10 Hiking Shorts for Women You’ll Want to Wear Everywhere
Having the right hiking attire can make your trek more enjoyable. Here's what the experts want you to know about what to look for when purchasing the perfect pair of hiking shorts for women.
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Put on your best pair of hiking shorts
Hiking is more than a fun and exciting pastime, it is also an activity with serious health benefits.
Research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests that hiking can reduce blood pressure, lower stress levels, restore attention, and enhance the immune system.
With some gyms and workout rooms still closed, there’s never been a better time to get outdoors for some exercise.
According to the American Hiking Society, there are some 1,244 National Recreation Trails within the National Trails System in the United States.
But before you hit the trails, whether it’s for a brisk hike or an epic trek, it’s important to think about what you’re going to wear. And if it’s warm out, that means you’ll need a good pair of hiking shorts.
While the experts say you don’t need anything more than basic workout clothes to get out there and hike, there are certain qualities and features in shorts designed for hiking specifically that can make your experience more comfortable and safe.
We got ahold of experts who know exactly what to look for in your hunt for the right hiking shorts for women. Here’s what they had to say.
What to look for when buying hiking shorts for women
Fabric and fit
The experts say that your choice of fabric is one of the most important considerations when looking for hiking shorts. (The same goes for hiking socks, too.)
They say to avoid cotton or other fabrics that tend to absorb moisture and don’t dry quickly. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are a good choice for workout clothes because they wick moisture away from the skin and allow it to pass through the material so it can release into the air.
Kathryn Van Waes, the executive director of the American Hiking Society, says most workout clothing from almost any brand nowadays has these properties. “Bonus points if the material has anti-stink properties, which a number of brands offer but with different names,” she adds.
When it comes to fit, the experts say whatever feels comfortable is likely a good fit. Kelly Roberts Lane, with Fix It Physical Therapy, says your hiking shorts should have room to enough to move around in easily.
The experts recommend picking shorts with a flat, wide waistband for even pressure distribution.
“You also have to consider the button as it sits right under the waist belt of your backpack and soon will become a pain, literally,” says Dr. Lane.
She recommends picking shorts with an elastic waist or a button that has cloth behind it for comfort.
Water and wind resistance/proofing
If you’re planning on hiking in very wet or windy conditions, you may want to consider waterproof and windproof shorts. But the experts say in most cases, you’re better off with water-resistant and wind-resistant clothing.
Van Waes says waterproof and windproof clothing that is also breathable usually come with a higher price tag and more inexpensive versions don’t allow airflow. She adds that in non-breathable waterproof hiking attire, you will likely become so sweaty you’ll end up just as wet as you would have hiking in the rain.
The experts note that if you’re hiking in an area where you’re likely to come into contact with ticks, try wearing white or lighter colored clothes so you can spot ticks easily. Lighter clothing also tends to absorb less heat from the sun.
Van Waes says pockets or no pockets is a personal preference. But pockets can be convenient when you need to stash different items you want close at hand, like cameras, maps, binoculars, or your phone.
Some hiking shorts even have a waterproof lining in their pockets or zipper for added security. The experts say it’s especially great when hiking shorts have a zippered pouch in the waist or back of the shorts to store things like keys, cash, or cards.
If shorts aren’t your thing, many hiking gear companies make skirts, or skorts (skirts with built-in shorts), these days. Dr. Lane says she normally hikes in a skirt or skort.
“I am enjoying the skirt experience,” she says. “It has plenty of room to move, drys quickly, and is breathable.”
Top hiking shorts for women
Navigating the various features when buying hiking shorts for women can be tricky. So here are some of the best hiking shorts for women based on expert advice.
Mountain Hardware Dynama 2 Bermuda
Mountain Hardware is a company the experts recommend for top hiking attire. The Dynama 2 Bermuda hiking shorts by Mountain Hardware contains all the expert-recommended features—and more.
These shorts are a bit pricer than others, but they are quick-drying, and breathable, made of 94 percent nylon and 6 percent elastane, and are water-resistant.
They also offer excellent protection from the sun with built-in UPF 50 protection and anti-stink properties.
Despite having a minimal looking design, they come with two deep pockets in the front, a zip pocket on the left thigh, and a pocket on the back, right-hand side to stash extra gear, snacks, or as Van Waes points out, ‘treasures’ your kids may come across on the trek.
To top things off, these shorts have a flat, wide, low-profile elastic waistband for extra comfort and do not contain an enclosure like a button or Velcro patch that can cause irritation or indentations in the skin.
REI Co-op Active Pursuits 4.5″ Shorts – Women’s
If you’re looking more for a cross between running or biking shorts and hiking shorts, look no further! These REI shorts sit higher and looser than some other hiking shorts for women, offering excellent air flow and reducing the risk of chaffing without being revealing.
They are also super stretchy containing 14 percent sustainable spandex, quick-drying, have an inner moisture-wicking layer, and offer UPF 50 sun protection.
For added comfort, these shorts have a wide, flat elastic waistband with a drawstring that allows you to get the perfect fit every time you wear them.
Unfortunately, these shorts do not contain hand pockets, but they do come with one small pocket built into the inner lining to hold things.
Columbia Women’s Sandy River Short
These mid-length hiking shorts for women from Columbia are designed for water sports and hiking in wet environments.
They are 100 percent nylon, providing an excellent fit while also wicking away moisture and being breathable, and quick-drying. They also offer built-in UPF 30 for some sun protection.
These shorts fit loose with a comfortable elastic waist and an inner drawstring to help fit better as swelling and sweating occur.
These shorts have two side hand pockets and one back zippered pocket for stashing your stuff and any other hiking gear essentials you may want to carry.
At this price point, you can also get a pair of these shorts for the same cost as shorts that are lower quality or from less reputable brands.
Like many Columbia hiking shorts, these also come in plus sizes.
Prana Arch Skort
Skorts, or a skirt exterior with a short interior, offer a wide range of movement.
This one from Prana is made of a blend of elastane, polyester, and nylon without the look or feel of other hiking shorts. These materials also make this skort breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying.
The Prana arch skort looks like a regular sport skirt from the outside, but offers the support of mesh-lined shorts inside, making it a versatile pick good for more strenuous or urban hiking. These shorts also provide a great fit for most women, having a stretchy elastic waistband, inner drawstring, and side-cinches that make the length of the short adjustable.
As a bonus, this skort is made from sustainable materials in Fair Trade Certified Factories and built-in UPF 50 sun protection.
(Here are the best exercise dresses.)
Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Long Short
If you’re looking for a longer hiking short with more protection and a longer fit, this option from Columbia might be your best bet. With two-way stretch, made out of a mix of nylon and elastane, these shorts provide comfort during movement and wick moisture away from the skin.
They also come with built-in sun protection in the form of UPF 50 and protect more of the skin from the sun, being a longer fit. Unlike many hiking shorts, these also offer stain resistance.
These hiking shorts conform closer to the body, offering a more tight fit.
These shorts have two hand pockets in the front and one zippered pocket in the pack to hold valuable items and a comfortable elastic waistband with an external drawstring to help you get a customized fit.
They also come in plus sizes to meet the needs of people with a variety of body sizes.
For the eco-conscious buyer looking for a lighter pair of hiking shorts, this may be the right fit for you.
These 100 percent recycle nylon Patagonia shorts are breathable, moisture-wicking, and water repellent.
They also contain two front hand pockets with a mesh lining that allows water through to make for drainage and quicker drying.
The Patagonia baggies also offer a comfort, loose fit and an elastic waistband for added comfort and a drawstring for a more customized, versatile fit. Use these shorts for other activities like running, walking, or cycling.
Travel Panty Skort Odyssey 12 from Sportive Plus
Finding comfortable, plus-sized hiking shorts that come with important features like quick-drying or UV resistance can be tricky.
Supportive Plus is one brand offering more variety of plus-sized outdoor attire than many other leading hiking brands and designed specifically for extra curves and sizes.
This skort is moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and blocks UV rays.
It also comes with two deep hand pockets in the front as well as two cargo pockets, one on each side, towards the bottom of the skort.
The manufacturer of this product says the skort is a loose fit, so they recommend many people purchase one size smaller than they normally would.
These Prana shorts are more water-resistant than many other available hiking shorts for women, yet this advantage means they may be less breathable than other pairs.
They also offer four pockets, two deep hand pockets in the front, an invisible zippered pocket in the back, and two back pockets with tabs for extra security and a more flattering fit. These shorts also offer good sun protection with built-in UPF 50.
For the eco-conscious buyer, these shorts feature a recycled nylon blend.
Unlike most of the other shorts on this list, these shorts have a firmer waistband with two snaps in the front and an inner drawstring to help get the right fit.
REI Co-op Sahara Guide Skirt
For those who love the idea of a regular hiking skirt, this liner-free mid-thigh skirt may be a good fit for you.
This REI skirt allows tons of breathability and movement, made of a mixture of sustainable nylon and spandex on the front and back and polyester and spandex on the sides. The skirt is also moisture-wicking and water and stain repellent, and comes with built-in UPF 50.
Unlike some skirts, this one has with two deep hand pockets in the front and a zippered pocket in the back for valuables. Having a flat, wide, elastic waistband also makes this skirt comfortable for long periods of time, and it has an internal drawstring to help adjust the fit as needed.
Plus, this skirt has a carabiner loop, similar to a bungee loop, for hanging items you want to quickly and easily reach during your hike, like sweat cloths or binoculars.
REI also offers this skirt for sale in a gently used version, knocking major bucks of the price and allowing you to help reduce the environmentally-harmful cycle of wasted clothing.
Athleta Trekkie North Short
These shorts, which come in sizes 00-3X, tick off almost all the boxes when it comes to expert-recommend features of hiking shorts for women.
They are extremely durable, made of ripstop fabric and a mix of recycled nylon and spandex that make these shorts stretchy, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and breathable.
They also contain four zippered pockets, two hand pockets in the front around the waist and two that contour to the arch of the bum in the back.
These shorts come with built-in UPF 50 to block out most of the sun’s rays.
- American Hiking Society: "Hiking Trails in America"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Hiking: A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits"
- Kathryn (Kate) Van Waes, Executive Director of the American Hiking Society
- Kelly Roberts Lane, DPT, FACSM, Fix It Physical Therapy