Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Hiking Short for Women

By Sara Aranda ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday May 27, 2021

To test these hiking shorts we do as much hiking and moving around as possible. From mountainous and rocky approaches, climbing crags, to the flattest of dirt or paved trails, we seek to embody all levels of hikers. After making a list of what we believe makes up a top-notch piece of trekking apparel, we came to prioritize certain aspects more than others. For example, comfort and mobility are the most important in our opinion. When it comes to being outside all day, no matter the terrain, we want effortless movement and confidence in the way the shorts fit and make us feel. Then, the ability for our skin to breathe and vent while sweating comes second. The remaining metrics all have the same weight, such as versatility (which includes notes on style) and extra features (which includes pocket design critiques). To help truly distinguish the shorts from one another, we break down many of the metrics into smaller categories for scoring that are then averaged. This average is what constitutes the final rating for many of the metrics.

Testing side-by-side is important for all our metrics. This photo...
Testing side-by-side is important for all our metrics. This photo was taken during our water resistance and drying time tests.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Comfort and Mobility


The first thing we do is wear each short for a whole day, even if we are sitting in front of a computer or running errands. This allows us to get a general feel for the shorts before taking them to the trails. We pay attention to how they sit against our bodies and whether or not we have to adjust them periodically. We also consider sizing and how they fit our hips and thighs. When it comes time for hiking, we pay attention to important mobility requirements, such as the ability to high-step and stretch our limbs comfortably. The shorts that aren't as flexible or taper too much for a slim look often means resistance and thus, discomfort over time. Too, we take note of things like waistband design and whether or not any special features affect comfort.

In addition to fit, we consider how well the fabric stretches and...
In addition to fit, we consider how well the fabric stretches and flexes with our movements from flat walks to more strenuous terrain.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Venting and Breathability


The type of material each short is made of comes under scrutiny for this metric. Typically, synthetic blends are the most breathable and moisture-wicking. We research what the shorts are made of and then pay attention to how well they vent and breathe during our hikes, particularly on hotter days. When we sweat, we want to see whether or not the shorts trap our heat, or if they are able to regulate temperature to keep us feeling cozy. Usually, the waistband is an area that suffers with breathability, particularly when wearing a pack with a waistbelt, so we take notes on that as well. Fabric makeup also plays a part in how well each short dries out when splashed, but we score the quick-drying nature under the Features category. For more lab-like testing, we perform classic tests like holding the fabric up to the light or placing the fabric against our mouth and seeing how well we can literally breathe through it. Specific to venting, we consider the design of the shorts, such as noting the use of features like mesh or of wide and roomy leg openings to allow air to flow in and out of the shorts.

Our lead tester is keeping it casual with the Patagonia baggy look...
Our lead tester is keeping it casual with the Patagonia baggy look. Wider leg openings are great for ventilation.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Versatility


Embodying the classic scenario of simply wanting to eat out after a long day of hiking, we consider whether the hiking shorts are appealing to wear into town. The more techy and athletic designs are typically not as transferable, however, so we score for style in addition to seasonal and activity versatility. Being able to wear the shorts for more than just hiking is a point booster. We pay attention to whether or not there exists a desire to even try wearing a pair for running, rock climbing, foam rolling, gardening, or for workouts in the gym. If we feel any of the shorts are not practical whatsoever at all for these other activities, we take note of why we feel that way. While it's nice to be multi-functional, we nonetheless prioritize hiking for all our tests.

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

Water Resistance


For this, we do research on each product to see what claims the manufacturers are making. Then, we compare our own splash tests. We rank them on how well the water beads versus how quickly the water is absorbed. We leave the shorts for up to half an hour before brushing off any water that did bead. If water is absorbed, we leave the shorts out to see how long it takes for them to feel dry to the touch. Any quick-drying advantages are then added to the Features score below.

The results of our water resistance test. The OR Wadi Rum absorbed...
The results of our water resistance test. The OR Wadi Rum absorbed water slowly.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Features


We break down this metric to include sun protection, drying time, the number and quality of pockets, and general durability. We pay attention to any atypical wear and tear, how deep and easily accessible the pockets are, and whether or not there is added technology to the materials they are made of. We also take note of how the shorts are secured at the waist, such as by a button or snap closure, drawstring, or a simple elastic waistband. We question whether or not the features are actually functional, aesthetic, and pertinent. Sometimes simplicity still wins the game, so be sure to take a closer look at what each short offers. In the end, remember that comfort outweighs everything else.

These shorts only have four pockets and they are all in front. Two...
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.
Photo: Sara Aranda