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Best hiking shorts 2022: for warm weather wanders and backpacking missions

Collage of the best hiking shorts
(Image credit: Future)

Summer may be waning but the best hiking shorts are still a great option for warm weather day hikes and expeditions in the fall. If you’re the kind of hiker who values freedom of movement, they’re still the go to ahead of more restrictive pants.

In general, the best hiking shorts still give you the same amount of pocket storage as their trouser cousins and are often just as hard wearing. They really come into their own on hot days on the trail, keeping your legs cool and ventilated.

They’re also ideal for watery adventures. Whether you’re crossing rivers, streams or estuaries, or enjoying a bit of coasteering or canyoning. Even in light rain, it’s better for your legs to get a little wet than to walk around all day with a sodden pair of the best hiking pants stubbornly clinging to your shins.

So, grab your shorts, hiking shoes and backpack and hit the trails while you can still enjoy the warm weather. Below are nine pairs we rate as the best hiking shorts out there and there’s bound to be a pair that are a great fit for your adventures.

The best summer hiking shorts

best hiking shorts: Finisterre Walker Hybrid Shorts

(Image credit: Finisterre)
Hiking shorts that double as boardies when you want cool off with a swim

Specifications

Style: Boardie-length, cross-over hiking and swimming shorts
Gender specificity: Men’s
Size & Fit: XS–XXL / 28–38in waist
Materials: Recycled nylon (94%) & Elastane (6%)
Colors: Beeswax / Dark teal / Navy / Sierra
Compatibility: Warm-weather walking along waterways and coastal trails, when you want to take impromptu plunges; also great for travel

Reasons to buy

+
Multifunctional 
+
Quick drying
+
Comfortable 
+
Made with recycled nylon
+
Good pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Tightening system comes loose easily
-
Expensive

How many times have you been hiking a hot and dusty trail and encountered a beach, river, stream or plunge pool, only to remember that you don’t have any swimming shorts with you? These stylish hybrid shorts from Finisterre mean that having to swim in your pants is a thing of the past. Made with lightweight, quick-drying (and recycled) nylon, they are comfortable enough to wear with no undies, and are specifically made to be just at home in water as they are on land. (They do have a zip, so if you do choose to go commando all day, you need to remember this when doing them up…) The material is pleasant to walk in, with a non-abrasive next-to-skin feel, and there is enough dynamic movement in the shorts (thanks to the elastane content) to allow ample freedom of movement, whether you’re climbing over a stile or clambering up a rock before jumping into a lake or lagoon to cool down. 

Aside from the zip, they are fastened with a button and can be tightened via an integrated belt and two pull-forward plastic buckles on the sides. On test, we did discover that there is some slippage in these buckles – this can be alleviated somewhat by adding a twist to the belt, but this shouldn’t really be necessary and is a negative point in an otherwise excellent garment. There are two decently deep hand pockets in these shorts, and one zipped pocket on the right buttock for keeping important things a bit more secure.

Read our full Finisterre Walker Hybrid Shorts review

best hiking shorts: Inov-8 Train Lite 9” Short

(Image credit: inov-8)

Inov-8 Train Lite 9” Short

Versatile small shorts for fast-paced trail hiking, trekking and running

Specifications

Style: Short (9-inch)
Gender specificity: Men’s
Size & Fit: XS–XL
Average weight: 152g / 5.4oz
Materials: polyester (88%) & elastane (12%)
Colors: Black / Navy
Compatibility: Hiking, fastpacking and trail running

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Excellent ventilated 
+
Wick moisture well
+
Fast drying
+
Dynamic freedom of movement
+
Recycled yarns used

Reasons to avoid

-
Very shallow side pockets
-
Low levels of protection
-
Limited colors

Brand new from running footwear and apparel specialists inov-8, these versatile shorts are ideal for a range of outdoor adventures and activities, including day walking, hiking and trekking in the summer, late spring and early autumn. Given the brand’s background, it should come as no surprise to discover that the Train Lite shorts are not designed for dawdlers, however. They're intended for fleet-footed adventures, including fastpacking. Indeed, at glance you could be forgiven for thinking they are running shorts (and they can be employed as exactly that). Made with a large component of stretchy elastane, they have little 9-inch legs with a split at the bottom, so you can leap over logs and scramble across rocks with no problems. 

They’re secured around the waist by a combination of an elastic hem and a drawcord (no fly), and they wick moisture away with aplomb when you work up a sweat. However, they also feature a couple of hand pockets (albeit very shallow ones – don’t entrust your car keys to these puny pouches), as well as a centrally located zipped back pocket for keeping things safe (it will fit a smart phone, at a squeeze). There’s also no inner lining, so they can be worn over several days with underwear. While you could wear them running all year round (if you’re hardy), as walking shorts they are very much intended for fair weather adventures. They offer excellent ventilation in the heat, with perforated panels making them extra breathable, but provide little in the way of thermal protection, nor cover for fending off aggressive flora such as nettles and brambles. Worn in the appropriate conditions, however, they’re good for galloping along the trails. 

Best lightweight hiking shorts

Rab Calient hiking shorts

(Image credit: Rab)

Rab Calient Shorts

Lightweight but high-performing shorts for hiking, scrambling and climbing

Specifications

Style: Lightweight midlength hiking shorts
Gender specificity: Men’s (closest women’s short is the Rab Raid)
Size & Fit: Regular; S–XXL; Inside leg (men’s large): 31.5cm/12.5in
Average weight: 205g / 7.2oz
Materials: Lightweight Matrix plain weave fabric with DWR (100% nylon)
Colors: Cumin / Graphene / Pine
Compatibility: Hiking and climbing in warm conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Packable
+
Zip pockets
+
Quick drying
+
Integrated belt

Reasons to avoid

-
No back pocket
-
Men’s only

A good-looking pair of hiking shorts from the well-respected British outdoor brand Rab, the Calient, as the name suggests, perform at their peak when the going gets hot. The fit is pretty slim, but they’re comfortable and don’t feel restrictive. If you do get caught out in a shower, the DWR-treated material (see what is DWR) will repel water up to a point, but these shorts dry out quickly anyway, and stay light even after a drenching.

They feature two hand pockets and a thigh pocket, all with zips so you can keep keys, cash and other important things securely stashed away. The left pocket also acts as a stuff sack. The waist fastens with a double popper, and the Calient comes with a belt – which is held in place with Velcro (handy when you put them through the washing machine). There are also larger loops, if you’d prefer to wear a more substantial belt. The material offers UPF30+ protection from the sun. The closest women’s version of these shorts from Rab is the Raid Short (opens in new tab) ($75/£65).

Salomon Wayfarer Short

(Image credit: Salomon)

Salomon Wayfarer Short

Streamlined shorts for traveling light and moving fast in fine weather

Specifications

Style: Mid length (28cm / 11in inseam), sporty cut
Gender specificity: Men’s and women’s versions available
Sizes: Men’s: XS–XXL; Women’s 6–18
Average weight: 200g/7oz
Materials: Polyamide (86%), Elastane (14%)
Colors: Men’s: Ebony / Black / Goji berry / Martini Olive; Women’s: Night sky / Marina / Martini olive / Black
Compatibility: Hiking, trekking, fastpacking, scrambling

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent four-way stretch
+
Good ventilation
+
Super light
+
Water repellent and quick drying
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
No rear pocket (on men’s)
-
Limited pocket space

Maybe it’s simply because they’re made by Salomon – a highly respected running brand – but there’s something about the Wayfarer shorts that encourages you to walk fast. They’re unquestionably hiking, rather than running shorts, but they still have a distinctly sporty feel to them. The four-way stretch in the main material certainly allows for plenty of high-energy movement when you’re roaming around on the hillsides and peaks, and there’s no excess fabric flapping around to annoy or slow you down. They’re also well ventilated, with mesh webbing behind the pockets allowing air to get through and cool you down when things threaten to get sticky. They’re water repellent (enough to deal with light showers), but also quick drying, and don’t get weighed down by retaining water when you get caught out in a heavier downpour.

Fastened with a single popper and zipper, the waist is slightly elasticated, making belts (extra unwelcome weight for many) optional, but there are hoops if you do want to wear one. The Wayfarer is designed for people who don’t want to waddle around with pockets full of stuff; the men’s version has just three pockets: one jeans-style hand pocket on each side, and a modest-sized zipped pocket on the right thigh, while the women’s shorts has one small back pocket and one on the thigh, both with zips.

Best cargo hiking shorts

best hiking shorts: Fjällräven Abisko and Nikka shorts

(Image credit: Fjällräven)

Fjällräven Abisko (Men) / Nikka (women)

Highly featured, beautifully made, Scandinavian designed cargo-style hiking shorts

Specifications

Style: Cargo midlength, (men’s inseam length: 28cm/11in)
Gender specificity: Men’s and women’s versions available
Sizes: XL–XXXL
Weight: Men’s 316g/11oz; Women’s: 262g/9.2oz
Materials: G-1000 (63% polyamide, 26% polyester, 11% elastane)
Colors: Men’s: Uncle blue / Black / Light olive / Dark olive / Dusk; Women’s: Light olive / black
Compatibility: Hiking, backpacking, alpine trekking, scrambling

Reasons to buy

+
Loads of large pockets
+
Thoughtful design
+
Robust
+
Plenty of freedom of movement

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than other shorts on test
-
Limited colorways for women
-
Pricey

Swedish brand Fjällräven are well known for the superb quality of their hiking pants and guess what… the sun does shine during those long Scandinavian summers, and their hiking shorts are every bit as beautifully designed, well considered and well made as their long pants. These hiking shorts manage to retain a really clean, unfussy look, despite being heavily featured. There are cargo pouches on both thighs; the one on the right leg is broad enough to take a map (and it has a secret subpocket) and the one on the right is specifically sized to cradle a smartphone or GPS device.

The front pockets are so deep you can barely get your hands to the bottom of them. Made from Fjällräven’s tough G-1000 material (which is breathable, durable, water-resistant and has plenty of stretch) there are lots of lovely little flourishes that reveal the fact these have been designed for hikers, by hikers – for example, the waistband rises slightly at the back, to avoid drizzle dripping into your undies if you’re wearing a pack and your coat rides up a bit. The pockets are accessible, even when you have the hip fins of a big backpack pulled tight around your waist, and extra material has been strategically placed on seams and gusset, to alleviate the risk of rubbing. There is a light version of these shorts too.

Páramo Maui hiking shorts

(Image credit: Páramo)

Páramo Maui Shorts

Dynamic hiking shorts with excellent pocket storage

Specifications

Style: Cargo shorts
Gender specificity: Men’s (closest women’s short is the Alipa)
Sizes: S–XXL
Average weight: 299g / 10.5oz
Materials: Quick-drying Parameta, a Nikwax Cotton+ fabric (73% cotton and 27% polymide)
Colors: Charcoal
Compatibility: Excellent for hiking, backpacking and travelling

Reasons to buy

+
Good pocket storage (including secret pocket)
+
Quick drying
+
Plenty of stretch for freedom of movement
+
Light

Reasons to avoid

-
One color only
-
Women’s version more expensive 

The Maui are supremely comfortable, quick-drying, cargo-style shorts, absolutely ideal for hiking in a range of conditions from late spring to early fall. There’s plenty of stretch in the main fabric, plus a shaped gusset to aid freedom of movement out on the hills. Carry capacity is generous, with two hand pockets at the front, a zippered rear pocket and a cargo pocket that’s capable of swallowing a folded paper map. In total there are five pockets, including a secret zippered pocket within a pocket on the right thigh, for safely stashing a credit card, some cash or a hotel key room (Páramo claims this hidden pocket is passport sized – we found it a bit tight for that, but it’s still useful, especially when travelling).

With a button-and-fly fastening system, the waist is slightly elasticated, which means a belt is optional (the Maui does have good-sized belt loops if you prefer to wear one).  The close-weave Nikwax Cotton+ fabric dries super fast, provides UPF 50+ protection from UV rays, and fends off biting insects too. These shorts have a classy look, perfectly pub acceptable, and are available in any color you like… so long as you only like charcoal grey. Páramo’s manufacturing ethics (opens in new tab) are excellent, and they will recycle old gear with their label on it (opens in new tab), offering cash back in return. The closest women’s version of these shorts is the Alipa (opens in new tab), which are a bit shorter and have three pockets.

Berghaus Extrem Baggy hiking shorts

(Image credit: Berghaus)

Berghaus Extrem Baggy Shorts

Hardwearing and protective shorts for all sorts of outdoor adventures

Specifications

Style: Mid-length, baggy cargo shorts
Gender specificity: Men’s and women’s versions available
Sizes: Men’s: 28–42in waist; Women’s: 8–20 (UK) / 4–16 (US)
Average weight: Men’s: 270g/9.5oz; Women’s: 246g/8.7oz
Materials: Polymide (96%) and elastane (4%)
Colors: Men’s: Black / Grey / Blue; Women’s: Turquoise / Grey
Compatibility: Hiking, trekking, walking, camping, scrambling

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent ventilation
+
Durable
+
Both men’s and women’s version feature lots of pockets
+
Water repellant

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as much stretch as some other shorts
-
Thin belt hoops

Like all Berghaus gear, the emphasis is on reliable functionality rather than fancy flair with these shorts (note the down-to-earth colorway descriptions – black, grey, blue – you know exactly what you’re getting with this brand). Although they feel a fair bit thicker and more robust than other shorts on test, and despite the fact that the fit is more generous and there’s more material involved, the Berghaus Baggy family of shorts remain impressively light. They boast a decent level of water repellency, and also dry fast if you do get caught in heavy rain. And they are very well vented, with mesh-backed splits going down both thighs, which allow plenty of airflow.

Refreshingly, both the men’s and the women’s versions feature plenty of pockets (women’s shorts so often lack storage), with two very generously proportioned front pockets, both zippered, and an equally large back pocket, also zippered. On the thigh is a discreet fourth pocket, again zippered, which is barely noticeable unless in use. The material – which feels very durable – doesn’t have quite as much multi-directional elasticity as some other shorts on test, but there is a stretch gusset, and they offer plenty of freedom whether you’re striding along the trails, scrambling along a ridge or stretching out in camp. While manmade, the materials used in the manufacturing of these shorts are bluesign approved (opens in new tab), so their environmental footprint is lighter.

Best eco-friendly hiking shorts

Salewa Alpine Hemp Cargo hiking shorts

(Image credit: Salewa Alpine)

Salewa Alpine Hemp Cargo Shorts

Sustainably made shorts, conceived in the mountains and intended for alpine ambles

Specifications

Style: Midlength cargo shorts (Side seam length: 53cm/21in)
Gender specificity: Men’s only
Sizes: XS–XL
Weight: 260g / 9.2oz
Materials: PFC-free Alpine Hemp, recycled polyester and elastane
Colors: Navy blue / Bungee cord brown / Duck green / Pale frog green
Compatibility: Hill walking, trekking, climbing, scrambling

Reasons to buy

+
Sustainably made
+
Italian good looks
+
Lightweight
+
4-way stretch
+
Excellent next-to-skin comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
No women’s version
-
Only two pockets

A fantastic looking pair of mountain striders, Salewa’s Alpine Hemp shorts are even more impressive when you learn about the material, which is a mixture of hemp (a natural product, which is much more eco-friendly than synthetic materials because it biodegrades) and recycled poly fabric. Salewa is in the process of moving hemp cultivation from China back to Italy, to further reduce their carbon footprint. As well as being far more sustainable than other yarns, hemp is very comfortable and has excellent thermal properties, keeping you cool when you need it to, and warm when required. It’s also breathable, wicks moisture away from the skin and, when mixed with elastane, becomes very dynamic.

Somewhat bizarrely, these shorts fasten with a zip, a button and a drawcord (maybe in case the button fails). The fit is regular, if fairly streamlined, but there is plenty of flex in the fabric, and a gusset, allowing for a good range of movement. There are no side pockets on these shorts, reflecting perhaps the fact they were born in the Italian Dolomites, where hikers don’t wander around with their hands thrust in their pockets because they’re needed for holding on to the precipitous rockface or grasping a trekking pole. There are, however, two thigh pockets, which both zip shut.

Craghoppers Kiwi Pro hiking shorts

(Image credit: Craghoppers)

Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Shorts

Decent hiking shorts made from recycled material and available for a reasonable price

Specifications

Style: 9in (men’s) / 7in (women’s) trail-walking shorts
Gender specificity: Men’s and women’s versions available
Sizes: S–XL
Weight: 230g / 8.1oz
Materials: Polyamide (96%) & elastane (4%)
Colors: Men’s: Ocean blue / Black / Pebble / Dark lead / Dark khaki; Women’s Dark navy / Graphite / Desert sand / Dove grey / Black / Mediterranean blue
Compatibility: Walking, hiking, trekking

Reasons to buy

+
Good value
+
Guaranteed for life
+
Recycled material

Reasons to avoid

-
No map pocket
-
Less dynamic than some others

British brand Craghoppers have produced a really decent pair of hard-wearing hiking shorts here, made largely from recycled materials. As with their long-trousered cousins, the Kiwi Pro shorts are constructed with a splash-proof finish, which is both lightweight and quick drying. There isn’t quite as much movement in the fabric of these shorts as there has been with some others on test, but neither do they feel restrictive when you’re out hiking on the hills and clambering across crags.

There are four pockets (three in the women’s shorts) – two side ones, a rear pocket and a relatively shallow thigh pouch – all of which have zippers. In the left hand pocket there is a dedicated lens wipe for cleaning sunglasses or camera lenses. The waist, which fastens with a zip and a button, is slightly elasticated, so a belt is purely optional, but there are hoops if you’d like to wear one.

Best hiking shorts comparison table
ShortsRRPWeightMaterialsCompatibility
Finisterre Walker Hybrid Shorts$102 (US) / £75 (UK)UnstatedRecycled nylon (94%) & Elastane (6%)Warm-weather walking along waterways and coastal trails, when you want to take impromptu plunges; also great for travel
Inov-8 Train Lite 9” Short$70 (US) / £55 (UK)152g / 5.4ozPolyester (88%) & elastane (12%)Hiking, fastpacking and trail running
Rab Calient Shorts$80 (US) / £50 (UK)205g / 7.2ozLightweight Matrix plain weave fabric with DWR (100% nylon)Hiking and climbing in warm conditions
Salomon Wayfarer Short$85 (US) / £65 (UK)200g / 7ozPolyamide (86%), Elastane (14%)Hiking, trekking, fastpacking, scrambling
Fjällräven Abisko (Men) / Nikka (women)$120 (US) £100 (UK)Men’s 316g / 11oz; Women’s: 262g / 9.2ozG-1000 (63% polyamide, 26% polyester, 11% elastane)Hiking, backpacking, alpine trekking, scrambling
Páramo Maui Shorts£65 (UK)299g / 10.5ozQuick-drying Parameta, a Nikwax Cotton+ fabric (73% cotton and 27% polymide)Excellent for hiking, backpacking and travelling
Berghaus Extrem Baggy ShortsMen’s: £75 (UK); Women’s: £65 (UK)Men’s: 270g/9.5oz; Women’s: 246g/8.7ozPolymide (96%) and elastane (4%)Hiking, trekking, walking, camping, scrambling
Salewa Alpine Hemp Cargo Shorts$90 (US) / £85 (UK)260g / 9.2ozPFC-free Alpine Hemp, recycled polyester and elastaneHill walking, trekking, climbing, scrambling
Craghoppers Kiwi Pro ShortsMen’s £45 (UK); Women’s £40 (UK)230g / 8.1ozPolyamide (96%) & elastane (4%)Walking, hiking, trekking

How to choose the best hiking shorts

Just as with long pants, or any other form of outdoor apparel, there are several things to consider when searching for the best hiking shorts, including personal preference and the kind of terrain and conditions you are most likely to encounter on your hiking adventures.

Style

Think carefully about what is most important to you: would big pockets be an advantage, because you like to carry around numerous gadgets (see: Best hiking technology), tools and snacks, or because you don’t want to take a backpack out for the day? If so, then cargo shorts with large thigh pouches would be ideal. If you still like to use hardcopy cartography, then having shorts that can accommodate a paper map is a real bonus. If, however, you despise putting anything in your pockets because you erroneously think it makes your butt look big, then you may as well dispense with them and go for a sportier short.

Materials

Comfort and protection are the number one priorities when buying apparel, and in the outdoors the two should never be mutually exclusive. Seek out shorts made from materials that don’t rub, and look for products that offer dynamic stretch – there’s only one thing worse than feeling like you’re wrestling with your own clothes when you’re being active in the outdoors, and that’s splitting your pants and having to finish the walk with your undies showing. Water repellency is extremely useful, and all the better if materials are quick to dry and wick moisture. Protection from the sun and biting insects are also considerations (although you’ll still have to look after your lower legs), as explained in our guide to hiking in hot weather.

best hiking shorts: Finisterre Walker Hybrid Shorts

Fast drying materials mean some hiking shorts can be used for a dip too (Image credit: Finisterre)

Sustainability

Increasingly, brands are sitting up and taking notice of the fact that consumers want their clothes to be made as cleanly and greenly as possible, and they are responding accordingly. Look for brands that use recycled and PFC-free fabrics, Bluesign-certified (opens in new tab) materials or more sustainable yarns such as hemp.

Features

Pockets are an important consideration – many people like to have jeans-style hand pockets on either side of their pants, but aim to have at least one pocket that zips shut, so you can keep car keys or valuables safely stashed. Hidden security pockets can be very useful when you’re travelling. Other features you commonly see on hiking shorts include elasticated waists, which immediately mean that you’re not going to need a heavy belt to keep them up, and integrated belts (of varying quality).

best hiking shorts: inov-8 shorts pocket

Pockets are an important consideration (Image credit: inov-8)

Ventilation

Hikers tend to reach for shorts in the warmer months of the year, obviously, and in lots of places the trails can get seriously hot in the midday sun. Tactical use of mesh in the design of shorts – even if it’s behind the pockets – can really help with airflow and temperature management.

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).

With contributions from