Arc'teryx Palisade Short Review
Cons: Expensive, not as stretchy as most comfortable models, small fly
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We like these shorts. We took them hiking for days at a time, and they didn't disappoint. Whether you are out for a day or a week, we think you will like their performance as well as the way they look.
Against the rest, the Arc'teryx Palisade is an admirable competitor. Though it misses out on some points for comfort, it otherwise scores consistently across the board, earning a Top Pick for the balance of practicality and style.
Comfort and Mobility
We wish that these shorts had a little more stretch but all in all they are a comfortable pair. We appreciate the gusseted crotch. They also strike a nice balance between their weight and user mobility; that is, from a design perspective, there is no more fabric than there needs to be. We didn't feel restricted in our movement unless we were scrambling up boulders.
We also enjoy the feel of the felted liner on the interior of the waistband, which seriously reduces chaffing, especially when wearing a pack. The belt has a low enough profile that it isn't really noticeable under a hip belt either. One super subtle but surprisingly important comfort feature is at the front of the waist, just above the snap closure, the corners of the fabric are trimmed so that the fabric point doesn't rub on your skin, as we noticed in some other pairs.
On the other hand, the 94%/6% nylon/elastane blend is just a little rougher than we like; we noticed some chaffing on longer hauls, especially in humid weather. The other oddity is the fly length; it's just really short and difficult to use effectively. We think that these shorts take the functional minimalism a bit too far here. If you need a little more room than what these shorts provide, we recommend the REI Sahara Cargo, or if you want a stretchier pair of shorts with the support of an interior liner, the Patagonia Nine Trails are a great option as well.
The features on these shorts are just about perfect. They come with five pockets; two handwarmer, two cargo, one rear (right). They are all zippered, which is ideal for backpacking. No matter which pocket you choose, you can have the peace of mind that your snacks, keys, or whatever you stow in them won't fall out. The cargo pockets are flush against the thigh when empty but have some hidden pleating that expands their volume if you need to carry an extra protein bar. We also appreciate that the thigh pockets are integrated into the underside of the shorts (as opposed to being a separated piece of mesh that flaps wildly when running).
For other well-featured models, consider the Patagonia Nine Trails, which also comes with zippers on all of its pockets, as well as an interior liner, and the Patagonia Quandary, which earns our Editors' Choice Award for its all-around performance. If you the vibe of the Palisade but the price tag is over-the-top, then check out the REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo, which comes with just as many pockets, but a more reasonable price.
Venting and Breathability
These shorts are lightweight and breathable. The fabric is durable but not stifling, and the mesh pockets facilitate ventilation. With a 10" inseam, on most wearers they fall slightly above the knee, offering a cooler wearer experience.
Weather Resistance and Dry Time
This model was one of the top performers in this metric. It doesn't advertise any DWR (durable water repellent) coating but still beaded light rain well. The lightweight fabric also dries quickly. The Palisade does a good job as a stand-in for a bathing suit on the trail, though we will note, between the felted interior waist and the webbing of the integrated belt, the waist does take quite a bit longer to dry than the rest of the garment.
Other quick driers include the Patagonia Nine Trails and Patagonia Quandary. If your primary focus is on pockets, then you can't go wrong with the REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo, which also boasts very strong water resistance.
Versatility and Style
The Palisade has nice versatility. This pair straddles the lines between breathable and rugged, functional, and stylish. We took them out on trail, in town, and around the house and we liked them equally in all situations. As a nice bonus, we would also add that they come in slightly more interesting colors than the typical black/gray of men's athletic wear. We also wore them for air travel. Though we were initially concerned that the metal buckle on the integrated belt was not removable, it never caused any issues or delays going through security.
The Patagonia Quandary earns top marks for versatility. If you want to go all-in on style, we would recommend the Prana Brion, which we think looks the most fashionable of any model that we tested.
These shorts are best used for day hikes and adventures where you need the flexibility to move between backcountry and frontcountry on the same day. They do well on distance hikes too, but we find that the roughness of the fabric is not ideally suited for comfort in the long haul. If you are looking to pack light, they can easily double as a swimsuit.
At $130, we don't think that the value is quite there. Not that we don't enjoy these shorts, we just think that is a bit much to pay for any pair, regardless of most factors. However, that is not to say we don't think they will last. For the committed hiker, there is no reason why you couldn't get hundreds of good wears out of them.
The Arc'teryx Palisade is the short you grab when you need a simple pair that performs. Every pocket is zippered, so you never have to worry about objects falling out, and careful design elements, like the felted inner waistband, add to the impression that these Top Pick winners are made with an eye toward actual hikers. Though there are a couple of things that we would want to change about this model to make them truly top of the line, we would gladly buckle them up for our next adventure.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch