Once warm weather arrives, you’d be hard pressed to find us in a full pair of pants unless a formal event requires us to cover up our sun-kissed stems. The extreme heat and immense humidity we experience on the East Coast in these months means we wear shorts whenever possible, and our go-to style is the classic hiking shorts.
Finding a pair of utilitarian shorts for men with equal measures of style and technical features has never been easy (unless you're a diehard Baggies boy, in which case, good on ya), and running shorts don't always cut it as trail shorts. Recently though, more brands are getting on the Swiss Army Knife shorts train—heck, even cargo shorts are trending.
The best hiking shorts are as practical as any other piece of hiking gear and can tangle with hiking pants any day, sun protection be darned (though even some shorts come with UPF 50 ratings). We're talking breathable, fast drying, abrasion-resistant, stretchy fabrics, zippered pockets, water-repellent finishes, built-in belts, and of course, just all-around GORPy good looks. The point is that you can wear these shorts on your next backpacking trip or around town.
The following twelve are the top picks from the Field Mag edit team, gathered from outdoor brands both known and niche, guaranteed to cover a range of activities across subway platforms, backyard BBQs, and backcountry trails.
Leave it to some random Australian surf lifestyle brand to make some of the better looking (and most affordable) do-anything go-anywhere shorts out. These lightweight nylon shorts have a bit of spandex for stretch and are quick drying, feature an integrated belt, chamois lined waistband for comfort when going sans-drawers, an interior zippered stash pocket, and a Goldilocks length 6" inseam.
Price: $65 SHOP NOW
Brooklyn’s own Pilgrim Surf Supply has an in-house line that’s full of minimal bangers that sort well with the small lineup of brands they stock seasonally. Their climbing short is made from a lightweight cotton with both an elastic waistband and integrated webbing belt. A longer 8” inseam and relaxed fit make for a more utilitarian vibe as do the lower zip cargo pocket and bucket pockets in back, a nod to the great Stand Up Shorts.
Price: $190 SHOP NOW
Seattle-based Kavu is best known for making extremely airy and fun five-panel hats designed for water sports, trail running, and pretty much any and all activity under the sun. But they also make some sick patchwork shorts, and these are them. Cotton canvas isn't quick dry, but it is burly. The swooping pockets are great for climbing, the integrated belt helps you strap in when it's adventure time, and the look goes great with a pair of hiking boots.
Price: $70 SHOP NOW
California surf shop and apparel brand Mollusk took the classic fatigue short and mixed things up by swapping out sateen cotton for a robust ripstop cotton. The 7” inseam should suit just about anyone’s tastes and the combination of an elastic waistband with belt loops let you choose your own adventure. Tortoise pattern buttons on the rear pockets earn extra style points from us.
Price: $65 SHOP NOW
Made of deadstock fabrics with asymmetric functionalism in mind, this soft, unisex pair of shorts from Portland, Oregon's own Earth\Studies (formerly known as it.Vanishes) tend to sell out fast. That's thanks to their bungee and toggle cargo pocket closure, built-in webbing belt, contrast patch pockets, and overall dope design. If you're looking for a slim fit you won't find it here—these are roomy on purpose. (Check out our exclusive interview with the brand's founder and designer Rob Darmour here.)
Price: $160 SHOP NOW
It’s unlikely you’ll ever see someone at your gym, crag, or local boulder spot in a pair of And Wander’s Trek Short, but don’t let that stop you from being the first. These rare, nylon blend shorts are made in Japan and cut in a generous, roomy fit with two large side pockets, which are unmissable due to the contrast stitching. This one wins our coveted “most GORP award” out of this lineup. And Wander doesn't miss.
Price: $265 SHOP NOW
The single most packable shorts in our roundup come from American climbing apparel pioneer Gramicci, whose renegade legacy is now carried out by a Japanese design team. These moisture-wicking nylon shorts come in an 8” inseam and boast chlorine-safe properties so don’t hesitate taking a dip. Even the pockets are designed to let water pass through them, which hikers will appreciate while trekking in the rain. Available in standard solid colors and some more fun options like patchwork and camo.
Price: $95 SHOP NOW
If you thought 5” Baggies weren’t going to make the list then you were greatly mistaken. These lightweight shorts are the measuring stick by which all others are measured–they're perfect for running, thru-hiking, swimming, and simply just surviving Summer. Seriously deep front pockets and a single snap rear pocket take care of cargo while a drawstring and elastic waistband keeps things simple. The interior mesh lining isn’t for everyone, but we believe every baggy-owner reserves the right to cut them out and wear with the undergarment of their choice. Recently, Patagonia has started making Baggies with 100% recycled nylon that comes from discarded fishing nets.
Price: $55 SHOP NOW
Longtime Field Mag favorite and New York City designed-and-sewn brand Battenwear have put their own spin on things with these nylon Camp Shorts. Inseam lengths change with waist sizes, but a 7” medium is perfect for this short decked out with a whopping six pockets–four that zip, two main snap pockets on the thigh. The elastic waist can stretch up to 2” comfortably and 3” maximum, so you could even size down for a shorter inseam or up for a roomier fit. An integrated webbing belt is present to help fine tune the fit too.
Price: $195 SHOP NOW
Brooklyn's own Adsum can always be relied on for simple sport-influenced pieces like the Site Shorts. The 6.5" inseam shorts are cut from a dense-weave coated taslan to stand up to the rigors of summer living. Two front slash pockets and one rear pocket are both zippered and mesh-backed for respective security and amphibious wear. For an even lighter wearing short, check out the Effo Short.
Price: $95 SHOP NOW
If you couldn’t tell from the name, Topo’s River Short was made to take to water in addition to being your go-to short for every other activity imaginable, from hiking to biking, kayaking, and camping to sitting on a roof drinking a cold one, etc. A two-way stretch nylon is used on the 6” inseam shorts whose hems are curved for a retro sporty look. The waistband is adjustable by way of both a drawcord and integrated webbing belt. A zippered back pocket secures small valuables while two large front pockets take care of the rest. (Also available in women's.)
Price: $79 SHOP NOW
Quebec-based Foehn takes a hard stance that style and performance need not be mutually exclusive and it's proven the truth in that through every product the brand puts out, including the recently released Jarvis Schoeller Short. The shorts follow traditional climbing-inspired design guidelines with an integrated waist belt, gusseted crotch, and zippered hand pockets, but have a distinctly modern look that'll fly for the cafe as well as the crag. Extra kudos go to Foehn for making this short with a 37% bio-based fabric that's darn comfy, and for including a biodegradable DWR for water resistance.
Price: $90 SHOP NOW
Other Great Hiking Shorts
We also like Fjällräven's Abisko Shorts ($110), which are made of a durable cotton blend, Mountain Hardwear's Trail Sender Short ($69), which is lightweight and has a harness-compatible pocket, Prana's Stretch Zion Shorts ($75), which include elastane for comfortable stretch, Outdoor Research's Ferrosi Shorts ($75), which are soft yet water resistant, and Arc'teryx's Norvan 5" Lined Short ($85) as a lightweight, minimalist option.