Reviews You Can Rely On

The 3 Best Hiking Shorts of 2024

We test the top hiking shorts for men from Patagonia, Prana, REI, and others to find the best
gearlab tested logo
Best Hiking Shorts Review
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 24, 2024

The Best Hiking Shorts for 2024


Seeking the best hiking shorts? After researching over 50 models, our expert hikers purchased and tested 9 of the best 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.

Also check out our in-depth review of the best women's hiking shorts tested by female reviewers. In addition, we have compiled a dream list of our favorite hiking gear, including the best men's hiking boots and best backpacking water filters.

Editor's Note: We updated our hiking shorts review on April 24, 2024 to ensure our lineup is up to date and to include a section on how we tested these shorts.

Related: Best Hiking Shorts for Women

Top 9 Hiking Shorts - Test Results

Displaying 6 - 9 of 9
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Best Buy Award    
Price $60 List
$44.93 at REI
$79 List
Check Price at Backcountry
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$45 List
$44.95 at REI
Overall Score
70
55
68
66
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Good water resistance, many pockets, inexpensiveTons of pockets, gusseted crotchDurable, deep front pocketsLightweight, elastic waist, dry quickly
Cons Utilitarian appearance, pocket openings a little smallSnap is very difficult to undo, not super versatile, heavyExpensive, not water resistant, comfortableNo rear pockets, no fly
Bottom Line These thin yet water resistant shorts are a great option for the practical, budget-minded hikerThese shorts are loaded with pockets but overall feel baggy, clunky and look inelegantThese unique shorts are durable and well-madeThese athletic, lightweight shorts come with an interior liner and ventilation holes that help you stay cool
Rating Categories REI Co-op Sahara Ca... Kuhl Renegade Short Fjallraven Abisko S... REI Co-op Active Pu...
Comfort and Mobility (35%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
Features (25%)
7.0
4.0
7.0
6.0
Versatility and Style (20%) Sort Icon
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Venting and Breathability (10%)
8.0
5.0
6.0
8.0
Weather Resistance and Dry Time (10%)
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Specs REI Co-op Sahara Ca... Kuhl Renegade Short Fjallraven Abisko S... REI Co-op Active Pu...
Weight 5.9 oz 9.6 oz 10.7 oz 5.8 oz
Material 96% recycled nylon, 4% spandex DURALUX 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex 65% polyester, 35% cotton 86% polyester/14% spandex
Water Resistance DWR finish C6 coating Greenland wax treatment-ready Not specified
Sizing (Waist, Length options) W: 30" - 44" W: 30" - 42"
L: 8", 10", 12"
W: 44 - 60 Euro Size S - XL
Sun Protection UPF 50+ UPF 50 Not specified UPF 50
Convertible, or option available Pants, convertible available Pants, convertible available No Pants, shorts
Pockets 6 8 4 (plus secondary mesh pocket inside right cargo) 2 hand, 1 embedded zip
Waist Strap/Fasten Button and zip fly Button and zip fly Double button and zip fly Elastic, drawstring
Other Features Relaxed fit, Elastic on back waist, gusseted crotch Gusseted crotch, microchamois lined waistband, belt loops Regular fit, lower front waist, higher back waist, stretch fabric in lower back, reinforced seat Ventilation holes, interior liner


Best Overall Hiking Shorts


Patagonia Quandary Short


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Versatility and Style 9.0
  • Venting and Breathability 8.0
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 8.0
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 5
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Good pocket configuration
Versatile
REASONS TO AVOID
No closure on one rear pocket
Pockets 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 secure button closure. They are also a great choice for those who want to be conscious of their purchases' human and environmental impact; 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 can double as a swim trunk.

With all these great attributes, it's hard to find downsides. That said, we think zippers on the pockets would be useful. The price is also a bit high, but you certainly get your money's worth. The Quandary is our go-to choice for day hikes, long trips, and water activities. We also love the comfortable stretchy material of the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Short, which includes a zippered cargo pocket.

Read more: Patagonia Quandary Short review

hiking shorts - the patagonia quandary is a functional top-performing pair of hiking...
The Patagonia Quandary is a functional top-performing pair of hiking shorts.
Credit: Sarah Van Cleve

Best Bang for Your Buck


REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Short


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Versatility and Style 6.0
  • Venting and Breathability 8.0
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 8.0
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 6
REASONS TO BUY
Many pockets
Lightweight
Breathable
REASONS TO AVOID
Pockets have small openings
Not stylish

The REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo Short 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 accommodate a range of sizes if your weight fluctuates slightly. Given their utility and variety of features, we are surprised by their breathability and water resistance. However, they are one of the lightest pairs in the category and a highly practical option for many uses.

We love all the pockets the REI Sahara features. However, many of the pocket openings are small. The cargo and rear pockets all have top security flaps, and getting items out can be challenging. Also, the corner of the fabric near the button is surprisingly sharp and can sometimes rub uncomfortably. We should note the previous iterations had a superior fabric and a nice cinchable belt. Regardless, these shorts are still a highly functional pair at a reasonable price, making them a great pick for those who prioritize practicality and price. We also like the elastic-waisted REI Active Pursuits Shorts, which are a comfortable althetic short with an inner liner.

Read more: REI Co-Op Sahara Cargo Short review

hiking shorts - the rei sahara cargo shorts live up to their name with several...
The REI Sahara Cargo shorts live up to their name with several pockets and plenty of carrying capacity.
Credit: Sarah Van Cleve

Best Features


Prana Stretch Zion II Short


71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility 7.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Versatility and Style 7.0
  • Venting and Breathability 5.0
  • Weather Resistance and Dry Time 5.0
Inseam: 10" | Pockets: 6
REASONS TO BUY
Integrated belt
Anti-chafe waist liner
Variety of pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Small pocket openings
Not water resistant

The Prana Stretch Zion II Short is one of our favorites for its feature set. This model has a felt-lined waistband and an integrated belt. We also appreciate the traditional belt loops, which provide extra versatility. They have a gusseted crotch, which makes them more comfortable. This pair also comes with an variety of pockets with different types of closures to keep some items secure and some more accessible.

The main downside is that because of the bells and whistles, they aren't particularly stylish. We find the other Prana short we tested, the Brion II, to be sharper looking. Also, the Stretch Zion II's pockets with zipper and flap closures are hard to reach if you have larger hands. Despite these minimal drawbacks, these shorts are for you if you appreciate good design and quality construction.

Read more: Prana Stretch Zion II Short review

hiking shorts - the prana stretch zion ii is a comfortable pair of shorts with a...
The Prana Stretch Zion II is a comfortable pair of shorts with a complete set of features.
Credit: Sarah Van Cleve

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
82
Patagonia Quandary Short
Best Overall Hiking Shorts
$89
Editors' Choice Award
74
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Short
$85
71
Prana Stretch Zion II Short
Best Features
$75
Top Pick Award
70
REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Short
Best Bang for Your Buck
$60
Best Buy Award
69
Patagonia Baggies Longs Shorts
$65
68
Fjallraven Abisko Short
$110
66
REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts
$45
65
Prana Brion II Short
$75
55
Kuhl Renegade Short
$79

hiking shorts - we love a great hiking short with enough stretch to offer good...
We love a great hiking short with enough stretch to offer good mobility when we're in motion.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

How We Test Hiking Shorts


We have been testing hiking shorts for five years. To put this review together, we researched over 50 models before choosing and purchasing the most promising to test hands-on. 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 and on sections of the North Country Trail. We took note of their comfort, compared their mobility, examined all the features, determined how well they vented, tested their drying time, and even considered their style (though we know this one is subjective). To assess versatility, each pair went on trail runs and got regular wear during a variety of domestic outdoor activities as well as social gatherings.

Our hiking shorts testing is divided across six rating metrics:
  • Comfort & Mobility (35% of overall score weighting)
  • Features (25% weighting)
  • Venting & Breathability (20% weighting)
  • Versatility & Style (10% weighting)
  • Weather Resistance & Dry Time (10% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


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. After gnarly scrambles through the unrelenting humidity of dozens of East Coast summers, he developed an acute awareness of key comfort features in hiking shorts (as well as those that bog you down).

Taking to the trails to test our contenders.
Taking to the trails to test our contenders.
Each model is weighed to determined how light or bulky it is...
Each model is weighed to determined how light or bulky it is relative to the rest.

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 appreciate when a company takes a user-centered approach to its products.. Below, we discuss standouts in each scoring metric: 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 your spending translates to what you get. Some items might be incredibly expensive but have the quality to back them up, while others are more affordable but still score highly.

Many of our award winners offer excellent value. The Patagonia Quandary isn't necessarily a budget buy, but it's our favorite pair and Patagonia's great warranty makes them a great long-term value. The REI Sahara Cargo is one of the most affordable shorts we tested that maintains all required functions for a pair of trail shorts.

hiking 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.
Credit: Piper Van Cleve

Comfort and Mobility


Comfort and mobility are interconnected. Together, they are the highest priority metric for us. We assess 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 such as anti-chafing waist liners and low-profile seams that 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 consider factors such as crotch space as well as 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”.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Our testing revealed some steady trends. The REI Co-Op Active Pursuits Shorts scores high here thanks to its stretchy and supportive liner, and the elastic waistband and drawstring ensure that they stay put all day long. The Prana Stretch Zion takes a slightly different approach but still knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort. This model pairs an integrated belt with a stretch fabric blend and a slightly looser fit. The Patagonia Quandary and Outdoor Research Ferrosi aren't super stretchy and don't have quite as much space in the crotch as the Stretch Zion, but they're still quite comfortable.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: 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 Prana Brion II includes some comfort elements, but we want a slightly longer inseam and a better-fitting waist.

Features


When you close your eyes and think of a pair of shorts, a few key components define what that is in its most basic terms. Features are the things you get in any particular model beyond the 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 and waist tightening systems, with integrated belts, drawstrings, or traditional belt loops being the most common. We note that fly and fly zipper length, as well as ease of use, are variables.


We are interested in not only the number of features but also their ability to enhance the experience and performance of each pair. We happily trade in a tricked-out model full of unnecessary features for a minimalist design with helpful and carefully crafted features.

hiking shorts - an integrated belt, like the one on the prana stretch zion ii, is a...
An integrated belt, like the one on the Prana Stretch Zion II, is a useful feature that helps dial in the fit.
Credit: Sarah Van Cleve

The highest scorer in this metric is the Prana Stretch Zion II. It showcases an excellent array of pockets that include various closure options. The integrated belt is simple and sleek, and the button lies flat against the waist, so it doesn't rub if you wear a backpack hip belt. The Patagonia Quandary includes nice pockets, a low-profile drawstring, and a 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 moving quickly.

hiking shorts - some models have useful sneaky little features like key loops built...
Some models have useful sneaky little features like key loops built into pockets.
Credit: Sarah Van Cleve

The Fjallraven Abisko is an honorable mention here as well. The style is quite right for the average hiker, but it has a complement of carefully considered pockets that impressed us.

Versatility and Style


Versatility is the extent to which the shorts perform well in various activities. We took each pair on hikes, of course, shorter day-long adventures and longer, multi-week trips. We also consider their functionality 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 on function and how something looks. Style is how we acknowledge that you could wear these shorts out with friends, and no one would think you just came from an afternoon on the trail.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: 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. Joining them 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 many folks seek), but we love these shorts for their style. This is it if you live in a drier climate and want a good-looking pair.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: Piper Van Cleve

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 to pair with your favorite flip flops for a casual night out in the summer. The Prana Stretch Zion II and Patagonia Baggies Longs also perform admirably for each, leveraging different combinations of versatility.

Venting and Breathability


Venting is the design element that facilitates heat escape from the body and the rate of sweat evaporation. For shorts, these are 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.


Regarding breathability, the REI Co-Op Active Pursuits earns high scores because it is lightweight and has a shorter inseam than many other contenders. They also have fully mesh pockets and a section of pinholes around each hip to increase ventilation, and the interior liner is 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.

hiking shorts - fine mesh facilitates ventilation and prevents rainwater from...
Fine mesh facilitates ventilation and prevents rainwater from pooling in the pockets.
Credit: 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).

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weather Resistance and Dry Time


This metric is straightforward. We measure how effectively each pair of shorts sheds water or the amount of time each pair of shorts resists 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 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 important. Depending on what adventure you find yourself on, some pairs may be better suited to the task.


Two pairs may use the same DWR (durable water repellent) coating. Still, if rain is heavy enough to penetrate the shorts anyway, the thinner pair dries faster, ultimately leading to a more comfortable experience. We prefer shorts that are less water-resistant initially but dry faster than those that are more heavily coated but take longer to dry. 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.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: 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 is also with them, with the Prana Stretch Zion II following 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.

hiking shorts - 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.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

As for dry time, we were particularly impressed with the REI Sahara Cargo, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi, and the Patagonia Baggies Longs, which comes with an interior liner that is significantly thinner and more breathable than wearing underwear.

Conclusion


It's easy to get caught up in the technical details of materials and design and sometimes that matters. However, with shorts, you need a pair you can turn to repeatedly without thinking about it. After hours of research and hundreds of trail miles, we are confident we found the best. Our experts put hundreds of miles into these models to speak to their advantages and 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.

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

Ben Applebaum-Bauch