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.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $48 List | $47.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, stretchy, long
Cons:  Only one pocket, not the most flattering
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Sara Aranda ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 5, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 8
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 8
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Features - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The longest hiking shorts we recently tested, the Columbia Back Beauty is a practical, comfortable option. It has a body-hugging fit around the waist and a baggy cut for the legs, which means ample mobility but somewhat strange styling. We also feel that the fit runs small for Columbia, especially when compared to the Columbia Sandy River Cargo. Nonetheless, the material is stretchy, moves lightly, dries quickly, has water and stain resistance, and offers added sun protection. For other lengthy hiking shorts, check out the cargo-like KUHL Splash.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Comfortable, stretchy, longTrendy, comfortable, lightweightAffordable, water resistant, breathableLightweight, water resistant, versatileAnti-odor, moisture wicking, quick drying
Cons Only one pocket, not the most flatteringShorter inseam, no water resistanceUnnecessary belt, small cargo pocketsRuns big, abrasive waistbandExpensive, runs large, not ideal for incline
Bottom Line Boldly athletic, these shorts are lengthy and comfortable.A highly comfortable, performance-based hiking short.Functional and fun, these shorts cover all the basics.For water sports or hiking, these classic baggies are light and casual.A more conservative pair of shorts that are ideal for flat trails.
Rating Categories Back Beauty Long Sport Aphrodite 2.0 Short Sandy River Cargo Baggies 5" Sol Cool Nomad Short
Comfort And Mobility (35%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
Venting And Breathability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Versatility (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
Water Resistance (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Features (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Back Beauty Long... Aphrodite 2.0 Short Sandy River Cargo Baggies 5" Sol Cool Nomad Short
Weight (in oz) 5.4 oz 4.4 oz 5.1 oz 5.2 oz 4.9 oz
Material OMNI-SHADE and OMNI-SHIELD 89% polyester/11% elastane Max Lite double weave 95% nylon, 5% elastane OMNI SHADE 100% nylon Perfecta Plus II 100% nylon (92% recycled) 100% nylon
Water Resistance Omni-Shield repellancy None (Flashdry™-XD quick-dry) Perfecta Plus II quick-dry DWR coating Sol Cool™ Jade quick-dry
Sizing (waist, length options) XS - XL XS - XXL, 4" or 6" inseam XS - XL XXS,XS, S, M, L, XL 2 - 16
Sun Protection Yes, UPF 50 No Yes, UPF 30 No Yes, UPF 50
Convertible, or option available? No No No No No
Pockets 1 3 4 2 5
Waist Strap/Fasten Elastic waistband Elastic waistband with drawstring Elastic waistband with plastic snap and zipper fly, optional belt Elastic waistband with drawstring Two metal snaps and zipper fly
Other Features Elastic, athetic, contoured fit, one stash pocket Flashdry-XD quick-dry fabric, triple needle stitch for durability, zip stash pocket Zip cargo pocket, quick-dry nylon fabric Fair Trade Certified sewing SILVADUR coating in fabric activates silver ions to reduce odor, zip stash pockets, tricot-lined waistband
Warranty One Year Good Faith Guarantee Limited Lifetime Warranty One Year Good Faith Guarantee Ironclad Guarantee 1-Year Warranty

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 they only have one pocket. The Back Beauty is almost too minimal for the casual hiker.

Performance Comparison


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 and a zipper add to its comfort, particularly when wearing a backpack. We never found ourselves adjusting the shorts to high-step or to simply keep them up.


The only annoyances were the seams on the inside of the hemline, which were mildly abrasive to the top of the thighs when going up a long incline. It's a small nitpick, but we did notice it when trekking uphill. Nonetheless, the overall comfort is one of the best. The fit ran slightly small around our hips, and the proportions were a little odd overall. Mobility wise, the shorts moved with the body, and the length does not obstruct our stride. Rather, the length offers much-appreciated protection from the sun and 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 oz 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.


The length and technical material do make for comfortable rock climbing shorts or extended hikes as well, as they are wearable with a harness and as flexible as needed. They are pleasant to stretch in, use a foam roller with, or wear while casually cycling around town. The longer style isn't particularly fashionable, however, because it's quite obvious how singularly athletic they are; baggy at the knees and snug at the waist 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 highly versatile piece of active wear all the same.


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 Patagonia Baggies.


Our water test found that the polyester blend beads 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 this apparel includes is sun protection, quick drying time, no waist closure, and durability. Columbia's Omni-Shield feature means these shorts have UPF 50. The lack of multiple pockets 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 the ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad. One small feature we wish they had was a stash pocket in the waistband, much like what is characteristically found on outdoor-oriented leggings. For this metric, they are right in rank with the KUHL Splash, another longer inseam option.

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

Best Applications


While they can easily be used for rock climbing, casual cycling, or short runs, they are the most appropriate for hiking. From easy to difficult trails, their length is useful, but will not retain heat very well if you are caught in a wind or snow storm. Worn comfortably with a pack or during a quick outing, the lack of pockets isn't as huge of a deterrent as we originally thought. Pockets are nonetheless a key essential in our opinion.

Value


For a pair of long, athletic shorts, the Back Beauty retails for just under $50. Compared to others of this length, they are incredibly affordable. On the other hand, this might be a tiny bit steep if you're a pocket and 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 the top-scoring and slightly shorter Columbia Sandy River Cargo. 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 and compete with the best. 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 hiking shorts.


Sara Aranda