The 12 Best Hiking Shorts of 2019

Hiking shorts are the underrated all-stars of hiking gear. The best hiking shorts kick sweat and chafe to the curb, provide functional pockets for your essentials, and give your derriere a sporty sense of style.

The best hiking shorts can be seen gracing the backsides of outdoors-folk from the trailhead to the taproom. They’re one of the most versatile pieces of gear in your outdoor arsenal, and they ought to be one of the most scrutinized items on retail shelves.

That’s why we’ve filtered through the best hiking shorts on the market today and detailed them for you below. Remove thigh chafe from your memory by researching and selecting the perfect hiking shorts for your needs. Keep on reading to see our top picks and important information that will help you choose your next pair.

Quick Answer: The Top 8 Best Hiking Shorts

  1. Patagonia Quandary Shorts
  2. prAna Stretch Zion Short
  3. Columbia Sandy River Shorts
  4. Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts
  5. Patagonia Baggies
  6. Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts
  7. prAna Brion Short
  8. prAna Mojo Shorts

The 12 Best Hiking Shorts

The Best Lightweight Hiking Shorts: Patagonia Quandary Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 patagonia quandary shorts

The Patagonia Quandry Shorts are a classic pair of stylish cargo hiking shorts. Similar to the prAna Stretch Zion and Columbia Silver Ridge, the Quandry shorts are do-it-all protection for your legs while hiking, backpacking, walking, and just hanging out. They are also cut down from the Quandary Pants, a premier hiking pant from Patagonia.

The Quandry Shorts utilize stretch nylon and spandex to create a very comfortable, flexible fabric that moves as you move. They have belt loops and a button and zipper closure like normal shorts, and come in three ranges of inseam for men (8-, 10-, and 12-inch), and in 5-inch inseam for women. These shorts (as are most cargo shorts) are all about the pockets: two front hand pockets, two back drop-in pockets a zippered thigh pocket, and a small coin pocket allows you to store items in multiple places, perfect for hiking. The women’s version has just four pockets, with a single zippered back pocket for secure storage.

Overall these shorts are slim fit, very active, provide sun protection and dry quickly when wet, all while weighing well under 10 ounces. If you want a premier hiking short of the cargo variety, and want something lighter than the Stretch Zion and higher quality than the Silver Ridge, the Quandary are for you!

See Women's Patagonia Quandary Shorts See Men's Patagonia Quandary Shorts

The Best Hiking Shorts for Men: prAna Stretch Zion Short

best hiking shorts 2019 prana stretch zion shorts

The prAna Zion Shorts are the high-end iconic hiking short. They’re made of incredibly abrasion-resistant fabric, known as Stretch Zion, which can take a beating against rock faces, gravel, thorny trees, and beside the campfire. The fabric also dries relatively quickly, and stretches incredibly well.

The Stretch Zion shorts have five pockets, four of which are fairly standard front and back hand pockets, and a hook-and-loop closure cargo pocket. This allows easy storage, but not quite as much as other cargo shorts on this list. The Stretch Zion are the more hiking-oriented version of the Brion Short, and compare well to the Patagonia Quandary and Columbia Silver Ridge. They’re heavier than Quandary and more durable, and better overall than the Silver Ridge.

If you want the premium cargo hiking short, get the prAna Stretch Zion. They are ranked number two on this list because there’s no direct women’s counterpart. A similar women’s hiking short from prAna is the Olivia.

See Men's prAna Stretch Zion Short

The Best Hiking Shorts for Women: Columbia Sandy River Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 columbia sandy river shorts

The Columbia Sandy River shorts are very comfortable quick-dry shorts made for women. They are casual, can be worn in the backcountry, around camp, at the beach, or even around the house.

Pretty much a universal-style hiking short that is easy on the features, with just an elastic waistband, one zippered back pocket that has a drainage hole, and two open hand pockets. They’re quite lightweight and airy, meaning perfect warm-weather hiking pants, and dry quickly, meaning you can dunk in the river and keep on moving.

If you need affordable quick dry hiking shorts that are often on sale, the Sandy River shorts are an easy choice. There’s no directly comparable men’s model, but the Washed Out Short is similar if you want to stay with Columbia.

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The Columbia Sandy River Shorts!
Columbia Sandy River Shorts Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Dry Time
  • Breathability
4.6

Summary

Simple, comfortable and functional, the Columbia Sandy River Shorts are multi-use for days spent outside, inside and everywhere in-between.

Read Full Review See Women's Columbia Sandy River Shorts

The Best Cargo Hiking Shorts: Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 columbia silver ridge shorts

The Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts are probably what you think of when the words “cargo shorts” are uttered. They come in neutral colors, are equipped with five pockets that each have decent space to hold any number of objects, are made with synthetic quick-drying material, and also come with a belt.

The Silver Ridge are the go-to moderately priced hiking shorts in the outdoor world and work well for backpacking, hiking, car camping, and if you’re fine wearing cargo shorts around internationally (style!), then abroad as well. The Silver Ridge are so popular because they’re often on sale, fit well, have models for all genders with many sizes, and aren’t overly baggy while still providing plenty of casualness. There’s one zippered pocket if you need things super secure and hook-and-loop closures to store other items, and they have sun protection built right in.

If you’re looking for a classic cargo hiking short, start with the Columba Silver Ridge shorts.

See Women's Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts See Men's Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts

The Best Hiking Shorts for Water Sports: Patagonia Baggies

best hiking shorts 2019 patagonia baggies

The Patagonia Baggies are iconic, and fit rather loosely (but exceedingly well) into this guide for the best hiking shorts. Are they the best hiking shorts for hard treks? No. But they do a simply amazing job as the all-purpose short, which can be worn in water, on the trail, at home, and in town. We wouldn’t recommend wearing it to work, unless you work outdoors and are ready to relax.

The Baggies are almost board shorts, they’re almost swim trunks, and they’re almost quick-dry paddling shorts. They perform in all of these activities, have a loose and casual fit, and breathe exceptionally well. The material is surprisingly durable, and there are plenty of fun prints (or basic colors) to suit your style. They’re also bluesign approved and Fair Trade Certified sewn, so you know the quality is excellent.

The Patagonia Baggies are great for anyone who wants a multi-purpose hiking short that can be used across many activities. They’re offered in two different seam-lengths, all genders, and with plenty of color options.

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Read the full Patagonia Baggies review!
Patagonia Baggies Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Dry Time
  • Breathability
4.5

Summary

The Patagonia Baggies thrive in the “chill” department, whether that chill is hiking hard uphill, kayaking, or literally chilling around camp. They are no-fuss, good-looking, surprisingly quick-drying shorts that you can wear for days on end.

Read Full Review See Women's Brand Patagonia Baggies See Men's Brand Patagonia Baggies

The Best Hiking Shorts for Backpackers and Trail Runners: Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 patagonia nine trails shorts

The Patagonia Nine Trails are a bit of an outlier on this list, mostly because they’re more commonly referred to as “trail running shorts” than “hiking shorts”. But we know that most backpackers actually use trail shorts when heading into the backcountry, as do many day hikers. The Patagonia Nine Trails are some of the best trail shorts around and offer full zippered pockets, a feature that makes them good for both hiking and running.

They also have a built-in boxer brief so you can go underwear-less if you want — another weight saving tactic for ultralight backpackers. The Nine Trails are very light, dry out from moisture like no other, and pack down to almost nothing when not in use. The materials used are high quality and environmentally friendly, and they have a lifetime warranty as well.

If you’re looking for lighter, faster, more streamlined hiking shorts, the Nine Trails may be a good option. They’re offered for all genders, but the women’s version has only one zippered pocket instead of the men’s three.

See Women's Brand Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts See Men's Brand Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts

The Best Urban Hiking Shorts for Men: prAna Brion Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 prana brion shorts

The prAna Brion Shorts are an excellent hybrid hiking short that work equally well for city use and trail use. The Brion uses the legendary Stretch Zion fabric, made uber popular by the Stretch Zion Hiking Pants — it is crazy tough, super stretchy, repels water, and lets your body breathe as you move. In the realm of fabrics, Stretch Zion is one of the best out there, and has been described by members of our team as “apocalypse surviving”.

The Brion Shorts are the more urban-oriented line from prAna (as opposed to the Stretch Zion, also in this list). This means there are four open pockets with mesh interiors, a standard button and zipper closure, and standard belt loops. They’re just between slim and standard fit, and are tailored to look good while still being a bit outdoorsy.

If you want some of the best material around in an urban hiking short that can perform double duty on road trips, car camps, and most hikes (but not backpacking), the Brion Shorts are a fantastic (if expensive) option. The women’s version of the Brion Short are the Olivia, and map closely, but not exactly.

See Men's Brand prAna Brion Shorts

The Best Relaxed Hiking Shorts for Yoga and Climbing: prAna Mojo Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 prana mojo shorts

The prAna Mojo Shorts are another unique pair of shorts. Initially built for yoga, they were quickly adopted by climbers, and are now used for all sorts of activities, including hiking, paddling, beach-days, summer city walks, and everything in between.

The Mojo shorts are made of 100% recycled polyester, which is quick drying, lightweight, stretchy, and incredibly comfy. This comfort factor is enhanced by the large, plush elastic waistband, which makes the Mojo stand out from other shorts. It fits well to your body (though runs a tad small overall) and provides great mobility. The Mojo shorts have 50+ SPF rating built in, are easy to slip on and off, and have three basic pockets for storage.

prAna only offers these in men’s, and there’s no identical women’s counterpart, which is a shame. That said, they’re pretty unisex in design, and if ordered in the right size could fit anyone.

Prana-Mojo-Shorts-review-swimming
The prAna Mojo shorts!
prAna Mojo Shorts Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Dry Time
  • Breathability
4.1

Summary

If old-fashioned hiking shorts have you feeling like you lost your mojo, look no further than the prAna Mojo Shorts! Durable, lightweight, and ready for the crag or the couch, the prAna Mojo Shorts are the multi-sport athlete’s dream.

Read Full Review See Men's prAna Mojo Shorts

The Best Casual Hiking Shorts for Women: The North Face Aphrodite Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 the north face aphrodite shorts

The North Face Aphrodite shorts are made only for women, and as such are a perfectly balanced mix of casual, hiking, and stretching legwear. With a large elastic band waist and a drawcord the Aphrodite Shorts slip on and off easily and comfortably. The shorts have a 3.5-inch inseam, so they offer some protection but are not overly bulky or droopy.

There are two easy-access vertical hand pockets and a small stealth cargo snap pocket for storing keys or basic items, and that’s about it. Touted for their comfort, stretchiness, and low weight, the Aphrodite shorts work well for casual walks, hikes, and exercise sessions.

While we don’t think they’re the best for backpacking due to a lack of quick-drying ability, for nearly everything else they’re excellent, and tailored well.

See Women's The North Face Aphrodite Shorts

The Best Rugged Hiking Shorts for Women: prAna Olivia Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 prana olivia shorts

The prAna Olivia Shorts round out our love of the legendary “Stretch Zion” fabric, which is used in three products on this list. The Olivia shorts are women-specific, and strike a good balance between the two men’s versions we have on this list — the prAna Brion and Stretch Zion.

The Olivia shorts can be worn in cities no problem, but can also be taken on the trail. They excel at bouldering, and due to the super tough yet super stretchy fabric, they will survive any scrapes against rock. They’re fairly lightweight and fitted well, making them an excellent pair of shorts for many activities.

See Women's prAna Olivia Shorts

The Best Premium Hiking Shorts: Arc’teryx Palisade Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 arcteryx palisade shorts

The Arc’teryx Palisade Shorts, in line with most Arc’teryx products, are some of the most expensive and high-quality leg-wear you can buy. While they’re excellent, the near doubled cost compared to other high-end shorts on this list isn’t warranted.

With that big caveat in mind, the Palisade Shorts come from the very popular Palisade Pants, Arc’teryx’s excellent set of full-on hiking pants. The Palisade Shorts use Arc’teryx’s highly breathable, stretchy, and lightweight TerraTex fabric. They’re also quite durable. The highlights of the Palisade Shorts are the number of zippers — five in total — and the included belt, which is unique and sturdy.

If you love Arc’teryx, are looking to pair it with other gear from them, or just want a very high-end pair of shorts, look here. Otherwise, the other premium shorts on this list will get the job done well.

See Men's Arc'teryx Palisade Shorts

The Best Budget Cargo Hiking Shorts: Gerry Stretch River Shorts

best hiking shorts 2019 gerry stretch river shorts

In the quest for the best hiking shorts, the Gerry Stretch River Shorts are a good go-to budget option if you’re cruising Amazon. They use decent materials, have pockets in the right places, and look the part for classic hiking cargo shorts. They’re often on sale, and have thousands of reviews on Amazon. This doesn’t mean they’re going to outperform many of the shorts on this list, but they’ll more than get the job done.

See Men's Gerry Stretch River Shorts

Hiking Shorts Comparison Table

Best Hiking Shorts MSRP Weight Type See Shorts
Patagonia Quandary Shorts $69 7.2 oz. Cargo Stretch Men’s, Women’s
prAna Stretch Zion Short $69 10.4 oz. Cargo Stretch Men’s
Columbia Sandy River Shorts $24.99 4.13 oz. Casual Wear Women’s
Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts $45 10.4 oz. Cargo Men’s, Women’s
Patagonia Baggies $55 7.8 oz. Casual Water Men’s, Women’s
Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts $65 6.4 oz. Trail Men’s, Women’s
prAna Brion Shorts $69 9 oz. Urban Stretch Men’s
prAna Mojo Shorts $50 Not Listed Casual Stretch Men’s
The North Face Aphrodie Shorts $40 5 oz. Casual Stretch Women’s
prAna Olivia Shorts $59 Not Listed Cargo Stretch Women’s
Arc’teryx Palisade Shorts $129 7.9 oz. Cargo Stretch Men’s
Gerry Stretch River Shorts $24.99 Not Listed Cargo Stretch Men’s

Hiking Shorts Features

Hiking Shorts vs. Hiking Pants

We’ve found it surprising that there are more people looking for hiking pants than hiking shorts. Sure, pants cover more of you, but for most backpackers shorts are actually a lot more practical.

Hiking shorts can be more beneficial than hiking pants in a number of ways. Hot weather hiking is the most obvious scenario where hiking shorts rule. In the extreme heat of summer, hiking shorts provide excellent ventilation that will keep your legs and nether regions drier than any pair of pants ever could. This includes most mornings, afternoons, and evenings, especially if you tend to trek through the hottest part of the day.

Patagonia-Baggies-review-channel-islands-santa-cruz-top-of-hike
During the heat of the day on an uphill hike, you’re going to want hiking shorts. Patagonia Baggies pictured here on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park.

Even when out venturing in more mild conditions, an astute hiker prefers to wear hiking shorts, knowing that they’re bound to work up a sweat as they hike. A cool, airy pair of shorts will dry out fast and keep the risk of chafe to a minimum. Just add a few-ounce pair of wind pants (or a skort) to your emergency gear, and you’ll be able to cover up if necessary.

Ultralight-minded hikers will make sure to note that hiking shorts weigh less than pants. When ounces matter, so does the length of your pantaloons. Save weight by showing some shin.

Hiking pants, on the other hand, do have their uses. When the weather turns brisk, or when the hordes of mosquitoes decide to make an appearance, hiking pants become the far better alternative. We’ve found the best case for pants is in the depths of winter, or if you plan for a lot of bushwhacking. Bar those scenarios, hiking shorts should be your legs’ new best friend.

Pro Tip: Nothing beats a good hiker tan. Short shorts, long socks, and dark pair of sunglasses will leave your skin burned in all the right places. Let others see that you’ve earned your outdoor stripes!

Choose the Right Hiking Shorts for your Activity

There are some quality hiking shorts out there that will perform well in just about any outdoor scenario. Our top pick for men, the prAna Stretch Zion Shorts, have the fit, style, pocket space, and quick-drying fabric necessary to make the best of your lower half no matter if you’re backpacking over a mountain range or speed walking to your favorite brewery.

There are situations, however, where you want to make sure you’ve got the right hiking shorts for the job. Long-distance backpackers would fair better in shorts that are more lightweight and less restrictive like the Patagonia Nine Trails (often referred to as “trail running shorts”), whereas an urban hiker would look and feel like a rockstar in the prAna Brion Short.

Prana-Mojo-Shorts-review-backpacking
Choose the right pair of hiking shorts for your activity.

Using what you’ve learned so far in this guide, you’re already well aware of the different hiking short types available. Utilize that information to plan ahead for events, whether it’s a 60-mile thru-hike (Nine Trails or Quandary) or a lakeside summer party (Baggies or Sandy River). Grab the pair that makes the most sense.

You can also choose the minimal route — get a single pair of shorts that function decently (but not perfectly) for nearly every scenario. If this is how you roll, we tend to like the Patagonia Quandary Shorts. They’re offered for all genders, in different lengths, have durable yet quick drying material, and get you out of most environments.

Pockets!

Cargo shorts reign supreme when it comes to total pocket volume, but each pair of shorts has their own purpose and style that are worth considering. Do you need pockets big enough to cram an entire Happy Meal against the side of your leg? Rarely, if ever– unless, of course, you’re on a short hike with a picky child who wouldn’t dare snack on a PowerBar. Sometimes, though, a small back pocket to store your wallet will be enough.

Columbia-Sandy--River-Shorts-review-mesh-lined-pockets
The Columbia Sandy River Shorts have meshed-lined pockets for breathability and easy play in the water. Cargo shorts typically have stretchy-backed pockets that aren’t mesh, allowing some breathability, lots of storage, and a bit more durability. To each their own.

Different styles of shorts are equipped with different pocket types. Front or back, snapped or zipped, mesh or cloth — it all depends on the intended purpose of the shorts.

Figure out what you’re going to need to carry on your person, if anything, and leave the rest in your pack or at home. It’s the only way to know what your pocket needs are going to be.

How to Buy Hiking Shorts

To choose the best hiking shorts you will want to anticipate the conditions and activities in which you expect you will be wearing your new shorts. Focus your search on function over fashion, for the most part, though with the variety of hiking shorts on the market there is little reason you would have to settle for an unattractive pair of shorts.

Buying Hiking Shorts Online vs Retail Stores

Unless you’re a stickler for trying on clothes in person, online shopping is a perfectly reasonable way to find your next pair of hiking shorts.

Generally, the only measurement you’re likely to be concerned with is waist size. Like standard shorts and pants, some hiking shorts come in a range of standard waist measurements. If you’re concerned about your dimensions, it may be best to visit a store to try on differently sized shorts, but it is pertinent to note that the majority of hiking shorts have more stretch at the waistband than your typical blue jeans. You should be able to find a pair online that fits you well.

Many hiking shorts forego strict measurements, instead offering elastic or drawcord waistbands that are available in more broad Small/Medium/Large sizes. Length from waistband to hem will also vary, so be sure to find shorts in a length that appropriately suits your tastes.

The only other measurement worth looking at is the inseam. Do you like short-shorts and roasted thighs or the board-short look? Different models have a few ranges of sizes, which you could also measure, but it’s easier to try on a general size in-store and then extrapolate to online shopping if that’s your preferred shopping method.

Used vs. New Hiking Shorts

Finding a quality pair of good hiking shorts can be difficult, but, if you’re lucky, you can save good money on a high-end pair.

Inexpensive hiking shorts tend to be worn until they become rags. You’re best option for an inexpensive pair of gently-used hiking shorts will be at the bargain bin of an REI Garage Sale. Otherwise, expect to pay a few dollars more at your local thrift store for a discounted pair of pre-owned prAnas, especially if you live in a beach town.

New hiking shorts can be quite expensive, but a well-made pair will last you a long time. If you’re really excited about hunting for a good deal, search for shorts at the end of summer or early fall when retailers are switching over to their cold-weather merchandise. We’re talking about clothing, with new styles announced yearly, meaning that the “old” styles often go on sale once a year too. Look for those sales!

Multifunctional Versatility

The versatility of hiking shorts spans way beyond the backcountry trail. The best hiking shorts work well in a multitude of athletic endeavors, and they can be just as appropriate to sport downtown as in the woods.

Choosing the right hiking shorts really comes down to either finding a pair that meets a specific set of criteria meant for excelling in a specific set of circumstances, or a great do-it-all pair that you can wear just about anywhere.

Hiking shorts are getting cooler, both in overall ventilation and style. There may not be a real game-changer in this product field for quite awhile, but each year we’re seeing minor improvements that offer more versatility and better function. Good luck choosing your next pair!


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arthur mcmahon bio pic

Arthur McMahon

Arthur loves to walk. It's as simple as that. Whether it be in the mountains, on the beach, or along the city streets -- he believes walking is the best way to experience the world. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was his first backpacking foray, and he hasn't stopped since. He and his wife chronicled their journey in their book Adventure and the Pacific Crest Trail. They now regularly travel into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest seeking new trails to hike. Follow his adventures at arthurmcmahon.com and on Instagram.