The 10 Best Hiking Shorts to Buy in 2020

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As the mercury soars in the sweltering summer months, seasoned hikers switch out their pants for something more breathable. And the best way to ensure adequate airflow on a hot trail is by donning a pair of ultra-light hiking shorts.

Aside from wicking sweat and optimizing airflow, hiking shorts will eliminate chaffing, enhance your range of motion, and provide ample pocket space to stash your essential gear. Should you opt for something a little more casual, you’ll be able to sport your shorts at the bar as well as on the trail.

But a well-constructed pair of specially designed hiking shorts from a reputable brand won’t come cheap, so it’s crucial you do your research to snag the perfect product for you. To make things easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive Hiking Shorts Buyer’s Guide and rounded down the top hiking shorts on the market for both men and women.

What To Consider Before Shopping

Before you start searching for the perfect pair of hiking shorts, there are several factors you need to consider. Take the following things into consideration before settling on a pair.

Fabric

Most hiking shorts come in nylon, polyester, or spandex, most commonly in a blend. Each material has different properties in terms of sweat-wicking, stretchiness, and durability, so consult our section on the best fabrics for hiking shorts for the low-down.

Style

Do you want the streamlined look of flat-front hiking shorts or the bulk carrying power of beefy cargo shorts? Another popular option is athletic shorts, which boast optimal airflow to make them exceptionally comfortable on hot days. See Hiking Shorts Types for more info.

Fit

There’s no point forking out for a brand new pair of hiking shorts if they’re not the correct fit. Measure your waist with tape and check the manufacture’s sizing guides to help you find the perfect pair.

Gender

Women’s hiking shorts tend to have a higher cut and a more feminine design, while men’s models droop down to just above the knee.

Belt

Plenty of people opt to wear a lightweight belt to achieve the ideal fit, although these can result in chafing when you’re wearing a big backpack with a hip strap. Some shorts have belts built in while others allow you to add one of your own.

UPF Rating

Hiking usually involves spending a significant amount of time in direct sunlight, leaving you vulnerable to sunburn without adequate protection. The best hiking shorts have a UPF rating of 50+ or more.

Versatility

Do you want to don your hiking shorts when you’re out and about in the city as well as cruising along the trail? Then you should go for a more neutral and casual design that doesn’t scream ‘outdoor apparel.’

Now that you know what to look for, let’s get to the list of the best hiking shorts. Also, don’t forget to check out our guides on the best running shorts and compression shorts you can buy.

The Best Men’s Hiking Shorts in 2020

1. Best Men’s Hiking Shorts Overall: Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge

Why we like it: These widely popular cargo-style hiking shorts from Columbia are lightweight and provide plenty of protection from the elements.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Cargo
  • Fabric: Nylon with a polyester lining
  • Integrated Belt: Yes
  • UPF Rating: 50

Columbia is a big name in the outdoor adventure gear industry, and its Silver Ridge Men’s Shorts live up to the company’s stellar reputation.

So what makes these ordinary-looking cargo shorts so great for hikers? An impressive combination of both protection and durability.

Unlike many models on the market, the entire outer layer is built with a rigid ripstop nylon material that’ll withstand the rigors of Mother Nature. Columbia’s nylon shell is superb at keeping you dry when the heavens open up from above and won’t tear as you scramble across boulders or bushwhack your way through prickly weeds.

But as every seasoned hiker knows, nylon isn’t the most comfortable on the skin and is hopeless at wicking moisture to ward off sweat. Rather than throwing a bit of polyester into the blend, Columbia has included a sweat-wicking inner seam to keep you comfortable and dry. This approach adds to the cost of the product, but the expense is well worth it for hikers who demand both comfort and durability at the same time.

These cargo shorts have five pockets, with either zip or Velcro closures to keep your gear safely tucked away. And finally, a respectable UPF rating of 50+ means you’ll never have to worry about your thighs getting burnt in the sun.

If you’re looking for shorts that ooze chic urban style, these aren’t the ideal option. But for a rugged pair of hiking shorts that will keep you sufficiently cool and protected in adverse weather conditions, Columbia delivers the goods.

Pros
  • Tough nylon outer shell
  • Comfortable polyester lining
  • High sun protection rating
  • Plenty of pockets
Cons
  • Not the cheapest option
  • Not stylish for urban wear

2. Best Premium Hiking Shorts for Men: prAna – Men’s Stretch Zion

Why we like it: These versatile men’s hiking shorts from prAna tick all the boxes. They are stretchy, tough, and comfortable.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Cargo
  • Style: Cargo
  • Integrated Belt: Yes
  • UPF Rating: 50

The prAna brand is well known in the mountain climbing space, and although these ultra-tough shorts are stretchy enough for a hair-raising ascent, they’re well suited for gentle hikes as well.

As you’ve probably guessed from the name, the Zion Stretch is all about extra stretchiness to optimize your range of motion on the trail. Scrambling down scree or working your way up the crag will be all too easy with these super stretchy shorts—and best of all, the heavy nylon component won’t rip and will protect you from the rain.

Although these shorts come with a built-in belt, most hikers prefer not to use it and opt for the nifty waist adjuster instead. Slimline pockets on the side offer sufficient space to stow smaller items without looking and feeling like bulky cargo shorts. Inside, a vented inseam gusset adds extra comfort for those precious nether regions.

The thing we love most about these premium shorts, however, is the look. While most men’s hiking shorts on the market look like they’re designed especially for the trail, these heavy-duty shorts are stylish enough to rock around town on the weekend. There are over a dozen cool colors and prints to choose from, which is far more than most.

Pros
  • Tough nylon material
  • Stretchy spandex component
  • Awesome for casual wear
  • Cargo pockets are subtle
Cons
  • More expensive than most

3. Best Lightweight: Patagonia Nine Trails

 

Why we like it: They’re ultra-light and uber comfortable for those hot, sweaty days on the trail.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Athletic
  • Fabric: Recycled polyester/spandex
  • Integrated Belt: Drawstring

Although they’ll set you back a pretty penny, the Patagonia Nine Trails are a worthy investment for hikers who frequently traverse through hot and humid environs. The eight-inch inseam is among the shortest on our list, thus guaranteeing a full range of motion and optimal airflow throughout the day.

Trail runners are especially enamored with how well the sweat-wicking properties on these perform, although they’re just as effective for hikers as well. The shorts dry out extra quick, too, which is a godsend on a wet and rainy day.

Despite the hefty price tag, these athletic-style hiking shorts come in a remarkably simple design—no fancy bells and whistles here. That said, for those of you who prefer the minimalist look, their plain aesthetics are on point.

Two zippered pockets adorn each side with just enough room to store your essential gear. Don’t stuff too much in there, though; you’ll compromise on flexibility and that’s what athletic-style shorts are all about.

Pros
  • Excellent range of motion
  • Comfortable on the skin
  • Superior airflow keeps you cool
Cons
  • Rather expensive
  • Subtle aesthetics isn’t for everyone

4. Most Stylish: prAna – Men’s Brion

Why we like it: These boast optimal stretchiness, comfort, and durability without any unsightly cargo pockets.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Flat front
  • Fabric: 97% nylon / 3% spandex
  • Integrated Belt: No
  • UPF Rating: 50

If you liked the look of the fabric on the prAna Zion but weren’t all that taken with their loud cargo shorts style, then the Brion is the perfect alternative for you. These hip, urban-inspired hiking shorts come in the same patented Stretch Zion fabric, consisting of 97% nylon and 3% spandex.

The highly lauded blend boasts ample toughness and weather protection plus sufficient stretchiness, making it ideal for the rigors of the trail. It’s lightweight and breathable, too, so you needn’t stress about overheating when tackling an arduous ascent.

For most fans of the brand, however, the highlight of the Brion is these shorts look superb off the trail. With four subtle, standard pockets and no built-in belt, nobody is going to know you’re donning a pair of hiking shorts. Wearing these at the bar, the beach, and even a smart casual summertime event is entirely viable—talk about versatile.

The fit lies somewhere between slim and standard, allowing you to look sharp and still offering enough range of motion for a strenuous hike. Although they’re probably not the best option for an extended backcountry excursion, these are perfect for casual hikers with a sense of urban style.

Sure, you do lose a bit of utility with the flat front design and missing in-built belt. But for the fashion conscious hiker, that’s a worthy sacrifice to make. And much like the prAna Zion, you’ll have no shortage of different colors to choose from here.

Pros
  • Cool, urban-inspired design
  • Tough, stretchy, and breathable material
  • Lots of different colors and designs
  • Versatile hiking and casual shorts
Cons
  • Less utility than other options
  • Quite expensive

5. Best Budget Men’s Hiking Shorts: Coleman Men’s Hiking Cargo Shorts

Why we like it: These cost-effective hiking shorts from Coleman keep you safe from the elements and will withstand the test of time.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Cargo
  • Fabric: 100% nylon
  • Integrated Belt: Elastic closure
  • UPF Rating: 50

Not every hiker has stacks of spare cash to splash out on an expensive brand, yet they still want something serviceable to shuffle around the wilderness in. And that’s the source of Coleman’s success—the company creates quality outdoor apparel and equipment at an affordable price point.

These cargo shorts are no exception, delivering robust performance for a fraction of the cost of the premium products we recommend. The 100% nylon fabric isn’t as stretchy or sweat-wicking capable as others, but it does do a fantastic job of protecting you from the elements. You won’t have to worry about them ripping on an overgrown trail either, as nylon is built tough to last.
The shorts come with a whopping eight pockets, some with Velcro and others with zippers. You also get a removable web belt with a quick-release buckle—replace it with your own should you prefer.

So what’s the catch?

Well, they’re not as stretchy as the more expensive hiking shorts on our list. If you plan to trek through exceptionally rugged terrain, then you should probably opt for something with added spandex instead. They’re also not that great in terms of breathability, so give these a miss if hot midsummer hikes are your jam.

Pros
  • Affordable hiking pants
  • Tough nylon material
  • Weatherproof design
  • Eight pockets
  • In-built belt is removable
Cons
  • Not very stretchy
  • Less breathable than others

The Best Women’s Hiking Shorts in 2020

1. Best Women’s Hiking Shorts Overall: Columbia Sandy River Shorts

Why we like it: The Sandy River Shorts from Columbia feel comfortable on a hike and are stylish enough to wear to the beach or around town.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Low-key cargo
  • Fabric: 100% nylon
  • Integrated Belt: Yes
  • UPF Rating: 30

Comfortable, cute, and effortlessly casual, the Sandy River hiking shorts from Columbia are a hit among outdoorsy women throughout America. The widely popular garment is made of 100% ripstop nylon, ensuring it’s lightweight yet durable enough for life on the trail.

Their quick-dry fabric lets you swim without worrying about all-day sogginess, perfect for when you stumble across a crystal clear waterhole on a sweltering hot hike. Nylon is also famously tough, so it’s unlikely you’ll tear a hole regardless of how rugged the terrain may be.

The shorts come in a classic fit with a mid-rise, a perfect compromise for hikers who want a full range of motion yet robust protection from the elements. With just one zippered back pocket—drainage hole included—and two low-key side pockets, its simplistic cargo style is ideal for the minimalists out there. Granted, the included belt isn’t especially attractive, but you can always add your own (or go without if it’s a good fit).

The UPF rating is a little lower than most at 30+. Nonetheless, unless you’re exceptionally fair-skinned or prone to sunburn, that’s enough to keep you safe from harm.

Pros
  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Cute casual design
  • Classic fit is good for hiking
  • Breathable for hot-weather hikes
Cons
  • UPF rating could be higher
  • Attached belt isn’t very stylish

2. Best Budget Hiking Shorts for Women: Willit Women’s Hiking Shorts

Why we like it: These cozy and comfortable women’s shorts are perfect for hiking and won’t break the bank.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Athletic
  • Fabric: 80% nylon / 20% spandex
  • Integrated Belt: Drawstring
  • UPF Rating: 50

Ladies looking for low cost yet lusciously comfortable shorts to wear on the trail should consider this pair from Willit.

Although not explicitly designed with hiking in mind—they’re just as good for running, yoga, gym, or lounging around the house—these high-waist shorts come in a lightweight and breathable nylon/spandex blend that’s perfect for long-distance walking. The wrinkle-free design also means you can slip into these at a moment’s notice—ideal for women on the go.

The stretchy fabric also boasts strong sweat-wicking capabilities to help keep you dry and fresh on a demanding hike. And that’s just as well because this budget-orientated model forgoes an inner lining to keep the production cost down.

These shorts include an unobtrusive drawstring closure that’s adjustable for a custom fit and doesn’t chafe like a belt. Another feature that adds to the comfort factor is their heavy-duty flat lock stitching design, which feels smooth on the skin and won’t come undone.

On the sides, you’ll get two pockets to stash your kit, although they’re relatively small, so don’t expect to keep much in there.

Pros
  • Excellent value for money
  • Lightweight and breathable blend
  • Wrinkle-free fabric
  • Superb moisture-wicking ability
  • Adjustable drawcord
Cons
  • Pockets are too small
  • No inner lining

3. Best Premium Hiking Shorts For Women: prAna Women’s Olivia Shorts

Why we like it: These high-quality women’s shorts are stylish enough to wear out on the town and perform exceptionally well on the trail.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Flat fronts
  • Fabric: 97% nylon / 3% spandex
  • Integrated Belt: No
  • UPF Rating: 50

The Olivia shorts from prAna are something of a love child between the men’s prAna Zion and the prAna Brion. Striking a balance between outdoorsy and casual, women of all shapes and sizes will feel confident rocking these in both the city and the great outdoors.

The heavy nylon blend (it uses the same ‘Stretch Zion’ fabric as the aforementioned men’s models) is tough enough to withstand demanding backcountry hikes, while a smidgen of added spandex and a 5-inch, mid-thigh cut allows for a full range of motion in the legs. The shorts do well in the sweat-wicking department, too, and are breathable enough to don on hot summer days.

As you’d expect, these high-end prAna shorts are built to last. Super tough nylon fabric and heavy-duty chain stitching at the seams mean you won’t have to replace these any time soon.

There’s no belt here, which is a bonus in this situation as you can slip on something flashy when wandering around town or something practical when trudging through the wilderness.

The smart-casual style means neither of the pockets has zippers or buttons, so you’ll need to be careful you don’t lose your gear when scrambling or bouldering.

The big downside to these shorts, of course, is cost. prAna makes premium quality gear and charges accordingly, and their popular Olivia shorts are no exception to the norm.

Pros
  • Look good for casual use and outdoor activities
  • Afford a full range of motion in the legs
  • Feel comfortable in hot weather
  • Durable design
Cons
  • Pockets don’t have zippers
  • Quite expensive

4. Most Versatile: Patagonia Baggies

 

 

 

Why we like it: Women can confidently rock these funky shorts on a hike, at the beach, or during any number of other outdoor pursuits.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Athletic
  • Fabric: 100% recycled nylon
  • Integrated Belt: Drawstring
  • UPF Rating: 50

Although the Patagonia Baggies aren’t designed specifically to be hiking shorts, this adorable and versatile garment performs exceptionally well on a hike.

A breezy five-inch cut comes in lightweight recycled nylon to keep you cool as a cucumber, and the vibrant flower and fruit-themed prints ensure you’ll look fresh as well. You can also pick this one up in plain blue and black for the more reserved ladies out there.

The Patagonia Baggies boast a durable water repellent finish; in laymen’s terms, that means they’re great for swimming in and will dry fast once you’re done splashing about. If you plan to do a lot of coastal hikes, there’s nothing more refreshing then taking a quick dip to cool off, and it’s super convenient to do so without getting changed.

The thing we love most about these shorts is just how versatile they are. Feel free to wear them on a hike, at the beach, around town, or on a jog or ride. You could even wear them at the office (better save these for Casual Fridays, though). Why purchase a separate pair of shorts for all your favorite outdoor activities when one will do just fine?

Now, it should be noted they’re not durable enough for lengthy backcountry hikes, especially those that pass through rugged terrain. Like other Patagonia products, these sit outside the price range for many casual consumers.

Pros
  • Quick-dry fabric is good for swimming
  • Comes in several cute prints
  • Suitable for multiple activities and occasions
Cons
  • Not ideal for long hikes
  • Quite expensive

5. Best Women’s Cargo Short: BALEAF Hiking Cargo Shorts

Why we like it: This practical pair of women’s cargo shorts perform well in the outdoors.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Style: Cargo
  • Fabric: 90% polyester 10% spandex
  • Integrated Belt: No
  • UPF Rating: 50

While most women’s hiking shorts opt for a balance between function and form, BALEAF has taken a different approach here: high-performing cargo shorts designed for optimal outdoor utility.
Although these shorts won’t win any fashion awards, their polyester blend dries incredibly quickly and does a superb job at wicking sweat away from the skin. The material is also remarkably tough, and the fact it extends down to the knee provides plenty of protection when you’re bushwhacking through harsh terrain.

The fabric has been coated with a durable water repellent finish that stops it from getting soaked through in the first place, perfect for when the heavens open up in the middle of a hike. A respectable 50+ UPF rating also provides ample protection from the sun, so you needn’t worry about applying any lotion underneath.

Aside from providing a high level of protection in adverse conditions, these women’s cargo shorts are also surprisingly comfortable. The polyester blend is more breathable than most, and the added spandex keeps things stretchy enough. Of course, you won’t get the full range of motion that you would with high-cut hiking shorts—but the extra protection and utility make up for it.
Note that these cargo shorts only have three pockets, which pales in comparison to men’s models that often feature as many as six. Nonetheless, if you’re not carrying a dizzying array of gadgets and gizmos, three is plenty. Plus, the fact that each has a zipper ensures you won’t lose anything en route.

One downside is the sizing, which is a bit off. Aim for a slightly bigger number than you’d usually wear, and you should be okay.

All in all, they’re superb for outdoor living, including hiking—just don’t expect to look slick in the city while wearing these.

Pros
  • Quick-dry material
  • Water repellent finish
  • Zippered pockets
  • Good UPF rating
  • High level of protection
Cons
  • Fit is often smaller than expected
  • Not enough pockets for some people

Hiking Shorts Buyer’s Guide

Finding the ideal pair of hiking shorts requires research, which is why we’ve compiled this in-depth Buyer’s Guide. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about hiking shorts to put you in a position to make a well-informed decision.

Hiking Shorts Versus Hiking Pants

Hiking pants are undoubtedly more popular than shorts, but does that make them a better product? Not necessarily, as there are plenty of occasions when hiking shorts come up trumps.

The Benefits of Hiking Shorts

The most obvious situation where shorts are the preferred option is when you’re stomping through hot terrain and need all the airflow you can get. While hiking pants will stretch the whole way down to your ankles and inhibit ventilation, hiking shorts allow the cool breeze to flow right in, keeping you colder and drier in humid environments. As a result, you’ll find your outdoor forays to be considerably more comfortable when the mercury starts to soar.

Seasoned hikers often prefer to rock shorts in mild conditions, too, as they’ll sweat less and won’t have to worry about chafing. Another core advantage for showing some shin is you’ll save on weight—hiking shorts typically weigh a few ounces less than pants. Remember the adage, “an ounce in the pack (or wrapped around your legs) is a pound on the trail.”

The Benefits of Hiking Pants

Although we love donning a fresh pair of hiking shorts, there are certain situations where pants are preferred. Cold weather climates are the ideal stomping ground for hiking pants, as those extra inches of cloth will protect you from the chill. When the wind whips into a frenzy, you’ll be glad not to have any unnecessary skin exposed.

Overgrown trails are also an excellent time to don pants, as the thorns and prickly bushes will glide off the cloth rather than insert themselves into your skin. Plus, if mosquitoes and other nasty bitey insects are in abundance, then the added calf protection of pants can go a long way.

Hiking Short Types

The first thing you need to decide when shopping for a pair of hiking shorts is what type works best for you. There are several different options to choose from, and we’ll outline each of them below.

Flat Fronts

Flat front hiking shorts are one of the most common options on the market; they get their name from the fact there are no bulky pockets on the front. Flat fronts are perfect for hikers who want a tough and durable pair of shorts but don’t need stacks of pockets to stash their gear. These are lighter, more breathable, and more stylish than cargo shorts—and given it’s always more comfortable to stow your stuff in a backpack, flat fronts are an excellent option overall.

Cargo Shorts

Although cargo shorts may have gone out of fashion in the casual realm back in the 90s, they’re still pretty popular among hikers on the trail. These heavy-duty hiking shorts have an abundance of pockets to store your kit, making them a hit with hardcore trekkers carrying specialist equipment in the field.

However, having bulky items rattling around your pockets while on a hike is distracting, which is why we prefer to put our essentials safely tucked away elsewhere. If you’re not using these fancy pockets regularly, then you’ll be sacrificing weight and breathability for no good cause.

Athletic / Running Shorts

Running shorts have long been a hit among athletes for the breathability and full range of motion they afford. The good news is hikers can take advantage of these benefits as some outdoor apparel manufacturers make athletic-style shorts specifically for the sport.

The critical difference between athletic hiking shorts and other athletic shorts is durability. While runners don’t need their shorts to withstand the elements, hikers certainly do. Expect these to come in rigid, durable materials that won’t easily rip on prickly trees and thorns.

Convertible Hiking Pants

Technically speaking, these are hiking pants, which is why we don’t include them on our list, but they’re worth mentioning nonetheless. Convertible hiking pants come with a zipper around the knee that allows you to remove the lower section to create shorts when the weather gets warm. In that sense, you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds—hiking pants to protect you from the wind and hiking shorts for added airflow in the heat.

The downside is the zipper component can go off the tracks or break completely, in which case you’d either have to get it fixed or use them solely as shorts. They’re also impossible to remove over big hiking boots, so you better be prepared to unlace every time you switch into shorts mode.

Best Fabrics for Hiking Shorts

While ordinary casual shorts come in an array of aesthetically pleasing fabrics like cotton, hiking shorts are specially designed to put function over form. Durability, stretchability, and sweat-wicking capability are the key factors in play, which is why synthetics like polyester, nylon, and spandex are the fabrics of choice.

Most manufacturers choose to weave together two or three fabrics to create a potent blend for outdoor use.

Polyester

A mainstay in the activewear scene, polyester boasts stretchy and sweat-wicking properties, which makes it fantastic for hiking and other outdoor pursuits. The synthetic fabric works wonderfully in undergarments and t-shirts, and it’s a popular component in hiking apparel like shorts as well.

Polyester isn’t stretchy enough to provide adequate comfort, so the best manufacturers throw some spandex into the mix. Be aware that different weaves can have a significant impact on the look, feel, and performance—not all polyester is created equal.

Nylon

Nylon is another synthetic fabric suitable for outdoor use, although its main strength is its rugged and durable composition. The abrasion-resistant material is incredibly tough, making it ideal for adventurers who include climbing, canyoneering, or bouldering in their hikes.

The downside is nylon doesn’t wick moisture, making it uncomfortable when you’re tackling a tough hike in the heat. For this reason, many hiking shorts combine nylon with polyester to create a blend that’s both breathable and rugged. It’s not stretchy either, so look for a combination with spandex to achieve a full range of motion in the legs if you’re going for a tight fit.

Spandex

Spandex is famed for its stretchiness and is often included in small quantities in hiking shorts to add extra elasticity to the fit. Unlike cycling and gym apparel, you won’t find hiking shorts made exclusively of spandex, but it’s common to see it comprising a modest portion of the blend.

How To Buy Hiking Shorts Online

It’s usually pretty easy to find a suitable fit when shopping for hiking shorts online, so there’s no need to pay an excessive amount at an expensive brick and mortar store. In addition to the substantial savings, shopping online also has the added convenience of having the merchandise shipped directly to your door—a win-win.

Hiking shorts either come listed in inches (for the waist) or sizes such as small, medium, large, extra-large, etc. If you’re going with a product that uses the latter, check the online listing to see what size waist the item is suitable for.

Integrated Belts and Waist Cords on Hiking Shorts

Many hiking shorts include an integrated belt or waist cord you can fasten up yourself to find the perfect fit. In this case, you can safely purchase a slightly looser fit than usual. Don’t go too big, however, as with all the strenuous hiking you’ll be doing, you’re bound to lose a bit of flab off your waistline.

The downside to integrated belts (and wearing a belt while hiking in general) is they may chafe against the waist buckle of your backpack.

If you tend to do a lot of multi-day backcountry hikes, then you’re better off going for a slim, low profile belt or cord that won’t rub against the waist buckle of your backpack. If you’re more of a casual day hiker, on the other hand, then there’s no harm donning a beefy belt of any size or shape.

Remember, the waist buckle of a heavy-duty hiking backpack is designed to support the majority of its weight; it must fit snuggly without anything to rub against underneath.

Sweat Wicking in Hiking Shorts

One of the essential things to consider when shopping for hiking shorts—or any activewear, for that matter—is its moisture-wicking capability.

Common clothing fibers like cotton do a terrible job at wicking moisture because sweat gets absorbed in the fabric and becomes stuck. As a result, you’ll feel hot and sticky while moving and cold and clammy when you rest—hardly ideal for a hiker.

Synthetic fibers like polyester—and to a lesser extent, nylon—will wick away the moisture through a chemical reaction called capillary action. In a nutshell, the sweat passes from one side of the fabric to the other and quickly evaporates in the air. The outcome is you’ll feel cooler, drier, and more comfortable than you would wearing cotton.

One natural fabric that has excellent moisture-wicking properties is wool, although it’s too delicate to use in hiking shorts.

FAQ

Still got some questions about hiking shorts? Take a look at our FAQ below.

Can I wear shorts while hiking?

Absolutely.

In fact, hiking shorts are preferable to hiking pants in many ways. Shorts will keep you cooler due to the added airflow and allow a better range of motion in the legs. They’re lighter, too, which makes them easier to walk in.

On the downside, hiking shorts provide less protection from the cold, wind, and prickles than hiking pants.

What are the best shorts for hiking?

The best shorts for hiking depends on several factors such as budget, fashion preference, and durability requirements.

By taking a look through our top recommended hiking shorts for men and women, you’ll surely find a product that suits your needs.

Why is cotton bad for hiking?

Cotton absorbs moisture, which makes it soggy and heavy as you sweat or when it rains. Not only does this result in an unpleasant sticky sensation, but it also adds extra weight, thus making your hike more difficult with every step.

Fast-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester and nylon are far better served for hiking, especially when blended with spandex for extra stretchiness.

Can I hike in yoga pants?

While hiking in yoga pants is certainly possible, it’s not exactly ideal.

The spandex material in yoga pants provides a full range of motion in the legs, but it doesn’t do a great job of wicking away the sweat. Therefore, you’ll be left feeling a little damp and irritated should you decide to go hiking on a hot day.

Another downside to spandex is it isn’t very durable. If you find yourself battling your way through overgrown vegetation—as is common on remote trails—then your yoga pants will likely rip or tear. Nylon, on the other hand, is much more durable, thus better suited for the rigors of the trail.

The Best Hiking Shorts To Buy in 2020: Final Thoughts

We’ve carefully examined dozens of hiking shorts to compile this list, from no-thrills cheapies to top of the range outdoor apparel. Regardless of your budget and personal preference, you’re sure to find something on our list that appeals to you.

Remember, when the weather begins to warm up, hiking shorts are preferable to hiking pants in so many ways. By showing off the skin on your shins, you’ll feel cooler and more comfortable than ever before, and that’ll enable you to enjoy your outdoor adventures in style.

So give the full-length hiking pants a miss on your next hot weather hike and indulge yourself in a breezy pair of shorts instead. You’ll thank us later. Make sure to read our guide to the best hiking GPS units so you don’t get lost on your next journey!