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….these things don’t particularly resonate with most people’s “Things I Want To Deal With” list, and 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.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Prana Zion Convertible
- Fantastic versatility
- Zoic Ether
- Breathable & minimal
- Columbia Silver Ridge
- Lightweight design
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.
5 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
Zoic Ether Cycling Shorts
Breathability seems to be one of Zoic’s strong points, and dozens of reviews from all over the net have talked about how well-ventilated these pants are. That being said, while using the included liner, some have noted that things get a bit hotter pretty quickly, which is slightly disappointing when compared to many of the fantastic, ultra-breathable liners out there on the market today. All told, these shorts are lightweight enough to accompany you through just about any trek, especially without the liner in place.
These shorts have a polyesters/spandex construction which feels light and comfortable on the skin, even during longer hikes or during wet conditions. We found that the material never really got too uncomfortable, but several users did note some chaffing, especially after the 15-mile mark or so. That can almost be forgiven, though, because again, these aren’t designed to be dedicated hiking shorts. Ideally, these would be your go-to pair for a casual jaunt, or a bike ride with a shorter hike to the summit. These shorts are versatile, and for what they are, they’re a very impressive bit of kit.
The dura flex stretch fabric in use here seems to really hold up to wear and tear well, and we couldn’t find any major issues present with these shorts. All of the zipper hardware seems to be of high-quality construction, and the zips themselves don’t show any signs of snagging or catching. Importantly, it looks like the waist adjustment straps are also very high quality, reducing the likelihood that one of these will fail during periods of heavy use. We’ve seen this happen with several other products, so it’s a welcome change to see such attention to detail here with the Ether.
- Lightweight and versatile design
- Included liner is a great, removable addition
- Comfortable fit and materials
- Not ideal for serious hiking scenarios
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
- No standout features or benefits
The North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible
Being a bit heavier in terms of material, the Paramount Peak II’s don’t fair quite as well in comparison to something like the Prana Stretch Zion pants, though they certainly aren’t terrible. We simply feel that these pants are best-suited to moderately cold environments, where the extra heft can really show its worth. Alternatively, you can do what many reviewers seemed keen to do, which is to wear these primarily as shorts, especially if you plan to be exploring in a warmer climate for a long period of time. The heavier material on display here will still be no match for a lighter alternative in blistering conditions, but overall, we don’t feel the added heft is enough to put us off completely.
These pants come in six different waist sizes and three different lengths, so there are quite a few options to choose from to cater to just about every body shape and size. The pants themselves fit a bit on the baggier side, making them less attractive for extreme sports use, but for backpacking and even general travel needs, these pants feel great and natural in use. Admittedly, the 100% Nylon materials used here can’t compete with the stretchier materials used in some of the other choices in this guide, such as the Prana Stretch Zion. All the same, though, these pants still feel great and are an excellent choice for general use.
Because the materials in these pants are a bit heavier and thicker than many of the others in this guide, it really is apparent that The North Face has built them to stand the test of time. They have long been known for their no-nonsense lifetime warranty against defects, as well as their affordable options for various repairs and restorations. Really, though, you might not ever even need to worry about repairs if you don’t plan on really putting these pants to the test, because the materials and construction quality are second to none. The only thing that some reviewers have noted is that the velcro fastenings on pants like this tend to fall off after a period of time, but this issue wasn’t nearly prevalent enough to be a major concern. Overall, these are excellently priced pants that will serve you well for years to come.
- Great set of features included
- Plenty of storage space
- Durable, quality construction
- Too heavy for fast paced use
- Might be too warm for some users
KUHL Renegade Shorts
They are composed out of a combination of highly breathable nylon material and spandex. Even though the breathability feels incredibly good on a warm sunny day, the functionality of these shorts is undeniable. They will keep you cool and comfortable even during your hikes on more demanding terrains. The material is also pretty thin, and easily dryable which makes it perfect for swimming in a lake nearby if you get a sudden urge to cool yourself down. Even though the thin material suggests that it is easily tearing, it is pretty durable and strong fabric.
These shorts are sure to impress in the comfort department, especially if you’re used to heavy duty pants feeling overly “hard” on the skin. They are made from a soft shell fabric that gives the skin a soft feeling. The spandex material adds a certain stretchiness, therefore there is a freedom of movement while wearing them. The Gusseted crotch also features movement without restrictions which is significant if you are hiking some more demanding terrains. The pockets are also very comfortable since you can place anything in them and organize them properly. The only remark we have is about the snap, which is a bit tight. The size also fits perfectly.
The fabric Kuhl shorts are made of is abrasion resistant which proves its durability. It is important to mention that the nylon material used in the manufacturing process is not the standard quality. Instead, Kuhl uses Duralix fabrics with DWR which certainly outperforms the traditional type. The fabric is also water repellent which will provide protection from light unexpected rain.
The additional features include UPF rating which is similar to the SPF rating. The only difference is that the SPF rating is for your skin and the UPF for fabrics only. It will protect you from the sun which makes them perfect for sunny weather and high temperatures.
What makes them perfect for such weather conditions is not only the material, but the design as well. The waistband is specifically designed in order to provide increased wicking properties. It is peached a bit which increases the drying time and the breathability.
They are also very lightweight and the fastening system is fast and easy to use. They have a snap in addition to the internal button which is quite supportive. The length though is specific and it might not work for some people. They are a bit longer than most shorts, but that also means that they provide more sun protection. However, if you prefer shorter designs, you might want to look among our other options.
- A bevy of useful features
- Great looking design and fit
- Clever pocket design
- Great breathability
- Lightweight material
- Tight snap
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 buyers weigh into their 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 in 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 consumer-facing sites such as Amazon.com.
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.