Out on the trails, comfort should be one of the most important aspects of your day. Believe it or not, what you wear on a hike can determine the outcome of your entire day. Heavy or uncomfortable clothes will make movements feel restricted and uneasy. Shorts that aren’t water-resistant could feel quite lousy should a sudden downpour occur. There is more to buying clothes for hiking than what meets the eye–especially when it comes to hiking shorts. Summer weather means hot and muggy weather. It can also make for unpredictable weather. This is the time of year when shorts matter most.
Hiking shorts come in a variety of forms. Styles can vary in so many ways–fabric, style, length, and weight all differ between brands. When looking for the best hiking shorts, it is best to be thorough and think about your needs while out on the trail. Below, we’ll help you along by listing the best hiking shorts available on the market today. The goal is to make it easier for you to find a pair that suits your unique hiking needs.
If you’re looking for a universal pair of shorts that will suit any hike, look no further than the PrAna Stretch Zion Shorts. These versatile shorts are built with a cargo appearance, yet boast a totally athletic feel. Adequately sized surplus pockets and adjustable belt make for comfortable hiking with enough space for on-person gear. Abrasion-resistant material can help to protect your shorts from any unwanted damage should you snag a tree or take a spill.
Ventilated inseams and a mesh insert pocket make for enhanced breathability in very hot or muggy weather. Moisture-wicking capabilities will keep you dry even when temperatures soar or conditions take a turn for the worse. Made from a blend of Nylon and Spandex, these shorts don’t just look utilitarian. They could easily be worn out and about even when you’re not planning on going for a hike or hitting the trails. These are a top choice if you’re looking for a pair of shorts that can do it all.
Columbia has long been known as the outdoor brand that churns out great high-quality gear for accessible prices. These hiking shorts are far from the exception. With the Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo short, you can garner the quality of luxury outdoor brands without those over-the-top prices. These prove to be excellent multi-purpose hiking shorts. Made from durable Nylon and crafted with an integrated belt to hold your shorts tight to your body, these lightweight hiking shorts come well-equipped with a generous 6 pockets.
Due to their large size, they can easily be stuffed full of essential gear. Unlike similar shorts, these boast a high UPF rating, or ultraviolet protection factor rating, which means you can wear these shorts on mountain trails or at the beach without the fear of sunburn. A specially designed gusseted enlarged crotch area will provide extra comfort and movability, great for traversing those difficult trails with ease.
If you want a pair of hiking shorts that will prove durable and efficient, the Kuhl Men’s Renegade short might just check all of your boxes. Though they may not be the most streamlined or stylish hiking shorts, they are a total workhorse built to provide excellent carrying capacity. Unlike other hiking shorts, these boast a myriad of pocket options (8 total) that prove durable enough to withstand heavy use and trail snags. Most pockets are large enough to hold a smartphone and several snack bars.
The hiking shorts provide adequate water resistance and can repel water with ease. An integrated soft waist liner reduces the dreaded abrasion too many hikers suffer from when out on the trail, especially when wearing a backpack. Unfortunately, there is no built-in mechanism to expand or tighten the waist while out on a hike. Overall, if you’re looking for a durable pair of shorts with storage options, these could be a great fit.
If you’re looking for a lightweight pair of shorts that will keep you cool and dry in the summer months, look no further than the Patagonia Men’s Nine Trails Shorts. These are comfortable shorts that don’t sacrifice any necessary features in the name of keeping a lighter weight. For distance hikes and trail runs, they should keep you cool in higher temperatures. Quick-dry fabric means you’ll never be dealing with unnecessary moisture while out on a hike or run. Never bulky, these shorts boast an innovative interior liner with zippered pockets and a drawstring. With a thoughtful yet simple design, the recycled polyester fabric proves comfortable and cools up against the skin. While the inseam comes in at just 8”, the fit matches their uses quite well. These would make excellent hiking shorts for a long-distance hike, backpacking adventure, or a hardcore trail run. The Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts check most boxes on every hiker’s list.
Looking for a hiking short that can do it all? The Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Stretch short might be the best hiking shorts for you. The 95%/5% nylon/elastane blend lends itself to total mobility, while the gusseted crotch creates adequate space to suit your stride. A soft, felty interior waistband serves to reduce chafing on the hips while 5-zippered pocket options provide plenty of room for all of your gear. These are a practical and simple pair of shorts that offer excellent water resistance at a far lower price than competitor features.
Unfortunately, they do not have a built-in waist tightening system. However, a simple velcro or fabric belt should do the trick given the low price tag on the shorts themselves. Thes shorts would prove a great match for casual hikes or shorter day hikes. They might not be the best option for backpacking or distance hikes as they are a bit heavier than some available hiking shorts. Overall, these are a well-priced versatile pair of shorts that do not skimp on comfort or quality.
Packable shorts have proved a hiker’s best friend out on the trail for decades. The North Face Men’s Rolling Sun Packable Short proves to be just as comfortable and efficient as those early models seen years ago. Waterproof and moisture-wicking, the unique Dobby Fabric raises face fabric adequately from the skin. This allows for a much quicker dry time than other waterproof shorts. Unlike models discussed above, these packable shorts feature an innovative internal flat drawcord at the waist for an easy-to-adjust fit.
Slash welt hand pockets provide adequate storage without adding any bulk to the shorts themselves. This means they are lightweight and built for quick movability out on the trail. Easily take on switchbacks and tough terrain with total ease. Zip-fly button closure and two back pockets with velcro closure provide all the extras you need in a pair of hiking shorts. What truly makes these some of the best hiking shorts are the packability. The shorts pack easily into a secure-zip stow pocket located on the left thigh. They also have a UPF factor to keep your legs free of sunburn or harmful UV rays.
Marmot knows outdoor hiking shorts as few brands can. Their Marmot Rogue Shorts shine as a top pick for anyone who is seeking a quick-drying short that can take on river crossings or tough terrain. These stretch-nylon shorts are treated with a DWR finish to shed rain and splashes with ease. With an ultraviolet protection factor of 50, you’ll never have to worry about a nasty sunburn while enjoying your hike. Woven with a movement-oriented inseam and a moisture-managing inner waistband, these shorts are built to withstand whatever the elements and you throw their way.
Unlike some lightweight shorts, these boast plenty of pockets, including reinforced hand pockets, cargo pockets, and back pockets with nice snap closure, rather than a velcro closure. You can easily tote all of your necessities without adding much extra bulk. The Marmot Rogue Hiking Shorts also include comfortable stretch knit pockets that move with your body, not against it. This is paramount in staying comfortable during long day hikes or ascents.
Cargo shorts can be great for hiking, so long as bulk is not an issue. They are a great all-purpose hiking short that allows you to store necessary gear without having to lug around extra baggage. However, if you are planning on trail running or distance hiking, you may want to go with streamlined shorts to help keep weight nice and low. Added bulk on the legs can compromise mobility.
Yes, you can wear running shorts for hiking; however, running shorts are best reserved for fastpacking or hiking on hot days when you want the lightest and least restrictive shorts you can find. They can be very comfortable for hiking in hot weather as they allow a bit more air to flow through. As long as you don’t mind that short-shorts feel on the trail, you can wear running shorts for hiking.
Polyester and nylon fabrics tend to be best for hiking shorts as they need to be breathable, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and durable. Therefore, nylon and polyester are the best options. Nylon is slightly more durable and abrasion-resistant than polyester, but polyester offers better moisture-wicking properties and enhanced breathability. Both materials are very quick to dry and absorb little moisture. Sometimes spandex is added to one or the other to add a bit of stretch.
Generally, you’ll want to take a look at weather/trail conditions and go from there. Shorts can give you a greater degree of freedom and tend to be cooler than pants. If you’re going on a low-altitude summer hike or will be hiking somewhere hot/humid, you’ll probably want to hike in shorts.
Pants should be worn if you expect any drop in temperature, will be hiking at a high altitude, or if you expect heavy vegetation along the trail. Narrow trails usually call for pants, as they can keep your legs protected from hazards such as poison ivy or poison oak. Additionally, if you will be hiking at an elevation you’ll want to wear pants due to temperature drops that occur the higher you go.
The best hiking shorts should always be breathable, moisture-wicking, durable, and quick-drying. They should also provide adequate ventilation. When it comes to weight, a good pair of hiking shorts should weigh 10 ounces or less. An internal drawstring is helpful as are cargo pockets to stash extra gear. Additionally, you can benefit from buying shorts that are waterproof as well as those that boast a UPF rating.
Ultimately, what you’ll need in a pair of hiking shorts will come down to the types of trails you tackle and the type of hiking you do. For example, if you are a trail runner, you’ll probably want a lightweight pair of shorter running shorts. If you’re someone who is doing a lot of scrambling or tough transitions, you’ll want minimal hiking shorts that cover more of your legs and boat good stretch. Backpackers will probably want packable shorts that can be layered or taken on/off. Those who do traditional day hikes will likely want cargo shorts for added gear storage.