Best hiking shorts of 2024: Ultimate buyer's guide

By: Andrew Forrest - June 2024

Selection of hiking shorts

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the best hiking shorts tailored to different preferences and needs, along with the key factors to consider when buying hiking shorts, including material, thickness, durability, breathability, storage options/pockets, waistband styles, inseam length, UPF ratings, and more.

Setting out on an outdoor adventure is exhilarating, but the right gear is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. When the weather allows, one essential piece of hiking apparel is a pair of hiking shorts that perfectly suit your needs and preferences. But with so many options available, how do you find the best hiking shorts?

Table of contents 

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What we will cover in this best hiking shorts guide

  • The best hiking shorts of 2024, each chosen based on their performance, suitability for purpose, features, durability, and value.
  • What to consider when buying hiking shorts includes fit, comfort, inseam length, and material.
  • What additional features to look for, including breathability, waterproofness, how quickly they dry, waistband styles, pocket options, UPF ratings and more.

Best hiking shorts of 2024

Hiking shorts are a must-have item on many of my walks. I run a little warmer than the average person and don't tend to feel the cold as much, so in the UK, I generally wear walking or hiking shorts from March to November, basically whenever there is not a frost! Most people, though, if they prefer shorts to walking trousers or tights, generally wear them from May to September, when the weather is a bit warmer.

When there are so many pairs of walking shorts available to pair with your hiking boots and socks, many people find it challenging to buy the perfect pair for their needs. So, to help you choose the best hiking shorts in the UK, we have compiled a list of our best walking shorts and best hiking shorts for 2024.

Best hiking shorts: At a glance

Best overall hiking shorts for men

Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex Shorts

These great all-around hiking shorts are very comfortable, lightweight, functional, durable, and ideal for day hikes, trekking or scrambling in warmer months.

Whilst I have included these as the best overall hiking shorts for men, they were in joint first place - I felt that there is very little to choose between these and the Rab Torque Mountain shorts (see below), which also have the added advantage of a women's version.

Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex Shorts - front
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Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex Shorts - rear
Features 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Material: Exolite 210 stretch double weave with 92% Polyamide and 8% Elastane
  • Alpine fit
  • Inseam: 12"
  • Weight: Men's 280 g (34") - including integrated belt
  • Various colours

Features:

  • Exolite 210 stretch double weave Softshell fabric
  • Integrated belt with double press-stud closure
  • Microfleece lined waistband
  • 2 zipped hand pockets
  • 1 zipped thigh pocket with integrated mesh lining
  • 1 rear zipped pocket

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Fast-drying
  • Durable
  • Integrated belt included

Cons:

  • No women's version
  • Longer lengths may not suit everyone

Description:

These are great all-around hiking shorts - very comfortable to wear, functional and durable. I found them ideal for day hikes and trekking. Whilst they are the second heaviest on this list, we are only talking a few grams above the others, and they include an integrated belt. As with my other favourite choice, the Rab Torque Mountain Shorts, the extra weight in the fabric adds to their durability, which makes them great all-around hiking and scrambling shorts.

A few grams of the additional weight will also be derived from their length. At 12", they are the longest shorts on this list, which may not suit everyone. The Rab's are available in 10" and 8" inseams.

The shorts have a microfleece-lined waistband that adds to their comfort. The Exolite 210 stretch double weave fabric is, as the name suggests, stretchy and provides great freedom of movement. I also found that the Softshell dried quickly after getting wet.

There are two zipped pockets for hands and a zipped thigh pocket on the right leg. For left-handed people or just for that extra pocket, I wonder why many hiking shorts only have this on the right thigh and not on both.

These are the only hiking shorts on this list with an integrated belt and a double press-stud closure. For those of you who tend to fluctuate up and down a few pounds, these do not have an elasticated waistband, which always helps combat that!

Compared to the Rab Torques, the one main downside is that no women's version exists.

Overall, they are a very comfortable, durable, and functional pair of hiking shorts suitable for many outdoor pursuits besides hiking and trekking.


Best overall hiking shorts for women (and Best lightweight)

Rab Women's Momentum Shorts

These are great all-around shorts, very comfortable to wear, lightweight, quick-drying, and functional. They are ideal for hiking, trekking, running, and general outdoor use. Besides being the best overall for women from the feedback received, I have also ranked these as the best lightweight hiking shorts for women.

Whilst I have included these as the best overall hiking shorts for women, they were joint first place. Check out the Rab Torque Mountain shorts (see below), available in two longer lengths if you prefer your shorts a little longer, have zipped pockets, and are more durable. The feedback on these shorts and the Rab Torque came from fellow female walkers.

Rab Women's Momentum Shorts - Front
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Rab Women's Momentum Shorts - Side
Features 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Material: Main: 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane. Second: 68% Polyamide, 32% Elastane
  • Slim fit
  • Inseam: 4"
  • Weight:126 g (size 12)
  • Various colours

Features:

  • Matrix™ stretch single weave Nylon (130 gsm) with fluorocarbon-free DWR
  • Flexile™ 200 with fluorocarbon-free DWR
  • Deep stretch waistband with drawcord adjustment
  • Two hand pockets with venting mesh pocket bags

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Fast-drying
  • Stretchy

Cons:

  • Could do with one or more zippered pockets
  • Short length may not suit everyone

Description:

The feedback is that they are great all-around shorts - very comfortable to wear, lightweight, quick-drying, and breathable. They were ideal for hiking and trekking in warm weather and were easy to run in.

But, check out the Rab Torque below if you want a more durable pair of shorts with more secure storage and longer leg lengths.

These are very lightweight shorts, partly due to their short inseam, being only 4". This and their breathability made them a favourite among testers in warm conditions.

The matrix stretch weave allowed for excellent freedom of movement with its added stretch, and whilst the wide elasticated waistband with internal drawcord made them feel a little like running shorts, they provided excellent comfort while walking. The matrix material also provides high UPF protection and some weather resistance. The flexile material offers a soft and supportive feel for your body, wicks moisture and is fast-drying.

There are two hand pockets, but this was where the main complaints were - all testers would have liked at least one zippered pocket (maybe more) and at least one pocket on the rear. They all mentioned that you do not feel objects in rear pockets, whereas you can if they are on your thighs. The other downside a couple found was that the shorts were not really 'their style' as they preferred longer shorts.

Overall, they are a versatile women's pair of shorts that keep you comfortable in the warmth.


Best durable mountain hiking shorts

Rab Torque Mountain Shorts

Whilst I have included these in the best durable hiking shorts, they were joint first place in my overall best hiking shorts. There is very little to choose between these and the Mountain Equipment Ibex shorts, and these have the added advantage of having a women's version.

These are great all-around hiking shorts - comfortable to wear, lightweight, functional and durable, which is why Rab says they can be used for climbing, mountaineering, trekking, and hill walking.

Rab Torque Mountain Shorts - Men's
Men's
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Rab Torque Mountain Shorts - Men's
Men's
Rab Torque Mountain Shorts - Women's
Women's
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Rab Torque Mountain Shorts - Women's
Women's
Features 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Material: Matrix™ stretch double weave Nylon (182 gsm) with fluorocarbon-free DWR
  • Regular fit
  • Inseam: Men: Regular 10" Short 8", Women's Regular 8", Short 6"
  • Weight: Men 226 g (medium), Women 215.5 g (size 10)
  • Various colours

Features:

  • Double weave stretch fabric for excellent freedom of movement and durability
  • Part elasticated waistband with double snap closure and YKK® zip fly
  • Low-profile bonded belt loops
  • 2 YKK® zipped hand pockets
  • YKK® zipped thigh pocket
  • YKK® zipped rear pocket

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Fast-drying
  • High-level UPF sun protection
  • Available in two lengths

Cons:

  • Pockets could be a little bigger, and maybe add a left thigh pocket
  • A little pricey

Description:

Apart from the Fjallraven Abisko, these felt the most durable of all the hiking shorts I tried, but they still felt very comfortable. They come in two different inseam lengths, which suits me as I prefer slightly shorter shorts. Whilst the Fjallraven Abisko were more durable, because of all the other features, comfort and value provided by these Rab Torque hiking shorts, I ranked these as the best durable hiking shorts.

The Matrix double weave fabric is breathable and fast-drying with added stretch, offering excellent movement freedom. Besides giving added stretch, the double weave also provides a high level of UPF protection. It is the same fabric used in their full-length trousers or hiking pants. The breathability makes them ideal for day hikes in warm conditions.

The fit is enhanced by a part-elasticated waistband with two snap closures. These walking shorts also include belt loops; as with most others, there is no integrated belt. If you are like me and your weight fluctuates up or down a few pounds, the elasticated waistband can cope admirably with that without having to fork out for another pair a size up or down!

There are two side hand pockets, a thigh pocket and a rear pocket, which are all zipped. I'm right-handed, but I wonder whether all left-handed people would prefer a left-thigh pocket as well as the right one.

As with many hiking shorts, they are not waterproof but provide some weather resistance. If they do get wet, and these certainly did whilst I tried them, they dry quickly once the rain stops!

Overall, they are a very comfortable, durable pair of hiking shorts suitable for many outdoor pursuits besides hiking and trekking.


Best lightweight hiking shorts

INOV8 Venturelite 11" Men's Shorts

There isn't too much material in a pair of shorts, so most are reasonably lightweight, but these walking shorts were comfortable, durable, had enough pockets and weighed only 192 g (medium size). For a lightweight women's pair of shorts, try the Rab Women's Momentum shorts (reviewed above), which are lighter than these INOV8 Venturelites.

INOV8 is renowned for its trail shoes and hiking boots, and these lightweight hiking shorts perfectly complement those for fast-feel hiking. As a bonus, they are environmentally friendly, being made of 90% recycled polyamide.

INOV8 Venturelite 11" Men's Shorts
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INOV8 Venturelite 11" Men's Shorts
Features 3.5  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • 90% recycled Polyamide
  • Weight - 192 g (medium)

Features:

  • Relaxed fit - Enhances the comfort
  • Stretch fabrics - Allows for a full range of movement
  • Multiple pockets - Safely store your essential items
  • 90% recycled Polyamide - Environmentally friendly

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Plenty of pockets

Cons:

  • No belt supplied
  • No women's versions
  • Could be more pockets

Description:

I found these INOV8 Venturelite walking shorts to be very comfortable, and taking into account the practicalities also needed to be durable hiking shorts, I did find these the best lightweight hiking shorts. The 11-inch length is a little longer than I usually wear, but I found this did not hinder walking, and the stretch fabric in them allowed for excellent freedom of movement.

They come with two zippered hand pockets and an additional pocket on the hip. Those of you who prefer more storage or are walking without a rucksack may prefer some of the other shorts on this list that offer more pockets and storage.

There are belt loops through which you can attach a belt, but again, as with the other shorts on this list, they do not come with an integrated belt. They are fastened using a press stud and zip.

For their weight, I found them to be reasonably hard-wearing, and should you get the urge, they were okay for running in, but their length then becomes slightly more restrictive on knee lift, so I would suggest something shorter. I have included a pair more suitable for hiking and running in this list.

Overall, try these if weight is key and you like all things lightweight.


Best sun protection from hiking shorts

Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts

All of these best hiking shorts provide some sun protection, but I found these Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts made a real difference with their UPF 50+ sun protection when walking in the sun. Besides sun protection, they are well-made, lightweight, comfortable and provide some water resistance.

Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts - Men's
Men's
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Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts - Men's
Men's
Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts - Women's
Women's
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Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts - Women's
Women's
Features 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Material: 96% Polyamide (part-recycled), 4% Elastane
  • Pocket bags: 65% Polyester, 35% cotton
  • Zip tapes: 100% recycled
  • SmartDry Ecoshield technology
  • NosiDefence technology
  • SolarShield technology
  • PFC-free
  • DWR finish
  • Various colours

Features:

  • H2OShield plant-based DWR - water repellent
  • Sunglasses wipe
  • Part elasticated waist
  • 9" length short (men's), 7" length short (women's), regular fit
  • Four pockets (3 on women's versions)
  • UPF 50+ sun-protection
  • Anti-insect
  • Belt loops
  • Stretchy
  • 230 g

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Provide sun protection
  • NosiDefence protection
  • Mainly recycled materials

Cons:

  • Pockets could be bigger
  • Not as stretchy as other shorts

Description:

As much as you keep applying sun cream on those hot days, it can rub off or 'leak' away if you sweat a lot. Most clothing provides a little protection from the sun, but the dense fabric of these shorts provides a UPF 50+ all the time.

Even on overcast or cloudy days, sunburn is still a risk. Sunburn harms your skin and elevates the risk of skin cancer. UPF is a standard used to measure the effectiveness of sun-protective fabrics. It provides both UVA and UVB protection. A UPF of 50 blocks out 98% of UV rays while you are wearing it. Just remember to apply sun cream to the rest of your lower legs and uncovered skin! A hat and suncream are part of our hiking essentials.

Sun protection aside, these comfortable pair of walking shorts allow for movement with built-in stretch and have H20shield applied. This plant-based water repellent allows rain and water-based stains to run off and provides some weather resistance. The shorts are not waterproof in heavy rain, though, as my inner pockets were wet.

On pockets, there are 4 (3 on the women's version), with three on the front and one on the back. I tend to put items I need in hip belts of rucksacks rather than in pockets, but if you were out without a rucksack, the pockets are a little on the small side.

The only other downside I found was the pocket on the front of the right thigh - if I had anything in there, I could feel it on each step when I raised my leg. In my view, like most cargo packets, it would be better positioned on the side. In one of the pockets is a removable sunglasses wipe, which is quite useful.

There is a bit of give in the waistband with it being part elasticated, and there are belt loops, but again, as is reasonably standard with most shorts, there is no integrated belt.

Craghoppers have also included their NosiDefence, which consists of specially constructed fibres which are too tough for insects like mosquitoes to penetrate. I have used many of their full-length walking trousers version of these shorts and have had no issues with mosquito bites on my legs whilst wearing them. Still, whilst I think it might help on shorts if they land on them, I can't help but think that the rest of your legs are uncovered, and they can fly up inside if they want your blood!

Overall, though, some of these points may have seemed a little negative, they are comfortable, lightweight walking shorts that are generally cheaper than quite a few on this list of best hiking shorts and, therefore, offer great value for your outdoor adventures.


Best value hiking shorts

Suwangi Men's Cargo Hiking Shorts

As I do when testing equipment and clothing, I reverted to Amazon again to check out one of their cheaper-end, highly reviewed best sellers to find a budget/value pick in hiking shorts and found a winner.

These Suwangi Men's Cargo Shorts were very lightweight hiking shorts, comfortable, made from a water-resistant, quick-drying fabric that claims to provide UPF50+ sun protection and include quite a few zipped pockets.

Suwangi Men's Cargo Hiking Shorts - Front
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Suwangi Men's Cargo Hiking Shorts - Back
Features 3.5  
 
 
 
 
Construction 3.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.5  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • 90% Nylon, 10% Spandex
  • Available in various colours

Features:

  • 4-way stretch
  • 2 zipper pockets
  • 2 cargo thigh zipper pockets
  • 1 back zippered pocket
  • Breathable
  • Quick-drying
  • Elastic waistband
  • Space for belts up to 2 inches wide

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Plenty of pockets

Cons:

  • No belt supplied

Description:

I wore these Suwangi Men's Cargo Shorts almost daily for three weeks on a variety of walks and just generally around the house and out and about. Overall, for the price, I found them to be great value cargo shorts, whether you wear them out for a walk or sitting out in a beer garden!

The cargo shorts are very lightweight hiking shorts and are made from a water-resistant, quick-drying fabric that claims to provide UPF50+ sun protection. Whilst it has been shorts weather of late, with all the rain we've had in 2024, I can't attest to their UPF+ 50 claim so far.

They were comfortable to wear and included 4-way stretch, so I never felt restricted. I didn't have too much in my pockets on walks, but the pockets carried what I needed them to.

The only downside I found is that when you have items in your pockets which weigh the shorts down, they tend to pull the shorts down a bit. I got around this by using one of my fabric belts with them, but as bought, they do not come with an integrated belt. The belt loops were quite roomy and accommodated belts around 2 inches wide.

Their water resistance worked in light rain, but as with most hiking shorts in heavy rain, the material did get quite wet, but I found they were quick drying.

Overall, I found them great value cargo shorts suitable for summer hiking, everyday use, or other outdoor activities.


Best trail running shorts

Patagonia Strider Pro

While these are running shorts, I have worn them on many hikes and found them just as comfortable for walking as running. These are Patagonia's most technical running shorts, and they are very light, high-wicking, and breathable. There is a comfortable stretchy waistband with a zip back pocket and four more mesh pockets around the waist for additional gels, mobile phone, snacks etc. - certainly the most pocket space I've had on any trail running shorts. Overall, they are great for long runs out in the hills or for a pair of very lightweight, fast hiking shorts.

Patagonia Strider Pro - Men's 7 inch
Men's 7"
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Patagonia Strider Pro - Men's 5 inch
Men's 5"
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Patagonia Strider Pro - Women's
Women's 3.5"
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Patagonia Strider Pro - Women's
Women's 3.5"
Features 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Body of shorts: 2.5 oz 90% recycled Polyester certified by OceanCycle and sourced from coastal communities at risk of plastic pollution/10% Elastane plain weave with four-way stretch and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Liner of shorts: 2.3 oz 100% recycled Polyester double knit with MiDori® bioSoft for added wicking and softness, and HeiQ® Pure odour control
  • DWR finish is made without PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals)
  • Body fabric is certified as bluesign® approved
  • Made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory
  • Available in 2 inseam lengths for Men: 7 inch (112 g), 5 inch (107 g)
  • Women's inseam length: 3.5 inch (98g)
  • Available in various colours

Features:

  • Quick-drying, comfortable fabric
  • DWR finish on fabric
  • Elastic waist with adjustable drawcord
  • Five pockets for storage (3 on women's)
  • Comfortable liner briefs
  • Mid-rise fit (on women's)
  • Handy locker loop
  • Reflective logo

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Fast-drying
  • Plenty of pockets

Cons:

  • Not as durable as hiking shorts (but they are not designed to be)
  • A little pricey

Description:

These are certainly my most comfortable trail running shorts, and I find the 7-inch version gives a bit more protection from the sun and elements. The elastic waistband means the shorts don't move around, and this is further helped by an adjustable drawcord.

These shorts provide great freedom of movement, and even the 7-inch inseam ones only come in at a very lightweight 112 g. The 7-inch version does give that bit more protection against potential chaffing and keeps you a little warmer if the temperature drops compared to the 5-inch version.

As you would expect with Patagonia, almost everything is made from recycled materials and made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, so the people who made the product earn a premium for their labour. Besides the comfortable fit, the material itself feels comfortable, being made from 90% recycled Polyester and 10% Elastane woven in with a 4-way stretch, which provides excellent freedom of movement.

There are five pockets. A zipped one on the back, which also has a key loop. There are four other stretchy 'envelope' style pockets around the waistband for storing gels, snacks, etc. I have had small pairs of gloves in them.

There are integrated liner briefs inside, which add to the comfort. There is also a locker loop for hang-drying the shorts and a reflective logo on the leg.

Whilst I do wear these shorts a lot for hiking as well, the material isn't as durable as most of the other hiking shorts on this list, so if you are near rocks, brambles, or planning on scrambles, etc., then I would stick to the hiking shorts. The scores I gave above are in relation to trail running shorts rather than hiking shorts, and I marked them as such, so things like their durability were marked against other trail running shorts rather than specific hiking shorts.

Overall, an excellent trail running short, offering comfort and freedom of movement, but equally at home on long hikes if you do not need technical, durable hiking shorts.


Best cargo hiking shorts

Fjallraven Abisko Men's Shorts

For most of my early years hiking, cargo shorts were my go-to shorts, but they looked and felt a lot different from what they do today. I didn't always have a rucksack with me on shorter walks, so I found the pockets and storage provided by them very useful. Whilst these Abisko shorts may look in some ways like cargo shorts of old, they are a lot lighter than they look.

Whilst they may be the heaviest on this list at 316 g (medium), they still felt reasonably lightweight and comfortable, were very durable and had pockets built to carry. As with all things Fjallraven that I've tried, you get that assured quality, but generally at a price to match.

Fjallraven Abisko Men's Shorts - front
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Fjallraven Abisko Men's Shorts - rear
Features 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Construction 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Comfort 4.5  
 
 
 
 
Performance 4.0  
 
 
 
 
Value 4.0  
 
 
 
 

Specs:

  • Material: G-1000®: 65% Polyester (recycled), 35% cotton (organic)
  • 63% Polyamide, 26% Polyester, 11% Elastane
  • Reinforcement areas: Rear
  • Inseam lengths for men: 11 inches (316 g – 32-inch waist), Women: 8 inches (190 g)
  • Available in various colours

Features:

  • Stretch fabric that gives you freedom of movement
  • G-1000 Original reinforcement at the rear for durability
  • Waist is higher at the back, so less rucksack rub
  • 2 hand pockets
  • A large leg pocket
  • A smaller inner mesh pocket and a pocket for mobiles or GPS device

Pros:

  • Very durable
  • Comfortable
  • Plenty of large, strong pockets

Cons:

  • Heavier than other shorts on this list
  • A little pricey

Description:

I found these shorts to be very comfortable and very, very durable, but they would be more suited to trekking or everyday wear rather than faster, lightweight days in the hills. Fjallraven advertises them with trekking and climbing for their intended use.

They are made with a stretch material that allows for freedom of movement. I did find them initially water resistant, but after longer spells of rain, I did notice that with the stretch in the material, the water did work its way in, and with them being heavier and thicker than the others that I tested, they certainly took the longest to dry.

There was some additional stretch just below the waist, which helped the shorts stay in place, and the waist itself was a little higher at the back than at the front, so it helped with stopping the rucksack from potentially rubbing.

These were and felt the most durable shorts of all tested, which comes at a price, with their weight being almost 50% more than other shorts tested. This durability is helped by the additional piece of fabric in the crotch, which also helps prevent rubbing. There is also their stretch G-1000 reinforcement fabric in the rear.

The large zippered hand pockets are low enough to be easily accessed even when you have larger hip pockets on your rucksack. The large leg pocket with the flap and press stud closure was big enough to take one of my maps, and the smaller pocket on the other leg was big enough to take my mobile phone. Within the larger pocket was a smaller mesh pocket where you could keep your car keys or smaller items. There are no rear pockets on these shorts.

Whilst there is no sun protection factor that I could see specified on their shorts or website, with the thickness and close weave of the material, when you compare to other shorts that do disclose sun protection, I would think that these must be in the same UPF 50+ range. Besides the durability provided by the thickness of the shorts, the fabric also performed well as a good wind block on chillier, windy days.

Whilst there was a certain amount of breathability with the shorts, the other lighter shorts on this list provided more, so these would not be my choice on the hotter days. As with most things Fjallraven, you pay for the quality build and, in this case, durability. If they are what you need, you should get a pair that lasts a long time.

The women's version of these shorts comes with a much shorter inseam and doesn't have cargo pockets, which is why I didn't review it here and I was struggling to find them in UK shops.

If you are looking for a 'more value' pair of cargo shorts, then I would recommend the Suwangi Men's Cargo Hiking Shorts, also featured in this list, or Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts, which are available in men's and women's versions.

Overall, they are a comfortable, very durable, stylish pair of hiking shorts with plenty of storage, but they are more geared towards trekking than lightweight, fast walks.


Choosing hiking shorts

Hiking shorts are available in various styles, designs, and materials, each designed to meet different needs and preferences. Whether you're a hardcore adventurer looking for technical, performance-oriented designs or a casual hiker looking for versatile shorts that can transition from the hills to a pub garden, there's a pair of hiking shorts for you.

When selecting hiking shorts, you should consider the activity for which they will be used. Are you planning a summer hike in warm weather? You might want to opt for shorts crafted from lightweight, breathable material with ample stretch for unrestricted movement. Or perhaps you're preparing for a trail with water crossings, or that mid-walk swim? In that case, quick-drying or water-resistant shorts would be your best bet. I believe comfort should be the number one priority before considering specific features.

Selecting the perfect pair of hiking shorts requires careful consideration of various factors, such as:

  • Material (thickness, durability, breathability, quick-drying etc.)
  • Fit (comfort, waistband styles, inseams and length)
  • Features (storage, pockets, sun protection)


In this section, we'll explore the factors to consider when choosing the right hiking shorts to suit your needs and preferences.

Hiking short materials and stretch

Synthetic fabrics such as Nylon, Polyester, and Elastane or a blend of them are commonly used in hiking shorts, providing lightweight, moisture-wicking capabilities and good freedom of movement. Some brands also utilise natural fibres such as bamboo or hemp for added comfort and sustainability.

The material used in many shorts is often blended with other synthetic 'stretchy' materials such as Elastane or Spandex to provide some additional stretch within the shorts, which helps with freedom of movement. Elastane is the term generally used in Europe and Spandex in the US, so the two are really the same and interchangeable. You may also see shorts containing Lycra, which is a trademarked brand of Spandex/Elastane.

Stretch material of hiking shorts

Stretch material of hiking shorts

There are two types of stretch you generally see in shorts: two-way stretch fabrics, which stretch either vertically or horizontally but not both, or four-way stretch fabrics, which stretch both vertically and horizontally.

Thickness and durability

One of the main distinctions between walking and running or casual shorts is their durability. Generally, the thicker the shorts, the better the durability, while thinner shorts may be more breathable and comfortable.

Breathability

Shorts, by their very nature and design, have a certain amount of breathability 'built-in', as air can freely pass under them. Tighter-fitting shorts allow less airflow.

Nylon and Polyester are ideal fabrics for breathable hiking shorts due to their lightweight, moisture-wicking capabilities and ability to provide freedom of movement. Besides being able to wick moisture, other ventilation features such as mesh panels or zippered vents can also enhance breathability, helping you stay cool and dry during your hike.

Quick-drying

Quick-drying properties in Nylon and Polyester hiking shorts help keep you comfortable and dry during outdoor activities, as they dry much quicker when wet than more natural materials such as cotton. Many shorts will also add a durable water-repellent finish to keep water from penetrating the fabric.

If the fabric gets wet, thin fabric on thinner shorts will dry quicker than thicker shorts, but there is a play-off against durability. Mesh pockets also dry faster than material ones.

To maintain the quick-drying properties of your shorts, it is important to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Sizing and fit

For me, the key thing is to find comfy shorts with no restrictions around the waist and upper thighs, as an ill-fitting pair may cause discomfort and restrict movement.

Using the sizing chart the manufacturer provides is key to ensuring the optimal fit for your hiking shorts. An elasticated waist will be more forgiving for a little more 'play' in the short.

As with the length of the shorts, part of the fit is down to personal preference, as slimmer shorts are available in a more athletic-looking fit, along with baggier shorts.

Waistband styles

Hiking shorts come in various waistband styles, but most feature belt loops to help secure the fit around your waist. The belts to fit inside the belt loops are often made from Nylon, are adjustable and have quick-release buckles. Most hiking shorts come without integrated belts, but they can be purchased separately, and if you have several pairs of shorts, you only need one belt.

Many shorts come with standard buttons and fly or zip closures, which are fastened by a press stud or button. They may also come with elastic waistbands for a more tailored, adjustable fit or with integrated belts.

Button fasten up and large belt loop on hiking shorts

Button fasten up and large belt loop on hiking shorts

A properly fitted waistband can improve the comfort and fit of your hiking shorts. This is helped by the fact that waistbands are often customisable as elastic (or part elastic) waistbands offer flexibility and comfort (good for if your weight tends to go up or down a few pounds!). The integrated belts can provide a secure fit; if not included, standard belt loops allow you to use your belt for a customised fit.

Each style has advantages and disadvantages, and the ultimate decision will depend on your preference and the intended use of the shorts.

Inseam and length of the shorts

What you choose depends on your preference and how you will use them. The longer the short, the more coverage and protection it will provide for your thighs, but the potential downside is that they may not be as agile for scrambling or steep climbs.

Shorts that are shorter in length offer greater freedom of movement and are less restrictive but don't provide as much protection. There is also the preference aspect, as some people don't like shorts that are too short.

Generally, the length of shorts is categorised by its inseam length, which is the distance between the crotch and the hem. Most people prefer the bottom of the shorts to sit about 1-2 inches above the knee. In this list are shorts with inseams ranging from 4" to 12", and this diversity in inseam lengths allows you to find the perfect pair that suits your comfort and hiking needs.

Some manufacturers make the same shorts with different inseam lengths, often 2" apart, thus catering for people with different leg lengths. If the shorts are longer, that means extra fabric, which means the shorts will weigh a little more, but to me, that is not noticeable, as most shorts are very lightweight anyway.

Storage and pockets

Pockets in hiking shorts can provide essential storage and organisation for items during your hike.

Zipped side pockets on hiking shorts

Zipped side pockets on hiking shorts

Different types of pockets offer varying levels of functionality and security, such as mesh-lined pockets for breathability, zippered pockets for added security, and larger pockets for securely holding items such as maps, phones or wallets.

Large non-zipped pocket on hiking shorts

Large non-zipped pocket on hiking shorts

Zipped pocket on hiking shorts

Zipped pocket on hiking shorts

I find that if you have gloves on, some of the zippered pockets can be much easier to open, so it saves you from having to keep taking your gloves on and off. Some have loop pulls on the zips, which also make them easier to open and close. These pulls can also help if you struggle to grip things with your hands.

Zips with pulls on hiking shorts

Zips with pulls on hiking shorts

Many other types of pocket designs are available, often found in hiking shorts, including cargo pockets, bellow pockets, expandible pockets, and some less common ones, such as patch pockets, flap pockets, and besom pockets.

Velcro fastening on cargo pocket on hiking shorts

Velcro fastening on cargo pocket on hiking shorts

The choice of pockets in hiking shorts will depend on what you prefer and need. In general, though, pockets should be deep enough to hold your items securely and easily accessible, even when wearing a backpack or rucksack.

Back pocket on hiking shorts

Back pocket on hiking shorts

Putting too many things in my pockets can weigh them down and make them feel uncomfortable while walking, so I prefer keeping most things I need handy in the hip belts on my rucksack. If I am out walking without a rucksack, the pockets come in handy for my car keys and phone. If you have much to carry, a large cargo pocket in cargo shorts can be handy.

Buttoned-down cargo pocket on hiking shorts

Buttoned-down cargo pocket on hiking shorts

On certain shorts, especially running or trail shorts, you may find loops where you can attach energy gels.

Gel holders and zipped pocket on fell shorts

Gel holders and zipped pocket on fell shorts

UPF and Sun rating

Sunlight includes rays of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and exposure to these UV rays can lead to sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin ageing.

UPF is the rating system used for clothes, including shorts. A higher UPF rating indicates greater protection from UV radiation, reducing the risk of sunburn and skin damage. So, UPF ratings are important factors to consider when selecting hiking shorts, as they indicate the level of protection the shorts provide against damaging UV sun rays.

Certain additional benefits available in some hiking shorts

Certain additional benefits available in some hiking shorts

A UPF rating of 50 means that 2% (100/50) of the sun's rays will get through it, whereas a UPF rating of 30 means 3.33% (100/30) of the sun's rays will get through.

But remember, your shorts only cover part of your legs, so remember to slap the sun cream onto the rest of your unprotected legs!

Hiking shorts vs hiking trousers?

The choice between hiking shorts and hiking trousers (or hiking pants) depends on various factors, such as weather conditions, terrain, and personal preferences.

Hiking shorts provide excellent ventilation and cooling, ideal for warmer weather and moderate terrains.

Hiking shorts and hiking trousers

Hiking shorts and hiking trousers

On the other hand, hiking trousers offer greater protection and insulation, making them suitable for colder climates and more rugged terrains.

Apart from length, many features of hiking shorts and hiking trousers are the same

Apart from length, many features of hiking shorts and hiking trousers are the same

Some people may like the best of both worlds, as some hiking trousers can convert to hiking shorts where the bottom half zips off. I prefer to have either walking shorts or walking trousers rather than these hybrid convertible ones, mainly as they can cause chaffing due to the zipped knees, they tend to have a looser fit around the thighs than hiking shorts, and you might need to stop and take your hiking shoes off to go from one to the other.

Sustainability on your walks

As more hikers grow aware of their environmental impact, the demand for sustainable hiking gear increases. Many brands are stepping up to the challenge, offering sustainable options for hiking shorts made from recycled or eco-friendly materials. One of the materials used in sustainable hiking shorts is hemp, a highly comfortable and environmentally friendly fabric. It possesses remarkable thermal properties, is permeable, and effectively removes moisture away from the skin.

But sustainability isn't just about the materials used in the shorts. It's also about the practices employed in their production. Fair Trade Certified sewing is another important aspect of sustainable manufacturing. This certification guarantees that the workers involved in the sewing process are remunerated fairly, work in secure conditions, and have access to benefits such as healthcare and education. In addition to being socially responsible, Fair Trade Certified sewn shorts also encourage sustainable practices in the manufacturing process.

Care and maintenance of your hiking shorts

While selecting the right hiking shorts is important, it's equally vital to maintain them properly. Appropriate care and maintenance can prolong the lifespan of your shorts, ensuring they remain ready for future hikes.

The care instructions for hiking shorts typically involve gentle washing, avoiding harsh chemicals, and air drying. It's always recommended to follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the longevity of your shorts. Avoiding common mistakes like scrubbing too vigorously or using a washing machine can also help maintain the quality of your shorts over time.

Best hiking shorts summary

In conclusion, choosing the perfect pair of hiking shorts ensures you have a pair of comfortable, durable, lightweight, breathable, functional and stretchy shorts ready and waiting for when the weather warms up to suit your hiking needs and ensure a chaff-free walk.

Happy walking...

June 2024