6 Best Hiking Shorts of 2021

Best Hiking Shorts
Image by Canva Photos

Whether you’re new to the world of hiking or you’ve been doing it for years, one thing is true: you’re going to need pants. Specifically (when it comes to warmer weather, that is), you’re going to need a pair of shorts. While that might seem pretty straightforward, the right (or wrong) pair of shorts can make all the difference between having a nice day and being miserable on the trails. So we’ve taken the time to compile a list of the best hiking shorts (for both men and women!), so you can walk the trails in comfort and style.

Our Top Picks: Best Hiking Shorts

Short on time? Here’s a quick overview:

  • Best Overall (and the most eco-friendly!)Patagonia Quandary Short (Women’s). Patagonia is an environmentally-conscious manufacturer dedicated to sustainable production, which means these incredible, lightweight, comfortable, stretchy hiking shorts win both our Best Overall and “Green” Pick awards!
  • Best on a BudgetColumbia Silver Ridge Stretch Short (Women’s). Need comfortable, lightweight, breathable hiking shorts on a budget? Look no further!
  • Best for Backpackers/Trail RunnersPatagonia Nine Trails Short (Women’s). When every ounce counts, check out these incredibly lightweight, moisture-wicking shorts with a super comfortable lining perfect for trail running and backpackers alike.
  • Best Cargo: prAna Stretch Zion ShortCheck out cargo pockets done right with these comfortable cargo hiking shorts featuring mesh pockets and tons of fun color options.
  • Best for Water ActivitiesPatagonia Baggies (Women’s). While most hiking shorts are fine in the occasional unexpected shower, if you’re expecting to encounter more serious water, then you definitely need these hiker-approved board shorts!
  • Best for WomenprAna Olivia ShortsThese shorts are comfortable, great for any activity, and stylish to boot!

1. Patagonia Quandary Shorts

The best hiking shorts overall and most eco-friendly

Patagonia Quandary Shorts

Brand: Patagonia | Inseam: 10″, 12″ | Weight: 7.3 oz | Material: 94% nylon, 6% spandex, DWR Finish | Price: 💰💰

Patagonia is a well-known and respected brand of outdoor gear, and for good reason. Not only do they produce reliably high-quality materials, but they do so with a dedication to sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. Their Quandary Hiking Shorts are a great example of their fine craftsmanship.

Available in four colors and dozens of sizes for both men and women, these versatile shorts are great for everything from hard-and-heavy hiking to casual everyday wear. The material is stretchy but tough-wearing, and both water- and UV-resistant to repel light showers and harmful sun damage. The curved waistband hugs your hips, while the gusseted crotch ensures a full range of motion. Zippered pockets offer plenty of capacity for the essentials.

  • Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty
  • Two inseam lengths to choose from to suit personal comfort
  • Perfect balance of lightweight shorts that aren’t too baggy, too long, or too tight

  • Tight fit for larger body sizes
  • Some experienced immediate tearing on first use

2. Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch Shorts

The best budget hiking shorts

Columbia Silver Ridge

Brand: Columbia | Inseam: 8″, 10″ | Weight: 7.7 oz | Material: 95% Nylon, 5% Elastane | Price: 💰💰

Hiking shorts aren’t exactly priced like the Hope Diamond (at least, not usually), but they can still get pretty far up there. So, if you’re looking for quality hiking shorts that won’t break the bank, check out Columbia’s Silver Ridge Stretch shorts. These machine-washable shorts come with both zippered and hook-and-loop closure pockets, so your necessities are always secure.

The partial elastic waistband and gusset detail ensure optimal comfort and a more custom fit. The Omni-Shade material is rated UPF 50 to protect against the harmful rays of the sun, and is also water-resistant to keep you dry against the rain.

  • Lightweight, cool material is breathable and comfortable
  • Sizing ranges from XS to XXL in both men’s and women’s to suit most hikers
  • In addition to UV protection and water-resistance, these shorts are also stain-repellent

  • Reviewers note that the shorts run small, and recommend ordering a size up
  • The shorts are on the baggier side, where some people prefer them more fitted

3. Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts

The best backpacking and trail running hiking shorts

Patagonia Nine Trails

Brand: Patagonia | Inseam: 8″ | Weight: 6.9 oz | Material: [body] 91% recycled polyester, 9% spandex, DWR treatment, [liner] 88% polyester, 12% spandex | Price: 💰💰

Backpackers know how every single ounce matters, whether it’s in your pack or on your back. Lightweight shorts are a must when you’re talking about long, grueling days on the trail with all your gear weighing on your shoulders. Patagonia’s Nine Trails shorts weigh in at 6.9 ounces, making them some of the lightest-weight shorts available.

Perfect for trail runners as well, these stretchy shorts move with you. The synthetic-blend material wicks away moisture to keep you cool. At the same time, the lining helps fight chafing and reduce any unwanted odors. 

  • Made of 91% recycled polyester
  • Drawstring waistband for customized fit
  • Zippered pockets to keep belongings secure

  • New redesign no longer fit some
  • Some reviewers got two with different materials

4. prAna Stretch Zion Shorts

The best cargo hiking shorts

prAna Stretch Zion

Brand: prAna | Inseam: 10″, 12″ | Weight: 9.1 oz | Material: 97% Nylon, 3% Spandex | Price: 💰💰💰💰

Most hiking shorts are technically “cargo” shorts, since they come with more than just the two standard front pockets that pretty much all shorts and pants have. But prAna’s Stretch Zion Shorts feature special mesh pockets that has them standing out above the rest when it comes to the cargo part. In addition, the material of these shorts is quick-drying, water repellent, and rated UPF 50+ to protect against the sun. With 4-way stretch, you’ll find all-around comfort in every inch.

  • Over a dozen different color options to suit your preference
  • Dozens of sizes to choose from to suit hikers of all shapes and sizes
  • Adjustable waistband belt in addition to standard button and zipper closure for adjustable fit

  • Though prAna does offer women’s shorts, their Stretch Zions are only available in men’s sizes
  • Known prAna pilling issues are currently unresolved causing many reviewers to need to replace sooner than anticipated

5. Patagonia Baggies Shorts

The best water activity hiking shorts

Patagonia Baggies

Brand: Patagonia | Inseam: 5″, 7″ | Weight: 7.8 oz | Material: 100% Nylon, DWR Finish | Price: 💰💰

Most hiking shorts are water-resistant to help keep you dry in case of unexpected showers. But Patagonia’s Baggies are designed specifically for water activities, meaning they’ll stand up to everything from waterboarding to kayaking to hiking in a downpour. These lightweight board shorts are made of quick-drying nylon, so you won’t feel bogged down by soaked material when you exit the water. The mesh pockets are perfect for storing your keys or other small belongings and are designed to drain excess water.

  • Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty
  • Adjustable drawstring waistband for a customized fit
  • XS through XXL sizing over a dozen fun color options to suit everyone’s needs

  • The interior lining isn’t as comfortable as it could be
  • None of the pockets are zippered, and the mesh isn’t structured, which means heavy items can bunch the liner up

6. prAna Olivia Women’s Shorts

The best women’s hiking shorts

prAna Olivia

Brand: prAna | Inseam: 5″, 7″ | Weight: N/A | Material: 97% Nylon, 3% Spandex | Price: 💰💰💰

While most of the shorts on our list are available in both a men’s and a women’s style, lots of hiking shorts are still designed primarily with men in mind. That design doesn’t always translate super well when it comes to the ladies. prAna’s Olivia Women’s Shorts are the perfect solution! With over 12 sizes and 2 different (shorter) inseams to choose from, you’re sure to find a great fit. The quick-dry fabric keeps your skin cool and dry no matter how active you get, and the stretchy construction moves with you for a comfortable fit that won’t restrict your movements. To top it all off, the style is casual but fashionable, so you’ll feel just as comfortable wearing them on the trails as you will with a blouse to the mall. 

  • Quick-dry fabric ensures shorts remain lightweight and breathable at all times
  • Versatile application is perfect for everything from hiking to mountain climbing to running errands
  • Multi-directional stretch conforms to your body for a more comfortable fit without restricting your mobility

  • Some reviewers would prefer a tie in the waist as it may run big on some
  • Others experienced the opposite where the fitting was too small, even when sized up

What to Look For

Woman enjoying one of the Best Hiking Shorts
Image By Gregory Costa / Canva Photos

Hiking shorts might seem like a pretty simple concept. However, they can make all the difference between having a lovely day out on the trails and being miserable all day long. To help you have the former instead of the latter, here are a few different factors you may want to keep in mind as you consider which pair of shorts are best for you: 

1

Fit

Hiking shorts can be baggy, tight-fitting, slim, or loose. What’s best for you depends on your preference – some people like the extra space of looser-fitting clothes, while others prefer the security of a conforming style. Be sure to consider which one works best for you!

2

Material

Stretchy materials are generally the preference when it comes to hiking shorts. It’s also a good idea to pick something water-resistant, and even moisture-wicking to keep your skin cool and dry.

3

Waistband

Just like any pair of pants or shorts, be sure to check out the waistband and make sure it works for you. Some prefer elastic, some like ties, some are even fans of the built-in belt.

4

Breathability

Shorts are already pretty cool, but the material they’re made of can contribute significantly to how hot you get. Moisture-wicking material is a bonus because it’s designed to keep sweat off your skin, which is infinitely more comfortable.

5

Weight

When it comes to clothes, weight isn’t usually something you think about. But hikers and backpackers know that every single ounce matters, even the ones from your shorts! For longer hikes, having lighter-weight shorts will definitely help reduce fatigue.

6

Pockets

Pockets are a great asset in everyday life, but they have both pros and cons when it comes to hiking. The pros are what you’d expect: storage capacity to bring important things with you, like your phone or keys. The cons are that pockets mean more material, and more material means more weight. Bulging pockets can also be a safety hazard when ascending or descending a mountain.

7

Length

Otherwise known as the inseam, the length of your shorts can have a big impact on comfort. Whether you’re worried about thigh chafing or just want as much skin exposed to the cool air as possible, be sure to look at the length of the shorts you pick out.

8

Water Resistance

While you may not have any plans of spending time in the water, mother nature has a mind of her own. Having water-resistant or moisture-wicking shorts can make all the difference in an enjoyable hike and miserable, wet one.

Our Process

For this guide on the best hiking shorts, our team spent 2 hours researching the most popular options from over 6 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about thirty-five user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each pair of hiking shorts. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 6 on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.

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