The Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch shorts do a little bit of everything. They offer reasonable comfort, simple but practical features, and good weather resistance. They are among the least expensive shorts that we reviewed, and ultimately, with this model, it is all of the details that keep it from a top spot. There is no built-in waist tightening system, and the Velcro closure on the back pockets performs and feels like a feature that would belong on a less expensive pair of shorts. Overall, we have no significant complaints, but the small things do add up.
Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch Short Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Good water resistance, inexpensive
Cons: Materials feel cheaper, no waist adjuster, fabric not stretchy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
These shorts have all of the basic elements down but are missing a few pieces. It almost feels like they are a first draft of a really promising pair that just never quite got refined all the way.
The Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch shorts are fairly consistent across the board, placing them in the middle of the pack.
Comfort and Mobility
They are most comfortable for casual walks. The 95%/5% nylon/elastane blend seems like it would be a stretchy fabric, but the material is one of the most static that we tested. The crotch is gusseted, so that helps alleviate some of the mobility concerns by creating more space, but the difference between this pair and, say, the Patagonia Quandary is noticeable, especially when it comes to high-stepping and scrambling.
We appreciate the soft, felty interior waistband, as it does reduce chaffing on the hips. However, because of the stiffer quality of the fabric and lack of waist adjustability, there isn't nearly the same control of the fit as with other pairs like the Arc'teryx Palisade or Marmot Limantour. If you are going on a multi-day trip and don't bring a belt, the waist will only get looser.
We like the simplicity of the feature set on these shorts, but wish that the execution was a little more seamless. The two front, two rear, and one right, zippered thigh pocket provide plenty of carrying capacity. However, the Velcro closure on the rear pockets feels cheap and is sometimes tricky to get open with one hand when reaching behind you.
We like that the thigh pocket is sewn fully to the leg of the shorts so that items don't flop around. It is also large enough to hold most smartphones. The metal button closure stays put while hiking, but it similarly feels cheap. If you want full features with high-quality construction, we recommend the Arc'teryx Palisade.
Versatility and Style
This pair is lightweight and great for casual hikes. We would also consider it for fishing and boating. Because of the waist fit, we don't think it would be an awesome choice for distance hikes-- you'll have to keep pulling them up unless you bring a belt. In terms of style, there is a subtle but still noticeable square pattern on the fabric, like on a lot of ripstop nylon tents and dry bags. The 10" inseam falls just above the knee on most folks.
We like the look more than the REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo, but less than the Patagonia Quandary.
Weather Resistance and Dry Time
Of all of the test metrics, this is where these shorts perform the best. The fabric has a UPF 50 rating and has a nice tight weave, which, for what it's worth, offers solid wind protection as well.
Both mist and heavier rain bead nicely on these shorts, and consequently, they dry quickly as well. For this reason, they are also good for water crossings, though it is worth noting that the interior waist liner takes considerably longer to dry than the rest of the shorts.
Ventilation and Breathability
The loose weave mesh that lines each of the pockets has improved airflow over models with a much finer liner. However, like a few other components of these shorts, this material feels cheaper, and we would have concerns on the long run about poking a (bigger) hole through one of the pockets.
These shorts perform well on the flats. They are best used for casual day hikes or front country weekend wear. The water-resistance and sun protection rating also makes them a great choice for water-based activities.
Coming in at $50, we think they have more style than the similarly priced REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo, but slightly less functionality. With that in mind, the value here depends on what your priorities are. They are the least expensive shorts that we tested, but if we were committing to buying a pair of hiking shorts anyway, we would rather spend the extra $20 to upgrade to the Patagonia Quandary.
The Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch score decently, but miss out on a couple of key components. The fabric is static compared to many of our award winners, and some of the features look and feel like they would be on an inexpensive pair of shorts. We didn't have any bad experiences with them; they just didn't blow us away.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch