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.
Columbia Back Beauty Long Sport Review
Cons: Only one pocket, not the most flattering
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Columbia Back Beauty Long Sport
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|Pros||Comfortable, stretchy, long||Trendy, comfortable, lightweight||Affordable, water resistant, breathable||Lightweight, water resistant, versatile||Anti-odor, moisture wicking, quick drying|
|Cons||Only one pocket, not the most flattering||Shorter inseam, no water resistance||Unnecessary belt, small cargo pockets||Runs big, abrasive waistband||Expensive, 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%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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