The Patagonia Nine Trails shorts are comfortable and lightweight without sacrificing necessary features. This model wins a Top Pick Award for distance hiking and trail running, as they kept us cool in the summer heat, and dried quickly after the thunderheads cleared out. They have an interior liner, zippered pockets, and drawstring; there's nothing over-the-top fancy about them, but it is their thoughtful simplicity that we really came to enjoy. Made from recycled polyester, the fabric is surprisingly comfortable against the skin. With an 8" inseam, they are one of the shortest models that we tested, but their fit matches their use well. If you are looking for a new pair of shorts to take with you on a thru-hike or a be a trail running standby, consider the Nine Trails.
Patagonia Nine Trails Short Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, odor resistant, zippered pockets
Cons: Not super stylish, liner limits versatility
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Our Analysis and Test Results
These shorts are well-suited for trail running and distance hiking and were worn across the Oregon Coast Trail to see if they could go the distance. We were pleased with their weight and breathability, and they even do a good impression of a bathing suit.
The Patagonia Nine Trails are comfortable and well-designed; it's easy to see how they ended up as a top contender.
Comfort and Mobility
This recycled-polyester pair will keep you cool on hot summer hikes. The 91%/9% polyester/elastane blend also has enough stretch that we never felt limited in how high we could step or how wide we could stretch. The 8" inseam is excellent; short enough that there isn't extra material flapping around on a run, but long enough that we were getting the coverage that we needed. The interior 'compression shorts' also negate the need for underwear (in fact, it is decidedly uncomfortable to wear a pair underneath), and offers excellent support on long adventures.
The fabric is also surprisingly soft. We often find that the hem in the legs of many shorts can be abrasive against skin and, over time, cause discomfort; not so with the Nine Trails. The 88%/12% polyester/elastic waistband also offers plenty of stretch for a snug fit. They fit as advertised and we didn't need the drawstring to hold them up. We also appreciated that the drawstring is fine and stretchy, so when we did opt to use it with a backpack, its slim profile didn't get in the way or rub uncomfortably under the hip belt.
The Nine Trails lead the pack in this metric, but a few other top contenders are the Prana Stretch Zion, Patagonia Quandary, and REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo.
These shorts are light on features but high on practicality. There are three zippered pockets; two handwarmers, and a rear (on the right side). We love the inclusion of zippers on the front; this is an uncommon feature for a pair of hiking shorts, but one that we really, really like. We never have to worry about keys or a protein bar falling out without us noticing. We also never needed more than three pockets, adding more just would have tempted us to stuff them with items that would have just weighed them down.
The interior liner also comes with odor control technology (application of a silver chloride solution), that supposedly keeps the garment permanently protected. Having used these shorts for two weeks at a time without washing them, we noticed a difference at first, but with the continuous wear that a distance hike requires, the exterior shorts themselves eventually got sweaty (and just regular dirty), so the beneficial effects diminish after the first handful of wears. The logo on the front is also reflective. We wouldn't recommend it as a sole nighttime visibility marker, but every little bit helps if you are trying to be seen in the dark.
Given their ideal use, we love the features that these shorts come with, but just barely edging out the Nine Trails in this metric is the Arc'teryx Palisade, which rides a more rugged concept with the perfect set of zippered pockets.
Venting and Breathability
These shorts are light and breathable. The outer material is relatively thin, which facilitates ventilation. The pockets are mesh as well, so if you aren't carrying anything in them, you could keep them unzipped to maximize the vent points.
We found that the legs are open enough to facilitate ventilation from the bottom and the comparatively short 8" inseam means that they cover less skin to begin with. The interior liner is also thinner than typical cotton underwear. After a few miles of hiking, we still got sweaty, but the polyester material dried out faster than most.
Weather Resistance and Dry Time
The Nine Trails have a DWR (durable water repellant) finish that provides them just enough water resistance to keep rain from a passing shower beading up, rather than soaking in. With that in mind, they do soak through after 10 or so minutes in moderate rain, but on the plus side, they dry quickly, and the liner dries faster than a separate pair of underwear does.
For shorts with great weather resistance out of the gate, we like the REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo for its exceptional DWR coating, and the Arc'teryx Palisade for their durable, wind-resistant fabric.
Versatility and Style
They aren't the most stylish shorts, but they are great for varying activities. For one of our 6-foot testers, the 8" inseam of these shorts falls a couple of inches above the knee, which we feel is an ideal length, given the activity. We never felt restricted in our movement, and we took them on a multi-week backpacking trip, day hikes, trail runs, and regular runs. They were a good choice for all of those activities.
Our only knock against their versatility is that they don't double as casual wear in the same way that many other models in this review do. The Prana Brion and Patagonia Quandary are good options if you need to go to town without necessarily looking like you just came from the trail.
These shorts have a wide range of applications, and their design makes them ideal for distance hikes and trail running. With that in mind, there is no reason that they couldn't also be used for day hikes or shorter backpacking trips. If the backcountry is not your scene, they also perform admirably as traditional running shorts.
Ringing up at $65, they are one of the less expensive models that we tested. Though we wouldn't consider them a steal, in the long run, they will prove their solid value, especially if you are a hiker/backpacker and a runner.
The Patagonia Nine Trails are a lightweight, versatile pair of hiking shorts that get the job done better than most. Though they seem designed primarily for those moving quickly, we also enjoyed them on day hikes and walks at a slower speed. They earn a Top Pick Award for their superb performance as a pair of distance hiking and/or trail running shorts.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch