During warmer months of the year, choosing what to wear for a hike might seem intimidating. Wear too much and you’ll be bogged down, hot, and sweaty! That’s why we always recommend having a few pairs of hiking shorts for the warmest days of the year when you still want to get outside. A good pair of women’s hiking shorts is breathable, lightweight, and flexible so it keeps your legs cool without constricting your movement. We created this guide to the best hiking shorts for women to help you choose a pair (or a few!) that are comfortable for any trail.
Choosing the Best Hiking Shorts for Women
In our opinion, one of the most important aspects of any women’s hiking shorts is their breathability. A high-quality pair of hiking shorts is always made of materials that allow airflow and prevent hot air from getting trapped next to your skin. Otherwise, your legs will get sweaty while hiking and that moisture will build up inside of your shorts, which feels gross and uncomfortable.
There are lots of different materials that are breathable – some of our favorites include hemp fabrics, synthetics like nylon or polyester, and Merino wool (for colder conditions). Our recommendation when choosing the best hiking shorts for women is to avoid all cotton fabrics and instead opt for a material that touts “sweat-wicking” or “moisture-wicking” properties.
Another important trait of any women’s hiking shorts is stretchiness. Any decent pair of hiking shorts needs to provide a full range of movement without ripping or coming apart. This will enable you to scramble over rocks, hop over downed trees, or climb steep trails without feeling like your shorts are preventing certain movements. Similar to breathability, certain fabrics like Spandex are better for this, but the best way to determine stretchiness in any pair of women’s hiking shorts is to try them on.
So you’ve found a pair of shorts that’s breathable and stretchy. Awesome! The next thing you need to look for is durability, because the last thing you want is to buy a pair of women’s hiking shorts that gets destroyed immediately after a few tough hikes. The best hiking shorts for women should last you for many, many miles of hiking.
You won’t be able to test this when you try on a pair of shorts, but reading online reviews and asking friends for recommendations can absolutely help. Additionally, many companies (REI, PrAna, etc.) offer guarantees on the quality of their gear and will allow returns if it fails to hold up on the trails.
Comfort, Fit, & Style
While highly subjective, comfort, fit, and style should absolutely factor into your purchasing decisions for hiking shorts. Any pair of gear you buy should feel amazing on your body and fit in with your preferences and desired aesthetic (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!).
Here are some of the style and fit elements women often consider:
- Baggy or slim fit
- Length of the shorts (short, mid, knee length)
- Comfort of the materials
- Number of pockets and storage areas
- Color and patterns
Some of these might sound silly, but if you’re going to spend money on some of the best hiking shorts for women, you should absolutely find ones that look and feel great on your body.
While we aim to keep price out of the equation when we’re evaluating each of the individual pairs of hiking shorts for women, it’s absolutely an important factor to consider when you’re choosing a pair for yourself. The best hiking shorts aren’t always the most expensive. Typically, we’ve found that high-quality women’s hiking shorts range from $30-80, but there’s a lot of variability within that range.
Our Reviews: Best Hiking Shorts for Women
Patagonia Quandary Shorts
Overall Best Hiking Shorts for Women
- Materials: 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex
- Length: 5-inch and 7-inch lengths
- What We Like: Super solid, rugged construction and materials combines with stretch and sweat-wicking abilities to create the perfect hiking shorts (with LOTS of pockets)
Built with hikers and outdoor adventurers in mind, the Patagonia Quandary Shorts are some of the absolute best hiking shorts for women. Built like chinos with 5-inch or 7-inch inseam, these zip-up shorts are made with a rugged nylon and spandex blend with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish that’s tough enough for any trail with enough stretch to accommodation a wide range of motion. Plus, they’re sweat-wicking and breathable, a huge plus for hot weather hikes where you’ll want to keep sweat at bay. There are also 4 spacious pockets (two in the front and two in the rear) for storing small essentials on the trails.
We struggled to find faults with these women’s hiking shorts. We love how versatile they are – tough enough for strenuous hiking but sleek enough to wear casually while running errands. If you’re looking for a pair of the best hiking shorts for women, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Patagonia Quandary Shorts.
Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts
Runner Up & Best Long Hiking Shorts for Women
Columbia makes some of our favorite outdoor gear out there, and their Saturday Trail Shorts are an excellent option for summer hiking. This is one of the only designs of hiking shorts available in three different inseam lengths – 5, 10, and 12 inches – so it accommodates a wide variety of body types and style preferences. With a similar construction to the Patagonia Quandary Shorts, we think these are some of the best hiking shorts for women because of their tough construction and versatile design. Plus, they’ve got 4 pockets and are made of stretchy, breathable, and sweat-wicking fabric that won’t impede your range of motion on the trails.
Willit Women’s Shorts
Best Budget Hiking Shorts for Women
- Materials: 80% Nylon, 20% Spandex
- Length: Short (upper thigh)
- What We Like: Super lightweight, breathable, and stretchy, these shorts offer some of the best bang for your buck
There’s nothing like a good budget pair of hiking shorts to add to your hiking wardrobe! For the best shorts at the best price, we recommend the Willit Women’s Shorts. These shorts are loose-fitting and lightweight (think exercise shorts) and work great for hikes in hot or humid weather. Made with a 20% Spandex blend, these shorts are not only great for hiking, but can be used for general exercise, running, yoga, or for leisure.
Some of the biggest cons with these shorts is durability and the fact that there’s only one length available (very short). Because they’re so cheap, they’re considerably more flimsy and less durable than other shorts on our list. They are also only available in a short length – a 3-inch inseam – making them less suitable for women who prefer a longer cut. However, they’re a great value and are by far the most affordable hiking shorts for women on our list.
Lululemon Align Short
Best Bike Shorts
- Materials: Nulu fabric blend (mix of Nylon and Lycra)
- Length: 4-inch, 6-inch, and 8-inch versions available
- What We Like: Lululemon’s bike shorts are compressive and stretchy and are made of ultra soft and durable Nulu fabric (which feels great)
Bike shorts are making a comeback in the hiking scene these days, and our pick for the best bike-style hiking shorts are the Lululemon Align Shorts. Form-fitting and soft, these legging-like hiking shorts for women are great for hikers who like the compression of leggings without the length. We like the Lululemon Align Shorts because they come in 3 different lengths and are made from Lululemon’s proprietary Nulu fabric, which is meant to feel lightweight and soft on your skin during any strenuous exercise.
While many women love bike shorts, they aren’t for everyone, and if you don’t like how bike shorts look or feel, these will probably not work for you. They’re also slightly more expensive than we’d like (although Lululemon generally has generous returns/exchanges and a great warranty program). If you’re looking for a quality pair of bike-style shorts, these are definitely our go-to.
PrAna Olivia Shorts
One of our favorite brands for hiking and climbing gear is PrAna, and the PrAna Olivia Shorts are some of the best hiking shorts for women we’ve used. Built with a nylon and spandex blend, these shorts are soft but very durable – we’ve adventured for years in our PrAna Olivia shorts and they’ve still got many more miles of summer hiking left in them. They’ve got four pockets – two side pockets and two in the rear – and we’ve used them to store all kinds of hiking essentials.
For us, the biggest downside of the PrAna shorts is the fit around the leg area. While many of the other Chino-style women’s hiking shorts we’ve tested fit loosely around the thighs, we’ve noticed that the PrAna shorts fit a little tighter around the hem. For many women, this may not be a huge deal, but we prefer the wider leg of the Patagonia Quandary or the Columbia Saturday Trail shorts.
Kuhl Splash Shorts
There’s a common complaint in the world of women’s outdoor gear that clothing doesn’t come with enough (functional) pockets. Kuhl’s Splash Shorts blow that stereotype right out of the water with their six whole pockets. Unlike any of the other products on our list, these shorts have the standard side and back pockets, as well as two snap thigh pockets for even more storage. With 5.5-inch and 11-inch inseam options, there’s a wide range of sizing options for many different body types. For women who like storing things in their shorts, these are a must-have!
Unlike their name suggests, we would not take these in water because they’re made of nearly 70% cotton. This means they will not wick sweat or moisture as well as the other shorts we’ve included in our guide. While we generally tend to stay away from cotton when it comes to outdoor gear, we’re willing to make the sacrifice for a pair of women’s hiking shorts that has so many other great qualities.
Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Shorts
- Materials: 94% Nylon, 6% Spandex
- Length: 4 inches
- What We Like: Built for the toughest trails, these shorts feel very durable without compromising on comfort
Eddie Bauer makes fantastic, rugged outdoor gear for hikers and backpackers, and their Guide Pro Shorts for women are an excellent addition to any outdoor wardrobe. These shorts are short enough to maximize breathability, but are long enough to provide coverage when scrambling or hiking up steep trails. We love these hiking shorts for women because they’re built to last and are versatile enough to wear in your day-to-day activities, too. They also come in a wide variety of colors, so you’re likely to find something that suits your aesthetic preferences.
The biggest drawback we found in the Eddie Bauer Guide shorts is the lack of back pockets. We like having back pockets for extra storage! There are still four pockets – two side pockets and two cargo pockets – so if you don’t have a lot to carry you should still have plenty of space.
- Materials: 100% Nylon, DWR
- Length: 5-inches, with a 2.5-inch version
- What We Like: These ultra lightweight, breathable women’s hiking shorts are great for minimalist hikers or extra hot environments
If you live in a very hot place or simply prefer to purchase gear that’s ultra lightweight, the Patagonia Baggies are some of the most popular lightweight hiking shorts for women. Made of 100% nylon with a variety of fun colors and patterns, these shorts are especially great for the beach or hikes where you plan to swim because they dry quickly compared to others on our list. Many customers love these shorts and buy multiple pairs because they’re so comfortable and versatile!
The North Face Aphrodite Motion Short
- Materials: 95% Nylon, 5% Elastane
- Length: Short, but also comes in Bermuda length
- What We Like: These shorts have the toughness of normal hiking shorts with the design of lightweight athletic shorts – what more could a hiker ask for?
The North Face Aphrodite Motion Short is a great catch-all pair of hiking shorts for people who do a lot of different outdoor activities. Featuring a durable nylon and elastane build, these shorts have the ruggedness of hiking shorts with enough stretch to get through tricky scrambles or climbs. Unlike many of the more hiking-specific shorts on our list, the Aphrodite Motion Short has a design that’s more similar to the Patagonia Baggies or the Willit Women’s Shorts above.
Customers love these for their versatility and breathability in hot weather, and many mention that these are their favorite pair of shorts. With three pockets, you have enough space to store a few small hiking essentials. You can even pack these shorts down into the back pocket for longer backpacking excursions or travel!
REI Co-op Women’s Active Pursuits Shorts
- Materials: 86% Polyester, 14% Spandex
- Length: 4.5 inches
- What We Like: These athletic-style shorts pack a great value into a very lightweight package
Made for running, working out, climbing, and hiking, the REI Women’s Active Pursuits Shorts are a fantastic addition to any outdoorsy wardrobe. Made with 14% spandex, these stretchy, light shorts are great in extra hot or humid weather. We especially like them for easy to moderate hikes and for trail running because they’re so breezy and light. Note that these shorts only have one tiny waist pocket (like running shorts), so hikers who like to have pockets for storage may want to consider other options on our list.
Helly Hansen Maridalen Shorts
- Materials: 94% Nylon, 6% Elastane
- Length: Short (upper thigh)
- What We Like: So many pockets…plus a technical, hiking-focused design that’s great for tougher trails or backpacking
Helly Hansen has made a name for itself over the years for its high-end ski jackets and gear, but they also have fantastic hiking gear for warmer weather activities. The Maridalen Shorts are some of the most practically-designed hiking shorts for women, and we love them because they look and feel great and have lots of pockets for storage. Women love them for hiking because they’re comfortable but also durable enough to withstand some pretty tough trail conditions. They are a little on the pricier side, but we anticipate the Maridalen shorts will last a very long time (and they come with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty, too).
Athleta Trekkie North
- Materials: Nylon/Spandex
- Length: 3.5-inch inseam
- What We Like: A streamlined, sleek design makes these some of the most stylish shorts on our list – perfect for hitting the trail and heading to brunch after
Athleta makes great women’s workout gear, and their hiking shorts are no exception. We love the Athleta Trekkie North shorts because they look like normal, casual shorts, and can be worn on strenuous hikes as well as to the grocery store. Four pockets provide adequate storage for small essentials on the trail, and the sleek design looks very minimalist and stylish. Made from a nylon and spandex fabric blend, these shorts are stretchy and sweat wicking, perfect for those scorching hot days, and they come in sized from 0 to 26, which accommodates most women’s body types.
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