The Best Hiking Shorts Fully Reviewed
When you think about everything hiking entails, you’d be forgiven for thinking that pants are a requirement. After all, sliding down craggy rock faces, wading through cold mountain streams, getting devoured by nature’s flying monstrosities are not things most people want to do, especially not without the proper protection. However, there are plenty of scenarios where wearing shorts on a hike truly is the best course of action. Shorts are typically worn primarily for ventilation reasons, especially when hiking in dry, hot environments.
These usually have even less moving parts than pants have, making them very minimal and reliable, provided you choose the right pair. In this guide, we’ll be covering the very best hiking shorts from across the industry using reviews and other sources of information.
- Prana Zion Convertible
- Fantastic versatility
- Columbia Silver Ridge
- Lightweight design
- Tru-Spec Men's Tactical
- Water resistant
9 Best Hiking Shorts
Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants
The pants come with a handy tightening waist strap, which we found to be a welcome and easy-to-use addition. Three color choices are on offer; dark khaki (pictured above), charcoal, and mud. We would have liked perhaps a few more color options, but these do the job fairly well.
These pants really impressed with the breathability of the materials used throughout. There are a number of “breathing holes” in the crotch area that does a fair amount to keep things cool, but ultimately, this material is still heavy enough to get toasty on a particularly warm day. Luckily, it’s during these moments that you can simply convert the pants to shorts, giving you the best of both worlds in virtually any situation. There are certainly more breathable options out there, such as the Triple Aught Design Force 10 AC’s below, but overall we felt that the Stretch Zions breathed well in a variety of situations.
These are the most comfortable pants in this guide, full stop. In fact, the comfort of these pants is a large part of why we awarded them our top pick; they really are that great. If there was one element that we found a bit annoying, it’d have to be the seam along the zipper line. While the zipper itself (thankfully) doesn’t touch you, the seam has a bit of a bulge that tends to rub against the thigh/knee area a bit during extended usage. This is by no means annoying enough to be a deal-breaker, but we found it to be enough of a bother to mention. Other than that relatively minor complaint, though, these pants feel absolutely great to wear, with our without the extensions.
The heavy duty fabric in use here really stands on its own, and we found no serious issues with the pants longevity during our research. That being said, it’s worth mentioning that some reviewers have noted a few stitching issues, particularly after prolonged periods of heavy use. Some have even noted stitching issues or loose threads being present out of the box, but these cases seem to be few and far between.
- Versatile convertible pants
- Great fit and comfort
- High-quality zipper pockets
- Convertible pants are not for everyone
- A bit less breathable than we’d like
Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
Zippers are usually more effective and resilient, as velcro tends to fail over time and under periods of heavy use. There are two front pockets, two cargo pockets on each side, and two back pockets, which is pretty standard fare for the most part. There is a belt system with a plastic buckle for adjusting the tightness of the fit, but many reviews have noted that these pants tend to run slim, and as such, this feature isn’t entirely needed. Still, it’s nice to have, even if the execution could have been a bit more eloquent.
These pants are among the lightest that we’ve reviewed in this list, and based on feedback from around the community, this is both the pairs biggest strength and biggest weakness, simultaneously. On the one hand, these pants are able to breathe better than most of the other products in this guide. The lightweight fabric really lends itself to warmer environments, and these pants easily outdid most of the competition in this regard. In the end, you’ll need to decide if the breathability is enough to justify the slightly disappointing feature set and durability that also comes with the Silver Ridge cargo shorts. For many in warm climates, though, the answer might just be a yes.
The 100% nylon materials in use again can’t compete with comfier options available elsewhere, and it shows with the Silver Ridge shorts. The cut is a bit thin, and many reviewers have mentioned that this restricts movement quite a bit on steep inclines. Many have advised for buyers to size up when purchasing, and we agree with this advice. One good thing about these pants is that they come in 11 different sizes, allowing for a wide range of body shapes to find a pair that fits properly. These are still comfortable pants, all told, but compared to what’s available out there, the Columbia shorts simply can’t compete in the same league.
The thin nylon material used in these shorts comes to a head here. These shorts are certainly not fragile, and there are plenty of similar products that are even flimsier. Having said that, we really do not recommend these for activities that might involve any scraping or poking of rocks, trees or brush against the materials. The material also seems to become wrinkled quickly according to some reviewers, which can be a real annoyance when traveling for extended periods of time without daily access to luxuries such as an iron.
- Lightweight and breathable to the max
- Inexpensive overall
- Not as durable as many other options
- Comfort leaves something to be desired
Tru-Spec 24/7 Ripstop Shorts
Being that these are considered tactical shorts, the breathability is average at best. The material itself is quite lightweight, but the DWR coating may impact ventilation a bit. Still, these provide great airflow and will keep you cool and dry.
Being made of polyester and cotton instead of nylon, these shorts are quite comfortable, feeling more like a canvas material. The waistband is elasticized for a good 2” of extra room. Caring for these shorts is easy; they’re machine washable and dryable and don’t require ironing. The waistband features a slider design to eliminate the need for elastic or adjustable tabs for security without compromising on comfort.
The zippers on the fly and pockets are made by YKK, the leader in the zipper industry. The zippers are sturdy and well-designed, and won’t jam or get stuck even after exposure to sand or water. The DWR coating provides robust water resistance; water beads on the surface of the fabric instead of soaking in and will dry very quickly in the event of submersion. Will resist shrinking in the dryer. Ripstop nylon material won’t easily tear or puncture.
Robust DWR coating
Lots of pockets
Long inseam can fit awkwardly on shorter people
Columbia Men's Permit II
Patented Omni-wick moisture management pulls moisture away from your legs, allowing them to remain cool and dry in even the most humid conditions. While they do not have a DWR or similar coating, the fabric is designed to dry quickly in the event it does get wet.
Available in 6” and 10” inseam lengths, and waistbands sizes from 30”-44”, the Columbia Permit II Shorts will fit a wide range of body types, including shorter people or those who simply want a shorter inseam than most men’s shorts offer.
The 100% nylon material is strong and resists tearing, yet the shorts themselves are very lightweight and comfortable. No DWR coating means these will get wet, but the fabric is designed to dry quickly. The fabric in high movement areas such as the seat may start to pill over time.
SPF 30 material
Two inseam options
Gerry Stretch River Short
The leg openings are loose to allow for air movement and ventilation. The rayon and nylon shell is light and provides ideal breathability, especially in warmer or humid weather. While there is no DWR coating, the fabric wicks moisture and dries quickly to keep you cool.
Elastic waistband provides some wiggle room in regards to fit, and the fabric is made to move with you. A gusseted crotch means less bunching up. The pocket material is stretchy, so you can fit items like your wallet in them without it making the fit feel tight or awkward.
Sewn with a combination of serger and double line stitching, this method gives the fabric its stylish appearance while ensuring the fabric won't rip- or even worse, the fabric splitting in the seat. The fabric is also stain-resistant, so between work and play they'll stand up.
SPF 30 fabric
Columbia Women's Saturday Trail Shorts
Mesh pockets allow for additional airflow, as does the slightly relaxed leg openings. The material is similar to the Saturday Trail Pants, being a nylon and elastane blend. As such the breathability is similar to the pants, which is rated very well.
Ripstop nylon material resists tearing while still being soft and comfortable, and the overall build is designed to last a long time. OmniShield material resists stains and light moisture, and they dry quickly in the event that they do get wet. The seams are well-stitched, as are the snaps and fly.
The nylon material is soft against the skin, and the Mid-Rise elasticized waistband provides comfort with a flattering fit. Slightly relaxed fit allows for freedom of movement without bunching up. 5” inseam is a flattering length without being overly short.
CQR Men's Tactical Shorts
While the leg openings provide some airflow, the polyester material is quite thick, and as such doesn’t ventilate as well as other shorts on this list, especially in humid conditions.
Made of ripstop polyester and cotton, these are made to last. They're fade, shrink, and wrinkle resistant as well, so caring for them is easy no matter where you are. Duratex (a material functionally similar to Teflon) will resist water and staining, though this coating may start to come off after a few washes.
Comfort isn’t typically the first thing one thinks about when they hear “tactical shorts,” but these are wonderfully comfortable and serve well for all-day wear. Elastic waist allows for comfort and a better fit, though sizes do run a little on the large side. The front pockets are designed to be moderately deep, and won’t feel awkward when sitting or crouching if you have something in them.
Lots of pockets
Easy to care for
Prana Women's Tess
The woven cotton material provides breathability, as does the lined pockets. The legs are fitted which somewhat limits airflow, but based on our findings this is typically offset by how breathable the fabric itself is.
The stretch canvas material is made of 97% organic cotton and is woven to move with you without binding or tightness. The length is stylish and flattering without being too short. The hem can be rolled up or left down, making work well in most any outfit.
No DWR or similar protection, but the light fabric will dry quickly once wet. While not as durable as nylon, the cotton material resists abrasions and light tearing, and care is easy- they're machine washable. It's suggested to wash them in cold water and dry on low, as some users have reported that the dye can fade quickly in some color variants.
Light, durable cotton
Front and back patch pockets
Can be tight around the thighs
Mountain Khakis Teton Twill Shorts
While these are definitely not the most breathable on the list, they are still a great option for casual hikers. They are rated as a top pair of hiking shorts because of their casual appearance and durability. If you're going on long, hot hikes, these probably won't be the shorts for you. But if you are heading out on the trails, and then out to dinner, definitely your go-to shorts.
Because these shorts are cotton, you know they're soft. You'll feel comfortable during your hike so long as it's not too hot. Because cotton doesn't wick away moisture, you might feel hotter and stickier than you might like. For short, cool hikes these would be perfect.
Because the Mountain Khakis are made from 100% cotton canvas they are pretty heavy but are very tough. They will stand up to dirty and difficult hikes while still leaving you feeling comfortable.
- Don't look like hiking shorts
- Tough and rugged
- Hidden side-seam pocket
- Easily wrinkles
Criteria for Evaluation
When it comes to taking to the trails, having comfortable shorts has some obvious advantages. We look closely at what consumers have to say about a product’s comfort level when determining our scores because we feel that comfort is one of the most common factors that weigh into a buyer’s perception of a product. In fact, it might even be the most important metric for many. Think about it this way: if you aren’t comfortable with a piece of clothing, how likely will you be to enjoy many of the features of that product? Staying comfortable in your gear is an essential part of the hiking and general outdoors experience, so it stands to reason that it’d be one of the most important factors in our review.
For hiking shorts specifically, this isn’t quite as much of an issue, but nonetheless, breathability remains an important factor for thousands of readers in warmer climates. We all know how arduous it can be to deal with overheating issues on the trail, so having a breathable pair of shorts with us can do a tremendous amount for our comfortability and endurance. Since shorts are inherently more breathable than many of the other product types we review here at Gear We Are, we didn’t place a huge amount of weight on this factor. All the same, this remains a vital piece of the puzzle when formulating our buying guides and reviews.
When looking at the features for a particular pair of hiking shorts, we’re really trying to drill down exactly what features might separate a certain product from the “pack.” Features that give the shorts a unique identity that readers will find genuinely useful and be enriching for their daily lives. We look for things like pocket size and amount, security features such as hidden pockets, adjustable belts and drawstrings, and more in order to determine how functional and useful the shorts will be to hikers. We’ve found that our readers love to know how products work in action, not just from a review standpoint, so we always try and frame the feature set in a way that illustrates the real-world benefits of the product in question.
When it comes to hiking gear, having products that last is essential to most folks. After all, this isn’t the cheapest hobby in the world, and many of us are just a little bit addicted to having the latest gear at our disposal at all times. That means that the price of admission for many outdoor addicts is quite high, especially when you factor in the wide variety of gear that most of us own. (and love!) Because of this, we place special emphasis on the quality of construction for all of our various clothes, hiking shorts not least of all. With shorts specifically, we take a look at things like seam and pocket construction, overall materials and fabrics being used, and things like DWR coating and other weatherproofing functionalities.
Other important factors to consider
There are many other small factors that go into reviewing hiking shorts. We like to look at sizing and style options, as these are two areas we’ve found that readers care quite a bit about. We also like to look for products that have some sort of following online, either in outdoor enthusiast circles and forums like Reddit, or on online marketplace sites.
These conversations sparked by fans around the world give us incredible insight into “real-world” experiences with the products we review, and we feel it’s only right to include these experiences into our decision-making process with our various buying guides and reviews.
Q: If I plan on hiking when the weather is cold, do I really need ventilation?
Yes, it’s still a good idea to find pants that will breathe well even when the weather is cold. You’ll be prone to sweating whenever you’re active, and sweat in cold weather can make you feel even colder.
Q: Should I purchase shorts for all seasons, or purchase all-season pants?
That is really up to you. It is nice to get one pair of pants that can do it all, and that can also save you money. However, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people don’t like the feel of convertible pants, and that’s fine.
Q: If I am shopping on a budget, do I need to worry about getting shorts that aren’t as durable?
Not necessarily. We have plenty of products on our list that are affordable as well as durable, such as the Gerry Stretch River Hiking Shorts.
Q: Is it better to buy shorts with a DWR coating on them?
If you plan to be hiking when it might be wet outside, getting something with some kind of water resistance is a good idea, even if it isn’t DWR. Teflon is also a great choice for a water-resistant coating.
Q: Do I need to worry about sun protection and wind protection in my shorts?
That depends on the weather conditions you are likely to encounter and when you plan to hike, but for the most part, we recommend buying something with the added levels of protection to keep you safe.
Q: Do lightweight shorts tend to be less durable?
Sometimes, but not always. That really depends on the material and manufacturer. Nylon is typically one of the most durable types of fabric in shorts, and in most cases is still quite lightweight, whereas cotton is lightweight, but may not be as durable as nylon.