Best Women’s Hiking Shorts

We categorize the finest women’s hiking shorts of the year, from traditional bermuda styles to performance designs to everyday cotton selections.

Nothing beats the easy-breezy feel of a hiking short in midsummer or on days when you’re out strenuously. Today’s choices range from technically competent softshells to casually minded options that look good both on and off the trail. Most hiking-specific shorts include strong, breathable, and quick-drying textiles, useful storage pockets, and a customizable waist fit.

Let’s take a look at our top picks for women’s hiking shorts of the year, including fit, storage options, performance, and other features. For further information, see our buying advice.

Best Overall Women’s Hiking Short

Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Bermuda

Inseam: 9 in.
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
Waist: Elastic

Our top hiking shorts are durable, breathable, and quick-drying, with a great fit and mobility. They also have a variety of storage choices, as well as the look to match. The Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Bermuda outperforms the competition in most categories: lightweight fabric that dries quickly after a rain, two deep hand pockets and zippered stashes on the rear and thigh, and a modest 9-inch inseam.
The Dynama/2 Bermuda shorts are also made with a broad, stretchy waistline that glides over our hips without difficulty (some elastic waistbands are laboriously difficult to put on) and keeps the pants in place while minimizing bulk and pressure points beneath a backpack hipbelt. The Dynama/2 Bermuda is the most well-rounded short we’ve tested for hikers who prioritize both comfort and performance when combined.

The Dynama/2 Bermuda isn’t well suited to every female hiker, for a few key reasons. To begin with, it’s far from the most fashionable option on our list: you just have the choice of a 9-inch inseam (which is rather long for some), and the colorways (five total) aren’t exactly enticing. Second, while the lightweight fabric excels in terms of mobility and breathability, it lacks the superior quality of those from Patagonia and Arc’teryx.
Finally, neither of the Dynama/2’s zippered pockets would hold a smartphone, despite the fact that the generously proportioned hand pockets do. Despite our complaints, these Mountain Hardwear shorts are far and away the most comfortable and well-fitting design we tested; most hikers will prefer their light weight over some of the heavier choices below. A final note on sizing: We wear a size extra small in the Dynama/2 pants, but found that a small fit us best in the shorts.

Pros
  • Stretchy waistband and thin fabric offer excellent fit and comfort.
Cons
  • Not particularly stylish or durable; zip pockets do not accommodate a smartphone.

prAna Halle Short II

prAna Halle Short II

Inseams: 5, 7 in.
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% elastane
Waist: Button & fly

The Halle Short II is one of our top picks, but it falls short in terms of real-world performance. Our main complaint is the waistline, which has no mechanism for tightening (unless you add a belt), and which digs into our stomach when compressed under a backpack’s hipbelt. Furthermore, we were between sizes with the prAna, unlike the Mountain Hardwear above, where you get very little wiggle room at the waist, resulting in one size being a bit baggy and the other being too tight.
Finally, while the front pockets are deep enough, the rear pockets are too small for a smartphone (not to mention that the flaps get in the way), and there is no zippered storage on the shorts. However, for casual use, the Halle clearly wins out—we wear ours just as much around town as we do on the trail.

Pros
  • Stylish design; premium ReZion fabric is durable and doesn’t stretch out of shape.
Cons
  • Non-adjustable waistband; storage is not super functional.

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Short 9

Arc’teryx Gamma LT Short 9

Inseam: 6, 9 in.
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% elastane
Waist: Snap/built-in belt & fly

The Arc’teryx is the most expensive option at $130 for the 9-inch version, which puts it well outside the price range of most hiking shorts. The Arc’teryx is by far the most high-end product here, and it’s an excellent choice for serious hikers seeking top performance. These pants are made of Arc’teryx Fortius DW 2.0 softshell fabric, which means they’re extremely durable while also providing adequate wind protection and breathability as well as a generous degree of stretch to allow mobility.
The built-in belt is extremely comfortable, with a customizable fit and no excessive weight. Storage is incredible, with three big zippered pockets (two of which are sized to accommodate a smartphone) and an optional thigh pocket that’s accessible while wearing a harness.

The Gamma LT has a lot of features for the money, but will you need them all? You’ll have to decide if you need such a technically focused short when you can save over $60 on many of the other models here. Furthermore, because the Fortius softshell fabric is warm on especially hot days, it won’t dry as fast as less thick nylon designs like the Dynama/2 or Baggies.
The Gamma LT is the crème de la crème of mountain-goers, guides, and outdoor professionals searching for a superior every-day driver. Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Arc’teryx’s products are consistently well fitting, and the Gamma LT (which comes in sizes 00 through 16) is available in ten different sizes.

Pros
  • Premium fit and finish, highly durable, functional storage.
Cons
  • Expensive and too thick for hot weather.

Patagonia Baggies Shorts

Patagonia Baggies Shorts

Inseams: 2.5 , 5 in.
Materials: 100% nylon
Waist: Elastic & drawcord

The Patagonia Baggies are as classic as it gets. These versatile shorts can be used for everything from hiking and water sports to day-to-day wear, thanks to their amusing designs and colorways. The formula is quite simple: the garment has an elastic waist with drawcord, two mesh-lined pockets ( excellent for draining water), a key loop for securing valuables, and a 5-inch inseam (Patagonia also makes the Barely Baggies with a 2.5-in. inseam).
The combination of the two creates a board-short-inspired design with the features of a hiking short, ideal for hot summer days and quick dips along the route. And in 2022, Patagonia’s NetPlus fabric will be used to make the Baggies.

For years, the Baggies have been the go-to for hot-weather trekking and guiding due to their fun vibe and quick-drying design. However, we do have a few complaints, including storage, comfort, and fit. The hand poches aren’t connected to the legs, so stuff can dangle below the hem; besides the key loop there’s no place to store valuables like a phone or wallet (compared to REI’s similar Sahara Amphib with rear zippered pocket).
The main problem with the Baggies is that they’re too thick in the crotch area, and they ride up when running (we frequently pull ours down), as well as being somewhat stiff. The elastic waistband isn’t as nice as the Dynama/2’s smoother design. Finally, because of their hourglass form, women with this shape may have difficulty pulling on these shorts (the shorts are difficult to pull on and narrow in the hip region). No short is ideal, but if a baggy fits, it’s a wonderful and quick-drying companion for hot days both on the trail and around town.

Pros
  • Fun styling; quick-drying fabric is great for hiking and water-based activities
Cons
  • Storage is lacking and fit doesn’t work for everyone

REI Co-op Sahara Bermuda

REI Co-op Sahara Bermuda

Inseam: 9 in.
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
Waist: Button/drawcord & fly

REI Co-op has vastly improved their in-house offerings over the years, and their Sahara Bermuda shorts are a great example of this. These shorts are perfect for everything from casual day hikes to longer overnight trips, offering great coverage with the mid-rise waist and 9-inch inseam, four pockets (including one with a zipper), and lightweight, quick-drying fabric with a bit of give. We particularly like the recent redesign, which subs in a patch of elastic at the back of the waistband for a closer fit (you also get a drawstring inside the button-and-fly closure). Priced at $60 and available in 14 sizes, the Sahara Bermuda is an excellent all-rounder that gets the job done for women looking for a functional and modest short for summer adventuring.

However, while the Sahara Bermuda’s lightweight fabric makes them great for hot days on the trail, it’s not the most durable or premium option out there. The shorts will stretch out between washings (which is especially important if you plan to wear them on a week-long backpacking trip), and are much more prone to abrasion and pilling than something like the Gamma LT above. And while the new elastic waistband will help maintain a good fit over time, it’s a bit of a polarizing feature (those looking for a traditional design might not love it). Finally, REI only offers three colorways and one length, and none of the pockets on our size 4 fit a smartphone. All nitpicks aside, the Sahara Bermuda shorts offer a thoughtful take on the standard hiking short design, and look great whether you’re hitting the trail, headed to the lake, or running errands in between.

Pros
  • Quick-drying, traditional hiking short design; available in 14 sizes
Cons
  • Not particularly durable and will stretch out in between washings

Salomon Sense Shorts

Salomon Sense Shorts

Hiking is a fantastic time to break out your lightweight trail running pants. Salomon is the most recognized name in trail running, and their Sense shorts are excellent. These light-weight shorts have an ultrathin fabric, but the comfortable waistband sets them apart.
In the shorts, Aerotech mesh fabric is extremely light and wicks moisture away swiftly. That fabric is also very pleasant to wear, and you may forget you’re wearing shorts! The shorts have a mesh liner that works effectively at moisture management by keeping you feeling cool and free of chafing..
The pants feature a 360 all-around mesh pocket in the waistband, as opposed to your typical pocket. It’s fantastic for running with a vest or simply going for a run. It does have some drawbacks when using it while hiking with a big backpack because the waistline cannot be accessed with a hip belt.
These pants’ cut is short, making them extremely lightweight and flattering on those with nice legs. If you want a few inches in your shorts, though, you may look elsewhere because there is no waist adjustment.

Pros
  • Short Cut
  • Inner Liner
  • Super Lighweight
  • Uber Comfortable
  • Moisture Management
Cons
  • Price

Coalatree Trailhead Hiking Shorts

Coalatree Trailhead Hiking Shorts

These are a fantastic pair of hiking pants for ladies, and they’re one of our top recommendations. Coalatree is an environmentally friendly outdoor clothing company that we’ve grown to embrace. In terms of comfort, these are the most comfortable on this list, with the exception of price. They’re made out of a lightweight fabric blended with Bluesign Nylon and spandex.
The waistband is constructed of double-reinforced nylon while the rest of the pants is made up of spandex, giving them a flexible fit. They’re really comfy, with nylon and spandex that can stretch in any way you want to move. The drawstring makes it easy to alter them, and the spandex delivers a nice hug around your hips.
The basic design makes them ideal for casual use, and they’re just as at ease off the path as they are on it. The shorts are a hit due to their breadth of application. It has the disadvantage of less compartments, flimsier material, and a short inseam.

Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Versatility
  • Lighweight Material
  • Style
  • Mobility
Cons
  • Material May Tire Over Time

Topo Designs Dirt Shorts

Topo Designs Dirt Shorts

Inseam: 4.25 in.
Materials: 98% cotton, 2% spandex
Waist: Elastic & drawcord

The Dirt Shorts from Topo Designs are an exception to the rule, with a 98-percent organic cotton construction for a solid dose of comfort and style. In fact, the Dirt Shorts are soft and supple against the skin, with a noticeable amount of stretch for moving about. The side-seam pockets are also big and positioned correctly, as well as two stylish back pockets.
These are a comfy and attractive option to many of the more typical, manufactured hiking shorts for dry and moderate weather.

But before you spring for the Dirt Shorts, it’s important to be aware of the shortcomings of cotton.
Cotton, like other natural fibers, has limitations when it comes to performance. When worn in hiking shorts, cotton is thicker and warmer than nylon or polyester, does not dry out as quickly when wet, and lacks the airy and free-flowing sensation of synthetic blends. In addition, the Dirt Shorts’ overall design is far from performance-oriented. The 4.25-inch inseam was too short for some (we personally loved the length), and there wasn’t any zippered storage. However, the Topo Designs Dirt Shorts—which come in eight current and eye-catching colorways—are one of our favorites here as a nice crossover option for both formal and casual use.

Pros
  • Cotton build is comfortable and stylish; offered in a lot of fun colorways
Cons
  • Not ideal for hot or potentially wet days

Patagonia Quandary Shorts 5″

Patagonia Quandary Shorts 5″

Inseams: 5, 7 in.
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
Waist: Button/drawcord & fly

Traditional button-and-fly closure with internal drawcord, a good deal of functionality without many frills: two pockets at the front and two at the rear (one with a zipper), a standard button-and-fly opening with internal drawcord, and plenty of stretch. We put the Quandary pants to the test on a four-day trek through Patagonia’s Río Eléctrico valley, and we were pleased with their mobile and quick-drying nature: After soaking them in a river crossing, they were completely dry in just 20 minutes.

The Quandary is an excellent choice for lady hikers seeking a basic hiking-short , and like most of Patagonia’s products—they’re well-made and constructed with top-of-the-line materials.

Pros
  • A high-quality traditional hiking short for just $59; available in two inseam lengths
Cons
  • Button and drawcord have a tendency to dig into the stomach

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts 5″

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts 5″

Inseams: 5, 7, 9 in.
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex 
Waist: Elastic & built-in belt

Outdoor Research stretchy Ferrosi fabric has become legendary among hikers, climbers, and skiers for its excellent mobility, abrasion resistance, breathability, and weather protection. The lightweight softshell material is used in everything from jackets to gaiters and skorts at OR—as well as the ladies’ hiking shorts.
The Ferrosi shorts come in two distinct styles: the 5- and 9-inch versions have an elastic waistband with a built-in belt, while the 7-inch style has a more conventional button and fly closure with internal drawcord. Regardless of which model you pick, you’re getting a longlasting short with a little more weight

Pros
  • OR’s Ferrosi fabric is very durable, comfortable, breathable, and mobile
Cons
  • The elastic waistband is a pain to pull on over our hips

Arc’teryx Sabria Short

Arc’teryx Sabria Short

Inseam: 8 in.
Materials: 87% nylon, 13% elastane
Waist: Elastic & drawcord

The Sabria Short combines Arc’teryx’s premium quality with a contemporary design that resembles the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Bermuda above, providing a lot to like about it. The Sabria Short, for example, has our favorite type of waist: a sleek, low-profile elastic band that eliminates pressure points under a backpack hipbelt or climbing harness (particularly when compared to shorts with button-and-fly or drawcord designs).
The Sabria is a shorter, lighter brother of the Rivertide. The rest of the outfit skips over technical features like water resistance and rapid drying in favor of a simpler design that offers a more basic level of technical savvy.
However, we have a few minor complaints about the Sabria’s design. The elastic waistband has far less give than we’d like, making putting on and taking off the short tedious. Sizing up can help with this problem (and the integrated drawcord gives a decent cinch at the waist), but it frequently produces an ill-fitting hip and leg fit.
Another problem we’re encountering is the thigh pockets, which are too shallow for our iPhone 11 (more than a third of it protrudes). If the Sabria fits (we’re thinking about you, ladies with narrow hips), it’s a premium and comfy hiking short that’ll withstand the test of time.

Pros
  • Sleek design; lightweight stretch nylon offers great mobility and water resistance
Cons
  • Difficult to get on and off over the hips

REI Co-op Sahara Amphib Shorts

REI Co-op Sahara Amphib Shorts

Inseam: 4 in.
Materials: 89% nylon, 11% polyester
Waist: Elastic & built-in belt

The REI Sahara Amphib Shorts are a great choice for hot-weather activities, water sports, and everyday use. They have a moisture-wicking design that prioritizes comfort, as well as deep hand pockets that are lined with mesh for rapid drainage. You’ll find an elastic waistband and a built-in belt in addition to a 4 inch inseam, which we think is a nice compromise between the longer Baggies and shorter choices elsewhere.
In terms of design, the Sahara Amphib is a refreshing break from Patagonia’s lack of complexity. A rear zip pocket (a step up from Patagonia’s overly basic look) and several other features improve on this short’s functionality and enjoyment during summer outings.

Pros
  • Cheaper than the Patagonia Baggies with a rear zip pocket
Cons
  • Odd fit and buckle is hard to operate

Vuori Ripstop Shorts

Vuori Ripstop Shorts

Inseam: 3.5 in.
Materials: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
Waist: Elastic & drawcord

The Vuori are made of stretch-infused cotton and offer a comfortable, easy-breezy appearance with a Teflon finish, but they’re also durable and stain resistant. Our experience (we’ve worn both the women’s pants and men’s shorts), the Ripstop fabric is quite resilient and water-resistant as well. The Vuori Ripstop shorts include a full set of pockets (including secure zippered storage at the rear and on the leg), as well as an adjustable elastic waistline for total convenience off and on the trail.
However, if you’re an experienced hiker, you might want to choose a more performance-oriented design: The 3.5-inch inseam on the Ripstop creates little coverage, and the shorts take longer to dry out than the lightweight synthetic alternatives above. Furthermore, because of its stitched-in design and bulky drawstring, it’s difficult to remove.
Finally, Vuori only offers the short in five sizes: XS through XL—if you’re looking for a larger size range, the Athleta Trekkie North or prAna Halle II are worth considering.

Pros
  • Versatile styling; impressively durable and water-resistant for cotton
Cons
  • Short inseam and drawstring causes pressure points underneath a backpack hipbelt

KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts

KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts

Inseam: 10 in.
Materials: 100% polyester
Waist: Snap/drawcord & fly

Though KUHL’s Freeflex Cargo aren’t the most stylish shorts, they make up for it in function and coverage. The Freeflex Cargo are the longest shorts on this list, with a 10-inch inseam, which means protection from the elements and a small fit for a variety of body types (the shorts are available in 11 sizes from 0 to 22).
The Cargo Shorts by Freeflex are a sturdy, form-fitting pair of hiking shorts with cargo pockets on the thighs and rear pockets with flaps. A drawcord can help you get a perfect fit at the waist. In total, the Freeflex Cargo Shorts are an excellent option for ladies looking for a traditional hiking short that is high in coverage.
According to KUHL, their Freeflex fabric is 100% polyester, but it has a considerable amount of stretch and is thicker than most synthetic blends we tested. The end result is good range of motion and durability; on the other hand, the Cargo Shorts aren’t ideal for hot weather or rapid drying.

Pros
  • An inclusive hiking short with modest coverage and a range of sizes from 0 to 22
Cons
  • Dated styling and fabric; pockets are difficult to access

Women’s Hiking Short Buying Advice

What Defines a Hiking Short?

There is no dress code for hiking, and in 2022, females will hike in everything from running shorts to high-waisted biker pants to waterproof designs that dry fast. These might even be your best bet depending on the circumstances and day’s objective. That said, there is a category of shorts specifically designed for hiking with features such as sturdy and breathable fabrics, useful storage, modest coverage, waist belts that stay put and ride well below a backpack hipbelt, and more.

Hiking shorts are one of the most durable and dependable tools for the task, whether you’re hiking in wet conditions or not. The good news is that there’s something for everyone, from technical, performance-minded items to more laid-back pieces that look great at the street as well as on the trail.

Wearing Running Shorts for Hiking

We’re going to be straightforward with you: when we’re out on a hike, we typically wear jogging shorts. Running shorts are light, comfortable, and allow for plenty of movement – they’re especially ideal on hot days or when combining some running into your trip.

However, there are a few significant drawbacks. Storage is a major issue: some running shorts lack pockets, while others have just one or two small pouches. Second, long-term durability is an issue: running shorts’ thin construction won’t stand up to abuse over time, and hiking shorts will undoubtedly offer a lot more value over time compared to dollar for dollar trekking shorts.

Finally, with short inseams and no bulk of cloth, running shorts provide little protection for your legs against the elements, including the sun, wind, cold bugs, and sharp branches. We adore how comfy they are, but we do think that hiking shorts should take some pointers from running shorts when it comes to simple yet comfortable waistbands and free-flowing designs.

Hiking Short Materials

Most hiking shorts are constructed of nylon or polyester. These fabrics are moisture-wicking, breathable, and lightweight, with a lot of freedom of movement due to their minimal weight. Many designs incorporate tiny amounts of built-in stretch via elastane (spandex), which is fantastic for anything from high-stepping over logs to setting up camp.

The added give and thickness make these shorts among the most durable here, ideal for brushing against rock and branches, sitting on rough surfaces, and withstanding a heavy backpack’s wear and tear.

We’ve also included a few outliers on this list. The Topo Designs Dirt Shorts, for example, are made of 98 percent cotton, which is unusual nowadays in outdoor apparel. Cotton has the disadvantage of not being as durable or flexible as nylon or polyester while soaking up water, unlike the synthetic hybrid blends it absorbs rather than rapidly drying and becoming heavy when wet. The benefit is that the Topo Designs is very comfortable and stylish, which is all any hiker requires for simple hikes.

There are also stretchy, spandex shorts like The North Face’s Motivation High-Rise Pocket Shorts, which have 20% elastic for a more yoga-inspired look. Finally, it’s a good idea to customize your hiking short selection according to your purpose: We like stretch-nylon mixes for serious trekking and 100 percent nylon bikinis for water activities, while cotton and fitted styles are fine for less formal excursions.

Thickness and Durability

Durability is one of the main selling features of a hiking short, especially when compared to casual or running-specific ones. Hiking shorts are designed to endure abuse on the trail and at camp, and ideally should last you years of usage. However, we still see a lot of variation within this class: nylons and polyesters are generally more durable than cotton types, and (in most cases) thicker designs are more abrasion-resistant.

We’ve also found that some but not too much added stretch can increase durability, allowing a fabric to give rather than tear when stressed.

Pockets

Having functional storage is one of our main requirements of a hiking short, but it’s also one of our largest complaints. Ideally, we want a pair of shorts to be able to fit a smartphone in at least one of its pockets, and secure items like a key or chapstick in a zip pocket. Unfortunately, these features aren’t always present; if storage is important to you, you’ll have to shop discriminately. That said, all of the shorts listed above include at least one pocket, and many sport upwards of four or five: two on the front, two at the back, and perhaps one on the side (keep in mind though, these aren’t always super functional). Given that the topic of pockets and storage is so important to us, we make sure to call it out in the write-ups above.

Sizing and Fit

We’ve tolerated our fair share of baggy, ill-fitting hiking shorts over the years, but the good news is that the market has greatly improved in recent years with stretchy fabrics and features like sleek elastic waistbands and gussets for enhanced range of motion. Many companies have also expanded their ranges to include a variety of plus-size choices (REI Co-op and KUHL are leaders in this area).

The inseam length of a short can vary greatly, and it’s not uncommon for them to come in two separate lengths. The prAna Halle II is one such example, with 5-inch and 7-inch options. Like hiking pants, we recommend trying on a number of shorts before you buy.

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