Going hiking on a sunny day is a favorite activity for outdoor enthusiasts. But with warm weather comes sweat, dirt, and humidity which can take all the fun out of the hike.
A good pair of hiking shorts goes a long way in keeping you comfortable and cool - and dry whenever you need to cross a stream. High-quality shorts that are breathable, durable, and quick-drying are also ideal for high-activity days on the trail.
In this article, I’ll review the best hiking shorts for women. I've Included a detailed guide on choosing a dependable pair of hiking shorts with handy tips to help you choose the best shorts to breeze through the trails.
My Review Process
Over the last few years, I’ve hiked many trails in all kinds of weather and tried various combinations of clothing to keep me safe from the elements. It has made me pretty nerdy and detail-oriented about hiking clothes, especially when it comes to pants and shorts.
If you think any old pair of shorts works fine on a hike, think again. Breathability, comfort, and fit are the first factors I consider when choosing a pair of hiking shorts. Durability and the number of pockets are also something to consider.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at my top picks.
The Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Shorts made from nylon and spandex are lightweight and durable with a UPF rating of 50+. Getting caught in a sudden rain shower won’t be a problem with these shorts - the StormRepel DWR finish provides great water resistance.
I like the zippered thigh pockets on these Guide Pro shorts. They are secure and deep enough to stash away small essential items. The mid-rise waistband is comfortable even under a hip belt or a harness. The only drawback I found was the lack of back pockets, but the four pockets at the front more than make up for it.
The Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Shorts are stretchy, comfortable, and durable - and exactly what you need for a hike.
The Columbia Sandy River Women’s Cargo Shorts would be my go-to option if I had to make a quick buy. These affordable hiking shorts made from 100% nylon tick most of the boxes I look for in a pair of hiking shorts.
The Sandy River Shorts are lightweight and offer a good degree of sun protection. The elastic waist has belt loops and comes with a basic adjustable belt to fit your size.
The pockets seem a little small, and the nylon fabric shows signs of wear and tear fairly early. But the Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts offer great value for money and are truly the best affordable hiking shorts for women. Besides, these cute shorts come in a wide variety of colors too!
The Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Bermuda Short is one of my favorites. The nylon and elastane fabric is strong and stretchy while also being breathable and light. These shorts have a wide elastic waistband which is easy to pull up and feels very comfortable under a hip belt.
The Dynama/2 shorts have two front pockets which are deep enough to stow away a phone. They also have two zipper pockets for stashing smaller items. While the design is pretty basic, it works extremely well on the trails with all the features it offers.
The one small drawback is the material that starts pilling after a few washes. However, these are super versatile shorts and I would choose these as the best women’s Bermuda hiking shorts without hesitation.
Made from a recycled, lightweight fabric that dries quickly, the REI Co-Op Sahara Bermuda Shorts are the answer to hot, dry hiking days. The DWR finish is great at repelling water and dirt - which makes tree sap and other stains easy to wash off. The Sahara Shorts have two flat pockets at the front and two at the back, including one zippered back pocket. All your small items can fit comfortably without feeling too bulky.
The Sahara shorts tend to run smaller than advertised, so try sizing up for a better fit. The waist is adjustable with an elastic waistband and a drawcord, but the elastic can feel a little weird at the back.
Overall, I like the comfort and functionality of the REI Co-op Sahara Bermuda Shorts. They make for a no-stress choice when looking for shorts to wear on the trail or just around the city.
The Patagonia Nine Trails Women’s Shorts are definitely the best lightweight hiking shorts for women. Made from a mix of spandex and polyester, these shorts weigh just 4.2 oz and are super comfortable. A flat, wide, comfortable waistband and a mesh liner that wicks moisture add to the comfort of these shorts. A 6-inch inseam offers better fit and comfort than most other shorts.
I found that the zippered pocket on the back of the waistband is great to tuck away small items like keys. The lack of any other pockets means essentials like your phone and wallet will have to go into your backpack, which can be quite annoying on the trail.
These shorts are also quite expensive compared to others on the market. Despite the price and the lack of pockets, the Patagonia Nine Trails Women’s shorts are comfy, breathable, and super lightweight - a must-have for ultralight hikers!
The KUHL Freeflex Cargo shorts are comfortable, stretchy, and breathable - all good things to have in a pair of hiking shorts. They are notable for the cargo pockets with snap closures on the thighs and at the back. There are also two non-closing pockets below the waistband.
The fit and design of the Freeflex shorts are great and the polyester material offers superb durability and freedom of movement. The elastic waistband and the internal draw cord are perfect to adjust the waist to your liking.
While the thick fabric is great for durability, it’s slow to dry and is not ideal for crossing rivers or other water activities. There are no other downsides to this great pair of shorts though. These are the best hiking cargo shorts for women who like having functional pockets and a comfy fit on the trail.
Like the shorter inseam versions, these Outdoor Research 9” Ferrosi Shorts are quick-drying, super durable, and extremely comfy for any kind of adventure. I love how OR makes the outdoors more accessible by making great clothing available for all sizes!
The 9” Ferrosi shorts have a pull-on waistband which is easy to use but requires a bit of wiggling to get the band over your hips. Once the waistband is in place though, the shorts fit very well. The fit is so good that I didn’t think the internal belt made much of a difference.
The OR Ferrosi 9” Shorts are a hot favorite in the hiking world - and with good reason. They are hands down, the best plus-size hiking shorts for women.
The best feature of these Patagonia Quandry Shorts is their quick-dry fabric and a DWR finish. So if you get drenched crossing a river, don’t worry - your shorts will be dry again in under 30 minutes.
These Patagonia shorts are a wonderful choice if you want all-day comfort and breathability. The recycled nylon and spandex material is very stretchy and offers a good range of movement. The design is simple with a shorter inseam, two front pockets, and two rear pockets. That’s veryappealing to most hikers, although some people might find the style a little drab.
The only drawback I could find was the adjustable waistband which can feel quite uncomfortable under the hip belt of a backpack. However, the Patagonia Quandry Shorts check all the boxes for hiking shorts and are the best quick-dry hiking shorts for women.
The Topo Designs Dirt Shorts are made from 98% organically-grown cotton instead of the usual synthetic materials like nylon. Not surprisingly, it is very cozy.
These shorts have a relaxed fit that fits most bodies well and doesn’t restrict movement. Two front pockets and two patch-style back pockets provide enough space to stash away your phone and other small essentials.
The Dirt Shorts are great for mild to moderately warm heather hikes. However, they might not be the best choice for sizzling hot days since cotton is not very breathable. Thanks to the cotton, they also don’t dry quickly if you get them wet.
While these are important things to consider, I didn’t find them to be a big problem. All things considered, the Topo Designs Dirt Shorts are the best cotton hiking shorts on my list.
The Patagonia Fleetwith Skort is perfect when you want to add a bit of style to your hike or a stroll around town. It features a pair of stretchy, form-fitting shorts with a faux-wrap skirt that goes over it. The skirt has a slit in the side that lets you scramble over rocks or step over big logs. The material is coated with DWR and offers great protection from water.
The Fleetwith has two side pockets and one smaller zipper pocket to tuck away your small items. It also lets you dial in the fit nicely with an elastic waistband and drawstrings.
I didn’t find many things to complain about in this skort, except that the inner shorts tend to ride up when walking. While that can feel uncomfortable, the Patagonia Fleetwith is the best hiking skort I found, and I love how it livens up my hiking wardrobe.
Women's Hiking Shorts Buying Guide
You don’t want to choose shorts that start feeling uncomfortable halfway down the trail or ones that catch and tear on bushes easily.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying hiking shorts for women:
Hiking shorts for women can cost anywhere from about $13 to $120. In this range, you can find a variety of options and features, from basic affordable shorts to luxe models packed with features.
Before you finalize your budget, decide on the features (like breathability, stretch, and the number of pockets) you need. Top-of-the-shelf options can be worth the money if they have all the features you need and more. Lower-end options can also be a good buy if the shorts are affordable yet have one or more of the features you value.
Hiking pants and shorts made from different materials have different strengths and drawbacks. The breathability, durability, and comfort of the shorts vary greatly depending on the fabric.
Cotton and other natural fabrics are comfortable but can feel too warm. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are breathable, sweat-wicking, and durable.
Most shorts are made from a mix of synthetic or natural fabric and elastane or lycra which adds stretchiness and allows for better mobility.
Fit and Style
The fit should be one of the first few points you consider when buying hiking shorts. Whichever pair of shorts you choose, they should be comfortable on your body. I tend to choose shorts that are not only comfy but also flatter my body.
Cargo, Bermuda, and Board shorts usually tend to be roomy and have a relaxed fit, while bike shorts or running shorts sit close to the skin. Cargo shorts and traditional hiking shorts have more pockets than the other types.
When you are on a hike, you don’t want sweat or moisture causing your shorts to stick to your skin. A breathable fabric and a good cut go a long way in keeping you well-ventilated and happy on the trail.
Cargo shorts made from synthetic fabrics are great for breathability, while cotton shorts feature much lower on this scale.
Comfort is subjective and a matter of personal preference, but is essential when choosing any type of outdoor clothing.
You can spend hours in the same pair of shorts you put on at the beginning of a hike. Make sure the material and style don’t irritate your skin. If the shorts have a waist belt or a draw cord, it shouldn’t dig into your skin when you bend or wear a hip belt.
It goes without saying that durability is very important when choosing shorts. Abrasion-resistant shorts that don’t tear if you have to scoot down a steep rock are a boon in the backcountry.
Choose shorts made from synthetic fabrics for better durability.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.