The Best Hiking Shorts for All Kinds of Summertime Strolls

Skip to main content

Cute and practical options that’ll get you psyched for warmer weather.

Best hiking shorts in 2024

Courtesy of the brands / Laneen Wells

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

  • 1


    Co-op Trailmade Shorts

    Best Overall

    • Pros: Relatively affordable, lightweight and breathable
    • Cons: Next to none—practically perfect

    The Trailmade shorts have just about everything we’re looking for in a good pair of hiking shorts. “I love these shorts so much I had to buy a second pair (and will likely snag a third for this summer),” says Alisa Hrustic, SELF’s executive editor and an avid hiker, birdwatcher, and self-proclaimed “nature person.” “They’re long enough so I don’t have to worry about them bunching up, the pockets are super roomy, and the adjustable waist ensures a great fit. They’re also really lightweight—perfect for hot, humid days.” Their slightly more approachable price point is just the cherry on top (and a major perk if you’re new to hiking and don’t want to make a huge investment right away).

    • Available sizes: XS to 3XL | Length: 5 inches | Materials: nylon, spandex, polyester | UPF rating: 50 | Available colors: 4 options
  • 2

    Topo Designs

    River Short


    • Pros: Quick-drying and water repellent, comfortable relaxed fit, cute colors
    • Cons: Lacks UPF rating, pricier than the Trailmade shorts

    “I first bought these shorts a few years ago for their cute aesthetic and high-rise design (which is surprisingly hard to find in outdoor clothing),” says Hannah Singleton, a SELF contributor and former backpacking guide. She adds that, much like the Trailmades, the River Shorts have inspired repeat purchases: “As soon as I tried them on, I immediately ordered another pair.” Not too long and not too short, with an adjustable waist (thanks to its integrated belt) and moisture-wicking fabric, the River Shorts from Topo Designs check a ton of essential boxes for an all-around great pair of hiking shorts, only falling short in their lack of sun protection. Whether your plans involve a sweaty trek or a dip in the stream, you will feel comfy and look stylish in these bottoms.

    • Available sizes: XS to XL | Length: 4.50 inches | Materials: nylon with durable water resistant (DWR) finish | UPF rating: N/A | Available colors: 5 options
  • 3


    Trekkie North Mid Rise Short

    Most Breathable

    • Pros: Extremely lightweight, stretchy and easy to move in
    • Cons: Drawstring can be difficult to untie, the zippered pockets can feel a little flimsy

    We tested a range of Athleta’s hiking gear last year, and the Trekkie North shorts stood out for their breathable, breezy, and ultralight feel. According to Sara Coughlin, SELF’s senior commerce writer, “the high waist makes it blissfully easy to move, and I never feel bogged down by sweat.” (Though they’re listed as mid-rise shorts, our writer sized up and found that they were easy to wear as a high-rise pair.) They have a wide elastic waistband, not unlike the type you see in workout leggings, which allows for freedom of movement through your back and hips—our writer says she’ll even wear them for yoga.

    • Available sizes: 0 to 26 | Lengths: 3.50 to 4 inches | Materials: nylon, spandex | UPF rating: 50+ | Available colors: 3 options
  • 4


    Baggies Shorts

    Most Versatile

    • Pros: Very comfortable, suitable for water activities, lots of color options
    • Cons: Lacks UPF rating

    A long-standing favorite among the outdoorsy set, Patagonia’s Baggies can go from the trail to the backyard to the beach (thanks to their water-repellent finish). “These are a classic for a reason,” Hrustic says. “I appreciate their five-inch inseam because I’m never worried about showing too much skin when I’m just trying to comfortably enjoy a day outdoors. They’re also really well structured (not too flowy).” If you’re going to be outside all day, enjoying everything your surroundings have to offer, a pair of Baggies is a wonderful multipurpose choice.

    • Available sizes: XXS to XXL | Length: 5 inches | Materials: recycled nylon, DWR finish | UPF rating: N/A | Available colors: 16 options
  • 5


    Hotty Hot High-Rise Lined Short (4-in.)

    Best Trail Running Shorts

    • Pros: Comfortable and adjustable high-rise waistband, cooling features, lots of color options
    • Cons: Lacks UPF rating

    Dana Leigh Smith, vice president and content lead of Condé Nast Health, usually prefers pants over shorts for the sake of tick protection (those nasty little guys don’t mess around!), but when she does choose to wear them she likes Lululemon’s Hotty Hots. They’re technically designed for running, made with a super-stretchy recycled material and an internal drawcord, so you can certainly feel confident when you’re picking up the pace. But Smith points out that they have quite a few features that make them trail-friendly too. For one, they’re ventilated, sweat-wicking, and quick-drying: “It barely feels like you have anything on, which is ideal for a hike on a hot day.” They also have reflective detailing and a built-in liner that Smith says helps ensure coverage, even when you’re climbing up and over large boulders.

    • Available sizes: 0 to 20 | Lengths: 2.50 and 4 inches | Materials: recycled polyester, elastane, nylon, polyester, Lycra | UPF rating: N/A | Available colors: 14 options
  • 6


    Salutation Stash High Rise 5 Short

    Best Bike Shorts

    • Pros: Very stretchy, comfortable high waist, lots of colors
    • Cons: Not as breathable as other options on our list, more likely to snag

    Let this be your reminder that you don’t have to wear burly cargo shorts on day hikes: “I love hiking in my bike shorts, specifically the Athleta Salutation Stash five-inch,” Singleton says. “The material is silky smooth and fits around my body without compressing too much.” And you don’t have to sacrifice storage space in the name of sleekness: There are two side pockets large enough to fit your phone, credit card, or keys. If there’s one thing to be aware of with these shorts, it’s their material. It’s stretchy, comfortable, and supportive, but also close-fitting and on the thinner side, so it won’t allow for the same amount of airflow and protection that other pairs on this list will offer.

    • Available sizes: XXS to 3XL | Length: 5 inches | Materials: nylon, Lycra | UPF rating: 50+ | Available colors: 14 options
  • 7

    Outdoor Research

    Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts (5-in.)

    Best for Challenging Hikes

    • Pros: Suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities, very stretchy, adjustable waist
    • Cons: Can ride up (according to reviewers)

    The Outdoor Research Ferrosis strike the perfect balance between structure and stretch, so you can move how you want without worrying about shredding your shorts. They’re made to resist wind, water, and regular wear and tear, making them a great pick for days with unpredictable weather and trails that call for scrambles and tight squeezes. And the adjustable web belt helps the shorts stay put all day long.

    • Available sizes: XS to XXL; plus-size variety available | Length: 5 inches | Materials: recycled nylon, nylon, spandex | UPF rating: 50+ | Available colors: 5 options
  • 8


    Freeflex Cargo Shorts (10-in.)

    Best Long-Length Shorts

    • Pros: Lots of pockets, extra leg coverage can help prevent chafing
    • Cons: May feel slightly heavier than other options on our list

    Longer shorts can help spare your inner thighs from chafing, provide further protection from scrapes, and give your hiking wardrobe a little variety. The Freeflex shorts from Kuhl are an excellent option for all those reasons, plus they have a whopping six pockets, including two front pockets, two back pockets, and two cargo pockets (the last four have snap button closures to keep your valuables secure). They’re slightly stretchy, but not to the point that they’ll feel baggy by the time you return to the trailhead.

    • Available sizes: 0 to 22 | Length: 10 inches | Materials: polyester | UPF rating: 50+ | Available colors: 5 options
  • 10

    Outdoor Voices

    RecTrek Zip-Off Pant

    Best Zip-Off Option

    • Pros: Suitable for a variety of temperatures, deep pockets
    • Cons: Waistband lacks some stretch, no UPF rating

    For days with particularly ambiguous forecasts, you might want a pair of pants that can turn into shorts with the pull of a zipper. We tested Outdoor Voices’s beloved RecTreck Zip-Off pants a few years ago and were highly impressed with how they accommodated movement, weathered the elements, and performed as both pants and shorts. “Loved the stretch in the legs, hips, and thighs,” one tester wrote. “I felt comfortable taking big wide steps, rock scrambling without worry that the material would tear.”

    • Available sizes: XXS to 3XL | Lengths: 29.75 inches as pants; 3.75 inches as shorts | Materials: nylon, elastane, DWR finish | UPF rating: N/A | Available colors: 4 options
  • What to look for in a pair of hiking shorts

    “After five years of working as a backpacking guide, I’ve tested out dozens of hiking shorts, racking up hundreds of trail miles,” Singleton says. “I’ve hiked in the dry deserts of the Southwest, the humid rainforests of Washington, and the high alpine in the Sierras.” With her vast experience in mind, Singleton shared the key details she considers when shopping for hiking and trail shorts.

    • Fit: If the shorts don’t feel good on your body when you try them on, they certainly won’t feel good when you’re hiking up a steep hill or navigating rocks. They should allow freedom of motion at your hips and shouldn’t feel restrictive around your thighs or waist. If you’re not able to try them on in person, looking at the shape of the shorts can give you a better idea of how they’ll fit, Singleton says. Some have a straight design from the waist through the hips, while others have a reverse-tapered fit that’s smaller at the waist but roomier in the hips and thighs.
    • Material: You can look out for pairs with spandex, elastane, or Lycra for added stretch, and ones with durable nylon materials like ripstop for longevity. If you’re trekking in the heat, prioritize a pair made with lightweight, breathable fabric that’ll wick moisture and sweat away (bonus points if it has a sun-protective rating—UPF 50 or higher is considered excellent protection). And if you’re going to pass a body of water, and there’s a chance you’ll want to take a dip, look for quick-drying hiking shorts or ones made with a DWR finish, Singleton says (that way you won’t have to wear soggy shorts on your hike back to the trailhead).
    • Additional features: Pairs with a drawcord or integrated belt will help you get a more customized fit. If you’re taking a backpacking trip in your shorts, you may want to look for ones with a low-profile waistband that doesn’t have bulky buttons or a belt you can’t remove, Sington suggests, because any hardware can create points of discomfort under the backpack’s hip belt.

    Related Reading:

Hannah is a freelance journalist and content writer who writes about the outdoors, the environment, and travel. Before diving into a writing career, she spent years in the outdoor industry bouncing around the West as a backpacking guide and educator. She was born and raised in Baltimore, MD but now lives in… Read more

Sara Coughlin is a writer and editor with ample experience covering health and wellness trends. As SELF’s senior commerce writer, she’s taken a special interest in skin care, outdoor recreation, sleep, fitness gear and apparel, and more.

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button