Best hiking shorts-A complete and detailed review
Hiking shorts are an underappreciated piece of equipment. They’re comfortable, durable, and stylish enough to wear out on the trail. Whether you’re looking for something casual or rugged, we’ve got what you need. From lightweight hiking pants to waterproof hiking jackets, our selection of hiking shorts covers every type of terrain.
We also carry a variety of accessories, such as backpacks, hats, and socks, so you can outfit yourself perfectly before hitting the trails.
The best hiking shorts can be seen on the backside of hikers from the trail head to the bar. They’re one of the most versatile items in your outdoor arsenal, so they deserve to be among the most scrutinized items at retail stores.
That’s why we’ve filtered through the best hiking shorts on the market today and detailed them for you below. Remove thigh chafe from your memory by researching and selecting the perfect hiking shorts for your needs. Keep on reading to see our top picks and important information that will help you choose your next pair.
Best Hiking Shorts
Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
Materials: 100% nylon, polyester mesh panels
Waist: Built-in belt & fly
What we like: Great comfort and performance for the price.
What we don’t: No added stretch and runs small.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts above are an undeniably premium and well-built design, but the $75 price tag will likely deter many budget-conscious shoppers. Enter the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts, which will save you a considerable $30 while still offering good all-around performance.
The 100% nylon construction is breathable and dries quickly, making them a great option for hikers and travelers alike. Storage is another highlight, including deep and easily accessible hand pockets, three massive cargo-style pockets (two at the back and one on the right leg), and a zippered security pocket on the left thigh. All told, for casual summer hiking and backpacking, the Silver Ridge is well appointed and a standout value.
What do you sacrifice by saving with the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts? The most glaring omission is the lack of built-in stretch, which is a notable downside for mobility. By comparison, the Ferrosi above includes 14% spandex for a sizable boost in freedom of movement, although we appreciate that Columbia included a gusset to help when squatting or bending over.
In addition, the zippers certainly aren’t the smoothest we’ve used, and the cheaper materials won’t hold up as well as the more premium designs here. Finally, some users report issues with the fit, including tightness around the hips and waist that’s particularly noticeable when ascending steep slopes. But you’d be hard-pressed to find better overall performance for less, which is why we’ve included the Silver Ridge here.
The North Face Wander-AFFORDABLE HIKING SHORTS WITH A FLAT WAISTBAND
WEIGHT: 4.4 oz.
PROS: Affordable, flat waistband sits nicely under a hipbelt, ultralight, lined version available, dries quickly
CONS: Fabric is swishy & stiff, no way to cinch the waist
BOTTOM LINE: The affordable Wander Shorts from The North Face are minimalist bottoms that fall somewhere between an athletic short and a casual short. We found the flat waistband of the Wanders to be one of the most comfy under a hipbelt, and the simple pocket setup (just two hand pockets) keep the legs bulk-free as well. We just wish the Wanders were made with a softer fabric, because the stiff polyester has a tendency to bunch up a bit.
That said, we still find these shorts to be exceptionally comfortable, and we even lounge around in them at home. If you prefer shorts with a liner, the Lined Wanders are available for an extra $20.
Nike M NK CHLLGR Short–BEST ATHLETIC SHORTS FOR HIKING
WEIGHT: 4.8 oz.
PROS: Affordable, dries quickly, soft/comfy fabric, breathable, built-in liner, ultralight, inclusive sizing
CONS: Not as versatile as some
BOTTOM LINE: Hiking can be quite the workout, so we often opt to wear athletic shorts on the trail. The Nike Dri-FIT Challengers have been our go-to for many years since they’re affordable, lightweight, breathable, and quick drying. The simple design makes them easy to move in, and we’ve found the ultralight material they’re made from to be very durable.
For more casual day hikes, we’d probably choose something like the Patagonia Quandaries above. But for challenging hikes and longer distances, the Challengers are what we wear.
Prana Stretch Zion II–BEST VALUE HIKING SHORTS
WEIGHT: 9.7 oz.
PROS: Very durable, great value, stretchy, stylish, built-in belt, versatile
CONS: A bit heavy
BOTTOM LINE: Prana clothing is known for having a great balance of style and longevity, and the Stretch Zion II shorts certainly live up to that reputation. The fabric is stretchy, easy to move in, and thick yet breathable for durability and comfort.
The Zions are a bit on the heavy side, so we like the trimmed down design of the Prana Brions for most casual outings. But those going for utility will like that the Zions offer a ton of secure storage without feeling or looking frumpy like some other cargo shorts. These crowd-favorites are an awesome value since they’re comfortable, they have a built-in belt for dialing in the fit on long hikes, and they can be worn for pretty much any occasion.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi–BEST BALANCE OF DURABILITY, UTILITY & STYLE
WEIGHT: 7.6 oz.
PROS: Stretchy, breathable, durable, good pockets, versatile, dries quickly, 7 in. shorts include belt, stylish, inclusive sizing
BOTTOM LINE: We love the Ferrosi Pants from Outdoor Research, so we had high hopes for the Ferrosi Shorts – and they didn’t disappoint! They have deep, useful pockets, a nice built-in belt, and plenty of stretch for a full range of movement. We find the look and fit to be comfortable on trail as well as stylish enough for around town use, so these versatile shorts are ready for any adventure. Whether you’re going for a quick jaunt in a city park or setting off for a thru hike, the breathable and durable Ferrosis are a great
Hiking shorts features:
Hiking Shorts vs. Hiking Pants
We’ve found it surprising that there are more people looking for hiking pants than hiking shorts. Sure, pants cover more of you, but for most backpackers, shorts are actually a lot more practical.
Hiking shorts can be more beneficial than hiking pants in a number of ways. Hot weather hiking is the most obvious scenario where hiking shorts rule. In the extreme heat of summer, hiking shorts provide excellent ventilation that will keep your legs and nether regions drier than any pair of pants ever could. This includes most mornings, afternoons, and evenings, especially if you tend to trek through the hottest part of the day.
During the heat of the day on an uphill hike, you’re going to want hiking shorts. Patagonia Baggies pictured here on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park.
Cargo shorts reign supreme when it comes to total pocket volume, but each pair of shorts has its own purpose and style that are worth considering. Do you need pockets big enough to cram an entire Happy Meal against the side of your leg? Rarely, if ever– unless, of course, you’re on a short hike with a picky child who wouldn’t dare snack on a PowerBar. Sometimes, though, a small back pocket to store your wallet will be enough.
Used vs. New Hiking Shorts
Finding a quality pair of good hiking shorts can be difficult, but if you’re lucky, you can save good money on a high-end pair.
Inexpensive hiking shorts tend to be worn until they become rags. Your best option for an inexpensive pair of gently-used hiking shorts will be at the bargain bin of an REI Garage Sale. Otherwise, expect to pay a few dollars more at your local thrift store for a discounted pair of pre-owned prAnas, especially if you live in a beach town.
New hiking shorts can be quite expensive, but a well-made pair will last you a long time. If you’re really excited about hunting for a good deal, search for shorts at the end of summer or early fall when retailers are switching over to their cold-weather merchandise. We’re talking about clothing, with new styles announced yearly, meaning that the “old” styles often go on sale once a year too.
How to Choose the Right Hiking Shorts for your Activity?
There are some quality hiking shorts out there that will perform well in just about any outdoor scenario. Our top pick for men, the prAna Stretch Zion Shorts, have the fit, style, pocket space, and quick-drying fabric necessary to make the best of your lower half no matter if you’re backpacking over a mountain range or speed walking to your favorite brewery.
There are situations, however, where you want to make sure you’ve got the right hiking shorts for the job. Long-distance backpackers would fair better in shorts that are more lightweight and less restrictive, like the Patagonia Nine Trails (often referred to as “trail running shorts”), whereas an urban hiker would look and feel like a rockstar in the prAna Brion Short.
Choose the right pair of hiking shorts for your activity.
Using what you’ve learned so far in this guide, you’re already well aware of the different hiking short types available. Utilize that information to plan ahead for events, whether it’s a 60-mile thru-hike (Nine Trails or Quandary) or a lakeside summer party (Baggies or Sandy River). Grab the pair that makes the most sense.
How to Buy Hiking Shorts?
To choose the best hiking shorts, you will want to anticipate the conditions and activities in which you expect you will be wearing your new shorts. Focus your search on function over fashion, for the most part, though with the variety of hiking shorts on the market, there is little reason you would have to settle for an unattractive pair of shorts.