Comparison Table for the Best Hiking Shorts

Shorts Weight (oz) Price ($) Pockets Waist
Patagonia Multi Trails 4.0 79/69 3 Elastic + Drawcord
OV Skyline Trail Shorts 4.4 77 2 Elastic + Drawcord
Janji Transit Tech 4.8 74 3
Elastic + Drawcord
Outdoor Research Ferrosi 7.6 79 5
Elastic + Integrated Belt
REI Co-op Trailmade 7.0 50 5-6
Elastic + Drawcord
KUHL Freeflex Cargo 8.5 89 6
Snap, Zipper Fly, Belt Loops
REI Co-op Sahara Cargo 8.0 59 6
Button, Zipper Fly, Belt Loops
Patagonia Baggies 7.2 65 3
Elastic + Drawcord

Best Men’s Hiking Shorts

Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts

We love the wearing the Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts because they offer the best blend of stretch, comfort, breathability, and zippered pocket security. This is a great all-purpose pair of shorts that’s particularly good for hiking, but also great for running and athleisure use. Read our full-length Patagonia Multi-Trails Shorts Review.

  • Weight: 4.0 oz (our measurement)
  • Price: $79 M’s | $69 W’s
  • Pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 snap rear
  • Material: 90% recycled polyester, 10% Spandex
  • Inseam: 8″ M’s | 5″ W’s
  • Built-In Liner: Yes
  • Waist: Elastic band with internal drawstring
  • Average User Review: 4.5 stars
  • Pros: Very stretchy. Very breathable. Sustainable. Zippered pockets. Comfiest.
  • Cons: Not the most durable. No side thigh pockets. Cut out the liner.

Features

To summarize the big picture build, Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts are medium length inseam running shorts with an elastic waistband + drawstring, zippered hand pockets, and built-in mesh liner. It’s a really nice feature set for hikers. The fabric is extra stretchy and movement-friendly thanks to the 10% spandex blend. However, the more spandex, the slower the fabric is to dry, so it’s always a matter of pros and cons.

Starting from the top, Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts have an elastic waistband that is about as standard as they come. It’s wide enough but not particularly wide. The drawstring too is quite average and is mostly static with a light touch of stretch.

Perhaps their best and most useful feature are the zippered hand pockets. There’s two of them, each more than large enough to store a full size phone or a few smaller items. Interestingly, the zipper pulls are loops of cord rather than tabs or plastic bits. They also have a single rear snap-closure pocket, which isn’t the most useful, but there if you want to stash an empty bar wrapper or maybe a pair of gloves.

Both the men’s and women’s versions of the Patagonia Multi Trails Shorts come with a built-in mesh liner that replaces underwear. The men’s version gets a boxer-brief liner while the women’s has a brief liner. These liners are okay as built-in liners go, they are soft and airy. That said, we do recommend cutting them out and pairing with your preferred underwear.

Verdict

Thanks to the zippered hand pocket configuration and extremely stretchy/breathable fabric, the Patagonia Multi Trail Shorts are an exceptional pair of all-purpose outdoor shorts. They are best for hiking and athleisure but still great for running too.

Best Men’s Hiking Shorts

REI Sahara Cargo Shorts

Alan’s choice! The REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Shorts are another well-done-but-basic pair of cargo hiking shorts that check all of the boxes without getting too fancy. And compared to similar models, they are priced competitively.

  • Weight: ~8 oz (estimate)
  • Price: $60
  • Pockets: 2 slash cut hand, 2 rear, 2 cargo
  • Material: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
  • Inseam: 9″
  • Waist: Elasticized half waistband on rear with belt loops and button closure zipper fly
  • Average User Review Score: 4.6 stars
  • Pros: Good pockets. Good value. Alan’s choice.
  • Cons: Inexcusably narrow belt loops. Not particularly stretchy or sporty.

Features

Ditch those modern, side-entry cargo zippers because traditional top-entry cargo pockets are still the most functional and easy to use while hiking. And the REI Sahara Cargo shorts have one on each side, offering excellent storage volume, in addition to the deep, full size slash-cut hand pockets and enveloped rear pockets. Interestingly, the cargo pockets have zipper closure and overlapping tops to ensure your gear is extra safe.

Beyond the exceptionally great pockets, these are just a basic pair of lightweight, quick drying, 9″ inseam hiking shorts. The fabric is a 96% nylon, 4% spandex blend. It has light-duty stretch, but is not particularly sporty or movement-friendly. You wouldn’t want to run in these, for example. But it should be durable enough.

They have a traditional zipper fly with button closure. And a very-welcome elasticized rear section of the waistband helps keep them up.

But no shorts are perfect, and the REI Co-op Sahara shorts have one boneheaded design error – narrow belt loops. It’s not a big a deal, in fact, it’s a rather small problem. You may not even hike with a belt. But if you do make sure it’s no wider than a 1.25 inches. These shorts cannot fit a width width belt. We will give REI the benefit of the doubt and assume this was a small production mistake that slipped through and they will correct in time for next year.

Verdict

The REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Shorts are highly functional pair of traditional cargo hiking shorts, still the most functional. They’re everything you’d expect them to be and nothing more. Despite the minor belt-loop-flaw, they’re sold a good price and Alan himself loves them for both hiking and everyday wear.

Best Women’s Hiking Shorts

Kuhl Freeflex Cargo Shorts

Based on our research, the W’s KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts have the best and most plentiful pockets available in a women’s cut. What’s more, they’re made with a soft and comfortable material and have a long 10″ inseam.

  • Weight: 8.5 oz (W’s only)
  • Price: $89
  • Pockets: 2 hand, 2 back, 2 cargo
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Inseam: 10″
  • Waist: Button closure with optional internal drawcord
  • Average User Review: 4.8 stars
  • Pros: Best-in-class pockets. Comfy. Durable.
  • Cons: Expensive.

Features

For starters, these pants have astoundingly excellent pockets. We wish this exact cargo configuration was also available in a men’s cut, ah well. The existence of two sufficiently deep hand pockets, two sufficiently deep snap cargo pockets, and two sufficiently deep rear snap closure back pockets means you get storage galore. We also like how many of the pockets are snaps instead of zips, because snaps are lighter and more comfortable.

These have a 10″ long inseam, which is longer than average, likely falling a bit above the knee. Long inseams are slightly less movement friendly, but only marginally and you may prefer the extra coverage. The waist is a traditional fly closure with belt loops to secure the fit.

The Freeflex fabric is really nice, offering stretch, quick dry, breathability, durability, and soft comfortable feel.

Verdict

If you like a traditional cargo hiking short, these are some of the very best on the market thanks to the excellent pockets, and performance fabric. The long inseam may be or may not appeal to you. And they’re quite expensive, well-above average.

Best Value Hiking Shorts

REI Trailmade Shorts

The REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts are an effective and comfortable pair of hiking shorts with good pockets at an affordable price. The men’s and women’s versions offer slightly different configurations, the women’s version being superior in most regards.

  • Weight: 6-7 oz
  • Price: $44-$49
  • Pockets: 2 slash cut hand, 2 rear, 1-2 cargo pockets
  • Material: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
  • Inseam: 8″ M’s, 5″ W’s
  • Waist: Elastic band with drawstring
  • Average User Review Score: 4.4 stars
  • Pros: Lots of functional pockets. Great value. Comfy simple waistband.
  • Cons: Fabric is 2-way stretch, not the most movement friendly.

Features

Hikers rave about the pockets on the REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts. Both versions have full size hand pockets, and average sized rear pockets. The women’s cargo pockets are exceptional in that there are two of them, they are good looking, and both are large enough to store a phone. The men’s version has one zippered cargo pocket on the right thigh.

The material is a 96% nylon 4% spandex blend that is breathable, quick, drying, and pleasant to the touch. It has light duty stretch, but they’re not running shorts and aren’t particularly stretchy. Luckily though, they have a relatively baggy fit, which helps to keep you cool and reduce the need for stretch.

The elastic waist band with drawcord cinch is an interesting touch, but we’ll admit we like it. It’s sportier and easier to use than a zipper fly with button and belt, albeit slightly less secure. These types of waist bands tend to work better on bodies with larger hips, butts, etc, to help prevent sagging. The inclusion of belt loops on the men’s is interesting. Hypothetically speaking, they don’t need a belt. If they thought you might need belt, why not just design the waist band to be more secure? And why not give women the same features? But we digresss.

Differences between Men’s and Women’s

The fabric, waist band, front hand pockets, and rear hand pockets are the same for both versions. The only differences are that the women’s has two envelope-style cargo pockets, and the men’s has a single zippered cargo pocket. The men’s version has belt loops and the women’s does not. The men’s version is $5 more expensive. All said and done, the women’s version is better because of its superior cargo pockets and slightly lower price.

Verdict

The Women’s REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts aren’t cutting edge, but they are affordable, comfortable, and functional. The women’s version has exceptional pockets. All in all, a great value pair of hiking shorts.

Most Stretchy

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts

We’ve been wearing the summer-weight softshell Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts for over a decade, and the stretchy, durable fabric is a perfect all-purpose outdoor material for warm weather adventures.

  • Weight: 7.6 oz (M) 6.7 (W)
  • Price: $79
  • Pockets: 2 hand, 2 back, 1 cargo (m’s only)
  • Material: 86% ripstop nylon (46% of which is recycled), 14% spandex
  • Inseam: 7/10″ (M), 5/9″ (W)
  • Waist: Elastic with internal nylon webbing belt
  • Average user review: low sample size
  • Pros: Deep pockets. Very stretchy fabric. Durable.
  • Cons: Internal belt. Fabric doesn’t have a very soft feel. Women’s is missing cargo pocket.

Features

Made with the famous Outdoor Research Ferrosi Fabric, you get tons of stretch with these shorts. They’re also ripstop and highly durable. Probably the best blend of stretch and durability you’ll find in a pair of hiking shorts. Breathability is solid, but nothing to write home about. While the shorts overall are quite comfortable, the hand feel of this fabric is certainly not the most soft, and the least soft on this list.

As hiking shorts go, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts have a fairly standard set of pockets. This include two front hand drop-in pockets, and two rear pockets. The rear right on the women’s cut has a zipper. The men’s version have an additional, fifth pocket on the right thigh. This is a small zippered cargo pocket, good for storing small handy items like a tube of sunscreen or lip balm. The hand pockets are very nice and deep, able to store the largest of phones and then some.

All in all, these have an above average quality pocket set, though we definitely wish that the women’s cut had a cargo thigh pocket instead of a rear zipper. Rear zipper pockets are almost categorically bad because they get filled out by the butt, leaving little slack, such that the zipper scrapes the back of your hand every time you reach in.

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts also feature a fairly complicated waistband, which we’ll admit we aren’t fans of. For starters, it’s an elastic waistband that hold well on its own. That part we love. Where the designers went wrong is adding an internal, static nylon webbing waist belt instead of a drawstring. We dislike internal belts for a number of reasons, mainly because they’re always finicky and frequently slide back into their internal sleeve.  If you cinch it down tight, it protrudes and drapes down awkwardly with nowhere to go and won’t stay in the belt loops. It’s also kind of narrow, half the height of a normal belt, so cinching it tight creates a band of pressure that isn’t as nicely distributed as with a dedicated independent belt.

Verdict

The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts offer excellent stretch, deep pockets, good durability, fun colors, and great versatility. But this comes at the expense of a finicky waistband/integrated belt, and an inferior pocket configuration on the women’s cut.

Best Running-Hiking Crossover

Janji Transit Tech Shorts

The Janji Transit Tech Shorts are our favorite trail running/multi-purpose shorts to use for hiking, as well as the author’s current favorite athleisure shorts. Compared to traditional hiking shorts material, they are lighter weight, more stretchy, comfier, more movement-friendly, and more breathable while still having sufficiently sized and secure zipper pocket storage. Learn more in our full-length Janji Transit Tech Shorts Review.

  • Weight: 4.8 oz (M) 3.9 (W)
  • Price: $74
  • Pockets: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered side-thigh
  • Material: 91% recycled polyester, 9% elastane
  • Inseam: M’s 7″, W’s 4″
  • Built-In Liner: No
  • Waist: Elastic band with drawcord tie off
  • Average User Review: 4.6 stars
  • Pros: Excellent & secure pockets. Comfortable and movement friendly to run or hike in. Stretchy. Secure waistband. Good looking. Breathable. Soft but durable. Sustainable.
  • Cons: Runs small, size up if in between. Would benefit from a slightly baggier fit and additional zippered side-thigh pocket.

Features

For starters, these shorts have unexpectedly great pockets for a running design – two trouser cut hand pockets and one side thigh pocket. All three pockets are sufficiently deep enough to hold a phone with room to spare. And all three are zipper-enclosed, ensuring that nothing will fall out so long as you remember to zip up.

We are particularly keen on the zippered side thigh pocket, placed immediately next to, and roughly paralleling, the right trouser cut hand pocket. It runs down and backwards, and is designing to hold a phone securely so as to prevent it from bouncing and swaying as you run. And it is much better at that job than a traditional cargo pocket. We just wish they had one on each side! Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to have an extra zippered pocket for stashing a small sunscreen tube and some lip balm. Notably, they don’t have rear pockets, but that’s okay because we hardly ever use those while hiking anyway.

Janji Transit Tech Shorts have a very simple and comfy elastic waistband. It’s average width, and supplemented by an elasticized internal drawcord, which has stretch of its own. This allows you to further tighten the pants without creating a static, immovable ring around your waist. It’s our preferred sporty waistband!

And while it might not look it, these shorts are sufficiently durable for everyday hikes. We tested the Transit Tech Pants (same fabric) on a hike that involved climbing up, over, under, and through about 50-100 downed trees and there was not a single tear after the fact. That said, we know these aren’t the most durable, however, durability is generally not a priority for hiking shorts (otherwise you would wear pants).

What could be better? Mostly, they run small. The author is normally a size large, and we wish these were more voluminous in the seat, thigh, and crotch. If you are at all in between sizes, definitely size up, not down. This makes them more comfortable to walk/run in, but a bit less comfy to sit in. But the stretchiness and notched leg opening do help with this somewhat. Also, we would have liked to have a second zippered side-thigh pocket on the left side in addition to the right side. I mean, why not?

Verdict

These are the comfiest and most choice running shorts in our hiking wardrobe. They look great, and the floral print has gotten tons of compliments. They’re versatile, equally at home hiking on the trail, walking around town, running, or lounging. We highly recommend these as an unconventional pair of hiking shorts!

Thru-Hiking Favorite

Patagonia Baggies

The Patagonia Baggies might be the most commonly worn shorts on the PCT and are well-worthy of an include on any list of hiking shorts. Trusted for decades by hard charging thru-hikers, these shorts have a lot going for them. But the crazy thing is, they’re not even designed as hiking shorts. And they tend to be polarizing!

  • Weight: 7.2 oz (M) 4.9 (W)
  • Price: $65
  • Pockets: 2 hand, 1 back (M’s only)
  • Material: 100% recycled nylon
  • Inseam: 5″ base model for M & W, variations available
  • Average User Review: 4.3
  • Pros: Exceptionally deep pockets. Indestructible fabric. Quick-drying. Breezy. Eco-friendly.
  • Cons: M’s liner needs to be cut out. Bad waist band. Pockets can be too deep. No stretch.

Features

The Patagonia Baggies were designed to be board shorts, made for a hot day on the water. And true to form, Patagonia made them with recycled fishing nets. As such, they’re exceptionally quick-drying, which is beneficial to hikers too. The 100% recycled nylon fabric is practically indestructible and they are capable of lasting many thousands of trail miles.

Perhaps best of all are the deepest hand pockets you will ever find. We’re talking criminally deep. This is generally welcome, but it does lead to some bounce and sway of stored items as you walk, which may or may not be annoying depending on your preferences and how they fit your thighs. These aren’t zippered pockets, but they’re so deep that you will only lose stuff out of them if you go completely upside down. We’ve never said this about anything before, but these pockets might actually be too deep.

The men’s version is built with a mesh liner to keep your bits contained. Fine for use on the water, but not adequate for use on the trail as almost any technical underwear will offer better support and performance. We 100% recommend cutting the liner out. Do not wear the liner overtop of underwear, as double layering will reduce breathability.

Lastly, there’s the waistband, which is another feature that we dislike. That’s because it’s quite loose, hardly providing any cinch or hold of its own. Thus you become entirely reliant on the internal drawstring, which is static. This means cinching it tight, which puts a narrow band of pressure on your waist. Loosen it and they might fall down if you have lots of items in your pockets. Tighten them too much and it will be uncomfortable. The goldilocks zone is narrow and dependent on how much weight you carry in your pockets. Relying on the static drawstring makes it hard for men to pee without undoing the drawstring.

Verdict

We love the baggies for their durability, massive pockets, quick drying performance, and breezy sensation. They come in fun prints too, so we understand why thru hikers like them. But we really dislike the waistband, the men’s liner, and the fact that women don’t get a rear pocket. The Patagonia Baggies might be the most controversial shorts we’ve written about, but how highly thru hikers regard them certainly says a lot.

Minimalist Hiking Shorts

Outdoor Vitals Skyline Trail Shorts

The men’s Outdoor Vitals Skyline Trail Shorts are an intelligently designed, hybrid-mapped pair of hiking/trail running shorts made with excellent fabric and few features. Read more in our full-length Outdoor Vitals Skyline Trail Shorts Review.

  • Weight: 4.4 oz
  • Price: $65
  • Pockets: 2 hand
  • Material: 4-way stretch woven polyester, knit mesh panels
  • Inseam: 8″
  • Waist: Elastic band with internal drawstring
  • Average User Review: 4.7 stars
  • Pros: Excellent materials. Very quick to dry. Lightweight. Durable. Light stretch. Comfy elastic waistband.
  • Cons: Only two pockets, non-zipper closure. Only available in men’s. Slim around the thigh.

Features

We have tons of good things to say about the materials and build of the Outdoor Vitals Skyline Trail Shorts. For starters, they are very movement-friendly thanks to the 100% 4-way stretch woven polyester. They have an average amount of stretch, but without the use of blending in spandex or elastic into the main body fabric. By excluding spandex and elastic, these shorts maximize quick drying speed while also increasing durability.

What’s more, the crotch gusset is a knit mesh panel for maximum air flow where you need it most. The same material is used on an outer thigh panel. All of this helps to ensure they offer adequate breathability and quick drying performance. A very smart combination of fabrics, and especially helpful given that they have a slim fit around the thigh.

An elastic waistband with internal drawstring ensure they’ll stay up. Two average sized knit mesh hand pockets complete the chassis.

Where we think these could be improved up on is adding zipper closures to the hand pockets. As-is, we wouldn’t feel safe storing important things like a phone or wallet in our pockets while climbing over downed trees or through a scree field. The addition of cargo pockets, or side-thigh pockets would also be very welcome. And for this sporty of a pair of shorts, a notched thigh would also be nice.

Verdict

The Outdoor Vitals Skyline Trail Shorts are as functional as they are minimalist thanks to the superb fabric combination and comfortable waistband. While we tend to prefer shorts with more pockets and/or zippered pockets, those who don’t use their pockets much may find that these are the single best pair on the market.

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