10 Best Hiking Shorts for 2024


A good pair of hiking shorts will be useful for an array of activities, from backpacking trips to hot weather hikes. Whether you simply prefer to wear shorts in everyday life or you’re planning an adventure somewhere warm, this essential piece of clothing needs to be versatile. 

Our top pick for men was the Patagonia Quandary shorts. An incredibly clever design, far away from the Patagonia baggies you might have in mind, the Quandary style offers great movement for outdoor activities as well as stylish simplicity for other occasions. 

For women, it was hard to beat the quality of the Smartwool Hiking Short, made from durable merino wool. The shorts were the perfect combination of practicality and timeless design made from sustainable materials.

Alongside a great a pair of hiking shoes, and a wide selection of hiking pants and shirts, hiking shorts are the next priority in a hiker’s closet. There are several things to look for in a good looking pair of shorts, and this guide will help you choose the right features for your needs. 

The Best Hiking Shorts for Men and Women in 2024

Image by Patagonia

For any situation in the great outdoors you might find yourself in, Patagonia’s Quandary shorts will offer the versatility you need. The breathable fabric is tough but flexible, with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating for rainy weather, and UPF 50+ protection from bright sunlight.  

The thoughtful five-pocket design features a concealed pocket, and an additional zipper pocket, large enough to fit a wallet or phone. The fit is comfortable but not too baggy through the leg. The waistband gives a contoured fit to flatter all shapes and sizes. 

best-hiking-shorts
Image by prAna

For a smart, everyday pair of shorts that are a great option for hiking, the prAna Brion II shorts are worth considering. This is a style that you will wear countless times. With their classic five-pocket construction and belt loops, these shorts are available in a 9-inch or 11-inch inseam.

The shorts, made from 95% nylon and 5% elastane, are smart enough to be worn for work, golf, or outings with friends. 

The prAna brand is becoming increasingly popular for its durability. The material is strong enough to withstand rough hikes through tricky terrain, or they can even work well for adventure sports like rock climbing.

Another great option is the prAna Stretch Zion II – a similar style made with extra stretchy fabric.

best-hiking-shorts
Image by Outdoor Research

For form, fit, and function, the Ferrosi shorts by Outdoor Research are made for summer adventures.

Made from 46% recycled nylon, 40% nylon and 15% spandex, they have a DWR coating and UPF 50+ protection. They are water-resistant and quick to dry, so an ideal choice for those who love mid-hike swims. 

The zipper pocket is useful for storing your phone, and the material is very comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. The abrasion-resistant technology means the shorts will not tear easily on passing branches. 

These shorts have some cool design features, including an adjustable belt and belt loops. The 7-inch inseam offers a trendy mid-thigh style, or you can opt for the 10-inch or 12-inch length. There are pockets on the front and back and the waist is elastic for extra comfort. 

best-hiking-shorts
Image by REI

If you love large pockets and want a budget-friendly, lightweight pair of shorts then the REI Sahara Cargo shorts are the pick for you. 

Made from mostly nylon fabric, which is water resistant with a DWR finish, they are breathable and boast a UPF 50+ rating. Some others on this list might offer more style, but the Sahara shorts are a highly functional addition to your hiking closet. 

They offer ultimate practicality, with a total of six pockets, one with a zip that is perfect for snacks on long hikes. The cargo short style might not be the most fashion-forward, but this style is not too baggy and the material is light and comfortable to wear. 

best-hiking-shorts
Image by Columbia

For the price, these cargo shorts offer great bang for your buck. With 80 years of experience producing quality outdoor gear, Columbia is a safe bet for reasonably priced hiking clothing. 

The comfy cut includes a gusset for complete freedom of movement. There are front, back and side pockets, one with a zip for added security. The length is available in a 10-inch or 12-inch inseam. A removable woven belt adds an extra detail.  

The sturdy material is 100% ripstop nylon, which is known for being a good bug repellent fabric. It also has UPF 50+ sun protection and omni-wick repellency, which pulls moisture from the skin and dries quickly. The super light material will keep you cool and dry on all of this year’s summer hikes. 

best-hiking-shorts
Image by SmartWool

If you prefer a slightly longer pair of shorts with a wide flat waistband with button closure, as opposed to elastic, these shorts offer a stylish but practical option. Smartwool are leading experts in merino wool clothing products. 

One of our favorite choices on this list, the inside of the waistband is lined with a soft fabric, for added comfort around the waist. Soft to the touch, they are strong, long long-lasting, and the color lasts well through the wash.  

With two pockets on the front and back, you can store important things on your hike. One has a zip for extra security. The 7-inch inseam offers good coverage.

The shorts are made in part from non-itchy merino wool, with moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties. 

best-hiking-shorts
Image by CRZ YOGA

Designed for hiking, this online yoga brand has branched out to outdoors gear and has built a great reputation for making good quality sports clothes and casual wear for women.

Stretchy and lightweight, the ripstop fabric is made from 92% polyamide and 8% elastane, and it does not tear easily.

These shorts have a surprising number of hidden pockets (two zippered pockets and a slim side pocket). The pockets are so subtle, that they do not spoil the simple design of the shorts. The wide waistband and 4-inch inseam offer a flattering shape you will love.

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Image by Mountain Hardware

The Mountain Hardwear Dynama shorts are one of the best hiking shorts for women, designed with multiple outdoor sports in mind, from hiking to bouldering.

The abrasion-resistant fabric is durable, and the shorts have a DWR finish for rainy weather and a UPF 50+ rating for sunny days. The shorts have odor-resistant properties that will hold off any bad smells after a long day on the trails.

The loose fit is practical and the wide waistband is comfortable for long hours of vigorous activity. One of the most useful features is the hidden zip pocket on the back for keeping small essentials.

best-hiking-shorts
Image by Free Fly

Free Fly is a family-owned apparel brand that stands for comfort and freedom. Their first product was the bamboo lightweight long-sleeve sun shirt, which protects the skin from harmful sunlight while enjoying the outdoors.

These shorts are a versatile addition to your closet, featuring a high-rise fit, with mid-thigh style and a 4.5-inch inseam. The adjustable drawstring elastic waistband adds movability and there are front and back pockets.

A multipurpose short that can be used for swimming and hiking, the Breeze fabric is made from a mix of sustainable fibers, including recycled coconut husks. They are built for endurance, with DWR finish and UPF 50+ sun protection.

best-hiking-shorts
Image by Columbia

If you’re looking for practicality, this useful style from Columbia is a must-have. Similar to the Columbia Silver Ridge style for men, these functional shorts are great for warm-weather hiking.

The durable shorts work well for any outdoor activity, featuring several pockets, including a zip-closure security pocket and two side pockets. The fit is loose, and with an inseam of six inches, they offer a little more coverage than some other shorts. 

The amazingly light material has advanced technology, with UPF 30+ rating and breathable, quick-dry fabric. An elastic waist with an optional woven belt adds additional detail to the waistline.

Features to Look For in The Best Hiking Shorts

Shopping for clothing is easier when you have some specific features to look for in mind. Consider the following when you are buying new shorts and remember to read user reviews before you click ‘buy now’.

Materials 

For hiking, synthetic materials such as nylon, spandex, and polyester will offer the greatest comfort for strenuous outdoor activities. These fabrics offer the following benefits and features:

  • Quick-drying – offers practicality for wet weather, swimming, and multi-day hikes. 
  • Breathable – allows air to circulate freely and prevents overheating. 
  • Lightweight – enhances mobility and makes the garment easy to pack.
  • Moisture-wicking – allows moisture to evaporate away from the skin. 

Merino wool is another popular material to consider for outdoor clothing. It is often used for base layers, but it is incredibly versatile. It is excellent at keeping moisture away from the skin and it has natural antimicrobial odor-resistant properties allowing you to stay dry, comfortable, and smelling fresh. 

Durability 

The durability of synthetic fabrics makes them well-suited for the demands of hiking, especially in challenging outdoor environments. While synthetic fabrics are durable, they may not have the same level of breathability as natural fibers, like merino wool. 

Choosing the Right Fit 

Your personal preferences will be an important factor when it comes to choosing the fit and style of your new shorts. If you like to be comfortable, a looser fit will offer you the most flexibility. However, if the shorts are too baggy, it will be a hindrance to most hikers. 

Remember to wear sunscreen on any exposed parts of the legs, particularly behind the knees where skin can be sensitive to sunburn. 

Pockets 

Pockets are a useful feature for hiking, especially if you are carrying a backpack and you require access to a few important items, such as a phone or wallet. Look out for shorts with a zippered pocket or a multi-pocket design.

It’s also a good idea to find shorts with some ventilation, such as mesh vents, which will enhance airflow on long, strenuous hikes. 

Weather resistance

Look for garments that feature protective properties from all kinds of weather. 

Materials with an Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30+ will help to protect you from harmful UVA and UVB rays. 

The Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish is a polymer coating that makes fabrics water resistant and can help you to stay dry in wet conditions. 

Style 

From cargo shorts to classic chino shorts, hiking shorts come in many different styles. Try on as many styles as you can, and find what suits you best. 

Brand Reputation and Budget

You can’t go too far wrong with respected outdoor clothing brands, such as Patagonia, Columbia, and Outdoor Research. Newer brands, such as Free Fly, are also building a great reputation for durable outdoor clothing. 

Unless you are looking for an investment item, your new shorts don’t have to break the bank. There are good value brands out there offering excellent choices, too. The shorts on this list are available from $25 to $80.

If in doubt, always read user reviews when you are shopping online. It is a great way to find out information about the product, including how well the item washes or how long it lasts over time. Important details about the fit and sizing will also help you to make a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about hiking shorts. 

What is the ideal length for hiking shorts? 

You should always check the inseam measurement for shorts so you can determine the right length for your height. The inseam is the distance between the crotch and the end of the leg opening.

Men’s shorts are likely to have an inseam of 7 inches and longer, and women’s shorts will be 4 inches and longer. Longer shorts will provide more coverage, but shorter shorts will help you stay cool and be more comfortable to wear in the heat.

Remember to wear sunscreen on the lower part of your legs. 

Should my hiking shorts have an elastic waist? 

Elastic waists or adjustable waists are a common feature you will find on hiking shorts. It adds extra stretch and room around the waistline. It can be a great option if you want to prioritize comfort. 

However, a flat waistband tends to be a more flattering style to wear and can look more stylish. Consider this if you plan to wear the shorts out and about town or for everyday wear. 

Do my hiking shorts need to be waterproof?  

A waterproof coating is an almost non-negotiable feature for wet weather hikes, so bear this in mind if you want to wear shorts in inclement weather. If your clothes are soggy and wet, you will be miserable.

Can I wear my regular athletic shorts for hiking? 

For short and easy hikes, regular athletic shorts or running shorts will be sufficient. For longer hikes on varied terrain, you should consider a pair of shorts designed for hiking, as they will provide more protection against the elements, moisture management, additional pockets, and breathable fabrics. 

Where should I shop for hiking shorts? 

Try online retailers such as Amazon, Backcountry, and REI for a range of quality outdoor clothing at good prices. Or, shop at outdoor specialty stores, including Patagonia, Columbia, and The North Face. 

Is it better to wear pants for hiking?

In some situations, yes. It will come down to a few variables, such as personal preference, the weather, and the terrain.

There’s no right or wrong answer, some hikers prefer shorts, and others prefer hiking pants. The benefits of wearing pants include protection from bug bites or scratches and added sun protection.

Shorts, however, will bring positives such as freedom of movement and better ventilation. Shorts will help keep you cooler on hot hikes. They are also quicker to dry, and easier to pack. A decent pair of shorts is also essential if you live somewhere hot or humid. 

Conclusion 

Shorts are an essential item in any hiker’s closet. They are the key to keeping you comfortable in hot weather, offering maximum freedom of movement for amazing sunny days outside. You will want to purchase a pair that is the perfect combination of stylish and practical. 

Whether you are planning an epic traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail, an adventure through small towns on the Appalachian Trail, or a much shorter day hike, a decent pair of hiking shorts will be a very worthwhile investment.


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