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REI Co-op Active Pursuits 4.5" - Women's Review

A seeming hybrid between hiking and running shorts, these aerobics-focused shorts offer high comfort but no hand pockets
REI Co-op Active Pursuits 4.5" - Women's
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $40 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, breathable, athletic, low price
Cons:  Baggy looking, no hand pockets
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Sara Aranda ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 27, 2021
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 10
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 9
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 6
  • Features - 15% 2

Our Verdict

The REI Active Pursuits shorts are exactly what their name implies. Designed with high flexibility, comfort, and versatility in mind, this minimalistic take is a unique hybrid between running and hiking apparel, and lean more toward running. With a 4.5 inch inseam and mid-rise fit, they are technical but also very casual. But due to their minimal nature, there is also a lot to critique. They have no hand pockets and are not water-resistant, albeit quick-drying. In addition, their style isn't a strong suit depending on your personal preferences and their baggy fit can be unappealing. Great for hot summer pursuits and more aerobic activities, these shorts are great within their smaller niche of specific use. We could also see these as useful for summertime thru-hikes.

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Pros Lightweight, breathable, athletic, low priceComfortable, water-resistant, breathable, versatile for general outdoor recreationStylish, comfortable, versatileAffordable, water resistant, breathableLightweight, water resistant, versatile
Cons Baggy looking, no hand pocketsNot the cheapest, not the most stylishMinimal water resistance, minimal featuresUnnecessary belt, small cargo pocketsRuns big, abrasive waistband
Bottom Line A seeming hybrid between hiking and running shorts, these aerobics-focused shorts offer high comfort but no hand pocketsA versatile and high-performing pair of shorts with subtle styling and deep pocketsStyle and function combine to offer greater versatility, breathability, and high comfortFunctional and fun, these shorts cover all the basicsFor water sports or hiking, these classic baggies are light and casual
Rating Categories Active Pursuits 4.5" Dynama 2 Bermuda Prana Alana Sandy River Cargo Baggies 5"
Comfort And Mobility (35%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Venting And Breathability (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
Versatility (15%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
Water Resistance (15%)
6.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
9.0
Features (15%)
2.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Specs Active Pursuits 4.5" Dynama 2 Bermuda Prana Alana Sandy River Cargo Baggies 5"
Weight (in oz) 4.9 oz 4.6 oz 6.7 oz 5.1 oz 5.2 oz
Material 86% polyester/14% spandex (liner: recycled polyester | rib: 91% polyester, 9% spandex) 94% nylon, 6% elastane 95% recycled nylon, 5% spandex 100% nylon 100% nylon (92% recycled)
Water Resistance Minimal DWR Minimal Perfecta Plus II quick-dry DWR coating
Sizing (waist, length options) XS - XL XS - XL 0 - 14 XS - XL XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL
Sun Protection UPF 50 UPF 50 UPF 50 Yes, UPF 30 No
Pockets 1 4 4 4 2
Waist Strap/Fasten Elastic waistband Elastic waistband Double metal snap, zip fly Elastic waistband with plastic snap and zipper fly, optional belt Elastic waistband with drawstring

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Active Pursuits shorts are made with Bluesign approved fabric that is comprised of 86% polyester and 14% spandex. There is also a sewn-in liner, which is made with recycled polyester, and the waistband is 91% polyester, 9% spandex. With a hybrid take between running and hiking, the material is ultralight and thin. The design is on the baggy side of the spectrum and some might find the cut to have an unflattering silhouette. Still, the casual style is hard to beat. This type of hybrid is incredibly useful for running or hiking longer distances and long-term comfort beneath a backpacking pack.

Performance Comparison


A fun pair to wear with ample room and an ultralight feel...
A fun pair to wear with ample room and an ultralight feel. Thru-hikes and aerobic activities are what these shorts call for.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Comfort and Mobility


Mobility is of no concern with such ample legroom. We measured the circumference of the leg openings to be around 26 inches for the size Small we reviewed, which is larger than average. High-stepping, all-day wear, and more strenuous activity are easily done as the fabric feels soft and non-restrictive. The waistband is fairly wide, although thicker than the rest of the shorts. The polyester moves well and feels good against our skin. Its simplicity contributes to the comfort, being that there aren't any odd bells and whistles to worry about. The internal drawstring is soft and lays flat. Plus, the built-in liner increases our coziness and peace of mind.


The main drawbacks have to do with the long-term comfort specific to the waistband and the overall fit. After a while, the thicker waistband can trap heat and we find ourselves adjusting the waistband every once in a while, but such a critique is nominal. The overall fit can feel baggy and we often question whether or not they run large or if they're supposed to just be this baggy. Either way, being able to move around confidently is where this pair shines.

There are no restrictions in movement with the flexible fabric and...
There are no restrictions in movement with the flexible fabric and generous leg openings of the Active Pursuits.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Venting and Breathability


The Active Pursuits vent well due to their airy, open design. Since there isn't any water-resistant treatment, the polyester isn't inhibited in its ability to breathe well. During our testing, we were able to see light through the weave of the fabric and we were also able to blow air through it as if the fabric wasn't really there. Having a shorter inseam also contributes to the flow of air around the legs and hips. With so much flow, the hottest days feel breezy and the fabric doesn't ever feel heavy, even when wet (less so for the waistband, however).


This is a metric where this pair scores high, with the main drawback coming from the thicker waistband. The ribbed texture of the waistband is more likely to trap heat, but it isn't excessive or uncomfortable from our experiences. We believe the waistband to be thicker to help in the absorption of sweat, but we'd prefer it to be a bit more low-profile. Alternately, there are small holes in the design at the hemline, which helps with venting.

Breathability is very high with this lightweight fabric right along...
Breathability is very high with this lightweight fabric right along with ventilation features like tiny holes at the hemline.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Versatility


Brainstorming the stereotypical summer activities, these shorts will likely accommodate most of them. From water sports to a morning run to a casual hike, these shorts have a lot of potential. Since they are nearly a traditional running short, they are great for high-intensity sports. Having a liner contributes to their utility and coverage. Even though the inseam length is on the shorter side, the way they sit on our hips, they actually appear to be longer than 4.5 inches. Too, having nothing to fiddle with on the waistband, they are easily pulled on and off.


On the flip side, we don't feel they necessarily fare well in town as a go-to short for eating out. Sure, some might not mind the active apparel look, but others might not find them inspiring to wear from trail to brewery. They embody a very casual look and would fit right in at a hostel, for example, but style is where its score wavers a bit, particularly for those who aren't the biggest fans of the bagginess.

Since the shorts have a liner, they're definitely more in the realm...
Since the shorts have a liner, they're definitely more in the realm of running shorts, but they also work for high output activities and long distance hiking where pockets aren't necessary.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Water Resistance


With no added DWR (durable water repellent), water absorbs quickly into the polyester. During testing, there was no beading of the water, but this doesn't mean the shorts are a poor choice. This is just a metric to celebrate an extra feature, but this metric doesn't have as much weight as the ones above. If there is no water resistance, then having a fabric that is quick-drying becomes incredibly important, which is scored under Features.


For long-distance hiking, it's more of a priority to have a highly breathable fabric than to have something water-resistant. Especially if you're sweating a lot or just want to jump into creeks or lakes along the way. Having resistance in these instances will only cause the fabric to dry more slowly and breathe less readily.

A close-up right after spraying water reveals no water resistance...
A close-up right after spraying water reveals no water resistance whatsoever, but the fabric breathes well and dries quickly.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Features


On a sustainability note, we appreciate that the fabric is Bluesign approved, which means that throughout the entire manufacturing process, safe and sustainable methods were implemented for the benefit of both workers and the environment. The biggest hit to the versatility score actually comes from the fact that there are no hand pockets. We love pockets for traditional hiking shorts and we are constantly finding ourselves trying to put our hands into something, anything with these. There's nowhere to carry a phone or anything bigger than chapstick or a key (they do have a stash pocket inside the waistband — like a traditional running short would).


We've experienced many thin, flowy shorts like these that still have large pockets, so this is a true disappointment when it comes to the main spectrum of hiking this review encompasses. But when it comes to the niche of long backpacking trips, then having pockets beneath a heavy pack might not be practical at all. Hip belts on backpacks tend to have a pocket to store a phone or snacks close at hand on these kinds of trips. They do have UPF 50 sun protection, however, and other features like an internal drawstring in the waistband. Minimally designed, the strongest aspect in this metric is their quick-drying polyester, a true advantage when there isn't any water resistance.

The design is quite minimal with these shorts. There's an internal...
The design is quite minimal with these shorts. There's an internal drawcord and a hidden stash pocket on the inside of the waistband and that's pretty much it.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Value


On the cheaper side, relative to the others, this REI model is fairly affordable. They are made in Vietnam with Bluesign approved fabric, which means that through the entire manufacturing process, safety and sustainability were top priorities. We feel that for REI and its growing sustainability practices, this product is of fair value.

Conclusion


Overall, these shorts are super casual, airy, and comfortable enough for a variety of activities. The baggy style may be favorable to everyone, but if the style, minimalism, and fit works for you, these shorts will surely become a utilitarian staple, especially for the higher-intensity activity or multiple-day pursuit.

From running to long-distance endeavors, these shorts will be breezy...
From running to long-distance endeavors, these shorts will be breezy and fluid.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Sara Aranda