No two hiking trails are similar; even the same hike trail is different the second time you go. That’s why you need the best hiking shorts every time you go hiking because different seasons call for different attire. A pair of good quality hiking shorts comes in very handy when hiking during summer because it provides comfort, freedom of movement and good ventilation. However, hiking shorts should only be worn when hiking well groomed terrains and undemanding terrains where you don’t need protection from sharp cliffs or rough vegetation. Hiking shorts are not much about style, but they give you more space to store some small items as well as protection from the scorching sun.
QUICK ANSWER – The Best Hiking Shorts
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- 1. ExOfficio Camino Shorts
- 2. Arcteryx Perimeter Shorts
- 3. Mountain Hardwear Mesa Short v2
- 4. Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Short
- 5. prAna Stretch Zion Shorts
- 6. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts
- 7. Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Shorts
- 8. Columbia Men’s Permit II Short
- The fabric
- Sun protection (UPF)
- Zip offs
- Running shorts
- Cargo shorts
- Belts or no belts
Hiking shorts are not much about style, but they give you more space to store some small items as well as protection from the scorching sun.
Reviews of the The Best Hiking Shorts
ExOfficio Camino shorts are great hiking shorts, unfortunately, they are not given enough credit. They are durable shorts that are in between cargo shorts and slim fit shorts. These shorts are greatly focused on mobility and durability. They have full inseam gusset that ensures they are not too tight on you and neither is your movement restricted. The only downside to this pair of shorts is that they are 100% nylon which can be quite a bummer at times
One of the best features of ExOfficio Camino shorts is the presence of zippered back pockets. It is easy to get your wallet or whatever tiny items you put in your back pockets. The zippered pockets ensure that you won’t be losing any of your items when you sit or when you have to run or jump. The zips are a saving grace especially if you hate buttoning and unbuttoning back pockets.
Another great quality about ExOfficio Camino shorts is that they have a 30 UPF sun protection meaning your skin is safe from the direct sunlight.
Arcteryx Perimeter Shorts are made from one of the best materials; made with 89% nylon and 11% elastane. They also happen to have some of the best designs. Even though they are made for outdoor activities, these shorts can be used for everyday life because they are quite stylish. The best thing about Arcteryx Perimeter Shorts is that they have quite a number of pockets; two front pockets, two back pockets not to mention a slim zipped pocket on the side.
Arcteryx Perimeter Shorts can be worn to golf tournaments or to a casual event all thanks to its svelte and modern style. These shorts are made from stretchy and durable nylon with patterning that makes it easy to move around. The breathable material allows moisture to evaporate quickly thus regulating the temperature and ensuring that you are comfortable.
If you are a belt person, Arcteryx Perimeter Shorts come with loops. Unfortunately, the shorts do not have internal adjustability which means you might be forced to wear a belt if you get a pair that doesn’t fit you well.
Mountain Hardwear Mesa Short v2 is great for tall and slim hikers who love slim fitting clothes. These shorts are some of the best hiking shorts; they are especially popular with people who hike with backpacks. The flat waistband ensures that there’s little or no chaffing on the waistline. With these shorts, you don’t have to wear a belt which can make chaffing of the skin a little worse.
One of the best features of Mountain Hardwear Mesa Short v2 is the inseam gusset. There’s nothing as annoying as shorts being too tight on the crotch area; it can be quite uncomfortable. With the inseam gusset, it is easy to stretch, bend or make big strides without feeling like someone is tugging at your crotch.
Mountain Hardwear Mesa Short v2 wicking capability and the DWR finish on the material ensures that your shorts dry up quickly when you cross a river. The draining pockets ensure that water drains quickly and the shorts dry just as quick.
Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts are great shorts made from a blend of most nylons. There is also a bit of polyester to add in some softness as well as the wicking capability. The wicking technology is called ‘Omni-Wick’ and combined with other factors; they increase the wicking performance of the shorts.
The best thing about Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts is the exterior belt which is adjustable. This belt is webbing based and it is inbuilt. It is quite slim and small enough not to cause chaffing or pain, especially when hiking with a backpack that has a hip belt.
- Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts features omni-shade UPF 50 which provides maximum protection from the harmful sun rays
- The omni-wick technology pulls the moisture away and keeps warm and dry during warm days
- Has one-zip pocket, side pockets that have a hook and loop closure and the mesh pocket bags are quite convenient
prAna Stretch Zion Shorts are made from a blend of spandex and nylon. While the nylon gives the shorts an abrasion resistance and durability, spandex adds a little stretch to the fabric such that you’ll not have restricted movements.
These shorts have triple stitches which gives them a sturdy finishing. The fabric used to make prAna Stretch Zion Shorts is treated with durable water repellant (DWR) such that it repels water rather than absorb it.
These shorts have 6 pockets; two hand pockets, two side pockets, and two back pockets. The side pockets have been put on the left side of the shorts and they include a big pocket covered with a flap to prevent loss of items. The smaller pocket which is zippered is placed inside the big pocket and it can be used to store very time items that are bound to get lost in case they are placed in other pockets.
Featured in our best climbing shorts article as well!
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts are great for hiking and mountaineering on warm days. These shorts are made from thin and stretchy fabric which is 86% nylon and 14% elastane. This fabric is quite tightly woven thus providing abrasion resistance, durability and sun protection because it has UPF 50 sun protection capability.
The tight weaving ensures that Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts are water and wind resistant. These shorts have belt loops, a zipper or a button fly not to mention a low profile waist which fits right under the backpack strap or the climbing harness.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts have two hand pockets, a zippered side pocket, and two side pockets. There is no doubt that Outdoor Ferrosi are some of the best hiking shorts in the market.
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Shorts are suitable for mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, trekking, and everyday use. These shorts are light in weight and they offer great comfort and even greater freedom to move. What makes these shorts good is the mixture of the fabrics; elastane (9%) and nylon (91 %) which provides awesome breathability and short dry time.
The manufacturer does not provide the UPF rating but the tightly woven fabrics provide enough protection from the damaging rays of the sun.
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Shorts only come with two pockets but fortunately, they are both zippered. The waistline provides great comfort and it has loops for people who can’t survive without a belt. It also comes with a removable belt if one doesn’t like belts.
Most men shorts are quite long and sometimes you wonder why they are called shorts. Columbia Men’s Permit II Shorts live up to the short shorts; they go up to your mid-thigh. They are some of the best hiking shorts especially for long hikes because they don’t keep on rubbing the back of your knees.
They are made of a light fabric with omni-shade and omni-wick that is 100% nylon. These shorts come with 10 pockets which are enough storage for all your hiking needs thus leaving you with only your water bottle in your hands. The fabric has super wicking and sun repellent properties, thus ensuring your skin is cool at all times.
The fabric has omni-shade of up to UPF 30 which provides great protection from the damaging UV rays. Due to the water repellant properties, these shorts take a short time to dry. They have a relaxed fit which ensures comfort when one is hiking, backpacking or even fishing; these shorts are quite multifunctional.
Buying hiking shorts – What do you look for?
Hiking shorts should definitely be very comfortable because it is uncomfortable enough going up a mountain or a hill. Most hiking shorts are made of nylon or polyester. Nylon is durable because of its abrasion resistance as compared to polyester which offers better moisture wicking properties as well as breathability. Both of these materials absorb little moisture which means they dry quite fast. To give these materials some elasticity, spandex is usually added to them. Some of the materials used to make hiking shorts are;
Nylon is quite durable and it has an abrasion resistant characteristic. Other than hiking, nylon shorts are great for bouldering and canyoneering where rough rocks are bound to rub at your clothes. If something rubs on your nylon shorts, it’ll be harder to get to your skin and it is all thanks to the abrasion resistance. Nylon feels like plastic and it holds in sweat and moisture. However, when it is combined with other fibers, it makes a great fabric for making hiking shorts. 100% nylon shorts are great but they are not as great as shorts made of polyester because they are not as breathable.
As compared to nylon, polyester is soft and it has great wicking qualities; it is mostly used in base layer clothing. Polyester can result in different outcomes in terms of texture, performance and feel according to the different polyester weaves. Polyester is a good material but it is better when combined with lycra as it gives the shorts some stretch.
Lycra is not a fabric that is mostly used in making shorts; it becomes more useful when combined with other fabrics like polyester and nylon. When combined with these two fabrics, the shorts get a stretchy feel and the stretchy feeling is recommended for easy movement when hiking.
Cotton is not such a people’s favorite because it takes time to dry up when wet. However, on a hot day, this is the best pair of hiking shorts because they’ll keep you cool.
Some of these shorts have some durable water repellent fabrics such that they repel water instead of absorbing it. The best thing about these DWR treated fabrics is that they don’t add any bulk to the shorts which mean you don’t have to avoid them.
All hiking shorts should have nicely placed and convenient pockets that can store and retrieve hiking accessories in record time. These pockets should be deep or they should have zippers to prevent you from losing your items on your way to and from the peak.
Lightweight hiking shorts are recommended because they are comfortable to wear and they provide better movement freedom as compared to heavier shorts. Most hiking shorts are made of thin and light weighted fabrics. Make sure you choose a lightweight short to ensure that you remain comfortable throughout your hike.
Sun protection (UPF)
The lower part of your body also needs protection from the harmful sun rays; your hiking shorts should offer that protection. Sun protection in garments is measured using ultraviolet protection factor (UPF); it indicates the number of UV rays that can penetrate through the shorts fabric. A fabric UPF rating mainly depends on its thickness, weave, and fiber (cotton, polyester, and nylon etc). For example, a fabric that that has UPF of 50 will allow 1/50 UV radiation which translates to 2% radiation.
The construction, the condition and the treatment of a particular garment also influence the ultraviolet protection factor. Unfortunately, not many manufacturing companies disclose the UPF ratings of the garments they make.
Hiking shorts construction style
What style of hiking shorts are you looking for? Depending on what you are looking for, here are some tips to help you pick the best hiking shorts
Zip offs have been thought to have died in the 90s but they are still very much around. The beauty of these zip offs is that you can turn them into full pants when the weather changes to cold and they can remain shots when the weather is warm. Technically, zip offs are considered pants and not really shorts. The best thing is that you can get them in different colors, use them as pants during winter and change them into shorts when hiking during summer.
Running shorts are best suited for hikers who don’t really care for pockets. These running shorts are light in weight, they breathe well and they don’t restrict your movement. However, for a hiker who loves pockets, this might not be the best pick for them.
Cargo shorts are loved by many hikers because they have quite a number of pockets.These pockets come in handy to carry some tiny items like phones, keys, and other items. However, you need to be careful with what you place in those pockets because they can scratch your legs or bang against your legs which lead to chafing.
These shorts come in handy when hiking for short distances and you have to carry a number of items like tree or animal books, trail maps and maybe tiny snacks like candy.
Belts or no belts
Picking belted shorts or not is all dependent on whether you are carrying a hip belt backpack or not. If your backpack does not have hip belts, then you can pick belted hiking shorts. Belts have been known to cause chaffing on the skin if worn under a backpack strap; therefore, pick belted hiking shorts if your back doesn’t have a hip bone strap.
If you can’t function without a belt, then pick a very thin belt, for example, a webbing belt. Flat belts have little texture which means they’ll cause no injury when worn with a backpack strap.
In conclusion, when buying hiking shorts, you need to research on the terrain you are about to take to get an idea of whether you need long shorts or short shorts. Also, you need to check the UPF ratings of the fabric before you can pick your shorts. Unfortunately, some of these manufacturers do not indicate it.
The best hiking shorts are multifunctional shorts because you can use them for other activities. You can wear them to a golf tournament if you are a golfer, to a casual event on a weekend, or to a fishing expedition with your boys.
Happy hiking guys and remember to stay safe and keep your body hydrated!