The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Columbia Back Beauty Long Sport Review

Boldly athletic, these shorts are lengthy and comfortable.
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Price:  $48 List | $19.98 at Amazon
Pros:  Comfortable, stretchy, long
Cons:  Only one pocket, not the most flattering
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Sara Aranda ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 21, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 8
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Features - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The lengthy Columbia Back Beauty is a practical, comfortable option. They have a body-hugging fit around the waist and a baggy cut for the legs, which means ample mobility but somewhat strange styling. Nonetheless, the material is stretchy, moves lightly, dries quickly, has water and stain resistance, and offers added sun protection. They can be used for rock climbing, casual cycling, or short runs, but are the most appropriate for hiking. The length is useful but will not retain heat very well if you are caught in a wind or snowstorm. The lack of pockets isn't as huge of a deterrent as we originally thought, though pockets are a key essential in our opinion.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, stretchy, longTrendy, comfortable, lightweightComfortable, breathable, versatileUltralight, versatile, stylishAffordable, water resistant, breathable
Cons Only one pocket, not the most flatteringShorter inseam, no water resistanceStretches out, wrinkles easilyLack of stretch in waistband, not as comfortableUnnecessary belt, small cargo pockets
Bottom Line Boldly athletic, these shorts are lengthy and comfortable.A highly comfortable, performance-based hiking short.Pure comfort and high function with subtle style.A very technical pair of long shorts with added style.Functional and fun, these shorts cover all the basics.
Rating Categories Back Beauty Long Sport Aphrodite 2.0 Short Prana Revenna Arc'teryx Sabria Sandy River Cargo
Comfort And Mobility (35%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Venting And Breathability (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
Versatility (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
5
Water Resistance (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
Features (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Specs Back Beauty Long... Aphrodite 2.0 Short Prana Revenna Arc'teryx Sabria Sandy River Cargo
Weight (in oz) 5.4 oz 4.4 oz 5.2 oz 4.4 oz 5.1 oz
Material OMNI-SHADE and OMNI-SHIELD 89% polyester, 11% elastane Max Lite double weave 95% nylon, 5% elastane 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex Fortius DW 1.0 (87% nylon, 13% elastane) OMNI SHADE 100% nylon Perfecta Plus II
Water Resistance Omni-Shield repellency None (Flashdry-XD quick-dry) DWR treatment Minimal Perfecta Plus II quick-dry
Sizing (waist, length options) XS - XL XS - XXL, 4" or 6" inseam 0 - 14, 5" or 7" inseam 00 - 14, 8.75" inseam XS - XL
Sun Protection Yes, UPF 50 No Yes, UPF 50 No Yes, UPF 30
Convertible, or option available? No No No No No
Pockets 1 3 4 2 4
Waist Strap/Fasten Elastic waistband Elastic waistband with drawstring Two metal snaps, zipper fly, internal drawstring Elastic waistband, internal drawstring Elastic waistband with plastic snap and zipper fly, optional belt
Other Features Elastic, athetic, contoured fit, one stash pocket Flashdry-XD quick-dry fabric, triple needle stitch for durability, zip stash pocket Ripstop fabric, one pocket with zipper, belt loops Gussetted crotch, pockets on thigh with zippers and mesh Zip cargo stash-pocket, quick-dry nylon fabric
Warranty One Year Good Faith Guarantee Limited Lifetime Warranty One Year Warranty Limited Warranty One Year Good Faith Guarantee

Our Analysis and Test Results

With ultralight athletic wear on the popular rise, these shorts are unabashedly practical. As far as we know, this model only comes in one color, though that could certainly change. Lightweight and seemingly basic, all the perks reside entirely in the material itself: a double-woven elastane and polyester blend designed with Columbia's Omni-Shield repellency and Omni-Shade technology. Beneficial on overgrown trails and even on cold days, the length of the shorts is also one of its best features. The main drawback, depending on who you ask, is that they only have one pocket. The Back Beauty is almost too minimal for the casual hiker.

Performance Comparison


Scoring the best in comfort and mobility, the lowest marks for this competitor are still well above average when compared to the rest.

These shorts are long and technical but not the most flattering of the group we tested. Our lead tester is shown wearing them on the ever-steepening approach to a climbing crag in Indian Creek  Utah.
These shorts are long and technical but not the most flattering of the group we tested. Our lead tester is shown wearing them on the ever-steepening approach to a climbing crag in Indian Creek, Utah.

Comfort and Mobility


The Back Beauty scored high in comfort and mobility due to the very nature of its stretchy material and straight cut. Much like leggings, the mid-rise waistband is easy to slip on. The lack of buttons or a zipper adds to its comfort, particularly when wearing a backpack. We never found ourselves adjusting the shorts to high-step or to simply keep them on our hips after a long day.

The only annoyances are the seams on the inside of the hemline, which are mildly abrasive to the top of the thighs when going up inclines. It's a small nitpick, but we did notice it. But, the overall comfort is one of the best as compared to the others. The fit runs slightly small around our hips, which makes the overall proportions a little odd. Mobility wise, the shorts move with the body, and the length does not obstruct our stride. Rather, the length offers much-appreciated protection from the sun and any overgrown flora.

Mobility is fluid and unrestricted in these legging-inspired sport shorts.
Mobility is fluid and unrestricted in these legging-inspired sport shorts.

Venting and Breathability


Made mostly out of polyester, breathability, and the ability to vent is a given with these shorts. Weighing in at only 5.4 ounces for the size we tested, the material is light and mesh-lined. The wide leg openings allow for air to cycle through on hotter days, while the length helps insulate when temperatures drop. These are the reasons behind the high rating for this metric. A drawback with polyester, though, is the odor factor, but much like any synthetic legging, they breathe well enough and can be easily washed. We did not encounter any odor issues during our tests.

From casual cycling to speedy ascents  it's easy to work hard in these shorts but harder to dress up for running errands around town.
From casual cycling to speedy ascents, it's easy to work hard in these shorts but harder to dress up for running errands around town.

Versatility


Activity-wise, the Back Beauty can be used for more than just hiking, and, given their length, they are still likely to be worn in the spring and fall. Keep in mind that the lack of main pockets can be a drawback when all you want are pockets to stick your hands into. This also takes away from practical transitions, like having a place to momentarily stash your keys or phone as you tie your shoes, lock the door, or pack the car for the trailhead.

The length and technical material do make for comfortable rock climbing shorts or extended treks as well since they are wearable with a harness and as flexible as needed. They are pleasant to stretch out in, use a foam roller with, or wear while casually cycling around town. The longer style isn't fashionable, however, because it's quite obvious how singularly athletic they are: baggy at the knees and snug at the waist. It makes for an interesting look. Thus, they do not necessarily pair well with a blouse or a cute sweater to meet friends for dinner in. But, fashion aside, they are a versatile piece of activewear.

Finding the right balance between stretch and durability is tricky for hiking shorts  especially for longer inseams.
Finding the right balance between stretch and durability is tricky for hiking shorts, especially for longer inseams.

Water Resistance


Designed with Columbia's Omni-Shield repellency, these shorts are stain and water-resistant, earning them a top score for this metric, right along with the DWR coated options. Our water test found the polyester blend to bead water exceptionally well. When left alone for several minutes, the water remained beaded until we finally brushed it off. Very little water absorbed into the fabric, and the little that did dried quickly. In regards to staining, we noticed that chalk and general dirt from climbing and outside living was difficult to wipe off, but of course, when washed, the shorts looked brand new.

The results of our water resistance test. The Back Beauty shorts are highly resistant.
The results of our water resistance test. The Back Beauty shorts are highly resistant.

Features


Separate from water resistance, other essentials include sun protection, quick-drying time, no waist closure, and durability. Columbia's Omni-Shield gives these shorts a UPF rating of 50. The lack of multiple pockets, however, impacted the score for this category. Our lead tester could not fit her iPhone Plus into the one security zip pocket, but could easily fit chapstick, car keys, or a smaller phone. Due to the stretchiness of the fabric, we would not recommend carrying heavy items. These shorts are thin (but not too thin) and are not as featured as top competitors. We also wish they had a stash pocket in the waistband, much like what is characteristically found on outdoor-oriented leggings.

The only pocket on these shorts is decently sized.
The only pocket on these shorts is decently sized.

Value


For a pair of long, athletic shorts, the Back Beauty retails for an affordable price. On the other hand, they might be a bit steep if you're a pocket and an accessory lover. Being as streamlined as they are, these shorts still offer some of the best features for hiking apparel. They are made in Vietnam, and Columbia offers a One Year Good Faith Guarantee.

The length advantage is hard to ignore. The lack of rear pockets can also be seen as a plus for wearing backpacks.
The length advantage is hard to ignore. The lack of rear pockets can also be seen as a plus for wearing backpacks.

Conclusion


A lot more technical than they seem at first glance, these shorts are in direct competition with some of the top-scorers. If they had more pockets, more color variety, and maybe a tad more styling, they might have come out on top. They certainly performed well in comfort, mobility, and water resistance. Prioritizing function and fashion, particularly in regards to length, is a subjective choice. Bottom line, we highly recommend these shorts for those wanting a pair of dependable shorts.


Sara Aranda