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Published Mar 29, 2022 12:45 PM

Whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned trekker, it’s vital to wear the proper clothing so you don’t get chafed or soaking wet from sweat. In addition to the right footwear, socks, pants, and shirts, you may want to invest in a comfortable yet functional pair of hiking shorts. While they provide less coverage than pants, they’re a good option if you plan on spending the day in hot and humid conditions. 

Unfortunately, not all hiking shorts are created equal. Some are more durable than others. They also differ in their material construction, UPF protection, moisture-wicking capability, and overall functionality, particularly when it comes to pockets. We did the research so you don’t have to. Check out the best hiking shorts available online and in stores.

Patagonia’s Quandary Shorts are comfortable, lightweight, and breathable, whether you wear them on a hike or on a summer evening out with friends. They’re made largely of nylon with just enough spandex to provide a little bit of stretch that’s not too tight or too loose. There is a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement, and they provide 50+ UPF sun protection. Featuring a classic, regular fit, the waistband is designed to match the shape of a man’s hips, and they stay nicely in place when you’re in motion.

The shorts have a button closure, zip fly, and a drawstring in case you need to adjust the fit without wearing a belt. There are six pockets, including two in the front, two in the back, a zippered one on the right thigh, and a coin pocket. The 10-inch inseam puts these pants a couple of inches above the knees. The fabric is quick drying, and they are durable overall. One downside is that if you don’t use the drawstring it may get bound up in the zipper. The shorts may also be a little snug on some users, so make sure you check the size chart to find the proper fit.

Why We Picked It
  • This is a great pair of lightweight, quick-drying shorts that have just enough stretch to provide a comfortable environment for hiking.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 10 or 12 inches
  • Materials: Nylon and spandex
  • UPF protection: Yes
PROS

Quick-drying

Comfortable

Lightweight

Six pockets

CONS

Only one hip pocket

Pockets could be a little deeper

Drawstring can get caught in zipper

When you need a pair of shorts for activities such as running, hiking, or kayaking, the Patagonia Nine Trails shorts are a great go-to pair. They’re comfortable, breathable, and made of durable materials (a recycled polyester blend). They have a good amount of stretch due to some spandex construction and feature an adjustable waist cord. At just under seven ounces, they are lightweight and dry quickly. They also include a boxer brief liner that isn’t too loose or too tight and has a special antimicrobial treatment to prevent odors from building up.

They provide a good fit and are designed not to chafe. Plus, the shorts have three zippered pockets, so your personal belongings are protected and won’t get lost on the trail. In addition, the shell is water-repellent, and the fabric is easy to compress, making it great for backpacking trips. However, they may run small, so check the sizing before making a purchase. Also, not everyone likes the liner, which may not be supportive enough for some users and has a tendency to tear over time.

Why We Picked It
  • One of the features we really like about these shorts is the three zippered pockets, which work great for items such as cell phones and keys.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 8 inches
  • Materials: Polyester and spandex
  • UPF protection: No
PROS

Comfortable and breathable

Lightweight and packable

Quick-drying

Three zippered pockets

CONS

Inner liner may tear over time

May wear out more quickly compared to some rival options

No UPF protection

Editor’s Choice

The Fjallraven Abisko shorts are great for hiking, trekking, backpacking, and other activities because they allow you to comfortably walk, sit, stretch and crawl due to their flexible and durable nature. They are made of a polyester and cotton blend and feature stretch panels and a gusseted crotch, so your parts won’t get pinched when you’re maneuvering in certain positions. They’re also breathable and provide good ventilation, which is paramount on hot summer hikes.

The hand pockets are nice and deep, and the left-side cargo pocket with a snap is perfect for holding a cell phone. The right side cargo pocket is a little larger and has a mesh divider. One standout feature is that the waistline is higher in the back, which can prevent a backpack from pushing it down when you’re on the trail. Unfortunately, some of the fabric on the back of the waistline may start to pill prematurely. They also weigh 11.15 ounces and aren’t as lightweight as some other options.

Why We Picked It
  • We like the higher waistline in the back of these shorts, which helps when you’re wearing a pack on the trail.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 10 inches
  • Materials: G-1000 original fabric (polyester and cotton)
  • UPF protection: No
PROS

Flexible and durable

Gusseted crotch for freedom of movement

Deep hand pockets

Comfortable

CONS

Fabric on the back waistline may start to pill prematurely

Heavier than some other options

May be too long for some users

Best Lightweight Hiking Shorts

The Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo shorts are lightweight, durable, and made of nylon ripstop, making them less likely to tear if you get them snagged on a branch. The breathable material wicks away moisture, dries quickly, and features a relaxed fit that is comfortable and provides good freedom of movement. These shorts also have UPF 50 protection to block harmful UVA and UVB sun rays and a gusseted crotch for better maneuverability.

The cargo pockets are large, and one has a zipper, which is convenient for carrying a phone, wallet, or keys. Other pockets include hand pockets, back pockets, and they have mesh pocket bags. One issue is that Columbia products are only available in even sizes. If you’re an in-between size, such as 33 or 35, you have to size up or down, and they may not fit properly.

Why We Picked It
  • Mesh pocket bags make these shorts nice and breathable. They’re also lightweight and dry quickly.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 10 or 12 inches
  • Materials: Nylon and polyester
  • UPF protection: Yes
PROS

Constructed of tear-resistant nylon ripstop

Lightweight and comfortable

Gusseted crotch

Sun protection

CONS

Only even sizes available

May be a little tight on big thighs

Items can tear the mesh pockets

Best Hiking Shorts for Women

Eddie Bauer’s Guide Pro Shorts are a comfortable pair of hiking shorts that will fit straight and smoothly on your legs They feature a slightly curvy fit on the hip and thigh, but they’re not baggy like many women’s hiking shorts. They are stretchy and flexible to provide good freedom of movement. They’are also lightweight, moisture-wicking, water-repellent, and quick-drying. Plus, the pockets are functional, unlike what you find in many women’s pants. There are two pockets in the front and two horizontal zip pockets that can accommodate keys, maps, and snacks such as a protein bar.

The shorts sit below the belly button, allowing you to feel comfortable when hitting the trail and climbing boulders. They’re also on the longer side, which provides some leg protection, and are available in several inseams: regular, petite, tall, and plus. The shorts also include UPF 50+ sun protection. One downside is your panty line may show if you don’t wear seamless underwear. Also, the zippered pockets are a little small to accommodate some cell phones.

Why We Picked It
  • Eddie Bauer’s Guide Pro Shorts are comfortable, lightweight, stretchy, and provide good mobility when you’re on the trail and climbing boulders.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 7-inch regular, 6.5-inch petite, 7.5-inch tall, and 7-inch plus
  • Materials: Nylon and spandex
  • UPF protection: Yes
PROS

Comfortable

Flattering, curvy fit

Moisture-wicking and water-repellent

Functional pockets

CONS

May show panty lines

Zippered pockets are too small for some cell phones

Best Cargo Hiking Shorts

If you frequent areas that are rainy or humid, the KUHL Silencr Kargo Shorts are a great option because they dry quickly. They are slim-fitting and not as baggy as traditional cargo shorts, yet they are loose enough to provide good freedom of movement. They are lightweight, comfortable, stretchy, and they don’t wrinkle very easily. The lower-side vertical pocket easily accommodates a smart phone with a large case, such as Otterbox, and there are seven pockets in total.

Other features include a water-repellent coating, UPF 50 sun protection, a gusseted crotch, a soft micro-chamois waistband, and mesh zippered pockets for airflow. Overall, they’re tough and can handle a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking. However, the front button may come undone while you’re wearing them, which can be a bit of a hassle. You also may need to size up slightly for a more comfortable fit.

Why We Picked It
  • They’re less baggy than traditional cargo shorts yet are still flexible, stretchy, and a good option for hot, humid hikes.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 10.5 inches
  • Materials: Polyester
  • UPF protection: Yes
PROS

Quick-drying

Comfortable

Lightweight and stretchy

7 pockets

CONS

Button may easily come undone

Sizing may be slightly off

Best Urban Hiking Shorts for Men

If you want shorts that look as good as they feel, this pair from prAna is a good option. They provide good mobility and are not too baggy. The cargo pocket is large enough for a cell phone or wallet, and features a hidden zipper that can be opened on the top or side, which is useful. For breathability, the pockets are mesh-lined, and there’s also a ventilated inseam gusset. The shorts are made of durable, moisture-wicking, blended nylon with four-way stretch. They’re also rated UPF 50+ to prevent damage from the sun. In addition, they dry quickly. Unfortunately, the waistband isn’t particularly stretchy, but you can tighten the shorts with the built-in belt. However, they are true to size for most people.

Why We Picked It
  • These shorts are available in a wide range of colors and look as good as they feel.
Product Specs
  • Inseam: 10 inches
  • Materials: Nylon and elastane
  • UPF protection: Yes
PROS

Good mobility

Great pockets

Durable

Moisture-wicking

CONS

Waistband doesn’t stretch

Why you should trust us

I spent my childhood near the Adirondacks Mountains in upstate New York, so outdoor activities are in my blood. One of the hardest decisions I have to make on a beautiful sunny day is whether to hike a local trail, take a walk on the beach, or ride my Indian Scout. I understand the importance of comfortable and functional clothing when exploring the woods, spending the day on the open road, or completing a HIIT/strength training workout (which I do six days a week). 

As a seasoned buying guide writer, I spend a lot of time researching products and reading user reviews to supplement the experience I have with fitness equipment, motorcycle accessories, and outdoor gear. That way, I can provide the best, most informed information for readers like you. 

Key features of hiking shorts 

Material

This is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pair of hiking shorts. This article of clothing can be made of several types of materials, including cotton, nylon, polyester, and microfiber. While cotton is comfortable and breathable, it’s not ideal for warmer days because it’s not moisture-wicking, and the last thing you want is to sweat a lot and spend your day in damp shorts. Items with a cotton blend are a better option and tend to be more breathable, so look for products that combine cotton with polyester, nylon, or other materials because they are more likely to keep you dry.

Comfort

When you’re on the trail, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Ideally, you want shorts that provide freedom of movement and don’t bunch up and cause discomfort and chafing. The level of comfort is based on the material of the shorts as well as the size and cut of the shorts. Hiking shorts come in different lengths, depending on where you like the cuff to rest on your thighs. Make sure they aren’t too tight or too loose, or you will either be sucking your stomach in or cranking down your belt to keep them on. They should also not absorb your sweat and make you feel damp. 

Ventilation

Ventilation is important in hiking shorts because it allows heat to leave the body. In addition, the more ventilated the shorts are, the easier it will be for sweat to evaporate. In shorts, this is often achieved through mesh-lined pockets. When it comes to breathability, it’s often related to the material’s weight and density. 

Stretch

Some brands of hiking shorts have more stretch than others. They allow you to comfortably walk on rugged or hilly terrain without making your legs feel constricted. If you embark on more rigorous trails with high terrain, you want comfortable hiking shorts that permit a good range of movement when you climb over boulders or navigate steep hills. Hiking shorts with some percentage of spandex are a good option because the material is breathable and allows you to comfortably hike a variety of trails without the material bunching up and preventing your legs from freely moving without feeling constricted. 

Pockets

If you don’t carry a backpack or want quick access to items such as a cell phone, pockets are fairly important when it comes to hiking shorts. You want pockets that are deep enough and wide enough to hold your belongings. Avoid clothing that has short and narrow pockets because they won’t be able to hold a lot of gear or hold it comfortably. The position of the pockets is also important. It can be uncomfortable to carry heavier items such as a wallet or cellphone in some pockets if they impede movement due to their location. 

Adjustable waistband

Shorts and pants typically include button or drawstring closures. Button closures with zippers are generally less comfortable because they’re not adjustable. If you choose shorts with a button, you must choose a pair that fits you just right because you won’t be able to loosen them up. Of course, you can always choose a pair that’s slightly loose and add a belt, but then you must make sure the belt is comfortable and not too tight. A drawstring, on the other hand, lets you adjust the waistband based on your body’s size and shape. 

UPF protection

The best way to ward off skin cancer besides staying out of the sun is by slathering on sunscreen and/or wearing clothing with sunscreen protection. The good news is that many brands of hiking shorts include UPF protection that prevents damaging ultraviolet rays from harming your skin. It doesn’t matter if you are an occasional hiker or an avid one, it’s a good idea to make sure your skin is covered properly. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, fabric with UPF 50 protection blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays. Darker colors repel damaging rays better than lighter ones. Densely woven fabric is also more protective as is looser-fitting material.

Weather resistance

Some shorts are better at repelling water than others. They are designed with fabric that’s meant to offer a particular degree of water resistance, depending on how much precipitation you encounter. The thickness and weight of the fabric play a role. Also, check to see if the shorts are fast-drying. Some shorts will stay wet for longer periods of time due to their construction and materials.

Benefits of hiking shorts

Hiking shorts have certain characteristics that make them better designed for the woods compared to other types of shorts. There are many reasons why hiking shorts are better than, say, gym shorts, if you’re planning on hitting the trail. This includes their comfort level, durability, sun protection, and versatility.

Comfort

The right clothing can make a huge difference when it comes to your comfort level while hiking. The wrong boots, the wrong types of layers, and the wrong shorts can turn a potentially invigorating adventure into a miserable one. While hiking-specific shorts may be more expensive than alternatives, such as cargo shorts, the price you pay will be worth it. The best hiking shorts will fit properly, have features such as sun protection and multiple pockets, and will be breathable and moisture-wicking so your sweat doesn’t make them too damp. They will also provide freedom of movement as you navigate the trail.

Prevent chafing

Friction, moisture, and the wrong fabric can cause chafing. Since you move your legs a lot when you’re hiking, and you can also sweat, chafing can occur, particularly if you’re wearing the wrong hiking shorts. Your skin, particularly in the thigh and groin areas, can start to burn and feel very uncomfortable. It can also turn into a rash and even swell or bleed if it’s not attended to properly. The best hiking shorts are designed to minimize and even prevent chafing. 

Durability

Basic men’s and women’s shorts are designed for different activities. They won’t necessarily stand up to the rigors of the trail. The best hiking shorts are constructed of durable materials that are able to withstand the dirt and grime you may encounter on your outdoor adventure. They are typically made of stronger materials, so they’re less likely to snag on a tree branch, for example. Some brands are even water-resistant, so you’ll be a little more comfortable if it’s wet outside or you come across some light rain. Hiking shorts are more robust to handle the elements compared to many other types of shorts.

Stay cool

While many hikers prefer pants because they provide more coverage than shorts, sometimes it’s simply too hot to wear them. When it’s extremely hot outside, hiking shorts provide much more air flow and keep your legs and other areas drier than pants. You can wear them throughout the day, but they are particularly comfortable when the sun is at its peak and beating down at you through the trees. 

Lightweight

If you’re an ultralight hiker, you want to do whatever you can to keep the weight off. Hiking shorts will naturally weigh less than comparable hiking pants because they consist of less material. If you like to pack light and hike light, shorts are a great way to lessen the load.

Versatility

One of the best things about hiking shorts is that you don’t have to relegate them to the trail. You can wear them for other activities as well. Most hiking shorts are designed so you can wear them to your child’s soccer game, for a grocery run, or on a day out with friends. They are versatile enough to dress up or dress down, depending on the occasion. 

Pricing considerations for hiking shorts

Budget

It’s possible to find hiking shorts for under $50, but you may have to do some research to find a good pair. These shorts should provide adequate coverage and protection for a warm-weather day hike, but they may not include features such as UPF protection. They may also not be as durable as some higher-end options. Some may also be considered all-around shorts instead of shorts designed specifically for the trail.

Mid-range

The majority of hiking shorts fall within the $50 to $75 range. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to get a reliable pair of shorts that are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and comfortable to wear on a day hike or a multiple-day adventure. You can easily find shorts designed specifically for hiking, so they include features like multiple pockets and UPF protection.

Premium

Options such as the Fjallraven Abisko Shorts cost upwards of $100 or more. You don’t necessarily get better performance by paying a little extra. Fjallraven is a Swedish company known for its high-end outdoor gear, so you’re paying for the brand name. Plus, the company produces high-quality clothing and gear, which costs a premium. However, hiking shorts from brands like this aren’t going to make you a more efficient hiker compared to someone who wears slightly less expensive clothing. Mid-range and premium shorts typically share similar features.

How we chose our top picks

Since comfort, function, and moisture-wicking are critical when choosing a pair of hiking shorts, we started there. But we also considered several other features, such as UPF protection, water repellency, and overall durability. Fit is vital when choosing clothing for hiking, trekking, and backpacking adventures, so we made sure to choose products that aren’t too snug or too loose and provide good freedom of movement, whether you’re walking on flat terrain or climbing boulders. Since we couldn’t get our hands on these hiking shorts for a full-on review, we looked at what others had to say about them. We examined trends and found the hiking shorts in this list rose to the top due to their various features.

FAQs about hiking shots

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What should you not wear while hiking?

A: Avoid tight pants, leggings, or other pants or shorts that stick to your skin. Jeans and thick fabric is also a bad idea, as is clothing that is 100 percent cotton or silk. 

Q: Is it better to hike in pants or shorts?

A: Shorts are fine if you’re planning a day hike in warm weather on a trail that’s rated easy to moderately difficult. However, shorts provide less protection on rugged trails, in inclement weather, and on longer hikes in which the conditions are more challenging or less predictable. 

Q: Why do thru-hikers wear shorts?

A: Some hikers prefer to wear shorts because they are cooler and provide more mobility than pants. 

Q: How do you keep ticks off when hiking?

A: One way to avoid ticks is to wear insect repellent. You can also spray your clothing and gear with the insecticide permethrin. If you wear light-colored clothing, ticks will also be easier to spot so you can remove them.

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