Once the weather warms up it is time to swap your bulkier winter walking gear for lighter summer kit – and that includes your hiking shorts. Nothing beats getting out for a countryside walk wearing shorts and lighter walking shoes, with the feel of the sun on your skin and the tickle of a summer breeze on your knees.
Our review guide on the best hiking shorts for women and men includes some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to buying walking shorts, including are they lightweight and breathable? How quickly do the shorts dry? How comfortable are they? Are they suitable for long-distance walking? And what are the best hikinh shorts for value for money?
When it comes to choosing your shorts factors such as the weather and terrain are important to consider. You might find you prefer less bulky options, while others will look for a more technical piece of clothing, with pockets aplenty and features to suit the terrain they are tackling and the adventures they’re planning to take on.
Best hiking shorts for men and women
Páramo men’s Maui shorts
Perfect for both outdoor escapades close to home and travelling adventures further afield, Páramo’s Maui shorts offer functionality, features and style. They are made with the brand’s quick-drying Parameta A Cotton+ fabric, which wicks and spreads moisture and supplies excellent protection from everything from harmful levels of UV to biting insects (with a dense fabric weave they can’t penetrate).
They’re pretty light (around 300g) and allow decent freedom of movement. The storage space is excellent for walkers and travellers, with two deep front pockets complimented by a zipped back pocket and a cargo-style thigh pouch that’s large enough to completely swallow an OS Map, or even hold a water bottle. Within this cargo pouch is a hidden zipped pocket, perfect for securely carrying a passport when you’re in transit. The waist is slightly elasticated and works without a belt, but there are sturdy hoops to accommodate one if preferred.
Paramo doesn’t make an equivalent version of the Maui for women, but it does offer the Alipa short (£75), which made from a quick-drying and breathable synthetic fabric. The style lacks the cargo pouch but is good for speed-hiking and cycling.
VERDICT: Stylish, functional and comfortable. A women’s version would be welcome.
Best eco-friendly option
Craghoppers men’s Kiwi Pro Shorts
& women’s Kiwi Pro III shorts
British brand Craghoppers is well known for the quality of its walking apparel, and these good-value shorts are based on the same design used in its excellent Kiwi Pro walking trousers. The 9-inch shorts (women’s are 2 inches shorter) are extremely functional, with two hand pockets (one with an integrated wipe for cleaning glasses or lenses), plus a thigh pocket on the right leg, and also a rear pocket – all of which have zips. The waist is partially elasticated, so a belt isn’t strictly necessary, but there are hoops to accommodate one.
The Kiwi Pros are made with a quick-drying and comfortable fabric that stretches to allow ease of movement while walking and climbing over stiles, and which has a splash proof finish that repels some drizzle, mud and trail juice. Most impressively, though, around 200g of recycled material goes into the construction of each pair (145g for women’s). Craghoppers guarantee these shorts for life.
VERDICT: Functional shorts in quick-drying fabric.
Best budget option
Mountain Warehouse Explorer women’s Long Shorts
& men’s Trek Shorts
Sometimes simplicity and comfort are all you really require from a pair of walking shorts, and the Explorer Long (for women) and Trek (for men) shorts from Mountain Warehouse tick these boxes perfectly, while also delivering on functionality and features (particularly the Trek). Both designs are long (to just above the knee) and are made with a quick-drying, lightweight fabric, which also supplies UV protection where it’s most required.
The Explorer has an elastic waist with a drawcord and two zipped front pockets, while the Trek has belt hoops and also features two zipped cargo pockets and two back pockets, one of which has a zip.
VERDICT: Simple but basic.
Haglofs L.I.M Fuse Shorts men’s
& women’s L.I.M Fuse Shorts
Weighing in at just 160g (Men’s large) / 140g (Women’s size 40), the L.I.M. Fuse shorts pack a lot of performance into a very light garment, underlining the ‘Less Is More’ message Haglofs have been hawking for the last two decades. Although minimalistic, the material used in these shorts is technically advanced and dynamic, allowing as much movement as you’ll ever need, no matter what outside adventures you’re enjoying.
The Bluesign-certified Climatic fabric has been doused with a Fluorocarbon-free DWR (Durable water repellent) treatment, so it will cope with light rain no problem, and dries very quickly if you’re caught in a heavier downpour. There are two hand pockets at the front, plus a zipped pocket on the right thigh. There are no belt loops, but the elasticated waist has an internal drawstring, so you can adjust it.
VERDICT: Lightweight, quick-drying.
Smartwool women’s sport hike short
For those who prefe to catch a bit more vitamin D when they’re out and about, the Women’s Merino Sport Hike Short from Smartwool is a mini walking short, for sunny carefree days on the trails. It’s made from a dynamic and lightweight material, which dries quickly and doesn’t restrict movement at all. The waistband and the pockets are lined with merino, supplying lovely next-to-skin comfort. The waist has a drawcord and is fastened with two snap poppers, and there is a surprising amount of pocket space, with two pockets at the back, two hand pockets at the front, and a secret fifth pocket with a zip to secure the contents. It is available in black or sage.
For men, Smartwool offers the similar Merino Sport Lined 5-inch Short.
VERDICT: Lightweight, comfortable, with five pockets.
Jack Wolfskin Overland shorts
Made from a bi-elastic softshell fabric, the Overland shorts perform particularly well in more adverse and challenging conditions. Being windproof and water resistant they offer considerably more protection and thermal qualities than most other shorts on test, and as a result can comfortably be worn at higher altitudes on mountain trails during the warmer months. These would be our pick for long alpine hikes during the summer.
They’re nice and stretchy, allowing complete freedom of movement, while remaining breathable and lightweight (150g women’s / 250g men’s). There are four zipped pockets in total, two on the front, one on the thigh and one at the back. The waist is elasticated (although there are belt hoops if you require them) and the shorts fasten with a popper and Velcro tab.
VERDICT: Windproof, stretchy, good for hill or coast walks.
Salewa men’s Alpine Hemp Cargo Shorts
An exceptionally good-looking piece of outdoor clothing with a nice comfortable fit and feel, these stylish shorts are produced by an Italian brand based in the Dolomites. They’re made primarily from hemp – a natural product which is much more eco-friendly than synthetic materials because it biodegrades. (Salewa is moving hemp cultivation from China back to Italy, to further reduce the company’s carbon footprint.) Hemp also happens to be breathable, moisture-wicking, soft on skin and lightweight, attributes that all combine to make the Alpine Hemp Cargo Shorts good performers when worn in the hills on long summer hikes.
The addition of some polyester and elastane into the material mix means they stretch nicely during activities. There is a modest-sized zipped pocket on each thigh – big enough to hold a phone, compass and snacks. The lack of back or side pockets reflects an assumption, perhaps, that both hands should be busy with trekking poles or helping the wearer negotiate technical terrain.
Women’s version not yet available.
VERDICT: Good looking, soft, a little short on pockets.
Berghaus men’s Extrem Baggy short
& women’s Baggy Light short
An excellent pair of shorts for long days on the trails, the Extrem Baggies are versatile and richly featured for wild wanders in warmer months. They’re nicely designed and shaped to allow a good range of movement and excellent ventilation, but don’t be deterred by the name – they’re not overly baggy, there’s no excess material to flap around annoyingly, and you can wear them mountain biking as well as hiking.
They’re made from a lightweight material that repels water, and dries fast even if does get drenched. The storage space is ace, with two generous zipped pockets at the front (big enough to take a map), plus a thigh and rear pocket, all with zips. Mesh-backed vents on each thigh make them extra breathable and allow good airflow on hot days. The closest women’s version is the slightly more pared back Baggy Light Short (£65).
VERDICT: Breathable, good pockets, great ventilation.
Salomon Wayfarer Short (unisex)
With the Wayfarers, Salomon have taken their know-how from decades of producing top-end trail-running gear and used it to create a dynamic unisex walking short, made with four-way stretch material. Lightweight (200g), with soft next-to-skin feel, you can move so freely in these shorts you barely know you have them on. There are hoops, but the waist is elasticated and fastens with a popper, so you don’t have to add any extra weight by wearing a belt.
The material has been given a water repellant treatment, and it is highly breathable too, so you don’t get too sweaty even on the hardest of hill hikes. In severe downpours they do take on water, but dry extremely quickly. The Wayfarers are built more for freedom of movement and speed than storage, but they have two open side pockets, and one thigh pocket with a zip.
VERDICT: Lightweight, breathable, comfortable.