The Best Hiking Shorts of 2024

Find the best shorts for your next hike
We tested the best hiking shorts.

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The clothes you wear while hiking are pretty important. They can make the difference between an enjoyable trip or a chafing nightmare. Hiking shorts should fit comfortably by staying in place without restricting movement and dry quickly after a river crossing or particularly sweaty day. The frontrunners also feature odor control, sun protection, and handy pockets. I wore all of the shorts on this list while hiking or backpacking to find the best hiking shorts for your next adventure.

How I Chose the Best Hiking Shorts

I chose shorts from reputable outdoor brands that boasted breathability, quick-dry, and pockets to wear on different hikes and backpacking trips. To test how quickly they dried, I got them wet in streams, lakes, and rain showers. I noted if they retained any odors, stayed in place while hiking, and allowed for freedom of movement. Check back as I add reviews for more favorite brands to this list.

Best Hiking Shorts: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Quick Dry: Free Fly Latitude Short

Best Quick Dry

Free Fly Latitude Short

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
  • Materials: 41 percent recycled nylon, 44 percent nylon, 15 percent spandex + DWR
  • Pockets: Patch front pockets, back zipper pocket
  • Men’s zipper and button closure, women’s elastic and drawstring closure
  • UPF 50+

Pros

  • Quick-dry
  • Four-way stretch
  • No smell

Cons

  • Careful washing instructions

These shorts have a uniquely soft feel while still being thick enough to withstand abuse. Free Fly’s brand is built off the magic of bamboo fabric which is naturally odor resistant, but these shorts are made of nylon. However, their odor control is still impressive. I sweat through them pretty easily in the Utah summer heat, but it isn’t visible and it doesn’t smell when I change at the end of the day. They also dry very quickly.

Author wears Free Fly shorts on trail.

I was initially nervous about the drop in pockets, but I stuck my iPhone 13 in the pocket and went for a bike ride without it falling out so they are evidently secure enough. The four-way stretch moves with your body while the draw cord waist on the women’s pair holds them comfortably in place. The wash instructions are detailed, but worth it to prolong the life of these shorts: turn inside out, wash on a cold, delicate cycle, and hang dry.

Best Lightweight: Mountain Hardwear Trail Sender Short

Best Lightweight

Mountain Hardwear Trail Sender Short

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Men’s 30-44, women’s XS-XL
  • Materials: Ultralight ripstop, 100 percent polyester (145gsm)
  • Pockets: Two side snap hand pockets with reverse entry pocket flaps, zip pocket at left thigh
  • Men’s adjustable waistband with internal drawstring and snap closure, women’s elastic waistband with adjustable internal drawcord
  • UPF 50

Pros

  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Quick-drying

Cons

  • Not the most durable

These shorts are lightweight and stretchy for a very comfortable fit. The drop in pockets with snaps and the zipper pocket offer great risk-free storage options for your essentials, including your phone. The high-rise waist features an adjustable drawstring so they stay put while the ripstop stretches four ways with no restrictions. 

The fabric does feel thin and after a few hikes and one wash there are already a few stray threads. This seems mostly aesthetic without compromising the structural integrity of the garment, but they might look the part of the dirtbag hiker after a few intense trips.

Most Versatile: Cotopaxi Brinco Short

Most Versatile

Cotopaxi Brinco Short

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
  • Materials: 96 percent recycled nylon, 4 percent spandex (151gsm) with wicking finish 
  • Pockets: Drop-in hand pockets, snap back pocket with drain hole
  • Elastic waistband with a non-stretch drawcord
  • UPF 50+

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Water-resistant
  • Cool pattern

Cons

  • Not very stretchy

These Cotopaxi Brinco shorts have an eye-catching design but they’re also water resistant with a comfortable fit. The encased drawcord and thick waistband keep them in place and small slits on the hem allow for increased mobility. These shorts are versatile and comfortable, if a little stiff. The fabric is thicker than others on this list which is great for water and abrasion resistance but has less stretch.

The Brinco shorts feature the thickest material but still feel breathable.
The Brinco shorts feature the thickest material but still feel breathable. Ashley Thess

They dry quickly and the pockets are reliable. The back snap pocket also features a drain hole if you go for a swim. The Brincos go from trail to swimming hole to brewery the best thanks to their stylish pattern, fast dry time, and comfortable fit. 

Best Plus Size: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts

Best Plus Size

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Men’s S-XXXL, women’s XS-XXL
  • Materials: Bluesign approved 86 percent nylon (46 percent recycled), 14 percent spandex 90D Stretch Woven Ripstop
  • Pockets: Drop-in mesh hand pockets, back right zip pocket, back left drop-in pocket
  • Pull-on short with integrated web belt
  • UPF 50+

Pros

  • Inclusive sizing
  • Included belt
  • Stretchy

Cons

  • Not very soft

Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi shorts have a comfortable fit, dry quickly, and are abrasion resistant. The movement mirroring stretch and hem slits provide great mobility while the integrated web belt and elastic waistband holds them in place. They are offered in a ton of sizes and colors for both men and women.

The Ferrosi shorts dried quickly and felt breathable on hikes. The pockets are all deep and reliable too, allowing you to carry more than just the essentials. The fabric isn’t as soft as others on this list but it feels durable.

Best for Women: Smartwool Women’s Hike Short

Best for Women

Smartwool Women’s Hike Short

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: XS-XL
  • Materials: 86 percent recycled polyester, 14 percent elastane; lining: 56 percent merino wool, 44 percent recycled polyester
  • Pockets: Drop-in hand pockets, left side zip pocket, back pockets
  • Drawcord-adjustable waist, snap closure, and a zippered fly

Pros

  • Next-to-skin merino wool
  • Attractive pattern
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Thin

The Smartwool Women’s Hike short features a merino wool lining that makes these some of the most breathable shorts on this list. The lining is soft and helps your body thermoregulate. It also offers odor control; I would happily wear these shorts for multiple days on trail. They dry quickly too if you need to wash them in the backcountry or go for a dip. 

These merino wool lined shorts are comfortable when wet and dry quickly.
These merino wool lined shorts are comfortable when wet and dry quickly. Smartwool

I wore these shorts hiking in the rain and the thinner fabric did cling slightly, but they were still stretchy enough to not restrict movement. There is a hidden drawstring that allows you to adjust the waist for staying power. The pockets are all deep and roomy. Smartwool doesn’t mention any UPF protection.

Best for Men: Smartwool Active Lined Short

Best for Men

Smartwool Active Lined Short

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
  • Materials: 86 percent recycled polyester, 14 percent elastane; lining: 56 percent merino wool, 44 percent recycled polyester
  • Pockets: Drop-in pocket at waistband and secure back pocket with zipper
  • Interior drawcord

Pros

  • Merino wool liner
  • Odor control
  • Quick drying

Cons

  • No functional pockets

Brief liners are a divisive design choice in men’s activewear; compression liners typically pick up smells while other brief liners wedge out of place uncomfortably. But Smartwool’s is secure, thermoregulating, and odor resistant merino wool. The liner stays cool and fresh while the polyester outside feels durable and has stood up to many rocks so far.

The biggest issue is the complete lack of functional pockets. You may be able to store a credit card, car key, or pair of headphones in the two available pockets but forget about a wallet, phone, or even set of keys. If you plan to always hike with a backpack or fanny pack, then it isn’t a big deal, but going from trail to tavern gets complicated when you have to carry all your stuff.

Gnara Go There Shorts

Gnara Go There Shorts

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Women’s 00-22
  • Materials: 93 percent nylon, 7 percent spandex
  • Pockets: Two front pockets, hidden front zipper pocket, two drop in back pockets
  • Adjustable waist tie, zipper, and snap

Pros

  • Durable
  • Flattering
  • Let’s you answer nature’s call privately and easily in the backcountry

Cons

  • Zipper was extremely uncomfortable

I was excited to try these shorts designed by women for women to go to the bathroom while camping or hiking. They feature a zipper from front to seat that hides under a flap. The material is durable, water resistant, and has four-way stretch. They also look flattering and are made from thick abrasion resistant material. 

I was full of hope at the start of our hike, but quickly became uncomfortable in the first mile.
I was full of hope at the start of our hike, but quickly became uncomfortable in the first mile. Beau Durrant

However, when I brought only these on a short backpacking overnight, I regretted it and had to hike out in merino wool leggings. The zipper that lines the crotch dug into my seat while hiking and eventually left a deep bruise. I would suggest sizing up to possibly fix this issue. Though my shorts fit perfectly, I thought if they were a bit looser, they might not rub so aggressively. I do hope that Gnara adds a larger fabric flap to protect from the interior metal zipper, because they were extremely efficient at using the restroom as intended. 

Read Next: Best Hiking Pants of 2023

Things to Consider

The right length hiking shorts should prevent chafing without inhibiting movement.
The right length hiking shorts should prevent chafing without inhibiting movement. Beau Durrant

Length

The best hiking shorts have varying inseams in each gender and sometimes multiple length options. The right length for you depends on your personal preference, but consider if your thighs might rub together with shorter inseams or if you want more sun protection further down your thigh. 

Sustainability

Plenty of the shorts on this list feature recycled materials which means they’re directly curbing those materials from going to waste. Unfortunately, the performance materials we want aren’t always great for the nature we love to explore. Supporting companies with more sustainable options shows that outdoors people are serious about preserving our planet.

Pockets

The pockets available on these shorts mostly follow a similar profile: two side pockets with a third more secure pocket. Personally, if I can’t trust my phone in at least one of the pockets in my shorts, I’m disappointed. Having my phone ready for a photo or map check is so much more convenient in a pocket than digging into my bag. 

Read Next: The Best Hiking Leggings of 2023

FAQs

Q: Are running shorts good for hiking?

Running shorts can make good hiking shorts. The only concerns are durability, length, and pockets. Running shorts tend to be as thin and short as possible which is great for a hot day hiking but you’re getting less sun protection and your thighs are more exposed to any rocky scrambles. Running shorts typically also only have a tiny pocket for maybe a credit card and a house key. When you’re hiking more storage options keep snacks and your phone camera handy.

Q: How long should hiking shorts be?

Hiking shorts can be any length you’re comfortable with. However longer versions can reduce chafing and protect your legs from sun and rocks. 

Q: Is it better to hike in shorts or pants?

Shorts are more comfortable when it’s very hot or you’re crossing streams or hiking in water. The breathability and freedom of movement in shorts make them great for most weather-appropriate hikes. However pants offer more protection from the sun, elements, and bugs. 

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Final Thoughts

The best hiking shorts fit comfortably, dry quickly, and make you excited for your hike. They should stay in place and stretch with your movements. The top contenders have well-placed pockets and control odors. Find the right pair for you:

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Ashley Thess

Assistant Gear Editor

Ashley Thess is the Assistant Gear Editor for Outdoor Life, where she edits and writes gear reviews. Originally from Missouri, she now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she keeps an unruly gear closet.

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