Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Hiking Shorts for Men of 2021

Photo: Piper Van Cleve
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday May 20, 2021
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
Seeking the best hiking shorts? After researching over 50 models available in 2021, our expert hikers purchased and tested 12 models of the highest quality options on the market. With over 200 hours of hiking with hundreds of miles logged, we know what goes into a good pair of shorts. We encountered torrential downpours, high humidity, and cold snaps while hiking through Oregon and along the East Coast. We meticulously analyze and rate the performance of each pair based on five important performance metrics. Using this data, we selected award winners to help guide you to the right hiking shorts for your next big (or small) adventure.

Top 12 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award   
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$65.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$129.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$99.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$69.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
82
81
74
68
68
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Comfortable, stylish, water resistantLightweight, odor resistant, zippered pocketsZippered pockets, integrated belt, stylish lookDurable, deep front pocketsStretchy and comfortable, soft waist liner, drawstring
Cons A little tight when sitting down, no integrated beltNot super stylish, liner limits versatilityExpensive, not as stretchy as most comfortable models, small flyExpensive, not water resistant, comfortableWaist gets loose, only one zippered pocket
Bottom Line These comfortable, functional shorts really impressed us on our adventuresA lightweight, breathable pair of shorts that are equally comfortable on a run as they are on a backpacking tripThese shorts combine a bit of style with the function that accompanies a great feature setThese unique shorts are durable and well-madeLightweight and breathable shorts that have a lot of stretch for high mobility
Rating Categories Patagonia Quandary... Patagonia Nine Trai... Arc'teryx Palisade... Fjallraven Abisko S... Ferrosi Short
Comfort And Mobility (35%)
8.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Features (25%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Versatility And Style (20%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Venting And Breathability (10%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Weather Resistance And Dry Time (10%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Patagonia Quandary... Patagonia Nine Trai... Arc'teryx Palisade... Fjallraven Abisko S... Ferrosi Short
Weight 7.1 oz 6.6 oz 7.3 oz 10.7 oz 6.7 oz
Material 95% nylon 5% spandex 100% recycled polyester TerraTex nylon blend 65% polyester, 35% cotton 86% nylon, 14% spandex
Water Resistance DWR coating DWR coating Not specified Greenland wax treatment-ready DWR treated
Sizing (waist, length options) 28 - 41; 8", 10", 12" inseams XS - XXL 28 - 38 44 - 60 28-38; 8", 10"
Sun Protection UPF 50+ Not specified Some, not specified Not specified 50+
Convertible, or option available? Pants available No Pants available No No
Pockets 5 (plus right coin) 3 5 4 (plus secondary mesh pocket inside right cargo) 2 hand, 1 zip thigh, 2 back
Waist Strap/Fasten Button and zip fly Elastic/Draw string Button and zip fly Double button and zip fly Button and zip fly
Other Features Classic fit, curved waistband, gusseted crotch Odor control liner, waist drawcord, reflective logo Trim fit, integrated belt, gusseted crotch Regular fit, lower front waist, higher back waist, stretch fabric in lower back, reinforced seat Drawstring, waistliner


Best Overall Hiking Shorts


Patagonia Quandary Short


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 8
  • Features 8
  • Versatility and Style 9
  • Venting and Breathability 8
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 8
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 5
Comfortable
Good pocket configuration
Versatile
No closure on one rear pocket
Pockets can flop around with heavy items

The Patagonia Quandary offers an exceptional combination of comfort and versatility. They are thoughtfully constructed — one small example is the very secure button closure. They are also a great choice for those who want to be conscious of the human and environmental impact that their purchases make; the fabric is 65% recycled, and Bluesign approved. Not only does this pair look good, but it feels good too. Lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, these shorts perform admirably and do a commendable job of standing in as a bathing suit on multi-day trips.

These shorts don't have a whole lot of drawbacks. It would be nice if all of the pockets had zippers on them or the price was a bit lower, but we really feel like we got what we paid for (in a good way). When all is said and done, this pair is our first choice for day hikes, week-long trips, and even water-based activities.

Read review: Patagonia Quandary Short

Best Bang for Your Buck


REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Short


67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 7
  • Features 6
  • Versatility and Style 6
  • Venting and Breathability 7
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 8
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 6
Many pockets
Lightweight
Breathable
Pockets have small openings
Not stylish

The REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo offers the most for the least. This pair is lightweight and has a full complement of six pockets, including two cargo pockets. The elastic swatches incorporated into the waist mean they can accommodate a range of sizes if your weight fluctuates slightly. Given their utility and variety of features, we are surprised by their breathability as well as their water resistance. However, it turns out they are one of the lightest pairs in the category and a highly practical option for a wide range of uses.

The biggest issue we found with these shorts is that many of the pocket openings are very small. The cargo and rear pockets all have top security flaps, and we found it tolerably challenging to get items out. One small detail is the corner of the fabric near the button is surprisingly sharp and can sometimes rub uncomfortably. And we would be remiss if we didn't mention that previous iterations had a superior fabric and a nice cinchable belt. Even so, these pants are still a highly functional pair without a high price tag. For those who prioritize practicality and price, these shorts are a great option.

Read review: REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo Short

Best for Trail Running and Distance Hikes


Patagonia Nine Trails Short


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 9
  • Features 8
  • Versatility and Style 7
  • Venting and Breathability 8
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 7
Inseam: 8" | Pockets: 3
Zippered pockets
Lightweight
Breathable
Not versatile for casual situations

Light and airy, the Patagonia Nine Trails is a prime choice for trail runs and long hikes. They come with an interior 'compression shorts' liner that provides the support and comfort that we want when we are on the move all day. Elastic in the waist and a drawstring keep these shorts in place. The liner is finished with an odor control treatment, which is especially useful if you are wearing the pair again and again and again without having the opportunity (or energy) to wash them.

They are great for all kinds of hiking and other physical activity, but the style limits their versatility. They look much more like a classic pair of running shorts, so we wouldn't opt for them if we knew we had to go directly from the trail into town. All things considered, we really like this pair and wouldn't hesitate to grab them on our next warm-weather endurance adventure.

Read review: Patagonia Nine Trails

Best Features


Arc'teryx Palisade Short


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 6
  • Features 9
  • Versatility and Style 8
  • Venting and Breathability 6
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 8
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 5
Integrated belt
All pockets have zippers
Anti-chafe waist liner
Expensive
Small fly

The Arc'teryx Palisade is one of our favorites for its feature set. This model has a soft, felt-lined waistband and a sleek integrated belt. We love that every single pocket has a zipper on it, and even though there are five of them, they still manage to blend pretty seamlessly into the rest of the short without that strong cargo shorts look. The hems around the legs are also sealed in such a way that they are almost invisible, and the cut is a good balance between form and function.

For a pair that otherwise has such carefully considered features, we aren't totally sure about the fly. It is very short and not especially practical. They are also by far the most expensive model that we tested. We know we really want them, but the price tag is enough to make us think twice about how much we really need them. Dollars and cents aside, if you appreciate good design and quality construction, these shorts are for you.

Read review: Arc'teryx Palisade Short

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
82
$70
Editors' Choice Award
These practical shorts kept us comfortable on a variety of adventures
81
$65
Top Pick Award
These shorts are lightweight, comfortable, and versatile
74
$130
Top Pick Award
A pair of shorts that you can wear in town and on trail in equal measure
68
$125
Tough shorts that can stand up to a long trek
68
$70
Quick-drying, breathable, and lightweight shorts with a zippered cargo pocket
67
$50
Best Buy Award
A lightweight yet durable pair of shorts that won't break the bank
66
$45
Shorts that are geared for trail-running and hot weather, sporting a design that mimics another pair we like better for the same purposes
64
$50
An inexpensive pair that is best on flat terrain
64
$70
A pair with the soul of casual wear and a veneer of practicality
63
$55
This lightweight pair of shorts needs just a little bit of refinement
60
$70
We like these shorts quite a bit; we just wouldn't opt to go hiking in them
55
$75
This pair can hold a lot but needs some refinement to make it into the top tier

Contenders in our hiking shorts review. These four options have a...
Contenders in our hiking shorts review. These four options have a few different waist tightening systems including draw strings, integrated belts, and traditional belt loops.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert testers have decades of experience in the backcountry. Lead hiking shorts reviewer, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, has hiked well over 5,000 miles along both coasts of the United States. He began his professional career in the outdoors as a trip guide, leading backcountry backpacking adventures through the most rugged portions of the Appalachian Trail in New England, including Maine's 100-mile Wilderness. Having done some gnarly scrambles through the unrelenting humidity of dozens of east coast summers, he has developed an acute awareness of the comfort features to look for in a pair of hiking shorts (as well as those that will keep you bogged down).

After researching over 50 models of hiking shorts during three years of formal testing (and much more in personal experience), we chose the most promising to test hands-on. From there, we took to the trails, hiking, running, and backpacking. They came along for the ride on thru-hikes of the Oregon Coast Trail and Pinhoti Trail, as well as on sections of the North Country Trail. To assess versatility, each pair also found its way on a handful of trail runs, and also got regular wear during a variety of domestic outdoor activities as well as social gatherings.

Related: How We Tested Hiking Shorts

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


Our testing gave us valuable insight into the performance and quality of our contenders. Though many hiking shorts share similar design features, the devil is in the details. From waist closures to leg seams and the angle and orientation of pocket zippers, we consider every element that makes a difference. We really appreciate when it is clear that a company takes a user-centered approach to their products.. Below, we discuss standouts in each of our scoring metrics: comfort and mobility, features, versatility and style, weather resistance and dry time, and venting and breathability.


Value


Though it's not a part of our quantitative rating metrics, we recognize that value is an important component of many purchasing decisions. In our reviews, we quantify value in a basic way to give you some sense of whether or not you are getting your money's worth with any given pair of hiking shorts. We compare a product's overall score with its cost to understand how what you spend translates to what you get. Some items might be incredibly expensive, but have the quality to back it up, while others are more affordable, but still score highly.

Many of our award winners offer excellent value. The Patagonia Quandary and Patagonia Nine Trails cost below average for the category, but are our two highest-scoring products. The REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo is one of the least expensive pairs that we tested that maintains all required functions for a pair of trail shorts.

The REI Sahara shorts are great for day hikes and come with a full...
The REI Sahara shorts are great for day hikes and come with a full complement of 6 pockets.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

Comfort and Mobility


Comfort and mobility are interconnected. Together they are the highest priority for us when we look for a pair of hiking shorts. When we talk about comfort, we mean the fit and adjustability of the waist, the amount of space in the crotch, and whether or not the crotch is gusseted. We also look for design elements that are meant to improve comfort, such as anti-chaffing waist liners and low-profile seams that also reduce rubbing. We consider the softness of the fabric as well.


We think of mobility as 'active comfort'. That is the degree to which each pair of shorts facilitates or limits our ability to do an activity. It includes the cut of the shorts and whether they ride up when stepping up (or sitting down). We not only consider factors such as crotch space but also things like the fabric blend and the amount and direction of stretch that each pair offers (some fabrics are manufactured in a way that only permits mobility in a single plane, while others have a quality often marketed as "4-way stretch").

Many models have gusseting (that strip of extra fabric) in the...
Many models have gusseting (that strip of extra fabric) in the crotch to increase space and comfort.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Our testing revealed some steady trends. The Patagonia Nine Trails scores highly because of its super stretchy and supportive liner. It moves with you and doesn't restrict movement, even with a shorter 8" inseam. The elastic waistband and drawstring ensure that they stay put all day long. We found the same goes for the REI Co-Op Active Pursuits. The Prana Stretch Zion takes a slightly different approach, but still knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort. This model pair an integrated belt with a stretch fabric blend and slightly looser fit. The Patagonia Quandary and Outdoor Research Ferrosi sort of split the difference between the first two variations; not quite as stretchy as the Nine Trails, not quite as much space in the crotch as the Stretch Zion, but they strike a good balance between the two.

Each pair is worn for dozens of hiking miles. We assess not only...
Each pair is worn for dozens of hiking miles. We assess not only whether they start comfortable, but whether they stay comfortable.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

Another decent scorer in this metric is the Fjallraven Abisko, which is (partially) made from ultra-stretchy material incorporated into strategically positioned panels. The Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch, and Prana Brion both include some comfort elements really well but also left us wishing we they had a slightly longer inseam and better-fitting waist.

Features


When you close your eyes and think of a pair of shorts, there are a few key components that define what that is in its most basic terms. Features are the things you get in any particular model beyond the very basics. In this case, our assessment includes the number, placement, size, and shape of the pockets, how those pockets close (if they do at all), and how easy or difficult it is to access something that you put in them. We also consider waist fastening mechanisms like buttons versus snaps, as well as waist tightening systems, with integrated belts, drawstrings, or traditional belt loops being the most common. Fly and fly zipper length and ease of use are also variables that we note.


What we are interested in is not only how many features a particular model has but how much they enhance the performance and experience of the shorts. We will gladly take a pair with fewer, very helpful, and carefully considered features over one with a bunch of extras included just for the sake of it.

Features liked zippered pockets, as seen on the Arc&#039;teryx Palisade...
Features liked zippered pockets, as seen on the Arc'teryx Palisade, are really nice for security and peace of mind.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

The highest scorer in this metric is the Arc'teryx Palisade. It showcases an excellent array of pockets that all include zipper closures, which are great for peace of mind whether you are in the front or backcountry. The integrated belt is simple and sleek and the snap is easy to use. Rounding out the top of the metric are the Patagonia Nine Trails, with its zippered pockets, lightweight liner, and quick-dry fabric, Patagonia Quandary, which includes nice pockets, a low profile drawstring, and button closure that stays securely buttoned. The REI Co-Op Active Pursuits has a somewhat unique pocket architecture. Though it lacks any rear pockets, it has a zippered pocket embedded within the traditional right-side handwarmer pocket, which is great for securing keys or small items when you are moving quickly.

Some models have unusual pocket designs that may or may not make it...
Some models have unusual pocket designs that may or may not make it easier to access goodies.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

The Fjallraven Abisko is an honorable mention here as well. Overall, we aren't convinced that the style is quite right for the average hiker, but it has a complement of carefully considered pockets that really did impress us.

Versatility and Style


Versatility is the extent to which the shorts perform well in a variety of activities. We took each pair on hikes, of course, both shorter day-long adventures as well as longer, multi-week trips. We also consider how functional they would be for other activities like canoeing, swimming, running, climbing, and traveling.


Style is a special kind of versatility. Especially with clothing, we recognize that people are likely to make a purchase based not only on function but on the way something looks as well. Style is our way of acknowledging that we think you could wear these shorts out with friends and no one would think you just came from an afternoon on trail.

The Quandary shorts are a nice option for day hikes but can also...
The Quandary shorts are a nice option for day hikes but can also pass as a casual pair of shorts in town as well.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

Here we find the Patagonia Quandary again on top. It strikes a great balance between form and function, keeping all of the essential elements we want in a pair of shorts while also looking pretty darn good. They edge out the Arc'teryx Palisade, which also earns high marks. With its cargo pockets and more rugged-feeling material, it leans more towards the practical while still maintaining a minimalist aesthetic.

With a shorter cut and thinner fabric, the REI Active Pursuits...
With a shorter cut and thinner fabric, the REI Active Pursuits shorts are great for keeping cool on long-distance hikes and trail runs.
Photo: Piper Van Cleve

A pleasant surprise in this metric is the Prana Brion. We aren't sold on them as hiking shorts in a strict sense (they don't have the water-resistance or features that a lot of folks would be looking for), but we love these shorts for their style. If you live in a drier climate and just want a good-looking pair, this is it. The only thing that gives away the Outdoor Research Ferrosi as a 'hiking' short is the zippered cargo pocket. Other than that, the traditional belt loops and fit make this a decent choice for a casual night out in the summer. The Patagonia Nine Trails, REI Co-Op Active Pursuits, and Columbia Silver Ridge II also perform admirably for each leveraging different combinations of versatility.

Venting and Breathability


We think about venting as the design elements that facilitate the escape of heat from the body and the rate of sweat evaporation. For shorts, this is typically mesh-lined pockets. Breathability aims for the same goal but largely has to do with the weight and density of the fabric. Because shorts are inherently ventilated to some degree, this metric also accounts for a comparatively small proportion of a model's overall score.


In terms of breathability, the Patagonia Nine Trails and the REI Co-Op Active Pursuits each earn high scores because they are both lightweight and have a shorter inseam than many other contenders. Both also have fully-mesh pockets, with the latter also including a section of pinholes around each hip to increase ventilation, as well as interior liners that are more breathable than regular underwear. The REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo is again a surprise in this metric because the material is deceptively thin and breathable. The Patagonia Quandary rounds out the top tier. It earns its mark for its combination of moderate weight, mid-length inseam, and half-mesh pockets.

Fine mesh facilitates ventilation and prevents rainwater from...
Fine mesh facilitates ventilation and prevents rainwater from pooling in the pockets.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Interestingly, the Prana Stretch Zion is the only other model (besides the Active Pursuits) that incorporates an additional ventilation feature; it has four discrete holes in the crotch, which provides appreciated airflow to a commonly humid region. Again, the infrequency of specific ventilation design elements makes sense, given that shorts are already generally well-ventilated (as opposed to hiking pants). With the exception of the Columbia Silver Ridge, all of the other shorts in this category have notably thicker fabric than the top contenders in the metric.

They look a little odd but this pair has strategically placed holes...
They look a little odd but this pair has strategically placed holes in the crotch for added ventilation.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weather Resistance and Dry Time


As far as metrics go, this one is relatively straightforward. We measure water resistance, that is, how effectively each pair of shorts sheds water or the amount of time each pair of shorts can resist different amounts of precipitation. Dry time is the amount of time it takes for that moisture to evaporate. These two pieces are highly correlated but importantly different. The primary x-factor is fabric thickness and weight. Other considerations for weather resistance are the amount of wind and sun protection that they provide. Obviously, by definition, shorts are not going to offer complete protection from any of these elements. Accordingly, this metric accounts for a smaller proportion of a garment's overall score; however, having the right equipment is always important. Depending on what adventure you find yourself on, some pairs may be better suited to the task.


Two pairs can be treated with the same DWR (durable water repellent) coating, but if rain is heavy enough to penetrate the shorts anyway, the thinner pair will usually dry out faster, ultimately leading to a more comfortable experience. In fact, we would prefer shorts that are less water-resistant initially but dries out faster than a pair that is more heavily coated but takes longer to dry. An interesting phenomenon that we encountered during testing is that stretchier fabrics, even if they have a DWR coating applied, tend to be more porous; as you step and move, the space between fibers expands and contracts, so the stretchier the material, the more opportunity there is for water molecules to work their way through to your skin.

In addition to trail testing, we spray and soak shorts to test the...
In addition to trail testing, we spray and soak shorts to test the limits of their water resistance.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

With that in mind, the big surprise during testing was the REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo. It boasts a DWR finish paired with relatively thin fabric that dries quickly. The Patagonia Quandary and Columbia Silver Ridge II Stretch (both lightweight and moderately resistant), and the Arc'teryx Palisade (thicker and very water-resistant) all follow closely behind. The Fjallraven Abisko is an example of a pair of shorts that beads water well when the fabric is static, but on the move, it finds its way through.

The included liner in these shorts is thin and dries quickly...
The included liner in these shorts is thin and dries quickly compared to separate cotton or even synthetic underwear.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

As for dry time, we were particularly impressed with the REI Active Pursuits. This model comes with an interior liner that is significantly thinner and more breathable than wearing underwear. The shorts themselves also have a high inseam and thin fabric. They aren't water-resistant at all, but they dry very quickly. The Patagonia Nine Trails is very similar, but the interior liner is longer (more like compression shorts) and takes slightly more time to dry.

Conclusion


It's easy to get caught up in the technical details of materials and design; to be fair, sometimes that stuff matters. However, at the end of the day, with something as simple and essential as shorts, you need a pair that you can turn to again and again without really even thinking about it. After hours of research and lots of trail miles, we are confident that we have found the best of the best when it comes to men's hiking shorts. From best overall to best bang for the buck and a couple of specialty pairs, our experts put hundreds of miles into these models to be able to speak to their advantages and their drawbacks. We hope that this review provides all of the basic information that you need to make the informed decision that is most right for you. Happy trails.

Finding the right pair of hiking shorts is worth it for your next...
Finding the right pair of hiking shorts is worth it for your next adventure.
Photo: Sarah Van Cleve

Ben Applebaum-Bauch