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Columbia Sandy River Cargo - Women's Review

Functional and fun, these shorts cover all the basics.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $30 List | $29.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, water resistant, breathable
Cons:  Unnecessary belt, small cargo pockets
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Sara Aranda ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 5, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

Against our initial expectations, the Sandy River Cargo ranks right in line with our Top Pick, the Columbia Back Beauty. This only seems to imply that Columbia consistently makes competitive, high-quality apparel. The main disadvantage we found for the Sandy River pair, however, resides in the snug waistband design. The nylon covered elastic band slowly detracts from the all-day comfort and versatility due to their lack of practicality for activities such as running. In spite of this, they are athletic and offer key perks like sun protection and ample venting. If you're wanting something more urban-friendly, consider the comfort advantage of The North Face Aphrodite 2.0.


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Star Rating
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Pros Affordable, water resistant, breathableTrendy, comfortable, lightweightComfortable, stretchy, longLightweight, water resistant, versatileAnti-odor, moisture wicking, quick drying
Cons Unnecessary belt, small cargo pocketsShorter inseam, no water resistanceOnly one pocket, not the most flatteringRuns big, abrasive waistbandExpensive, runs large, not ideal for incline
Bottom Line Functional and fun, these shorts cover all the basics.A highly comfortable, performance-based hiking short.Boldly athletic, these shorts are lengthy and comfortable.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 Sandy River Cargo Aphrodite 2.0 Short Back Beauty Long Sport Baggies 5" Sol Cool Nomad Short
Comfort And Mobility (35%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
Venting And Breathability (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
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
8
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Features (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Sandy River Cargo Aphrodite 2.0 Short Back Beauty Long... Baggies 5" Sol Cool Nomad Short
Weight (in oz) 5.1 oz 4.4 oz 5.4 oz 5.2 oz 4.9 oz
Material OMNI SHADE 100% nylon Perfecta Plus II 95% nylon, 5% elastane OMNI-SHADE and OMNI-SHIELD 89% polyester/11% elastane Max Lite double weave 100% nylon (92% recycled) 100% nylon
Water Resistance Perfecta Plus II quick-dry None (Flashdry™-XD quick-dry) Omni-Shield repellancy 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 30 No Yes, UPF 50 No Yes, UPF 50
Convertible, or option available? No No No No No
Pockets 4 3 1 2 5
Waist Strap/Fasten Elastic waistband with plastic snap and zipper fly, optional belt Elastic waistband with drawstring Elastic waistband Elastic waistband with drawstring Two metal snaps and zipper fly
Other Features Zip cargo pocket, quick-dry nylon fabric Flashdry-XD quick-dry fabric, triple needle stitch for durability, zip stash pocket Elastic, athetic, contoured fit, one stash pocket 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

When we first pulled these shorts out of the bag, we were both impressed by their thin, ultralight material and concerned for their durability. The more we wore them, however, the more they instilled confidence in us. Constructed with Columbia's Perfecta Plus II quick-drying nylon, they weighed an incredibly light 4.2 oz without the belt and only 5.1 oz in total. The bright color is quirky and can either be a pro or con depending on your preferences; as far as we know, Columbia does offer neutral tones for this model.

Performance Comparison


True to size and ultralight  these shorts are nice to move around in and fun to wear.
True to size and ultralight, these shorts are nice to move around in and fun to wear.

Comfort and Mobility


We are used to mid-rise or low-rise bottoms, so these shorts feel very high-waisted; we notice it all the more due to the snug nature of the elastic waistband. It is challenging to have them sit any other way, but we got used to it nonetheless. The nylon is not necessarily abrasive, but the general constriction of the waistband can become irritating over long periods. The rest of the fabric is gentle, fluid, and moves with the body. The wide leg openings are a nice touch, yet they aren't as baggy as the Patagonia Baggies. Wide leg openings are essential for high-stepping, scrambling, and even for speed. We can stretch and use a foam roller without concern for mobility but wish the comfort was the same.

Being that they are unlined, the risk of exposure is thankfully minimal due to the gracious 6-inch inseam. Sizing-wise, we feel that these shorts are true to size in real life. However, according to the online sizing chart, the XS is labeled as being equivalent to a size 2. This would imply that, for a size 2, these cargo shorts run small when compared to the other shorts we tested (as the majority of them are a size 2 and very relaxed fitting). Technicality aside, we feel that the XS is appropriately XS and should not be confused with the number sizing. For something longer and more suitable for all-day wear, the elastic waistband of the Columbia Back Beauty is non-irritating.

The Sandy River Cargo shorts are roomy enough to do more than just hiking. Here we have them out for a casual run.
The Sandy River Cargo shorts are roomy enough to do more than just hiking. Here we have them out for a casual run.

Venting and Breathability


Nylon is naturally moisture wicking, and these shorts are no exception. Adequate venting is also a given due to the baggier design and wide leg openings. We did not notice any extraordinary retention of heat or sweat during our tests. A waistband is always a place for heat to build, especially when layered over with shirts and jackets. Yet, we found the nylon of these to remain soft and breathable. Even after running in them, we were not encumbered by sweat. We found the quick-drying advantage to be better than The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 shorts, which also has a high, albeit thicker, waistband.

Versatility


Designed as activewear, being able to transfer to a more urban setting isn't as inherent; due to the bright nature of the color, they are quirky and fun. We noticed that while the inseam is lengthy, wearing the shorts at our waist created the illusion of the shorts being shorter than they actually are; this might detract from appearances for those wanting a more mature and lengthier look. Style aside, the versatility among varying activities is a key advantage for these shorts. Running, as we've already mentioned, is doable, though only recommended for short distances since the material bunches between the legs. The tight elastic waistband also poses the most discomforting factor against running. Overall, having a 6-inch inseam and technical material makes this pair more applicable across a wider range of weather conditions and types of outings, like kayaking, for instance.

These high-waisted shorts are breezy and casual. The belt is optional  however  and only adds extra weight.
These high-waisted shorts are breezy and casual. The belt is optional, however, and only adds extra weight.

Water Resistance


Columbia does not label this pair as having OMNI-SHIELD technology; however, we were surprised to find during our test that water beads well and does not readily soak into the nylon. These shorts also dry within minutes of casual water contact — as fast as the Sol Cool Jade nylon of the ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad. This gave a fairly high score for this metric, but not as high as the Patagonia Baggies with their DWR finish.

The results of our water resistance test. These shorts are not only resistant but also dry within minutes.
The results of our water resistance test. These shorts are not only resistant but also dry within minutes.

Features


Despite not having rear pockets, this pair still comes with four. Two of them are located at the thigh and are cargo-designed. We wished that the accessory pocket (with the zipper) could be bigger; while putting anything more than a chapstick or a key wasn't necessary for our purposes, the zipper makes the opening very tight and challenging for our fingers. We are a huge promoter of big pockets, and the main two in front are spacious and mesh-lined. Due to the light fabric, though, we wouldn't recommend carrying heavy items. Additional features include Columbia's UPF 30 sun protection, belt loops and belt, an elastic waistband, and a plastic snap and zip fly closure. But we trended towards removing the belt altogether since the fit was already more than sufficient without it.

These shorts only have four pockets and they are all in front. Two of them are small and cargo-inspired  but almost too small for much use.
These shorts only have four pockets and they are all in front. Two of them are small and cargo-inspired, but almost too small for much use.

Best Applications


While they are useful for treks from the spring to fall, the best time of year to wear these shorts is in the summer. These are a breezy, water-suitable choice for all your casual needs. If possible, try on the shorts in a store to mitigate a waistband that might be too tight or purchase from a retailer that allows for free exchanges.

Value


Manufactured in Indonesia and backed by Columbia's One Year Good Faith Guarantee, these shorts retail for $30. Packed with perks and utility, they rightfully earn the Best Buy Award. Quality is gratefully upheld as opposed to being sacrificed for affordability with this pair, and while the belt is a bit superfluous, they are worth every penny.


Conclusion


In the end, scoring high in features and breathability isn't enough to outweigh the key essential of comfort. For us, we want to wear comfortable apparel, and we don't want to spend much time thinking about its performance during our activities; this is where the Sandy River Cargo falls short for strenuous activities. However, they are still a superb piece of apparel and are more than adequate for the casual or intermediate hiker seeking the best deal; for this we greatly recommended them.


Sara Aranda