The best women’s hiking shorts 2024 | Tested and reviewed

Here are our top tried-and-tested pairs of women's hiking shorts, used and abused by summer-obsessed Fliss Freeborn

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by Fliss Freeborn |
Updated on

Any outdoorsy lass will be able to tell you about a bad experience with a pair of hiking trousers or shorts. Too loose, too tight, the best women's hiking shorts are tricky to get right.

But when you do nail it, hiking shorts quickly become an invaluable part of your outdoor wardrobe: comfy, cooling and with that barely there feel that enables you to focus on the things that matter on your adventure - enjoying the view and the company.

Walking in the wetter, more green slopes of the Picos

Best hiking shorts at a glance:

Best in test: Helly Hansen Maridalen Shorts

Best value: Decathlon Quechua Women's Mountain Walking Short MH100

Best for really hot days: Patagonia Women's Strider Pro Shorts

Here at Live for the Outdoors, we've had many different hiking shorts on test over the years, but ultimately we understand that different designs suit different body shapes, hence the wide variety on test in the following roundup. We also know that a pair of hiking shorts to use during a British summer will be different from the ones used when hiking abroad, so we've also included a range of weights and materials too. There's something for everyone here, and our tried-and tested method means we've really put these pair through their paces.

How we tested the best hiking shorts

Fliss hiking in the trossachs wearing Norrona shorts

These hiking shorts were tested by LFTO writer Fliss Freeborn, over the course of two hiking holidays to both Croatia, and the Picos De Europas in Northern Spain, in addition to getting very wet in the rain-soaked uplands of the UK. For reference, Fliss wears between a UK8-10 and is just under 5'3" tall, with no discernible waist-to hip difference - however, she tested a huge range of shorts which will fit lots of different body types.

The best women's hiking shorts reviewed:

BEST IN TEST

Expert rating:
4.5
LFTO

Feminine, flattering and ultra durable, these hiking shorts from Helly Hansen are the top pick of our bunch. We wore them over several days hiking in sunny Croatia, and they kept us cool, dry and comfortable throughout thanks to a 50+SPF rating and a bunch of great features.

Made of Bluesign approved polyamide and elastane, woven into a ripstop weave, we can't fault these shorts on toughness, sustainability, comfort, fit or features. Indeed, there are six whole pockets for various gubbins, three of which have button or zip closures to keep valuables safe. They're also some of the best fitting shorts we've worn, with a high waist which smooths out any lumpy bits, and a flatlock button so that nothing is digging in where it shouldn't be.

Despite a lack of diamond gusset, these 2 way stretch shorts saw us comfortably leap over logs, scramble over walls and walk for days without any discomfort or annoyances. One could quibble over is the price - these are not the cheapest option at RRP - but performance, quality, and comfort are worth paying for, and happily they can be found for much less if you shop about.

Pros

  • Fantastic fit
  • Very comfortable
  • Good colour for hot days

Cons

  • On the pricier end of things
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    5.0
  • Value
    3.5
  • Sustainability
    4.0
Material92% Polyamide, 8% Elastane with PFC-free DWR
Weight210g
Sizes available XS-XL
PocketsTwo buttoned back pockets, two hand pockets near the waist and two thigh pockets; one zipped, one buttoned.

BEST VALUE

Expert rating:
3.5
LFTO

At £14.99, we can't really have too many complaints about these walking shorts from good old budget outdoor retailer, Decathlon. These pretty much tick all the boxes for a decent pair of hiking shorts: they're lightweight, give plenty of coverage on the thighs to avoid sunburn, fit nicely and do well at wicking sweat away on those tougher uphills.

Made also from 99% recycled polyester, Decathlon have partially addressed sustainability - usually the downfall of budget products. The only thing we're not so keen on about these shorts is the metal buckle closure: it feels like it could give way or warp in comparison with other shorts, but over our three months of testing, this hasn't happened yet - possibly due to the brilliant stretch from the elasticated waistband.

Naturally, these aren't the most featured of shorts either, with two non-closable pockets and not much else to speak of other than the excellent wicking abilities. However, that does reduce the weight down to a measly 110g for a women's medium - a fabulously lightweight hiking option if ever we saw one.

Overall, we've found the Quecha MH100s to be a great pair of versatile, durable hiking shorts which are easy to pack, and easy to wear. And for under £15 it's a bit of a no-brainer.

Pros

  • Lightweight material
  • Longer coverage than other shorts
  • Unparalleled value

Cons

  • Slightly flimsy buckle fastening
  • Not as much flexibility as other shorts
  • Comfort
    4.0
  • Fit
    4.0
  • Features
    3.0
  • Value
    5.0
  • Sustainability
    2.5
Material100% Polyester
Weight110g (women's medium)
Sizes available UK 4-18
PocketsTwo thigh pockets

Best for mountaineering

Expert rating:
4.0
LFTO

If you want to be the Euro-Fluro queen of hillwalking, then these are the shorts for you. Norrøna are another ambitiously priced Scandinavian brand but make some of the best gear money can buy. These shorts are no exception: expect top of the range fit, performance, comfort and durability, all enhanced by their ludicrous fluorescent orange colour (navy is also available but honestly, why would you?).

We particularly liked the lengthened coverage of these shorts, which made them ideal for UK summer hiking rather than the hotter climes in which we tested some of the other shorts. They’re also incredibly stretchy, making them suitable not only for walking, but for biking, climbing and all manner of other outdoor activities too. We even went for an impromptu trail run in them, and they held up perfectly well, wicking sweat wonderfully and managing not to chafe, despite not being designed for such activities. 

Pockets abound on the Falketind Flex1s too - and they’re all zipped to make sure nothing falls out if you happen to find yourself the wrong way up. Other features we like include a brushed waistband for added comfort, and two strong poppers for the closure. Like everything else about this pair of shorts, these seem completely bombproof. 

Norrøna have also done reasonably well on sustainability, using recycled nylon in the shorts’ construction. Th fabric is also Oeko-Tex certified and the water repellent treatment is PFC-free. They’re also the toughest pair we’ve had on test, with ridiculously strong fixtures and fittings and a durable ripstop weave which even the stoniest of outcrops couldn’t penetrate. Overall, if you’re looking for a high-end pair of mountaineering shorts that wouldn’t be out of place in a bar in Chamonix, and you’re looking for them to last forever, then these are the pair for you.

Pros

  • Quick drying
  • Stretchy material for a great fit
  • Eye-catching colour

Cons

  • Silly money
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    5.0
  • Value
    3.0
  • Sustainability
    3.5
Material69% recycled nylon, 19% recycled polyester, 12% elastane
Weight224g
Sizes available XS-L
Pockets4 zipped pockets, three on the front and one on the back.

best women's fitted shorts

Expert rating:
4.0
LFTO
Price: £55.00

montane.com

If you're not already aware, biking-style shorts are in. Categorised by a lengthier leg, a spray-on feel and a high waistband, this style of short (essentially a very, very cropped legging) is the zeitgeist. Montane is the latest outdoor brand to release a pair of this style of short, and we’ve just come back from testing their new Ineo Lites for a week’s hiking in the Picos De Europa.

It’s fair to say they stood up to the challenge, providing a great fit and a barely there feel, while maintaining some great sweat wicking - and yes, odour controlling properties. We wore these for three days on the trot before they needed a wash, which is no mean feat for summer hiking. We loved how they fitted like a glove from the word go, and were comfortable both at cooler summit temperatures of around 15 degrees, and hotter hiking days of up to 29 celsius. 

These biker style shorts have a slight advantage over baggier or trail-style shorts in that they tend to fit better, and are lighter too, with no adjustments for waistbands or leg length needed. However, where the Inoe lites don’t perform so well is for features such as pockets - there is just one here and it doesn’t have a zip, flap or button, so things are free to move in and out without you noticing a lot of the time. They’re also not quite as durable as a lot of the other non-figure hugging options, but the Ineos performed just fine during our testing period. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a stylish, high performing short which wicks well, fits brilliantly and can be worn for a good few days at a time, you’ve come to the right place.

Pros

  • Great fit
  • Fantastic odour controlling technology
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Pocket lacks closure
  • No mention of recyled materials
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    2.0
  • Value
    3.5
  • Sustainability
    3.0
Material100% Nylon
Weight140g
Sizes available UK 6-16
PocketsOne thigh pocket

Best natural fabric hiking shorts

Expert rating:
3.5
LFTO

We love BAM’s stuff - it’s gloriously soft, stretchy and often fits like a glove. These shorts also do all of those things, and come in a range of pretty colours too. We also love the deep phone pocket which keeps your mobile safely tucked into your thigh while you hike.

Fit-wise, we’re completely enamoured - the Enduros shows off all the right curves in all the right places, and the deep waistband is wonderfully flattering. Where these short fall down (and definitely not literally - they stay up like a dream) is in the material used, which has to have a careful outdoor application only. Whereas many of the outdoor shorts in this list use synthetic materials to wick away moisture, BAM, as the name suggests, uses a mix of bamboo, elastane and cotton. While this is what gives the uniquely stretchy feel, and ludicrously soft touch, it means that these shorts struggle when they get wet, as they don’t dry nearly as quickly as some of the others on this list. 

However, for shorter, drier walks - say, summer dog walks or days roaming along the coastal path on holiday, these are fantastic - and we reckon for the price, they’re pretty great value too.

Pros

  • Super soft material
  • Great fit on all body types
  • Good phone storage

Cons

  • Difficult to dry when wet
  • Comfort
    4.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    3.0
  • Value
    4.5
  • Sustainability
    4.0
MaterialBamboo Viscose, cotton and elastane
Weight197g
Sizes available 8-16
PocketsOne thigh pocket with flap closure

Best women's trekking shorts

Expert rating:
4.0
LFTO
Price: £84.56 (RRP £100)

www.alpinetrek.co.uk

Fjallraven’s Abisko range is all about lightweight trekking. They sell several options when it comes to women’s shorts, but we reckon these Short Tights are the cream of the crop: durable, lightweight and biker style, not dissimilar to the Montane Ineo Lites. The Abisko Short Tights W come in two lengths, a longer 24 cm in-seam length, or a shorter 15cm one. Seeing as our whole inner leg length is only about 24cm as it stands, we opted to test the shorter one (length is the only difference here; they are priced the same as well). 

In direct comparison to the Montane option, these sit a little higher on the waist, and give a marginally more flattering fit. They’re also slightly thicker, and have two pockets - both with a flap closure  - points again, gained over Montane’s offering. They breathe just as well, and dry quickly too - it’s all looking good for Fjallraven until…oh yes. The price. These are £100. Yes, the Abisko Short tights are the better all-round fit, use mostly recycled material, are PFC-free, and will last longer, but they’re still a bit overpriced.  

But at the end of the day it’s down to whether you think the little leather fox - that hallmark of trekking quality and performance stitched into the thigh - is worth it.

Pros

  • Fab breathbility
  • Outstanding fit
  • Good pockets

Cons

  • Other fitted shorts here are definitely better value ofr money
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    4.0
  • Value
    2.5
  • Sustainability
    4.0
Material70% recycled polyester, 30% elastane
Weight144g
Sizes available XS-XL
Pockets2 with flap closure

best for warm weather

Expert rating:
4.5
LFTO
Price: £48.99 (RRP £70)

www.sportsshoes.com

Patagonia has a reputation for being both fashionable and expensive as well as high-performance. Love or loathe the brand, absolutely nothing can dissuade us from the fact these Strider shorts are simply the best garment we’ve ever tried for hiking in hot weather. With a 10/10 performance for wicking, odour control, flexibility, comfort and fit, we’re convinced that these are the perfect shorts for when the mercury hits over 30. 

Originally built for trail running, these shorts are the only ones on this list to feature built-in underwear. This actually turned out to be a complete lifesaver in that hot mountain environment, because the recycled polyester crepe liner was so much more breathable than the cotton undies we usually use underneath hiking shorts. Additionally, the gossamer thin yet still incredibly durable fabric kept us lovely and cool on those stifling uphills, while maintaining outstanding flexibility due to a good sized split up the thighs. 

The waistband also fits like a dream, and although the lightweight, running-first ethos of these shorts doesn't allow for many pockets, there’s a zipped pocket at the back which is great for loose change or a small phone when hiking without a pack. We can’t recommend these shorts highly enough for hiking in warmer weather, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere abroad without them - although in the UK they just feel too light and airy for even most summer outings. And although they do have a high RRP, it's not hard to find them discounted.

Pros

  • Phenomenally breathable
  • Very flattering wasitband
  • Can be found at great prices
  • Bluesign-approved fabric and Fair Trade Certified

Cons

  • Too chilly for much of the UK
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Fit
    5.0
  • Features
    4.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Sustainability
    4.5
MaterialMain: 90% recycled polyester, 10% elastane | Liner: 100% recycled polyester w/ HeiQ Pure odour control
Weight88g
Sizes available XS-XL
Pockets1 zipped waistband pocket

Highly recommended

Expert rating:
4.0
LFTO

Acai specialise in women’s outdoor legwear, so we had high hopes for their trailblazing Trek shorts, a pair of mid-weight hiking shorts designed for everything from hiking to camping to biking. We really like the 4-way stretch material, which dried quickly despite our testing over a very humid couple of days in the southern side of the Picos De Europas.

Acai also uses its signature PFC-free DWR coating for these shorts - the point of which we’re not entirely convinced by, given they’re, well, shorts - but seeing as it’s not a deal breaker, we’re quite happy to let it slide. 

The fit for us on the waist was a little larger than we’d anticipated, but this is easily rectifiable as Acai’s returns system is perhaps one of the most straightforward we’ve come across. However, an adustable cincher would have been a welcome addition here. Waistband aside, we were impressed by the A-line cut of the shorts, and the flattering higher waist. We also liked the metal button detailing, in addition to the wide, stretchy pockets, the back two of which have both a button and a zip closure for valuables. They’re not the most technical pair of shorts here, but for casual day-hikes they do the job pretty damn well. 

Acai aren’t the most transparent when it comes to sustainability - for example, they don’t disclose whether any recycled materials have been used in the Trek shorts on their website - but they seem to be well-built, and have stood up well to the rigorous testing process we’ve given them.

Pros

  • Stretchy, quick-dry materials
  • Flattering A line cut

Cons

  • Runs slightly large
  • Comfort
    4.0
  • Fit
    4.0
  • Features
    4.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Sustainability
    3.0
Material89% Nylon 11% Spandex
Weight191g
Sizes available UK6-16
Pockets4

Best casual women's hiking shorts

Expert rating:
4.0
LFTO

A great in-between option for style, comfort and fit is the Passenger 365 Trail short. Not quite as technical as some of the other Scandinavian options on test, but still imminently practical, we rate these shorts for their all-rounder status: as well as being great for summer hiking, you could quite easily pair these with a nice top and then go to dinner if you wanted to. 

Although our body type probably wasn’t the perfect fit for these shorts (we reckon people with wider hips would have suit this pair better), they still felt comfortable, and we enjoyed the adjustability of the waistband too, which uses little hooks rather than velcro which is prone to getting dirt caught up in it. 

We also especially liked the gusseted crotch, seeing as it gave us lots of flexibility and freedom of movement - as did the adjustable roll-up leg length. Passenger’s sustainability stats aren’t bad either, using 90% recycled polyester for these shorts, and to top it all off, they’ve put a good deal of thought into the features too, which include two zipped and two non-zipped pockets and a handy hanging hook at the back. For the price, we think these are a pretty solid bet for all but the most extreme UK hiking.

Pros

  • Good range of size options
  • Good sustainability
  • Great adjustability

Cons

  • Not the best fit for women with slimmer hips
  • Comfort
    4.0
  • Fit
    3.5
  • Features
    4.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Sustainability
    4.0
Material90% Recycled Polyester 10% Elastane 155GSM
Weight185G (women's small)
Sizes available XS-2XL
Pockets4

What to look for in a pair of hiking shorts

Fliss hiking in croatia03
©lfto

From fit, to material, to pockets, to belt loops, there's more to what meets the eye in a good pair of women's hiking shorts. Let's dig into some details.

Material

The fabric of your hiking shorts is essentially the lynchpin on which both comfort and performance hang. Synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are most commonly used due to their durability, lightweight nature, and ability to wick moisture away from your skin. You'll often spot the inclusion of elastane in the fabric blend, which provides essential stretch and flexibility, allowing for a greater range of motion. Many hiking shorts combine these materials to offer the best of all worlds, ensuring you get a pair that is both functional and comfortable - the vast majority of shorts on test here use a blend of materials for all-round comfort and durability.

Fit and Comfort

Fliss walks about in the Picos De Europa
©LFTO

No one likes to be pulling material from places it shouldn't be - and equally no one enjoys hoiking up a waistband every three seconds either. Next to materials, fit is one of the things that will make or break a pair of hiking shorts - and of course, no body is the same, so shopping around to see what fits you best is essential.

Adjustable waistbands with belts or drawstrings are ideal as they allow you to customise the fit to your body, ensuring the shorts stay in place without feeling too tight or too loose. The length of the shorts is also important: mid-thigh lengths typically offer a good balance between coverage and freedom of movement, making them a more versatile option than very short ones. You'll often see shorts which can either zip off or be rolled up; we've found these to be good for cooler climates but they can impede flexibility if they're an awkward fit.

belt loop on a pair of shorts
©LFTO

When considering inseam (inner leg) length, those between 5-8 inches often provide the best compromise between protecting your legs and allowing for easy movement, but if you're out and about in really hot weather (and not too lanky that they'll look like undies) then we've found 3 inches to be a pretty good bet too. We'd recommend having a couple of different pairs in your wardrobe for different weathers - especially if you can find yourself a good bargain on a pair that fits you nicely.

Features to Look For

pocket on a pair of montane shorts
©LFTO

Hiking shorts come with a small range of features, most of which revolve around pockets rather than much else. Pockets are, however, critical, especially if you're travelling reasonably light and don't always want to be digging into your backpack for a phone or a snack. Deep, elasticated pockets with secure closures, such as zippers or Velcro, can help keep your items safe.

Hiking in croatia02
©LFTO

Some shorts also come with reinforced stitching in high-stress areas to increase durability. Additionally, features like UPF protection can help shield your skin from harmful UV rays, and water-resistant coatings can provide extra protection against unexpected rain showers. Built in belt loops can also be a game changer when it comes to fit, as can a hanging loop so you can dry them on a tree or something at the end of a long day hiking.

About the author

LFTO tester and writer Fliss Freeborn having a great time on a via ferrata in Corsica
©Aaron Rolph

Fliss Freeborn is a hill enthusiast and feral outdoorswoman who writes full time for LFTO. She lives in Scotland but is obsessed with finding some semblance of sunshine, so is often found in warmer countries doing a fabulous impression of a lizard between exploring various hilly bits and eating ice cream.

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