Outdoor Vitals Highline leggings

Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings Review

High warmth-to-weight-ratio fleece leggings for ultralight backpackers

September 12, 2023 – We’ve been searching for years to find the perfect pair of cozy, ultralight legwear to use at camp, and may have finally found it in the Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings. For just four ounces, these featureless brushed fleece tights have a killer warmth-to-weight ratio and easily stash into a backpack. Available in late September, 2023.

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  • Price: $80
  • Weight: 4 oz (size L)
  • Fabric: TORAY polyester fleece, 102 gsm, flat exterior, brushed interior
  • Pros: Ultralight. Warm. High warmth-to-weight ratio. Soft & comfy. Breathable mesh crotch gusset. Lightly stretchy.
  • Cons: Layering/delayering with tights is cumbersome. Low-rise waist could be higher.

Compare to more legwear insulation our guide to down pants for backpacking.

testing for Outdoor Vitals Highline thermal leggings review

Construction, Materials, Fit

The Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings are made with a proprietary TORAY fleece fabric, a Japanese manufacturer of performance textiles. With a smooth outer face and fuzzy, brushed interior, hikers get the best of both worlds. That is, the smooth surface sits well underneath layers, sliding rather than creating friction. The cozy/comfy brushed surface lofts the fleece adding volume and creating a thin dead air buffer. It also wicks moisture from inside to out. The effect delivers a high warmth relative to how lightweight and thin the garment is.

fuzzy TORAY brushed fleece

We also commend OV on the use of a mesh crotch gusset, which expands their range of motion and dumps heat where hikers get the sweatiest, and need breathability most. All in all, these are a great cold weather layer.

gusseted crotch

The fit is definitely slim, they are leggings and not pants after all. But to be clear, you could not wear these overtop of other shorts or pants, they’re either going on underneath or not at all. Notably though, we find these to run fairly low rise around the waist, where a mid rise fit would generally be better for leggings. People with a full seat/large caboose might find these tights prone to crack exposure when bending over. And those layering them underneath other garments during cold weather would have appreciated the added waist rise to protect gaps from forming between top and bottom layers. None of this is a deal breaker, but we do feel there is a bit of room to improve with regard to rise.

Testing and Recommended Use

We tested the Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings as camp/sleep tights, and found them to be excellent in that regard. Ditch your sweaty, dirty hiking pants or shorts and ease into the comfort of fleece leggings! Ounce for ounce, they’re warmer than merino wool, a common choice for base-layer tights. Used by themself, they’re perfect for cool-not-cold nights, and as full coverage inside your sleeping bag. It’s advisable to wear leggings to bed to prevent skin oil and sun screen build up from penetrating the interior liner and damaging down plumes, which results in decreased loft, and ends with a colder sleeping bag/quilt.

One consideration for future versions of these leggings, would be a drop-in phone-sized pocket on one side. Not strictly necessary, but nice if you’re wearing the leggings at camp alongside a fleece top that may also not have a good phone pocket, leaving you high and dry for storage.

For backpackers, these also do double duty as a cold morning layer to wear under your primary legwear, with the intent to de-layer once it warms up. The downside to tights (as opposed to pants) is that in order to achieve this, you have to take your shoes off, take your pants off, take your tights off, put your pants back on, and then put your shoes back on. That’s not to cast shade on the Highline Leggings in particular, but rather noting an issue we have with tights in general, and why pants might be better if you plan to use them as part of a frequently adjusted layering system.

Lastly, one minor point of confusion was that we immediately put them on backwards, because the tag is on the front left side. Maybe this was just for our sample, but a vertical seam connecting the elastic waistband should sit on the back, and the owl logo on the upper front left.

highline leggings on a rock

Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings Review Verdict

As it stands, the Outdoor Vitals Highline Thermal Leggings are our go-to ultralight camp pants, perfect for use on cool-weather backpacking trips. The brushed fleece is comfy, cozy, and delivers a high warmth-to-weight ratio. We definitely recommend these tights!

highline thermal leggings