The Best Hiking Shorts for Beginners

Where to Find the Best Hiking Shorts for Beginners

A good pair of hiking shorts are a “must have” for beginners and experts alike. If you are like me, and you probably are if you are on this site and love the outdoors, you will probably wear shorts most of the time. I wear Hiking Shorts in all seasons and types of weather, I even wear shorts when the weather is horrible and I have a jumper and coat on. It just feels like the right thing to wear for hiking.

In the next few paragraphs we’ll cover the important features and materials good hiking shorts should have, so hopefully you will be able to choose yours wisely and you will get good value and quality for your money.

What is the Best Material for Hiking Shorts?

Hiking Shorts need to be able to dry quickly, so you will need a fabric that can offer this quality. Therefore Cotton is out.

The reason we require clothing that dries quickly and reduces heat loss through conduction is to try to keep you body as near to its normal temperature as possible. 

Cotton is heavier than modern high performance materials, and it absorbs a lot of moisture getting heavier as it does so. We really don’t want to be wearing Cotton that will make you feel colder by drawing away heat from your body when it is wet. Similarly Three Quarter Jeans or Jeans Shorts should be avoided too for the same reasons.

Preferred Materials for Hiking Shorts


Nylon is a top fabric for hiking. It is a synthetic fabric that feels soft and gentle on your body. It is a high performance modern fabric that is both lightweight and breathable. It also dries extremely quickly, unlike cotton!

One property of Nylon that is often overlooked is that it wicks sweat away from your skin and moves it to the fabric surface where evaporates. The wicking process helps you to feel a little dryer when sweating but has it’s limitations if you are really pushing yourself.

During periods of intense activity, there is no denying that Nylon will get wet by absorbing your sweat, but during breaks it will dry quicker than most fabrics and give up the liquid by means of rapid evaporation.

Nylon won’t absorb your body’s oils as much as other materials, therefore at least partially avoiding body odours too.

Lycra (or Spandex for our US Friends) Hiking Shorts

Lycra Shorts give us that hugging stretchy property. It has the ability to stretch out to several times it’s size then shrink right back down to size, taking your flab with it in many cases. LOL.

Lycra is breathable, wicks moisture away from your body, and is also quick drying. it is often incorporated into other materials too to give them that bit of extra stretchiness.

I often wear Lycra Shorts when Hiking as they prevent rubbing and sweat rashes too by hugging your skin rather than moving around.


Polyester is another common synthetic fabric used in hiking gear and clothing. It is lightweight and breathable like nylon, but it is hydrophobic and repels water. Polyester won’t get soaking wet with sweat and will keep you drier than nylon when it rains. Polyester is also more resistant to UV damage which is why it often is found on outer clothing. The drawback of polyester is that it’s not as abrasion resistant as nylon. It also absorbs body oils and they become difficult to wash out.

The Best Style of Hiking Shorts for Beginners

So now that we are informed on our Materials. What about Style? Here we have a multitude of choices once again.

Should Hiking Shorts Have Pockets?

In my opinion you need at least 3 pockets on Hiking Shorts. One at the back for your Wallet, and 1 either side to put your cold hands, car keys and coins in. Anything else is a luxury, or overkill. If you’re having pockets, make sure they are fit for purpose. I have had shorts where the Wallet Pocket was on the Left side, they drove me nuts, and also shorts where a small child’s hand would have been too large to fit in the side pockets! Functional is what we are looking for here. You do not want your car keys falling out of your trendy shaped pocket in the middle of a hike.

Should Hiking Shorts have Zips or Buttons?

This is a tricky one and both have their pro’s and con’s. Zips are easy, we are all used to them, but they can break leaving you exposed until you can get a new pair of shorts. Have you ever had the pleasure of trying to thread the toggle of a zip back on with cold hands when you’ve pulled it down too far? I have, nightmare…Buying good quality hiking shorts should ensure you get a decent hard wearing zip that will last for years.

Buttons have a much lower failure rate than zips, and they can be sewed back on easily if they fall off. However, coming back to the cold hands, they can sometimes be difficult to undo. There is also the breeze between the button holes when it is windy to be taken into account.

The Jury’s definitely out on this one, so we will leave it down to personal choice. Buy good quality shorts (not necessarily expensive) and either Buttons or Zips should be suitable.

Do Hiking Shorts need to be Ripstop?

Not necessarily, but it helps. Due to the advances in Hiking Shorts Design Technology (is that a thing?), you can get spandex/nylon/ripstop hybrid shorts nowadays. Who’d have thought it 20 years ago?

If you hike where I hike, you will often snag yourself on rocks, sit on sharp things, scuff against trees, rocks and other things and stab yourself in the leg with a knife (maybe that’s just me). Ripstop fabrics will prevent that tiny hole turning into an outright disaster. It is definitely worth the extra money to go for Ripstop in my opinion.

What Length should Hiking Shorts be?

This is another one for personal preference. You don’t want them so short that you might get arrested for public obscenity while hiking. And of course, Men don’t want anything falling out either.

So, somewhere a few inches above the knee is good. Good for me anyway. I have had shorts slightly too long that touched the centre of my knee around 30,000 times during a hike, believe me, I counted them. I couldn’t think of anything else as it was driving me insane. Don’t do it.

On the other hand, if they are below the knee they aren’t really shorts. Argument solved….

Should Hiking Shorts be Tight or Baggy?

This is an easy one. If you can get away with tight, lycra, nylon ripstop, then tight is the way to go. Again, this is my personal preference, but shorts not moving around, means no rubbing and rashes.

If you prefer to wear loose fitting clothing, or you don’t look appealing to the opposite sex in tight shorts, go baggy. I don’t think either are going to affect your hiking ability too much.

How much do Hiking Shorts Cost?

Arc’teyrx, currently top of the range

The answer to this one will vary enormously in relation to the amount of features you require, the materials they are made from, and of course the Brand Name….

Often you will see shorts offered for an obscene price with no more features than affordable shorts, just because of the tiny Brand Label that you can barely see.

I know, it’s nice not to go hiking in Local Big Box Store Branded Clothing, but I tend to try to find a happy medium between Cheap and Outrageous. You can pick up good quality, branded shorts that will last years for around £40-£50

What are the Best Type of Hiking Shorts?

Hopefully my insane ramblings above will have helped you to decide what is best for you. Here it is by the numbers:

  1. Choose the Material you want them to be made from that will suit your Hiking needs.
  2. Choose how many Pockets you want them to have.
  3. Choose Zips or Buttons.
  4. Choose Ripstop or Not.
  5. Choose a Length.
  6. Decide if you want them to be Tight or Baggy.
  7. For the Fashionistas, choose a Style that you like.
  8. Check your Budget, hit the Shops, then buy the Shorts.
Hopefully this helps…..