bluesign approved for sustainability. Clever stuff.
• RRP: $99 (US) / £90 (UK)
• Fabric: Grid-back fleece made from polyester (94%) and elastane/ spandex (6%)
• Sizes: Men's: S–XXL / Women's: XS-XL
• Weight (men’s size L): 340g/12oz
• Colours: Men’s: Black / Cascade blue / Lichen Green / Madder red; Women’s Twilight Blue / Black / Cascade blue / Lichen Green / Madder red
In the field
The Outdoor Research Vigor Full-Zip hoodie ticks all the boxes as a technical mid layer. It is close-fitting for maximum thermal efficiency and wicking performance, thanks to a little elastane in the fabric blend. This also gives plenty of stretch for dynamic movement. The gridded microfleece fabric itself is soft and comfortable, as well as being lightweight and breathable.
Other details have also clearly been considered carefully – there are integrated thumb loops in the cuffs, an elastic bound hood, a full-zip with a chin guard, a zipped chest pocket, and two zipped hand pockets, both of which are placed a little higher than usual so as not to be obstructed by a climbing harness or a rucksack hipbelt. With plenty of length in the arms and torso, you can stretch for climbing holds or bend over to tie a bootlace without exposing your wrists or lower back.
What about that techy-sounding ActiveTemp treatment? To be honest, it’s hard to measure objectively – but compared to other gridded microfleeces we’ve tested, the Vigor did seem to keep us cooler and drier. In fact, our only caveat, apart from the limited warmth that such a lightweight hoody offers, relates to durability. Like other reviewers, we did note a few signs of fabric wear after a couple of months’ use, particularly in high-abrasion areas like the shoulders and lower back. These were probably caused by rucksack wear, but it’s a point worth noting if you regularly head out with a pack.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.