Best Hiking Shorts for Women in 2020

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In this guide, we review the best 12 women’s hiking shorts of 2020. To eliminate the fluff, each review takes the form of a summary with the main facts and features of each contender. You will also find a hiking shorts comparison table that we assembled to help you get a quick review of the information relevant to the most important characteristics, pros, and cons of each pair of shorts on our list. Additionally, in the buying advice section, we discuss practically everything you need to know about how to choose hiking shorts for your hikes.

There are plenty of good models and honestly, the process of finding the best hiking shorts can be tiring and tedious. That’s why we wrote this guide – to assist you with this task. After reading this article, you will know what to expect from different hiking short designs available on the market. And you will be in a good position to find the right option for your needs.

Best women's hiking shorts main

Photo by Laura Chouette

Quick answer: BEST HIKING SHORTS FOR WOMEN 2020

1. Prana Revenna                                       View on Amazon          View on REI   View on Backcountry

2. Patagonia Quandary                           View on Patagonia   View on REI   View on Backcountry

3. Columbia Sandy River Cargo         View on Amazon                                                           View on Backcountry

4. The North Face Aphrodite 2.0      View on Amazon                                                           View on Backcountry

5. Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts      View on Amazon                                                           View on Moosejaw

6. KUHL Trekr Shorts 11″                     View on KUHL                    View on REI

7. Patagonia Baggies 5″                          View on Patagonia   View on REI   View on Backcountry

8. KUHL Splash 11″ Shorts                   View on KUHL                    View on REI

9. Helly Hansen Maridalen                   View on Amazon                                                         View on Backcountry

10. Prana Olivia                                          View on Amazon           View on REI  View on Backcountry

11. Outdoor Research Ferrosi 7″      View on Amazon          View on REI  View on Backcountry

12. ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad            View on Amazon                                                           View on Moosejaw

 

 

Best overall hiking shorts

#1 Prana Revenna

Prana Revenna Women's Shorts

Weight: 148 g (5.2 oz)

Price (MSRP): $69

Inseam (inches): 5, 7

Materials: 95% Nylon, 5% spandex

Notable features:

  • Bluesign stretch performance variegated ripstop fabric
  • Five functional pockets including a banded side pocket with a concealed zipper at the right hip big enough to fit a phone
  • Internal adjustable tie

Pros:

  • Versatile: all-around adventure shorts with a classic look suitable for various activities (hiking, biking, travel, yoga, work or just wearing day-to-day) in a range of conditions and environments
  • Well-designed and well-made; great craftmanship: high-quality materials and construction without unnecessary features
  • Outstanding comfort: light and soft fabric; Good fit; the fabric has nice stretch; neither the length of the shorts nor the fabric restricts movement so that the Revenna move with the wearer
  • Good for summer activities as they have a UPF 50+ rating and provide enough ventilation thanks to: mesh-lined pockets, thin and breathable fabric, middle-of-the-road inseam

Cons:

  • Wrinkle easily
  • The fabric is likely to stretch out a bit

Best for: Versatility

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

Best lightweight shorts

#2 Patagonia Quandary Shorts

Patagonia Quandary Shorts

Weight: 142 g (5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $59

Inseam (inches): 5, 7

Materials: 95% Nylon (65% recycled), 5% spandex

Notable features:

  • Bluesign approved nylon fabric with 50+ UPF (sun protection) and DWR finish (drizzle and rain protection)
  • Crotch gusset for mobility
  • Waistband with hidden drawcord to fine-tune the fit

Pros:

  • Super lightweight and very packable hiking shorts for women; work efficiently in summer and hot weather (keep the wearer cool and dry fast)
  • Perfect length and fit; the design and fabric allow for greater mobility without chafing
  • Clean streamlined design that provides comfort for all kinds of outdoor activities requiring moderate intensity
  • Amazing pockets are deep enough to hold a smartphone, wallet, and whatever’s necessary

Cons:

  • A bit narrow at the thighs; can be too restricting for those with larger thighs; best for slimmer people
  • Limited colors

Best for: All things summer

Find the latest price:

Patagonia | REI | Backcountry

 

Best budget buy

#3 Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts

Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts

Weight: 145 g (5.1 oz)

Price (MSRP): $45 (can be found for $20-$25 on sale)

Inseam (inches): 6

Materials: 100% Nylon Perfecta Plus II

Notable features:

  • Nylon fabric with Omni-Shade UPF 30 technology for sun protection
  • Stretch waistband (adjustable webbing clip belt included)
  • Several (four) mesh-lined multi-functional pockets

Pros:

  • Can’t beat the quality for this price; elastic waist and adjustable belt for individual fit (NO drawstring!); the good news is that they will still fit as your body changes size or two
  • Four handy and useful pockets: two hand pockets and two cargo pockets on the smaller side but big enough to hold few small items (keep in mind that you may not be able to fit a smartphone in these pockets)
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying shorts made from thin and lightweight nylon fabric, they provide excellent breathability for cool and comfortable trips on hot sunny days
  • Simple yet durable construction; without superfluous features, only what’s really necessary for active summer wear

Cons:

  • The fit is a bit odd so you might have difficulty having the right size
  • High-waist, ride up in the back; the crotch area bunches up sometimes when walking
  • No back pockets; not enough deep pockets (the two cargo pockets are quite small)

Best for: Hot summer days

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Backcountry

 

Best casual shorts

#4 The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Shorts

North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Shorts

Weight: 140 g (5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $40

Inseam (inches): 4, 6

Materials: Solid: 95% Nylon, 5% elastane; Heather: 74% Nylon, 20% polyester, 6% elastane

Notable features:

  • Fabric with FlashDry™-XD technology wicks moisture and speeds drying
  • Triple needle stitching for durability
  • 2×2 Wide, rib-knit waistband is stretchy and comfortable

Pros:

  • Nice combination of style and functionality: great fit (waist, legs) and appropriate length for daily wear, casual dinners, camping or hiking; these women’s shorts are easy to match with other clothes
  • Comfortable, allow free movement; do not ride up
  • Excellent moisture management; the FlashDry™-XD fabric technology accelerates evaporation and keeps the user dry, cool, and comfortable during aerobic activities
  • Durable construction; abrasion and snag-resistant fabric for performance in rugged conditions

Cons:

  • No back pockets
  • We find the external drawcord a bit unappealing

Best for: Casual wear

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Backcountry

 

Best of the rest

#5 Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts

Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts

Weight: N/A

Price (MSRP): $65

Inseam (inches): 7

Materials: 94% Nylon, 6% spandex

Notable features:

  • Two zippered cargo pockets to keep essentials secure
  • StormRepel DWR finish repels moisture (drizzle and rain)
  • Bluesign certified fabric with FreeShade UPF 50+ sun protection

Pros:

  • Great flexibility and unrestricted mobility: can be used for hiking, mountain biking, and other activities that require to be active
  • Extra sun (UPF 50+) and water protection (DWR finish) make these suitable for varied conditions
  • Lightweight construction; very packable; airy; dry quickly; good-sized pockets (not bulky) for storage
  • Great fit (not too loose or too tight), don’t ride up

Cons:

  • A good set of pockets (two hand warmer pockets and two zippered thigh pockets) but no back pockets
  • Shown colors and color combinations (Reef, for example) may not match the actual colors

Best for: Versatility for warmer weather

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Moosejaw

 

#6 KUHL Trekr Shorts 11″

KUHL Trekr 11 inch Shorts

Weight: 241 g (8.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $79

Inseam (inches): 11

Materials: REKOIL: 57% Polyester, 43% nylon

Notable features:

  • KÜHLKURVE fit to the shape of the user’s body
  • Internal drawcord for fast and secure adjustment of the fit without the need to wear a belt
  • Two hidden zippered pockets on the side of each thigh

Pros:

  • Soft, smooth, and breathable material is stretchy enough for freedom of movement on and off the trail; dries easily
  • Top-notch quality hiking shorts: the material is soft against the skin yet durable
  • Classy streamlined look and good functionality – great for all your outdoor activities in 3 seasons
  • Six convenient pockets are useful and can hold a lot of stuff (deep side pockets)

Cons:

  • Limited color options: just four more or less neutral colors
  • Snap closure at the waist can come undone easily

Best for: Day hikes

Find the latest price:

KUHL | REI

 

#7 Patagonia Baggies 5″

Patagonia Baggies 5 inch Shorts

Weight: 145 g (5.1 oz)

Price (MSRP): $55

Inseam (inches): 5

Materials: 100% Nylon (recycled)

Notable features:

  • Durable (bluesign approved) nylon fabric with DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Mesh-lined pockets for added ventilation and air circulation
  • Brushed-elastic waistband with drawcord for individual fit

Pros:

  • Lightweight and quick-drying minimalist construction: dipping in water is not a problem as your shorts will get dry soon
  • Versatile and comfortable for all-day wear, these can easily become your go-to shorts (hiking, climbing, kayaking, swimming, etc.)
  • These shorts are not easy to stain but they’re easy to clean thanks to the DWR finish (water and potential soilings bead on the surface of the fabric)
  • Tough and durable nylon material that holds well during rugged trails

Cons:

  • Unlined waistband can get uncomfortable
  • The fit is hit or miss: you’ll either like them a lot or … hate them (curvy women are especially likely to have problems with the fit)

Best for: Warm weather hiking

Find the latest price:

Patagonia | REI | Backcountry

 

#8 KUHL Splash 11″ Shorts

KUHL Splash 11 inch Shorts

Weight: 250 (8.8 oz)

Price (MSRP): $65

Inseam (inches): 11

Materials: 68% Cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex

Notable features:

  • Six pockets including two snap back pockets and two snap thigh pockets
  • Free Ryde waist contours to the wearer’s body
  • UPF 50 fabric

Pros:

  • A combination of soft yet sturdy material, solid construction, superb comfort, and stylish look
  • Versatile: the elegant look and good length make these shorts perfect for activewear as well as casual, work, travel
  • Great color pallet: 7 beautiful colors
  • Easy care (no shrinking or wrinkling), wash and wear; dry quickly

Cons:

  • Slim fit (run small for those with larger thighs – check the size guide and choose accordingly)
  • Not very stretchy material

Best for: Casual walking

Find the latest price:

KUHL | REI

 

#9 Helly Hansen Maridalen Shorts

Helly Hansen Maridalen Shorts

Weight: 173 g (6.1 oz)

Price (MSRP): $75

Inseam (inches): 5.5

Materials: 94% Polyamide, 6% elastane

Notable features:

  • Two cargo pockets with hiddENsnap closure
  • Quick-dry 4-way stretch bluesign approved fabric with UPF 40+ is more environmentally friendly and provides sun protection
  • Classic belt loops

Pros:

  • Reliable construction; the durable stretch ripstop nylon material allows the shorts to move with the wearer during various dynamic outdoor activities
  • Breathable and quick-drying fabric works well in summer; UPF 40+ for sun protection
  • Multiple-pocket design (six pockets in total: two front hand pockets, two pleated back pockets with button closure, two cargo pockets – one zippered and one buttoned pocket) provides plenty of storage space for essentials and valuables
  • Comfortable fit – close without being tight or restrictive

Cons:

  • Three buttoned pockets including two back pockets – look good but are not very functional (it isn’t easy to operate with buttoned pockets), especially the back pockets because of the closure

Best for: All things summer

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Backcountry

 

#10 Prana Olivia Shorts

Prana Olivia Shorts

Weight: N/A

Price (MSRP): $59

Inseam (inches): 5, 7

Materials: 97% Nylon, 3% spandex

Notable features:

  • Performance woven Stretch Zion fabric treated with DWR finish
  • Chainstitch detailing at the waistband and pockets
  • UPF 50+ fabric

Pros:

  • (Tess shorts silhouette in Stretch Zion fabric) A good combination between style and function, these shorts look and feel good on and off the trail (still, these have a more outdoorsy look)
  • Light and soft Stretch Zion fabric that’s also abrasion-resistant; durable seam-stitching and sturdy zipper
  • Flexible and very comfortable to move in due to the stretchy fabric and relaxed fit
  • Well-made: high-quality materials and construction; cut with a mid-length rise

Cons:

  • Run small
  • Four-pocket styling but there’s no zippered pocket among them

Best for: Hiking or town

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

#11 Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts 7″

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts

Weight: 175 g (6.2 oz)

Price (MSRP): $70

Inseam (inches): 7

Materials: 86% nylon 90D stretch woven ripstop, 14% spandex

Notable features:

  • DWR treated fabric with UPF 50+ rating
  • Inner drawstring adjustable waist is harness-compatible
  • Brushed tricot-lined waistband to eliminate chafing and enhance comfort

Pros:

  • Lightweight women’s shorts that breathe well and dry easily – excellent for hot and dry/humid weather
  • Stylish but practical: good flex, nice features (roomy pockets, comfy waistband, ), don’t ride up, no rubbing
  • Soft, stretchy, and comfortable softshell fabric is perfect for hiking, biking, workouts, travel or whatever
  • Eight great color options

Cons:

  • Trim fit (they fit snug on the thighs, which won’t work for everyone)
  • Run small; possible size discrepancy between pairs

Best for: Hot/warm weather

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

#12 ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad Shorts

ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad Shorts

Weight: 204 g (7.2 oz)

Price (MSRP): $70

Inseam (inches): 8

Materials: 100% Nylon

Notable features:

  • Abrasion-resistant nylon fabric with UPF 50+ rating and Teflon SHIELD+ finish for increased sun and water (and stain) resistance respectively
  • Jade technology for cooling in hot climates
  • SILVADUR antimicrobial finish (with silver ions to help eliminate odor) for added odor-resistance to keep the user fresher

Pros:

  • Breathable and moisture-wicking fabric for cool summer adventures in both hot and dry and hot and wet climates
  • Functional, with a nice blend of good look and technical performance (tricot-lined waistband for comfort, coatings for added weather protection, etc.)
  • Excellent weather protection: engineered to shield off sun and moisture
  • Good abrasion-resistant nylon material: holds up well

Cons:

  • The fit is a bit off (not as flexible as the other models in this review)
  • Not many colors available: the whole color pallet consists of variations of grey, beige, and khaki (neutral colors)

Best for: Warm-weather travel

Find the latest price:

Amazon | Moosejaw

 

 

Table 1: Best hiking shorts for women – comparison table

PRODUCTDESCRIPTIONPROSCONS
Prana Revenna Women's Shorts
Prana Revenna

#1 Best overall



Weight -> 148 g (5.2 oz)
Price -> $69
Material -> 95% Nylon, 5% spandex
Inseam -> 5, 7


-> Versatile: suitable for various activities in a range of conditions and environments
-> Well-designed and well-made
-> Outstanding comfort and unrestricted movement
-> Great for summer activities


-> Wrinkle easily
-> The fabric is likely to stretch out a bit

Patagonia Quandary Shorts
Patagonia Quandary

#2 Best lightweight



Weight -> 142 g (5 oz)
Price -> $59
Material -> 95% Nylon (65% recycled), 5% spandex
Inseam -> 5, 7


-> Super lightweight and very packable
-> Perfect length and fit; no chafing
-> Clean streamlined design works well for all kinds of outdoor activities requiring moderate intensity
-> Deep functional pockets


-> Can be too restricting for those with larger thighs
-> Limited colors

Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts
Columbia Sandy River Cargo

#3 Best budget buy



Weight -> 145 g (5.1 oz)
Price -> $45
Material -> 100% Nylon Perfecta Plus II
Inseam -> 6


-> Can't beat the quality for this price
-> Handy and useful pockets
-> The material is perfect for hot sunny days
-> Simple yet durable construction without superfluous features


-> The fit is a bit odd
-> The crotch area bunches up sometimes when walking
-> The two cargo pockets are quite small

North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Shorts
The North Face Aphrodite 2.0

#4 Best casual shorts



Weight -> 140 g (5 oz)
Price -> $40
Material -> Solid: 95% Nylon, 5% elastane; Heather: 74% Nylon, 20% polyester, 6% elastane
Inseam -> 4, 6


-> Nice combination of style and functionality
-> Allow free movement and do not ride up
-> Excellent moisture management
-> Good performance in rugged conditions


-> No back pockets
-> We don't find the external drawcord very appealing

Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts
Eddie Bauer Guide Pro

#5



Weight -> N/A
Price -> $65
Material -> 94% Nylon, 6% spandex
Inseam -> 7


-> Great flexibility and unrestricted mobility
-> Suitable for varied conditions
-> Lightweight, very packable, airy, and dry quickly
-> Great fit


-> A good set of pockets
-> Some shown colors and color combinations may not match the actual colors

KUHL Trekr 11 inch Shorts
KUHL Trekr 11"

#6



Weight -> 241 g (8.5 oz)
Price -> $79
Material -> 57% Polyester, 43% nylon
Inseam -> 11


-> Soft, smooth, stretchy, and breathable material
-> Top-notch quality
-> Classy streamlined look and good functionality
-> Pockets are useful and can hold a lot of stuff


-> Limited color options: just four neutral colors
-> Snap closure at the waist can come undone easily

Patagonia Baggies 5 inch Shorts
Patagonia Baggies 5"

#7



Weight -> 145 g (5.1 oz)
Price -> $55
Material -> 100% Nylon (recycled)
Inseam -> 5


-> Lightweight and quick-drying minimalist construction
-> Versatile and comfortable for all-day wear
-> Not easy to stain yet easy to clean thanks to the DWR finish
-> Tough and durable nylon material holds well during rugged trails


-> Unlined waistband can get uncomfortable
-> The fit is hit or miss

KUHL Splash 11 inch Shorts
KUHL Splash 11"

#8



Weight -> 250 (8.8 oz)
Price -> $65
Material -> 68% Cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex
Inseam -> 11


-> A combination of soft yet sturdy material, solid construction, superb comfort, and stylish look
-> Versatile: perfect for activewear as well as casual
-> Great color pallet
-> Easy care, wash, and wear


-> Slim fit
-> Not very stretchy material

Helly Hansen Maridalen Shorts
Helly Hansen Maridalen

#9



Weight -> 173 g (6.1 oz)
Price -> $75
Material -> 94% Polyamide (nylon), 6% elastane
Inseam -> 5.5


-> Reliable construction that moves with the wearer
-> Breathable and quick-drying UPF 40+ fabric works well in summer
-> Multiple-pocket design provides plenty of storage space
-> Good fit without being tight or restrictive


-> Buttoned pockets are not very functional

Prana Olivia Shorts
Prana Olivia

#10



Weight -> N/A
Price -> $59
Material -> 97% Nylon, 3% spandex
Inseam -> 5, 7


-> A good combination between style and function
-> Sturdy fabric and durable seam-stitching
-> Flexible and very comfortable to move in
-> High-quality materials and construction


-> Run small
-> No zippered pockets

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts
Outdoor Research Ferrosi 7"

#11



Weight -> 175 g (6.2 oz)
Price -> $70
Material -> 86% nylon 90D stretch woven ripstop, 14% spandex
Inseam -> 7


-> Excellent for hot and dry/humid weather
-> Good flex and nice features
-> Soft, stretchy, and comfortable softshell fabric
-> Eight great color options


-> Fit snug on the thighs, which won't work for everyone
-> Possible size discrepancy between (same size) pairs

ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad Shorts
ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad

#12



Weight -> 204 g (7.2 oz)
Price -> $ 70
Material -> 100% Nylon
Inseam -> 8


-> Breathable and moisture-wicking fabric for cool summer adventures
-> Functional, with a nice blend of good look and technical performance
-> Good weather protection
-> Abrasion-resistant nylon material that holds up well


-> The fit is a bit off
-> Not many colors available: the whole color pallet consists of variations of grey, beige, and khaki

 

Hiking shorts for women buying advice or what to consider

Materials

Hiking shorts should fit well, be breathable, (relatively) lightweight, and quick-drying, and should not restrict movement in order to keep the wearer cool, dry, and comfortable when on the trail. That’s why most models are made from combinations of two or more fibers that work well together for their intended use. The “usual suspects” are popular synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester blended with elastane/spandex/Lycra. The former brings all the necessary characteristics and properties to make a garment suited for different types of travel from casual wear in town to rugged backcountry travel, while the main role of the latter is to give the blend good stretch without making it too stretchy.

Nylon-spandex and polyester-spandex blends can be very sturdy, abrasion-resistant, and stretchy enough to allow for ease of movement in a variety of sports and activities that require dynamic movement. More than half of the models (7 in total) in this review including four of the top 5 hiking shorts for women (the only exception is the all-nylon Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts) are either strictly nylon-spandex, strictly polyester-spandex or nylon-polyester-spandex blends. Three others are made of 100% nylon material and the rest utilize polyester-nylon (KUHL Trekr Shorts 11″) and cotton-nylon-spandex (KUHL Splash 11″ Shorts) blends.

Weight

Lightweight shorts should be preferred in the vast majority of cases. No matter how functional or comfortable they might be, no one wants to wear heavy shorts in hot summer weather alter all. The factors that play a prominent role in how light or heavy a pair of shorts are include: materials (their weave and thickness), the presence/absence of lining and its thickness, how many and what features they have, and the overall design of the shorts. If you look for lightweight shorts for summer hikes, look for thin materials and short and simple designs without unnecessary features. Rugged and functional shorts suitable for three seasons usually weigh more.

Both bar charts below (Graph 1 and Graph 2) show the weight of 10 of the models in our review. One of them shows the weight of different women’s hiking shorts in grams, whereas the other one shows the weight in ounces. Except for this, everything else in Graph 1 and Graph 2 is the same. We’ve reviewed shorts weighing from 140 g (5 oz) to 250 g (8.8 oz). Five or half of all models are very close as they weigh between 140 g (5 oz) for the North Face Aphrodite 2.0 and 148 g (5.2) for our top choice Prana Revenna. Two of the other five models are a little heavier – 173 g (6.1 oz) for the Helly Hansen Maridalen and 175 g (6.2) for the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts 7″. The other three weigh above 200 g as the heaviest of them KUHL Splash 11″ is 250 g (8.8 oz).

Graph 1: Weight comparison between women’s hiking shorts designs (in grams)Women's hiking shorts weight comparison

The best lightweight shorts Patagonia Quandary are second among the lightest models in this review (142 g or 5 oz). They are just 2 g heavier than the North Face Aphrodite 2.0 – casual shorts with a simple design and not many features. However, the Quandary shorts are a much better choice for hiking and backpacking because 1) they have more pockets for keeping essentials secure, and 2) offer better protection from sun and water (UPF 50+ fabric coated with DWR finish). The two heaviest models are shorts with 11-inch inseam by KUHL. Both Trekr 11″ and Splash 11″ are solid constructions with a stylish look and good functionality.

Graph 2: Weight comparison between women’s hiking shorts designs (in ounces) 

Women's hiking shorts weight comparison ounce

Length

Unlike the men’s hiking shorts inseam length (where the common length varies between 8″ and 12″), women’s hiking shorts traditional inseam varies more widely – from 4″ to 11″.

There is no ideal length as what’s best for someone can be bad for someone else. Actually, the desired length of a pair of shorts depends on the user (her height and personal preference) and conditions (expected weather and the vegetation – rainy weather and abundance of lush vegetation asks for longer shorts or pants). Nevertheless, we’d say that low and mid-rise shorts (5″-7″) work really well for most conditions and environments.

Breathability

Staying cool and dry is extremely important for summer sports and pursuits. Hence the superior air permeability (or breathability) of the shorts and the ability to allow air to pass through them (ventilation) are the main reasons why many ladies prefer to wear shorts during the summer heat. The lack of adequate ventilation leads to discomfort and (possibly) to worse performance.

The venting abilities of a pair of shorts depend primarily on the short design, materials, and features. Here’s what would be beneficial for added ventilation and air circulation:

  • Shorter inseam, streamlined design, and baggy look
  • A thin porous material, low fabric weight, and looser weave density
  • Mesh-lined pockets, venting holes on the crotch, the non-use of DWR coatings

The top performers that offer a comparatively high airflow are the Patagonia Baggies 5″ and the Columbia Sandy River Cargo. Both are lightweight, simple shorts made with thin and light nylon fabric. They also have mesh-lined pockets that allow moisture and air to pass through freely. The Prana Revenna Shorts are shortly behind but they also have excellent capabilities when it comes to air permeability.

Functionality and comfort

Hiking shorts should be functional and comfortable enough to ensure unrestricted mobility while walking, squatting, or sitting down. Going up or down a steep/gentle slope should not be impeded in any way. Functional pairs combine great fit, useful features, and all-day comfort on technical terrain or during a casual stroll in the city.

Fit and mobility

The first ingredient of both functionality and comfort is the right fit. A good fit isn’t too tight or too loose, it feels just right without the need to adjust the shorts in any way after the first couple of miles. Shorts that would need constant adjustments and readjustments won’t be too comfortable to wear even if they provide a great range of motion.

Features

Hi-tech features are an important part of the overall functionality of a pair of shorts. Note that technical features themselves are not enough to provide comfort. However, having shorts with a few good features for dynamic activities in various environments is a good start. These features can enhance the performance in different ways, which can lead to positive changes in the perceived comfort:

Pockets

They have different functions. Their main function is to provide storage space for storage and easy access to personal belongings and valuables. So, they should help the user keep things secure and organized. So having enough safe storage space solves just half of the problem. The combination and configuration of pockets solve the other half. Deep pockets are preferable for the secure storage of smartphones, wallets, maps, and other bigger and bulkier objects. Irrespective of how deep pockets are, buttons, zippers, and hook-and-loop closures help keep items safe.

The pockets’ secondary functions can be to: increase airflow (mesh-lined pockets), serve as hand-warmer pockets (usually side pockets), etc.

Ladies hiking shorts typically have fewer pockets than men’s shorts (if wondering why is that, just consider the common inseam of both types!). They range from two or three for models like the Patagonia Baggies to six or more for the KUHL Trekr and Helly Hansen Maridalen.

Waist fastening

Women’s shorts can make use of different ways of waist fastening. Using integrated and regular belts, internal and external drawstrings, and elastic waistbands are popular ways to get secure adjustment/snug fit at the waist.

Crotch gussets

Gusseted constructions protect and strengthen seams and give an exceptional fit for enhanced mobility in dynamic pursuits. They make squatting, bending, climbing, stretching, and all kinds of movement much easier and safer. To put it simply, the threat of tearing a hole in your shorts is diminished. Good pair of shorts with a gusseted crotch is the Patagonia Quandary.

DWR treatments

Factor number one for water resistance is the water-repellent finish (durable water repellent or DWR) that protects from water but does not drastically reduce the breathability of the fabric. An especially useful feature in changing weather, fabric treated with a DWR coating helps keep shorts and pocket contents dry. Keep in mind that the more resistant the shorts, the less breathable they are. Thus shorts that aren’t treated with a DWR such as the KUHL Trekr 11″ work better in hot weather.

Except for the added water resistance, durable water repellents make the fabric less prone to dirt and stains, which translates into easy cleaning and maintenance.

Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) fabric

Clothing is better at keeping the harmful ultraviolet rays away from the skin than sunscreen. Garments with a higher UPF rating ensure even better protection from the sun as UPF 50+ is the highest rating. Most models we selected for this review have a rating that ranges from UPF 30 for cheaper and simpler constructions like the Columbia Sandy River Cargo to UPF 50+ for more sophisticated designs such as the Outdoor Research Ferrosi 7″ and ExOfficio Sol Cool Nomad Shorts.

Versatility

Multi-functional shorts will stay fully operational during different activities in a variety of environments and conditions. Such shorts combine a good look and sufficient utility and go well with different types of footwear. Athletic designs with a baggy look may work great in the backcountry but they are not very appealing for wear in town. Take the Columbia Sandy River Cargo. They are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable but they don’t look like the most visually appealing shorts for urban wear. On the other side, the Helly Hansen Maridalen combine the look and style of trendy designs and the functionality and comfort of multi-sport pairs.

Hikers wearing shorts in summer
Shorter inseams and streamlined designs do not look very appealing yet they work well in the backcountry

Photo by Ben Maxwell

Price

Pricing may not directly affect the performance of shorts but it is still a huge factor in many people’s purchasing decisions. Actually, the connection between price and quality is well-known as the price often (but not always!) have informational value for the quality of the product. While the price-quality relationship is especially important for those outdoor enthusiasts who’d like to get the most bang for their buck, it’s no less important for those willing to pay a fair price as they’d like to know the apparel’s real value.

The second cheapest pair of shorts Columbia Sandy River Cargo is also the best budget option. The MSRP of these shorts is $45 but they can be found for roughly half of that ($20-$25) on a sale. A combination of practical design, durable fabric, and useful features for active summer wear, these remarkably affordable shorts offer excellent value.

The average price is $63, which isn’t surprising given that two-thirds of all pairs cost between $55 and $70. The most expensive pair – KUHL Trekr 11″ cost $79 or nearly twice as much as the cheapest one – the North Face Aphrodite 2.0. Both the best overall and the best lightweight pair – Prana Revenna ($69) and Patagonia Quandary ($59) respectively are mid-priced but offer well above the average experience. Prana Revenna are versatile shorts crafted with the user in mind. These all-around adventure shorts are incredibly comfortable and work well in a wide range of activities. Patagonia Quandary is a reasonably priced model with a clean streamlined design and bluesign approved UPF 50+ fabric with DWR finish for better sun and water protection.

Graph 3: Women’s hiking shorts price comparison (US dollars)

Hiking shorts for women price - comparison

 

Conclusion

The market for women’s hiking shorts is not short of different options, which means that making a well-informed choice is not an easy thing to do. The focus of your research should be on those metrics that matter the most: comfort and mobility, materials, prices (especially price-quality ratios), breathability, and ability to dry fast. Styles, features, and technical details aren’t an essential priority in most cases but they can be of considerable importance under certain circumstances.

In our minds, the Prana Revenna is the best all-around pair of shorts for women as they maintain a good balance between functionality and comfort. Patagonia Quandary is our choice for those wanting lightweight shorts, whereas we would definitely recommend the Columbia Sandy River Cargo as a great budget-friendly option. The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 is our choice for casual use so if comfort is leading, you need look no further.

This guide discussed some of the best models to help you find a great pair of ladies hiking shorts for your next outdoor adventure. We’re confident that, now, after reading this post, you have all the information to make a great choice. Happy trails.

 

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Best hiking shorts for women in 2020

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