Patagonia Dirt Craft Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Versatile, adjustable waist, chamois liner included
Cons: Expensive, short inseam, limited waist articulation
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Patagonia is ubiquitous in the outdoor clothing, producing everything from wetsuits to alpine climbing technical wear. We are excited to see them take on mountain bike clothing with products like Dirt Craft and Dirt Roamer shorts. In classic Patagonia style, they have produced a pair of mountain bike shorts whose versatility goes beyond the bike. The casual style and short inseam length make the Dirt Craft shorts adept for mountain biking use and other pursuits such as hiking or a day of sport climbing. We like the versatility and suspect that for the minimalist dual-sport athlete, the draw of a multi-use garment will be a selling point.
These shorts feel great off the bike for hiking or cruising around town. On the bike, they offer a relatively high level of comfort, but the less stretchy material used in their construction can feel a little restrictive. The fabric is not nearly as soft against the skin as some other models we tested, though we never found it to feel abrasive. Ventilation is minimal with no mesh vents or other ventilation openings, so despite the lightweight fabric, these shorts can get rather hot on warm days. The DWR treated fabric is quick drying, however. The Dirt Craft shorts do come with a chamois liner. The pad is one of the softest and pillowy-est we tested, which makes it comfortable for long periods in the saddle.
The shorts come in even waist sizes between 28 and 40, and the waist adjustment system offers several inches of adjustment. We found them to run true to size
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
The Dirt Craft shorts have a relatively trim fit that is well tailored and athletic. The cut is somewhat comparable to a hiking short with a bit less articulation in the waist than most purpose-built riding shorts. The lack of articulation leads to a slight amount of fabric bunching at the front of the shorts near the hip joint and makes pedaling feel marginally less efficient. The fabric is stretchy, but the 2-way stretch only allows expansion on the vertical plane as opposed to the 4-way stretch fabric that has more give in all directions.
The hem of the shorts has been designed with pedaling in mind with the front of the shorts hanging slightly lower than the back. When pedaling, the shorts rise a bit above the knee and do not inhibit the pedal stroke. The rise of the hem at the back of the knee also ensures that they don't rub on the back of your leg.
Patagonia has done a good job balancing a short with dual purposes with the right features to make the short functional for most mountain bikers. The two open, unsecured jean style pockets on the front of the shorts and the left thigh zippered pocket provide enough storage for a cell phone and some food. The waist adjustment system is a simple and sturdy hook and loop design.
On the Dirt Craft shorts the waist adjustment is loacted on both sides of the waist band. These low-profile hook and ladder adjustments allows for sveral inches of incremental adjustment. They are anchored to the waistband with an elastic strap hidden in the fabric of the shorts. This provides a bit more range on each of the loop positions as there is a bit of stretch built into the system. A traditional button and YKK zipper keep the shorts in place. The Dirt Craft also have nylon straps with small snap buttons to attach the included chamois to the shorts, so everything stays in place. We used them during testing but found they were not really necessary. The liner and shorts can also be used independently of each other.
The DWR infused nylon/spandex shell of the Dirt Craft shorts held up well during testing with no fading or staining. The DWR coating does do a solid job of preventing the shorts from becoming soaked on wet rides and seems to repel mud so that it doesn't become impregnated in the fabric. All of the stitching is double and exposed, but the layout of the seams prevents unnecessary wear when pedaling. Overall, the construction and materials are more than adequate for trail riding, but we would seek out a pair of shorts with a more heavy duty fabric like for gravity style riding.
If no one told you otherwise, you would likely mistake these shorts for any other pair of hiking shorts that Patagonia produces. The fit is slim and lacks the articulation of most other purpose-built mountain biking shorts. The short 11.5" inseam ensures that these shorts will not be mistaken for a downhill moto-inspired short. We like the casual look that does not scream "I race enduro!", but the look will appeal to some more than others. Overall, we think the style is subdued and can easily crossover from the trail to other activities, including throwing back a cold one post ride. They are offered in 4 colors options; wood brown (tested), blue smolder, black, and retro layers black.
The 11.5" inseam of the Dirt Craft is on the shorter end of the spectrum. A shorter inseam equals less leg coverage, so these shorts would not be our go-to for downhill use. We found that the short length also limited the functionality of the shorts for use with kneepads. The leg cuffs tend to rise up a bit above the knee and opening isn't very large, although we found them to work fine with low profile knee pads. The thin fabric also does not offer much protection from abrasion in the event of a crash.
The Dirt Craft shorts retail at the upper end of the price range in our test. We feel that their dual functionality makes them a good value for the rider who values versatility over sport-specific function, plus they come with a chamois liner short.
The Dirt Craft shorts from Patagonia are a solid pair of mountain bike shorts. We feel they are well suited to everyday trail riding with a slim, performance fit. The design emphasis seems to lean a bit more towards multi-sport versatility than dedicated biking use. With that said, the shorts are well made and do have features like an adjustable waist and a chamois liner that show that use on the bike was not an afterthought. These are a great option for the rider seeking a rugged pair of trail riding shorts with casual styling.
— Curtis Smith, Jeremy Benson