The Best Hiking Shorts in 2023, Tested by Outdoor Editors
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What to Look for
Aside from showing off those shapely calves, a good pair of hiking shorts need to check a few basic boxes in terms of functionality. Whether you’re looking at one of our favorites in the list below or considering another pair that didn’t make the cut, here are the main criteria we look for in the best hiking shorts.
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Freedom of Movement
Hiking shorts are active garments, and as such, hiking shorts should move with you as you hike rather than bunching up or constricting your stride. Constrictive shorts lead to discomfort and chafing in short order, so they should be avoided at all costs. We look for two main things in this regard: Roomy cuts and stretchy fabrics.
Both approaches are a means to the same end: Giving your legs the ability to articulate over big climbs and steep decents.
A roomy cut with wide leg openings and ample room in the “cockpit” does this by simply staying out of the way. These cuts can look and feel more like the cringe-worthy cargo shorts of the late 90’s though, which is why most outfitters have started incorporating stretch fabric into their designs.
We generally prefer shorts with a little added stretch (Spandex, elastane, etc.) as they can get away with much more streamlined and casual cuts without sacrificing too much in terms of storage or durability. Hiking shorts can be expensive, so opting for a pair you’ll happily wear around town means extra bang for your buck when you’re not out on the trail.
As is the case with any active pursuit, hiking makes you sweat. This is particularly true in the warmer months, which is why hiking shorts deserve a seat at the table to begin with.
Generally speaking, this means you’ll want to avoid cotton shorts at all costs. Cotton fabric absorbs and holds moisture rather than wicking it off your skin and evaporating it into the air, which leads to heavy, wet, and all-around uncomfortable miles out on the trail.
We always prefer our hiking shorts to be made from either nylon or polyester, as both materials make for lighter and more breathable garments. We’ll also note that both nylon and polyester are much tougher when sewn in rip-stop patterns, which alternate between thinner and thicker yarns to minimizes rips, tears, and other typical wardrobe malfunctions associated with scrambling over rocks or bushwhacking through abrasive underbrush.
As far as we’re concerned, the prototypical warm-weather hike always involves a body of water of some kind. Maybe that’s a quick splash in a trailside stream to cool off or an afternoon spent lounging in your favorite backwoods swimming hole, but whatever the case, you shouldn’t be scared to get your shorts wet.
To this end we prefer our hiking shorts (like the best men’s swim trunks) to be as fast-drying as possible, as this helps to keep you comfortable on the move, be it from normal perspiration or intentional submersion. A good pair of hiking shorts takes minutes, not hours, to go from wet to dry, which means you shouldn’t ever need to save room for a swimsuit in your hiking pack.
Storage and Organization
Hiking shorts need pockets, plain and simple. Day hike or thru-hike, most of us carry a handful of items along with us any time we go exploring, and having multiple secure places to stash your quick-access essentials is a crucial feature of any good pair of hiking shorts.
Personally, we take the “more the merrier” approach when it comes to pockets. Being able to separate big items like your phone and wallet from smaller quick-access essentials like lip-balm, snacks, and a pocket knife saves you time and effort over stopping to scrounge around in your pack every time you need something.
Ideally we like at least one of the major pockets on our shorts to be secured as well, be it by buttons, zippers, or just overhanging flaps. If you think losing your phone or car keys at home is bad, try finding them somewhere on a five mile trail in the middle of nowhere.
” />Skip to ContentOur product picks are editor-tested, expert-approved. We may earn a commission through links on our site.Best Ultralight Hiking ShortsMountain Hardwear Trail Sender ShortsBest Ultralight Hiking ShortsMountain Hardwear Trail Sender ShortsNow 18% OffCredit: Courtesy ImageA fully featured pair of hiking shorts that weighs in at just 2 ounces? The Mountain Hardwear Trail Senders are tough to beat for their “barely there” feel and outstanding comfort. Ultralight but far from minimalist, the Trail Senders have become our go-to shorts this year for day hiking, backpacking, and casual use alike. In addition to their breezy comfort, we love that Mountain Hardwear managed to pack four separate pockets into such a compact package, which is great for storing quick-access essentials when hiking with smaller packs. The Trail Senders also feature a secure button snap closure backed by a drawstring waist, which makes them reasonably adjustable without needing a belt.We’ll also give the nod to Hardwear’s fabric choice here. Despite its featherlight feel, the mini-ripstop construction has held up admirably through eight months of dusty desert hikes and Appalachian backpacking trips alike without showing any signs of slowing. Inseam7 inPockets4MaterialsPolyesterMost Comfortable Hiking ShortsprAna Stretch Zion II ShortsMost Comfortable Hiking ShortsprAna Stretch Zion II ShortsNow 25% OffThe Prana Stretch Zion 2 shorts take our pick for the most comfortable of our roundup, thanks largely in part to their stretchy nylon fabric and extra-roomy cut. Prana also incorporates a sizeable crotch gusset into the Zion’s construction, providing even greater mobility and a notable lack of bunching or chafing when seated. The Zions may not be our first choice from a style standpoint, but when it comes to hiking-focused features, Prana knocked these out of the park. The Zion’s integrated belt is secure yet slim enough to use comfortably with a full-sized hip belt, and their asymmetrical pocket layout packs plenty of space for your phone, keys, wallet, and a handful of other EDC and on-trail essentials. Inseam8 inPockets5MaterialsNylonMost Stylish Hiking ShortsOutdoor Research Ferrosi ShortsMost Stylish Hiking ShortsOutdoor Research Ferrosi ShortsNow 25% OffLightweight, breathable, and versatile: That’s what the Outdoor Research Ferrosi hiking shorts are all about. The Ferrosi’s made our list due to their super stretchy blend of nylon and spandex, which delivers an outstanding balance of comfort and durability for all manner of outdoor activities.That added stretch also brings another added bonus: Because of their above-average flexibility, OR is able to make the Ferrosi surprisingly slim-fitting without losing any mobility. This makes them one of the more handsome choices for casual use as well, especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing bulky cargo shorts in public. Inseam10Pockets5Materials46% Recycled Nylon, 40% Nylon, 14% SpandexAdvertisement – Continue Reading BelowMost Versatile Hiking ShortsPatagonia Baggies LongsMost Versatile Hiking ShortsPatagonia Baggies LongsProsExcellent for swimming or trail runningIntegrated liner for added supportNo-fuss elastic waistbandConsBasic styling and crunchy fabricPatagonia’s Baggies shorts have been a mainstay in the brand’s lineup since 1982, and there’s good reason for that. They’re comfortable, built to last, and do pretty much everything well. We bought our first pair of Baggies as a swimsuit in 2020, and then found ourselves wearing them almost exclusively all last summer. Their mesh liner is ideal for swimming, supportive enough for trail running, and (most importantly) makes underwear superfluous. Both their stiff fabric and basic layout feel a bit dated compared to some of the more technical options on our list, but there’s something to be said for one pair of shorts that works as hard as they play all summer. Read more: Best Golf ShortsInseam7 inPockets3MaterialsNylonMost Technical Hiking ShortsArc’teryx Gamma Quick Dry ShortMost Technical Hiking ShortsArc’teryx Gamma Quick Dry ShortArc’teryx are best known for making unapologetically technical gear at unapologetically premium prices. Their Gamma Quick Dry shorts are no exception, but if you’ve got the money to spend, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more capable and functional pair of hiking shorts anywhere on the planet. Slim cut and purpose-built, the Gammas are made from Arc’teryx’s high-performance TerraTex fabric, an incredibly durable nylon blend that’s stretchy, rugged, wind-resistant, and extremely fast-drying. Each of the Gamma’s five pockets is easily accessible and secured with a low-profile zipper, and the elastic waist cinches down for a reliable fit with an integrated belt and anodized metal hardware. Read more: Best Cycling ShortsInseam9 inPockets5MaterialsNylon, elastaneBest Budget Hiking ShortsColumbia Silver Ridge Hiking ShortsBest Budget Hiking ShortsColumbia Silver Ridge Hiking ShortsNow 25% OffProsAlways affordableOmni-Shade fabric is long lasting and fairly quick-dryingTons of storage from dual full-sized cargo pocketsConsLength and fit feel a bit bulky/datedAn oldie but a goodie. Columbia’s Silver Ridge line of hiking clothes has been serving the outdoor community well for the better part of a decade, and the Silver Ridge hiking short is as good as it’s ever been. Functional and affordable, this is easily one of the best pairs of hiking shorts on a budget money can buy.The fit is roomy enough for pretty much any active endeavor, and the traditional cargo pocket layout gives ample room for storage. We’re also big fans of Columbia’s ripstop “Omni-Shade” fabric, which delivers long-wearing abrasion resistance (we’ve had our current pair for four years now) while being reasonably fast-drying and providing excellent protection from the sun. Read more: Best Cheap Clothing Brands for MenInseam10 inPockets4MaterialsNylonAdvertisement – Continue Reading BelowHow We Tested the Best Hiking ShortsAt risk of stating the obvious, our primary means of testing the best hiking shorts of the year was simply getting out on the trail and logging some miles in each pair. In the process, we evaluate hiking shorts by their fit and feel, convenience, utility, and overall toughness to ensure each holds up to the rigors of outdoor play. We also like to evaluate each pair with some kind of water test to ensure they’re sufficiently fast drying for impromptu trailside swims. Sometimes that means fishing in our local streams, sometimes it’s swimming in lakes and rivers, and whenever opportunity strikes, we never miss an opportunity to take a good ol’ fashioned dip in a buddy’s pool. Why Trust Us?Kurt Spurlock is a gear writer, seasoned outdoorsman, and hiking junkie. He’s been hiking for the past twenty years, and has tested over one hundred hiking shorts in his professional career. On top of personally testing hiking shorts himself, he combed through over 50 Amazon reviews and dozens of Reddit’s hiking short recommendations to find products that were vetted by multiple buyers. Contributing Gear Commerce WriterKurt Spurlock is a commerce writer who specializes in outdoor gear and motorcycles. His work has been featured in Men’s Journal, The Manual, and Bike EXIF. Deputy Editor, CommerceAs Men’s Health’s Deputy Editor, Commerce, Christian Gollayan oversees all shopping content on menshealth.com. He relocated back to New York by way of Portland, where he was the Associate Managing Editor at TheManual.com. Christian’s work has also been featured in InStyle, Food & Wine, the New York Post, and Tatler Asia. Watch Next play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to playAdvertisement – Continue Reading BelowAdvertisement – Continue Reading Below