Best Hiking Shorts for Backpacking

If you’re planning on hitting the trail any time soon, you’ll need some thin, light clothing if it looks as though the weather is going to be good. Wearing the right hiking shorts means you can have the freedom to move around as you please, but it also means you won’t overheat.

Hiking shorts may not be the most fashionable clothing item out there, but the right shorts can help to prevent against scrapes, while also giving you the right amount of pockets so you can keep your much-needed equipment close to hand.

Here’s our list of the best hiking shorts for men and women available on the market:

Hiking Shorts for Men

1: Exterus Outdoor Development Men’s Moisture Wicking Cargo Shorts

Exterus Outdoor Development Men’s Moisture Wicking Cargo Shorts

While the Exterus brand may not be widely known, it does appear to be a serious competitor in the outdoor clothing market. These shorts are made from nylon with Teflon, so they’re extra tough and with a UPF of 30+ they help to keep you protected from the sun.

These shorts are pretty sturdy and they come with a nice selection of pockets, so you can have your phone and compass nearby. Available in sizes from small to xx-large, the Exterus shorts are as rugged as you’d want them to be, but they are also quite pricey.

Key features – UPF of 30+, plenty of pockets, very rugged

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2: Columbia Men’s Barracuda Killer Shorts

Columbia Men’s Barracuda Killer Shorts

Available in 4 different colors and 8 different sizes, the Columbia Men’s Barracuda Killer shorts are worth considering if you’re looking for a cheaper pair of shorts that you can wear on the Camino de Santiago or any other hike.

With a UPF of 15 and made from quick-dry fabric, these shorts come with a zip-closed security pocket, so your belongings are kept as safe as possible. The Columbia shorts do not have a belt or an elasticated waist, but they allow for plenty of movement and are ideal for hiking.

Key features – UPF 15, quick-dry fabric, security pockets

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3: Bimini Bay Outfitters Men’s Outback Shorts

Bimini Bay Outfitters Men’s Outback Shorts

Looking like a serious pair of hiking shorts thanks to their 8 pockets and a rear tool pocket, the Bimini Bay shorts could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Made from 100% cotton, the shorts are available in 5 different colors and 6 sizes ranging from 32 to 42. With a 7 ½ inch inseam and a back elastic waistband, these shorts have wide belt loops allowing you to add any belt and are very comfortable and tough enough for the trail.

Key features – 100% cotton, rear tool pocket, 8 regular pockets

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4: Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts

Here we see Columbia again offering some shorts that could be ideal for hiking. Made from nylon and offering UPF 50 for maximum protection, these shorts include the Omni-Wick technology which helps to keep you cool.

Complete with side pockets and a security pocket, there’s plenty of room to store all of your essential equipment. With a classic fit that helps you stay comfortable on your most active days on the trail, these shorts offer freedom of movement and are available in a range of prices depending on the color and size you select.

Key features – UPF 50, security pocket, classic fit

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5: Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch Shorts

Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch Shorts

With a clean, smart finish, the Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch shorts are ideal if you want to be smart and comfortable while you hike. With UPF 50 fabric and made from stain-repellant fabric, these Columbia shorts are available in 9 different colors and many different sizes.

The one-zip security pocket is ideal if you want to keep something close to hand but extra safe, and the partial elastic waist offers an extra level of comfort. With a classic fit and multiple pockets including zip-off legs, these shorts are ideal for those days when you need to be as cool as possible.

Key features – UPF 50, zip-off legs, stain-repellant fabric

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6: Coleman Men’s Hiking Cargo Shorts

Coleman Men’s Hiking Cargo Shorts

Offering you the chance to stay comfortable and protected when you’re hiking in cold weather, Coleman’s shorts are ideal no matter what Mother Nature is throwing at you.

Tear-resistant and quick-drying, these shorts come in 4 different colors and are quite reasonably priced. With UPF 50, and rated as blocking as much as 99% of harmful rays, the shorts come with standard cargo pockets and hidden Velcro flaps for extra security.

A secure zippered side pocket and expandable cargo pockets allow you to store as much as you need to in these shorts. Coleman seems to have thought these shorts through, offering you a comfortable fit and all you need from a pair of shorts while you’re hiking.

Key features – Tear-resistant, quick-drying, UPF 50, hidden Velcro flaps

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Hiking Shorts Women

7: Columbia Women’s Sandy River Cargo Short

Columbia Women’s Sandy River Cargo Short

Available in 4 different colors and 5 different sizes, we’re seeing yet more shorts from the Columbia range. Quick to dry and made from 100% nylon, these shorts are comfortable and come with an adjustable waistband. Offering UPF 30 and a zip-closed security pocket, these shorts do mean serious business.

Sold for a relatively good price and with multi-functional pockets, these shorts are ideal for those hikes on rugged trails.

Key features – 100% nylon, UPF 30, security pocket, multi-functional pockets

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8: Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Short

Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Short

Made from Omni-shield Summiteer Lite nylon and elastane, these trail shorts come with advanced repellency and UPF 50 sun protection, which mean you should be a lot more comfortable when out and about.

Available in 4 different colors and made from comfortable fabric, these shorts are reasonably priced and ideal if you want to spend a few days on the trail. With a mid-rise waist and mesh pocket bags, these shorts are as useful as they are comfortable.

Key features – UPF 50, mesh pocket bag, mid-rise waist, comfortable fabric

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9: Nonwe Women’s Quick Dry Hiking Shorts

womens long shorts

While the Nonwe brand may not be the biggest brand out there, it certainly seems to want to give the larger brands a run for their money. Available in 6 different colors, these knee-length hiking shorts are made from 95% chinlon and 5% spandex.

With a pocket on each side and quick-drying, the shorts are comfortable enough for the trail. Breathable and very comfortable, the Nonwe shorts have a leg hem cinch which allows you to adjust the size if you need to. Low price and ideal for hiking as they don’t rub, these hiking shorts may be exactly what you need.

Key features – Quick-drying, knee-length, breathable, leg hem cinch

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10: Columbia Women’s East Ridge II Shorts

Columbia Women’s East Ridge II Shorts

A little shorter than the previous pair, these Columbia women’s shorts are made from 100% nylon and come with UPF 30 sun protection. Available in 3 different colors, the shorts are reasonably priced and available in many different sizes ranging from 2 to 16.

While the size of the shorts tends to run small, they are very good quality and are ideal for a day out on the Camino de Santiago. With nicely finished cargo pockets and with belt loops for extra support, these shorts are well worth a try.

Key features – UPF 30, cargo pockets, 100% nylon, belt loops

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11: Columbia Saturday Trail Li Knee Pant

Columbia Saturday Trail Li Knee Pant

Last but by no means least is another pair by Columbia. Running passed the knee and offering UPF 50 Protection, these are as comfortable as they look. Available in Nordic and Black they come with Omni-shield advanced repellency, meaning you’re less likely to be bitten by any pesky bugs.

With a zip-closed pocket and ‘articulated knees’, meaning you can adjust how loose or tight the shorts are around your knees, these are possibly the best in Columbia’s range. Although they are slightly more expensive than some others we have seen, they are nicely styled and very comfortable. If you’re looking for a pair of shorts that are comfortable and adjustable, you may want to seriously consider opting for this pair.

Key features – UPF 50, advanced repellency, adjustable knees, stylish

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Most Important Considerations When Buying Hiking Shorts

Comfort

When it comes to hiking, you need to make sure your shorts provide optimum comfort. While comfort may not seem as important as the style of the shorts at first glance, it’s essential that the clothes you’re going to be wearing while you’re tackling some tough terrain are perfectly comfortable.

Your shorts should give you enough room to maneuver in but not be too large so that they fall down. Comfort is key on a tough trail so take your time choosing the right pair of shorts, and the same with your hiking shoes.

Breathability

Regardless of how hot or cold it may be on the trail, your body will start to sweat. It’s therefore essential that moisture is moved away from the surface of your skin so that the fabric does not become wet. When fabric becomes wet it can become uncomfortable, cold, and heavy. If the day is a hot one, shorts with zero breathability will not allow you to cool down properly.

Shorts that allow your body to breathe will keep you feeling as cool as possible on those hot days on the trail, and as warm as possible on chilly days.

Features

When it comes to features, shorts can offer you more than you think. With advanced repellency and moisture repellency, shorts can protect you in many different ways. Offering a UPF from 30 to 50, some short can protect their wearers from the sun’s rays.

Lastly, many shorts come with a security pocket that can be zipped up, keeping your precious items a little safer. Think about the features that are important to you, and choose a pair of shorts that meet the criteria.

Durability

Any item of clothing that you wear on the trail needs to be tough. The more durable your shorts are the longer they will last. Shorts need to be tough enough to withstand scrapes from rocks, from your equipment, and anything else they come up against.

They should also be durable enough to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Try to find shorts that are known for their durability, so they last for at least a summer on the trail.

Converting Pants into Shorts

Some hiking pants come with an added feature that allows you to shorten them. This feature offers an additional level of comfort that you may appreciate when the sun is beating down on the trail. While this is not a feature that everyone automatically looks for, it’s certainly one that’s well worth considering.

We never know what the weather is going to be like out on the trail, and it can appear to do exactly what it pleases. Wearing shorts that can be made even shorter when the sun is at its hottest, or longer when it starts to get chilly, is nothing short of convenient and will ensure you’re as comfortable as possible, no matter what the weather’s doing.

There are many different hiking shorts available right now, but I believe that the 10 above listed pairs are some of the very best around. Helping to protect you from the sun while offering you the chance to keep your precious items safe, these shorts can make your days or weeks on the trail just that little bit better.

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