The Prana Stretch Zion shorts are super comfortable but have somewhat unusual styling. The stretch fabric is great for big-stepping adventures and lounging. The concept behind the features this pair includes is really nice, but we think that their utility could be slightly improved. Their water-resistance is lacking, so they are better for drier climates, and the pocket access is somewhat clunky. Similar to their sibling the Prana Brion, we do like these shorts quite a bit, but for reasons other than what makes for a solid pair of hiking shorts.
Prana Stretch Zion Short Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very comfortable, integrated belt, discrete crotch vents
Cons: Difficult-to-access pockets, limited water resistance
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Our Analysis and Test Results
On dry days, these shorts perform well. Their fabric maintains excellent user mobility, and as far as shorts with cargo pockets go, they look really good. The pockets and features could be improved a bit, but they are shorts that come with a solid foundation.
They offer some versatility and style, but the Prana Stretch Zion shorts are bolstered mostly by their comfort.
Comfort and Mobility
The best part of these shorts is how comfortable they are. The 97%/3% nylon/spandex blend has a moderate amount of stretch, but the gusseted crotch and 10" inseam ensure that the wearer has plenty of mobility.
The softer fabric along the interior of the waist reduces chaffing while on the move. The integrated belt also makes it possible to adjust the waist, so even though these shorts aren't particularly slim fit, the waist and hips still feel secure, which we found is especially nice if you are also wearing a backpack.
The features that these shorts include are conceptually good ones; they just don't quite nail the execution. There are five pockets; two front, two rear, and one on the left leg. This cargo pocket has dual zippers, one on the side and one on top, as well as a flap covering the top zip. This flap only detracts from the accessibility of the pocket without bringing much to the table. We found it hard to fit our hands in there to retrieve snacks. The side zip access is kind of nice if you are sitting with your legs up, but for the most part, it is a little too much. The rear pockets are asymmetrical; the left has no closure, which we don't love for hiking shorts, and the right has a flap, similar to the cargo, which makes it equally tedious to access.
We mostly appreciate the integrated belt, though its design creates some style issues, as noted below. The metal button closure stayed secure through every activity we took them on.
Versatility and Style
So long as you stick to dry climates, these shorts are multi-purpose. We like them for day hikes (and front country meet ups, if you don't have time to change), and outdoor work around the house.
In terms of style, they are somewhere between rugged and casual. These shorts have a lot of visible redundant stitching, which we think is largely for style. Given the amount that you can actually adjust the integrated belt, there is a little too much webbing, which just kind of flops around. It looks especially odd if you also wear a separate belt.
Weather Resistance and Dry Time
These shorts are among the poorest performers in this metric. The fabric itself appears to have some nominal amount of water resistance, but similar to the Fjallraven Abisko and Marmot Limantour, if you are moving around, moisture will work its way through the holes of the fabric rather quickly. Because of their thickness, they also take quite a bit longer to dry than their thinner competitors like the Patagonia Quandary.
Venting and Breathability
The Zion is the only one in this review that incorporates an active ventilation feature. There are four holes on the crotch gusset, which are small enough and discretely placed that they aren't evident to others, even when you are sitting down. However, we also aren't totally sure that they offer a whole lot. That being said, we do sweat less in these shorts than some similar competitors. The front pockets are mesh-lined as well.
These shorts excel in warm, dry weather. We would be equally happy to take them on day hikes, do work around the house, or hang out around a campfire in them.
Coming in at $70, they represent good value. Having said that, if it is style that you are primarily after, we would opt for the equally priced Prana Brion. If it's comfort and functionality together, then the also equally-priced Patagonia Quandary are the better value.
The Prana Stretch Zion shorts are very comfortable. The stretch fabric is flexible yet durable. We are disappointed with their water resistance, and the pockets don't wow us, but somehow, these shorts still look pretty good. If we needed a backcountry/front country go-between, these would be toward the top of the list.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch