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The Best Women's Hiking Shorts

They're comfortable, they're cute, they're capable: Discover the best hiking shorts for women on the market.

three pairs of womens hiking shorts
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For as long as we've been walking, we've been hiking. The marked trails, well-equipped backpacks and moisture-wicking, quick-drying, durable fabrics may look different than our ancestral wanderers, but the basic concept is the same: one foot in front of the other, up and down hills, through the woods in communion with the natural world.

Although the act of hiking is one of the simplest and oldest forms of outdoor recreation, the apparel certainly is not. Today's hiking gear is more functional than the gear of the 20th century, with the addition of 21st-century style. Whether you're new to hiking or just looking to upgrade your kit, there are a few things to consider when it comes to picking out your next pair of trekking shorts.

Fit, Fabric, Features

As you begin to shop for this summer's go-to hiking shorts, consider the the F's: fit, fabric and features. Hiking shorts have a few common fits: the cargo style short, which typically has a longer inseam and more pockets; the bike short, which is compressive, supportive and offers minimal storage; the running-inspired short, which can come in lined and unlined versions and typically features a 3-inch inseam, and the hybrid, a 2-in-1 short that often combines the anti-chafing and supportive qualities of a compressive liner with the style and breathability of a running short.

Everyone has a preference when it comes to fabric: if you've got sensitive skin, think twice before buying wool. (This applies less to merino wool, which is softer and thinner than its traditional counterpart). Polyester, nylon and elastane are the three most common fabrics and materials in hiking shorts, but if you're into more natural fibers, consider merino wool, hemp or cotton.

Which features you require depend entirely on the length and location of your hike. If you're going out sans backpack but want to have certain necessities like hydration packs, snacks, a pocket knife, smartphone and keys with you, invest in a pair with more pockets and a more supportive waistband that can support the weight of your items. If you're going on a quick hike and don't plan on bringing much, or if you're utilizing a pack and don't need to rely on your shorts for storage, pick a pair that prioritizes comfort over storage. UPF protection is another common feature to look out for, as well as moisture wicking and breathability.

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How We Tested
hiking shorts for women
Hayley Helms

I took each of these shorts out for at least one month at a time. I hiked in the rain, in the sun, and in multiple environments, including the deserts, mountains and beaches of Southern California. In addition to hiking at least 2o miles in each pair, I also traveled, ran and worked in each short. I considered the three F's as I tested in each environment.

Best Bike Shorts
Norrøna Short Tights
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Norrona

  • Silky smooth fabric compresses without discomfort

  • You'll never want to take them off

Bike shorts are continuing to have their moment, and I haven't found a pair as comfortable as these. The clincher here is the fabric — it's smooth and compressive without being uncomfortable or constricting. Bike shorts can sometimes have an odd fit — if they're comfortable in the waist they can often be too tight on the thighs, but Norrona's pair is perfectly proportioned. I love them for hiking long distances when I want extra coverage, without the weight or heat of traditional pants. Off trail, wear them with a baggy t-shirt and slides.

Materials: Recycled nylon and elastane

Built for: Hiking, trail running, mountaineering

UPF? Yes

Features: Cargo pocket, rear phone pocket, reflective details

Best Lightweight Shorts
Mountain Hardwear Trail Sender Short
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Mountain Hardwear

  • So lightweight, you'll forget you have them on

  • Run at least a size big; not ideal for petite frames

Mountain Hardwear is well known for its cold-weather gear — if you're a fan of the brand's puffy jackets and shells, you should definitely get your hands on a pair of their new hiking shorts.I like these shorts for multiple reasons: they're lightweight to the point where I barely remember I have them on but don't be fooled by their feathery feel — the ripstop fabric makes them just as durable as other options on this list. The shorts look as good as they feel, and I can easily wear them from the trail to town if I don't have time to change. The major thing to note with Mountain Hardwear is fit: I consistently have to size down in their apparel, and if you're petite, you should expect to have an oversize look when you wear the brand's threads.

Materials: Ultralight ripstop

Built for: Hiking, trail running, backpacking

UPF? Yes

Features: Elastic waistband with adjustable internal drawcord; two side snap hand pockets with reverse entry pocket flaps; secure zip pocket at left thigh

Best Merino Wool Shorts
Smartwool Merino Sport Hike Short
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smartwool

  • Soft next-to-skin feel

  • Waistband ties are flimsy

In my opinion, merino wool is the gold standard of fabrics, and in many people's opinion, Smartwool is the gold standard in merino — so odds are, if you like this soft, thin, naturally antimicrobial material, you're going to dig Smartwool.

Like many hiking-oriented shorts, the Merino Sport Hike Short is comfortable and capable, but there are a few features that separate it from the pack. I appreciated the merino lining on the waistband and inner lining of the pockets — the next-to-skin feel is soft and non-abrasive, and the wool provides breathability, temperature regulation, and moisture management. It's a small touch that goes a long way.

I found myself swimming in the shorts, even though Smartwool says these run true to size. The inner drawcord helps combat the limits of the fixed waist and snap closure, but the ties could be a bit more substantial; I had mine cinched down pretty tight, but they still came undone multiple times. Despite the sizing, I would wear this short in spring, summer and fall — with the right layering on top, the Merino Wool Sport Hike Short is a light, packable, functional option for three-season hiking.

Materials: Recycled polyester, elastane, merino wool, recycled polyester

Built for: Hiking, camping, backpacking

UPF? No

Features: 5 pockets, a drawcord-adjustable waist, lightweight stretch-woven fabric and a zippered fly

Best Overall Shorts
Allbirds Natural Run Short - Hazy Cocoa
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Allbirds

  • Comfortable, easy to wear

  • Some will miss a liner

Allbirds is well-known for making cozy and capable shoes made from natural and plant-based materials, but if you've been sleeping on their apparel, it's time to treat yourself.

I'm personally obsessed with the Natural Run Short for its versatility. It's unlined, but the 4.5-inch inseam paired with the relaxed fit make it so I can bend, run, hike and jump without worrying about exposure or movement. The pockets are also deep enough that I can fit my phone, wallet and keys and don't have to bring a pack with me for shorter hikes.

The Natural Run Short's material has a slightly thicker feel to it, but I like that for hikes when I'm scrambling up rocks, resting on rocky ground or if I take an unexpected spill. Some shorts feel too luxe to actually get dirty in, but the merino and nylon blend of Allbirds' hikers is durable enough that I can focus on my hike, not my apparel when I'm in them.

Materials: Merino wool, recycled nylon, nylon, elastane

Built for: Hiking, travel, camping

UPF? No

Features: Moisture wicking, quick drying, drawcord waistband, front and back pockets, carbon neutral

Best Upgrade Shorts
Satisfy Rippy 3" Trail Shorts
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  • Best style and performance

  • Pricey

Luxury, baby. That's the name of the game with this boutique running brand. Satisfy, well, satisfies the requirement of those that crave the marriage of performance and art in their athletic gear.

Although these are technically running shorts, that's okay — wear them as a hiker, if it speaks to you. The Rippy's inseam is 3 inches, so if you like a shorter short for moving fast down the trail, this is your pick. Six pockets, an inner liner, drawcord closure, mini carabiner and a double waistband, all in 100 grams (0.2 pounds). The Rippy is expensive, but I've been hiking and traveling in my Satisfy shorts for over a year now, and don't see any wear and tear. If you're a quality over quantity type of person, don't sleep on these shorts.

Materials: Ripstop Tech-Silk, proprietary Justice lining

Built for: Running, hiking

UPF? No

Features: Six pockets, expandable sweat-proof phone pocket, expandable nutrition pockets, sweat-proof zipper back pocket, reflective print

Best Eco-Friendly Shorts
Prana Electa Short II
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prAna
Now 26% off

  • Admirable mission and values

  • Fabric is not breathable

Prana has made a name for itself by putting the environment first in the manufacturing of its products, and the Electa Short II continues that tradition. Made with over 70-percent recycled, Bluesign certified materials in a fair trade factory, this 7-inch inseam bike short is designed for a variety of activities, including hiking and climbing.

I admire the mission of the Electa, but I found upon wearing that the material was too thick, and not breathable enough, for my taste. However, it is squat-proof and definitely not see-through, which are two qualities a lot of women like to see in a short. I personally ended up gravitating toward other options on this list more often, but in a pinch, Prana's bike short is a dependable option with an admirable mission.

Materials: Recycled nylon, elastane

Built for: Hiking, biking, running

UPF? Yes

Features: Flatlock construction, triangle Coolmax gusset for added comfort and reinforcement, hidden key pocket inside waist, novelty side pockets, high rise, moisture wicking

Best Chafe-Resistant Shorts
Nathan 2.0 Front Runner Shorts
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  • Coverage and style, all in one

  • No UPF protection

Nathan launched its apparel line in 2021, but the new line is already gaining traction. I recently saw their new and improved Front Runner Shorts at this summer's Outdoor Retailer, and I was impressed by the feel of the fabric and overall look of the short.

More often than not, we're forced to choose between a compressive, but revealing bike short or a cute and comfortable flow short with no protection. The Front Runner combines both in a lightweight package, so if you're concerned with chafing or modesty, you can rest easy in these hikers.

Materials: Polyester, elastane

Built for: Hiking, running

UPF? No

Features: Quick-dry fabric, 2 side exterior pockets, 1 back zippered pocket, reflective logo and piping, flat lock seams on the interior short to reduce chafing and friction

Best Affordable Shorts
Athleta Trekkie North Short
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Athleta

  • Inclusive sizing

  • Less technical features than competitors

Athleta's hiker is a budget-friendly option that doesn't sacrifice style or performance for cost. One pro of these shorts is the inclusive sizing — the Trekkie is available in sizes 00-26, making finding a comfortable and capable shape much easier for hikers of all shapes and sizes.

The wide, stretchy waistband, multiple pockets and lightweight ripstop fabric come together in an easy-to-wear package, available in six colorways. According to reviews, these shorts run slightly large, so consider sizing down if you're between sizes.

Materials: Recycled nylon, nylon, elastane

Built for: Hiking

UPF? Yes

Features: 4 pockets, quick-dry ripstop fabric, UPF protection, moisture wicking

Best Cargo-Style Shorts
Patagonia Outdoor Everyday Shorts
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Patagonia

  • Lots of storage

  • Not as stylish as other options

Patagonia is the leader in sustainable and capable outdoor apparel, and its Everyday Shorts make good on the promise to be more environmentally friendly, without sacrificing performance.

The Outdoor Everyday Short is a classic cargo-style short, without being frumpy or unappealing to wear. The short is constructed from fabric made with recycled fishing nets from the ocean but has a soft next-to-skin feel despite its past life as ocean trash. The PFC-free DWR finish keeps water at bay, so if you encounter water crossings on a trail, you won't get water logged (or stay damp for long). The 4-inch inseam provides enough coverage without cramping your style, and the multiple pockets provide plenty of storage for essentials on the trail.

Materials: Recycled nylon; PFC-free DWR finish

Built for: Hiking, camping, backpacking

UPF? No

Features: Two drop-in side pockets with snap closures, Two slash front pockets secure with zippers, 7.6 ounces

Most Comfortable Lined Shorts
Tracksmith Off Roads Shorts
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  • Liner and belt contribute to perfect fit

  • May be price prohibitive to some

Built by a boutique running brand for the express purpose of heading out onto the trail, the shorts are the most comfortable lined hiking shorts I've ever worn. The first time I put them on, I was struck at how accurate the fit is — the Off Roads Short are proof that investing in quality products oftentimes means a better fit.

For anyone that has a slimmer waist and has struggled to find a short that doesn't gap, try these on for size. The most important feature in my book is the elastic belt: it can be adjusted to cinch in or expand and is exposed in the back so you can tuck your shirt in. The short's other notable features include plenty of pockets for storing fuel, cell phones and keys, as well as quick-drying, UV protective fabric that feels as good as it looks. If you want a capable hiker that doesn't slip, slide or ride up, these are the shorts for you.

Materials: Polyamide, elastane

Built for: Hiking, trail running

UPF? Yes

Features: 4-inch inseam, woven adjustable belt, two back pockets, side liner pockets

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