With summer in full swing, there's no better time than now to add a pair of hiking shorts to your wardrobe. While these practical bottoms are designed for the trail, they work equally as well for other outdoor adventures like camping, rock climbing, canoeing, and more!
That's why we've highlighted the best hiking shorts on the market for both men and women in 2021 below. With everything from classic cargo shorts to breathable short shorts, you're sure to find your perfect next pair of new hiking shorts. But first, let's point out a few key details to look for while you shop for your new hiking gear.
Benefits of Hiking Shorts
Even if you're just an occasional hiker, you can't go wrong by adding a classic pair of hiking shorts to your closet. While you may not wear them often, you'll sure be glad to have them on the few occasions you do. Here are just a few of the benefits of hiking shorts:
- Leg Protection— Hiking shorts help protect your thighs from stray branches, thorns, and other sharp objects that can scratch your legs— especially if you wander off the trail. For maximum leg protection, choose a pair of hiking pants that can zip off into convertible hiking shorts.
- Dry Quickly— Unlike regular cotton or polyester running shorts, hiking shorts are designed with added ventilation and quick-drying fabric to keep you dry and cool on the trail. This can be an important feature for hiking on hot weather days.
- Water-Resistance— The best hiking shorts go one step further with water-resistance fabric that can take you straight from hiking to canoeing to swimming without missing a beat. These shorts are ideal for hiking in wet winter or spring conditions.
- Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)— Many outdoor fabrics offer sun protection to help prevent sunburn and skin damage without sacrificing one bit of stretch or breathability.
- Comfort— Hiking pants and shorts are designed with maximum comfort in mind. A good pair of shorts and the best hiking shorts have a stretchy waistband or drawstring and a loose fit that allows for a full range of motion.
- Versatile— Hiking shorts are ideal for other outdoor activities like trail running, backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing.
- Lightweight— Most hiking shorts are made from lightweight but durable nylon fabric that won't add weight to your pack on long hikes.
- Practical— Your next pair of shorts should come equipped with plenty of pockets for storing cards, keys, and other valuables on your hike. Some may even come with a zippered pocket to securely store your valuables.
In addition to hiking and outdoor activities, trail shorts are great for traveling and casual everyday outfits. The right pair of shorts can last for many years to come, so consider them a long-term wardrobe investment.
How to choose the best hiking shorts
There are a few things you'll want to consider when buying a new pair of hiking shorts, regardless of whether you're shopping in the men's or women's section:
- Material— Most shorts are made with some type of stretch nylon or a nylon/spandex blend. Look for lightweight materials labeled as "technical" or "performance" fabrics for maximum breathability and comfort. While cotton may be great for lounging on the couch, it's not the greatest choice for hikers or trail runners. Choose a thin and breathable material that is perfect for hot weather hiking.
- Waterproof or quick-drying— Additionally, look for a product made with water-resistant fabric that repels water and wicks away sweat to keep you nice and cool during hot weather hiking.
- Sun protection— Many hiking shorts offer sun protection, helping to block UV rays and protect against sunburns and skin damage.
- Length— While short shorts may look a bit more stylish in the mountains, longer shorts offer better protection from scrapes, bug bites, and chafing during long hikes and backpacking trips.
- Fit— Finding the right hiking shorts depends largely on your body shape and personal preference. Are you looking for something with a standard fit or looser products that offer added comfort and mobility?
- Pockets — Any good pair of hiking shorts have at least a few pockets (preferably zippered pockets) to provide added security for your keys and phone during challenging hikes.
- Closure— Most hiking shorts don't use zipper closures but instead have an elastic waistband or drawstring so you can stay comfortable all day long.
- Belt Loops— If you choose a pair of shorts with a zip fly and button-front, be sure it comes equipped with belt loops. While they're designed to keep your belt in place, they can also be used to hang small items like a water bottle, flashlight, or set of keys.
- Price— If you're a regular hiker, it's worth splurging a bit to ensure you get the best hiking shorts out there. On the other hand, if you don't think you'll be using the shorts often, you may want to stick to an inexpensive pair of shorts.
- Brand— When it comes to hiking clothes, it's best to stick with brands that focus specifically on outdoor apparel and equipment. Their products will be designed with high-quality fabrics, practical designs, and additional features that make for a stress-free hike.
The Best Hiking Shorts For Men
Most men's hiking shorts look similar to a classic pair of cargo shorts. Look for lightweight materials and comfortable fits that won't rub or cause you to overheat. Here are a few of the best biking shorts for men that worth adding to your hiking wardrobe:
Instead of the bulky pockets on other shorts, the modern cargo shorts feature practical rear pockets, hand pockets, and a sleek zippered pocket on each thigh. Each one is lined with a mesh pocket bag that reduces bulk and increases ventilation. The abrasion-resistant, two-way stretch, UPF 50+ nylon fabric comes in a range of earthy hues, including black, grey, olive green, light tan, khaki, and sky blue.
- ultraviolet protection factor 50
- Plenty of pockets: Zip Closed security rear pockets, hand pockets, and mesh pockets
Fjallraven is a Swedish outdoor clothing and equipment company prized for its stylish designs and signature G-1000 material, and their Vardag Lite Hiking Shorts are no exception to their outstanding reputation. This lightweight pair of shorts are designed with a zip fly, button closure, and plenty of pockets for easy access to your essentials. The Vardag Lite Shorts come in two versatile color choices: dark grey and mustard yellow.
- Lightweight fabric
- Plenty of pockets
Looking for a traditional pair of hiking shorts at an affordable price? These Cresta Men's Hiking Shorts from LL Bean are hard to beat! The versatile hiking shorts offer a sleek take on classic cargo shorts and come equipped with all the features you could ask for. Plus, they're available in five nature-inspired shades: alloy grey, carbon navy, dark cinder, dark driftwood, and kelp green.
The shorts are cut from durable ripstop nylon with two-way stretch and a standard fit that offers plenty of room to move without feeling bulky or adding unnecessary weight to your pack. The gusseted crotch and side elastic waistband increase comfort and mobility further. Zippered cargo pockets and zippered back pockets offer secure storage for your keys, cards, and valuables.
- ultraviolet protection factor 50+ fabric blocks at least 97.5% of the sun's UV rays
- Abrasion-resistant ( can withstand extreme wear and tear)
- Lightweight but durable
- Two-way stretch
If you are looking for a pair of shorts that can take on all your adventure heads on, then look no further than Prana Stretch Zion shorts. The short is made with abrasion-resistant fabric with next-level comfort so you can focus on your adventure. This short is also quick-drying, wrinkle-resistant, and UPF 50+.
Prana Stretch Zion has raving reviews, and we can see why. It offers plenty of storage space, like mesh pockets at the front and back. In addition, there is a dual-entry cargo pocket. And as a bonus, it has a ventilated inseam gusset for extra strength and comfort on the go.
- Ultraviolet protection factor 50+ fabric
- Quick-drying properties, wrinkle resistance, and abrasion resistance
- Plenty of storage space: mesh pockets at front and back, a dual-entry cargo pocket.
The Best Hiking Shorts For Women
While most men's hiking shorts look similar to cargo shorts, women's hiking shorts come in a range of styles ranging from knee-length Bermuda shorts to outdoorsy takes on running shorts. When it comes to length and silhouette, find a good balance between style and function. Look for something breathable and stretchy that won't rub, chafe, or get in your way during a difficult hike.
Looking for a pair of longer hiking shorts that offer full coverage and better leg protection on the trail? Check out these Anytime Outdoor Women's Long Hiking Shorts from Columbia!
Unlike shorter shorts, the slim knee-length fit protects your legs from stray branches and pesky mosquito bites. The versatile shorts feature a mid-rise with a comfortable waist tie and three pockets. The UV-blocking, water-repellent fabric comes in a range of natural shades: stone green, black, khaki, dark blue, and medium grey.
- ultraviolet protection factor 50
- Advanced repellency wards off moisture and stains
- 2-way comfort stretch
- Two side pockets and one rare pocket
These stylish Trekkie North Hiking Shorts aren't just great for day hikes. Thanks to their versatility and comfort, they're great for outdoor activities, trail running, rock climbing, and plain old errand running too!
The lightweight shorts are designed with ripstop nylon with two-way stretch for maximum mobility and abrasion resistance for longer product life. Plus, the fabric is breathable, quick-drying, and sweat-wicking to keep you feeling cool and airy on hot days. They come in four color choices: black, olive green, tan, and apricot.
- Lightweight material
- 2-way stretch for extra mobility
- Offers 4 pockets
LL Bean's Women's Comfort Trail Hiking Short can tackle any adventure! Their quick-drying, moisture-wicking performance fabric is designed with two-way stretch, incredible abrasion resistance, and a comfortable, lightweight feel against the skin. Plus, the UPF 50+ fabric blocks 97.5% of the sun's UV rays, making these shorts the perfect choice for hot summer days.
But it isn't just the fabric that makes these LL Bean hiking shorts one of the best products on the market; it's the functional design features too. A gusset crotch, adjustable waist tabs, multiple zippered pockets, and a soft waist liner make them incredibly practical for all-day wear outdoors. Hikers can choose from three color options: ash brown, black, and tan.
- ultraviolet protection factor 50+ fabric blocks 97.5% of the sun's UV rays
- Two-way vertical stretch
- Soft, abrasion-resistant fabric
Stylish and comfortable Athleta Trekkie North short is one of the best hiking shorts. The short is made of quick-drying, wicking, breathable material, and it is rated UPF 50+. Featuring 4 pockets for stashing away your hiking essentials. The length of the short is not too short but short enough for you to feel comfortable showing off your legs.
Aside from being one of the best hiking shorts, it can also be worn for climbing, exploring on and off trails, and lounging around.
- UPF 50+
- 2-way stretch for extra mobility
- Made from lightweight, wicking, quick-drying, and breathable material.