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.
Columbia Back Beauty Long Sport Review
Cons: Only one pocket, not the most flattering
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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.
Scoring the best in comfort and mobility, the lowest marks for this competitor are still well above average when compared to the rest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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