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Best Overall: prAna Stretch Zion Shorts at Amazon
"Will be a great companion on all of your adventures."
Best Budget: Gerry Stretch River Hiking Shorts at Amazon
"They cost a fraction of the price of high-end shorts."
Best for Women: Columbia Women's Saturday Trail Shorts at Amazon
"These shorts look and feel great."
Best for Men: Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts at Amazon
"One of Columbia's best apparel offerings."
Best Convertible: prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pants at Amazon
"Will withstand whatever nature has in store when you're hiking."
Best for Storage: Columbia Men’s Permit II Shorts at Amazon
"Great for stashing travel essentials like your phone, sunblock, and more."
Best Stretch: The North Face Paramount 3.0 Shorts at Amazon
"Its nylon and elastane stretch-woven fabric is comfortable."
Best for Mountain Activities: Mountain Khaki Alpine Utility Shorts at Amazon
"They will hold up to high levels of physical activity without evident wear and tear."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: prAna Stretch Zion Shorts
Lightweight yet durable, prAna's Stretch Zion Shorts will be a great companion on all of your adventures. The shorts feature the brand's original Zion fabric that has UPF 50+ protection, moisture-wicking properties, abrasion resistance, and four-way stretch. They're comfortable and easy to move in with a nylon and spandex blend, gusset, and adjustable waistband system. Besides their stretchiness, the pants are also breathable. They have mesh pocketing and a ventilated inseam gusset for warm days or for when you're working up a sweat. The product line includes more than ten colors, in varying shades of blue, brown, and gray.
Best Budget: Gerry Stretch River Hiking Shorts
For less than $20, you can grab the Gerry Active River Shorts and hit the trails immediately. They cost a fraction of the price of high-end shorts but still offer durability, sun protection, and pocket storage. The stretch fabric, made from a blend of rayon, nylon, and spandex, allows you to move with ease. In addition to drying quickly and being lightweight, the fabric also offers UPF 30+ protection. The pants have two front pockets, two back slit pockets, and one side zip pockets for all your storage needs. The hiking shorts are also stylish, coming in muted colors such as slate, oak, and blue dust. As a caveat, reviewers do mention that these budget-friendly shorts run on the larger side, so you may need to pair them with a belt or order a size down.
Best for Women: Columbia Women's Saturday Trail Shorts
The stylish and functional Columbia's Saturday Trail mid-rise shorts look and feel great. They give you sun protection with UPF 50 and also have Omni-Shield technology, which will keep you free from light moisture and stains. The Saturday has a nylon and elastane composition that makes it comfortable to slip on and wear, offering two-way comfort stretch. The shorts have mesh-lined pockets, two on the front and two on the back. They come in an array of colors including tan, black, blue, and green. Reviewers love the comfort and lightness of these shorts but do mention that they run a little large.
Best for Men: Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
The Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts are one of Columbia's best apparel offerings. They feature UPF 50 protection and have Omni-Wick technology that keeps you cool and dry when you work up a sweat. The shorts have a classic fit, with a partial elastic waist and gusset detail for comfort during vigorous activities. Multiple mesh-lined pockets — including a zip-closure security pocket and side pockets with hook and loop closures — are convenient for storing small items. The material is strong as well; the shorts consist of durable nylon ripstop that will endure whatever snags or weather nature has in store for you. The shorts come in twelve different colors, mostly neutral, but also a few bold colors such as teal and bright red.
Best Convertible: prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pants
Convertible pants are a novel way to use one clothing item throughout the year. Some of the most popular ones are the prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pants. When the weather gets warm, you can unzip the legs and stow them away for use in later months. Not only can you these all throughout the year, but the convertible pants will also withstand whatever nature has in store when you're hiking. They have a DWR coating to fight wet days, abrasion-resistant finish for scratches, and stretchy nylon material for intense hikes. Other great features include their UPF 50+ protection and adjustable waistband.
While the Stretch Zion pants don't have the most pockets of the shorts featured on our list, they still sport a respectable amount of storage space with six pockets — two in the back and four in the front. All in all, they offer plenty of space for stashing hiking gadgets and tools. Available colors include mud, dark khaki, cargo green, and charcoal.
Best for Storage: Columbia Men’s Permit II Shorts
The 100-percent nylon Columbia Permit II hiking shorts sport ten storage pockets, great for stashing travel essentials like your phone, sunblock, and more. Though the shorts have many pockets, they are cut short — measuring about six inches — meaning the fabric won't dig into the back of your knees when you're walking or exercising.
The shorts come with Omni-Shade UPF 30, which gives you protection against the sun's rays. Advanced evaporation technology keeps your skin dry and comfortable by wicking away sweat after you work out. While the hiking shorts don't have a DWR coating, customers mention that the fabric does dry quickly. The pockets also have a mesh lining, which makes them easy to dry out if they get wet. The color selection includes cool grey, fossil, and black.
Best Stretch: The North Face Paramount 3.0 Shorts
The North Face has a reputation for making high-quality jackets, but what about their shorts? The brand's Paramount 3.0 shorts are the ones you want for hiking trips if you're looking for stretchy comfort. The nylon and elastane stretch-woven fabric is comfortable, and there's a built-in adjustable belt that won't dig into your waist. And though they're comfortable, they have slender leg openings so that they don't appear baggy.
The Paramount 3.0 also has a DWR finish, so it's great to put on when you're expecting drizzly weather or will be hiking near wet areas. Available colors include asphalt grey, dune beige, Weimaraner brown, and deep lichen green. Though they admittedly aren't the cheapest option on the market, they're worth the investment if comfort is your key concern.
Best for Mountain Activities: Mountain Khaki Alpine Utility Shorts
Because of its superb sturdiness, Mountain Khaki's rugged Alpine Utility Shorts are the gold standard for hiking in the mountains. They will hold up to high levels of physical activity without evident wear and tear. They are made from a sturdy organic two-ply canvas that has triple-stitched seaming and bar-tack sewing. The shorts also have six reinforced hand pockets, which are great for storing small essentials you'd rather have right on hand rather than in your pack.
You may want to consider a few caveats when looking at the Alpine Utility Shorts. They're not waterproof, and there's no information on their UPF protection levels. They sport a relaxed fit, which may feel baggy on some builds. Otherwise, combined with the inseam action gusset, the fit of the pants feels comfortable during heavy activities. The color selection includes five neutral shades like green, tan, and black.