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Feeling the heat on your hikes? Swap your usual trousers for a pair of lightweight and comfy women’s walking shorts.
Durable but breathable hiking shorts are a must in any rambler’s wardrobe, as they’re much easier to wear over longer distances than regular shorts - they’re designed to be lightweight, stretchy and comfortable however many miles you cover, and usually feature multiple pockets for carrying essentials.
What to look for in a pair of women’s walking shorts
Think about when you’ll wear your new hiking shorts before you decide which material to go for. If you’re planning more technical hiking on mountain trails, a stretchy synthetic fabric will allow a good range of movement.
For more relaxed walks, especially in hot climates, cotton and linen are highly breathable, and still look smart if you want just one outfit to wear out-of-doors and then to dinner.
Next up, think about fit. Try walking shorts on in person before you hit the trails.
They should have enough stretch to let you squat, and feel comfortable around the waist – we like a high-cut waist, as it’s easy to adjust with a belt and to tuck layers into, and will keep the shorts in place if worn with a backpack.
Look for shorts with well-placed pockets at the hip and on the rear, especially zipped pockets and larger pockets designed to hold a phone.
Are hiking shorts waterproof?
Whatever walking shorts you pick should be tough enough to stave off knocks and scrapes, but some are also water repellent, and will withstand light rain.
If they do get wet, synthetic hiking shorts are usually quick to dry and don’t need ironing, which is also useful when travelling with a limited wardrobe.
On that note, walking shorts used to score pretty low on style points, but that’s changing fast – we’ve included a few smart, chino-like designs that would work everywhere from a mountainside to a city café, so you can get more wear out of what you pack.
Best women’s walking shorts at a glance:
- Best for comfort: BAM Lyrebird Active Shorts
- Best for hot weather hikes: Finisterre Walker Surf Shorts
- Best for multi-day hikes: Klattermusen Ansur Cotton Hiking Shorts
- Best all-rounder: Siskin Cargo Shorts
- Best for classic hiking: Montane Ursa Shorts
- Best for best knee-length shorts: Rab Ascendor Shorts
- Best for shopping on a budget: Decathlon NH500 Women’s Shorts
- Best for multi-sport adventures: Acai Panelled Shorts
If comfort is king when it comes to your hiking wardrobe, look no further than BAM’s Lyrebird.
This airy short is made with lyocell material, which lets you move unrestrictedly, and bamboo, which is brilliant for active wear as it’s highly breathable and wicks away moisture.
An elasticated waist and a drawcord help to get a stay-put fit in the Lyrebirds even if you go trail running or fancy a spot of yoga, and these shorts feature handy front pockets, although we’d have liked a back pocket too.
We think the Lyrebirds look and feel flattering to wear, but they’re a little too sporty-looking to work as casual shorts – save them for daytime hikes.
Stay cool on the hottest hikes in Finisterre’s surf-inspired shorts.
The baggier fit of the Walker short is super-flattering and far more breathable than slim-cut shorts – perfect for summer treks and walking trips abroad.
The elasticated waistband is close-fitting without feeling restrictive, and you can even swim in these lightweight shorts – the fast-drying material is designed so it won’t weigh you down in water, and will dry fast when back on land.
The neutral black and khaki colourways are easy to wear with your favourite sandals and t-shirts from city strolls to country hikes.
And like many designs from this Cornish brand, the Walker short is made with recycled materials.
Scandinavian mountaineering brand Klattermusen does a fine line in adventure-ready clothing, and shorts for women are no exception.
The Ansur sports a flattering high waist and slim-cut legs that will look good on female hikers off all shapes and sizes, and is made with 100% cotton with a rip-stop finish, so it’s breathable and lightweight yet tough enough for trekking.
The two colourways – light khaki and dark blue – are smart enough to wear from dawn until dusk, so we’d rate them for heading off on backpacking adventures, and the dark blue won’t show dirt on multi-day hikes.
The Ansur does come with a pretty hefty price tag, though, so it’s only worth investing in if you plan to wear these shorts daily in the summer.
Make a style statement even as you explore new trails in BAM’s easy-on-the-eye Siskin shorts. Not all hiking shorts are especially flattering, or smart enough to wear for dinner after a walking adventure, but the Siskins definitely cut it in the looks department thanks to a high-cut waist, nicely tailored A-line shape and smart, neutral colourways. These shorts may be pretty but they are still adventure-ready, too – they offer a good range of movement, feel light and freeing to wear and have useful rear and hip pockets. The red, black or violet-grey colours will go with everything in your wardrobe, so they’re great for travelling light on walking weekenders.
Keep it simple in Montane’s classic-looking and high-performing Ursa short.
This design has a smart, tailored look in neutral grey or blue but is made from a sportier fabric than it might seem – Montane’s Granite Lite is a synthetic material that is highly breathable and quick to dry, and has enough stretch weaved in to keep you comfy on all-day walks.
Plentiful pockets hold bits and bobs on the go and it’s easy to add a belt to the high-cut waist for a more custom fit. These shorts sit nicely at mid-thigh and can also be rolled up.
A fuss-free hiking short that’ll do keen walkers proud.
If you’re after walking shorts with a bit more coverage than most, try Rab’s knee-length Ascendor for size.
While these shorts look close-cut, they’re so stretchy that you can trek, scramble and even climb in them, and the lightweight synthetic material is highly breathable and quick to dry, so the Ascendors are ideal for hot summer hiking.
Well-placed zipped pockets will hold a phone, keys and other essentials safely as you walk, and we like the half-elasticated waistline, which sits snugly without digging in.
The bright turquoise colourway makes a cheery change from most beige hiking shorts, or the black is easy to wear with anything. Buy:
Kitting yourself out for walking adventures needn’t be expensive – just head to Decathlon, where you can pick up these functional shorts for under £20.
The NH500 is a simple but comfy design that’s light and stretchy enough to work well for the hottest of hikes.
A wide waistband sits comfortably under a backpack and there’s even a pocket specifically for your phone.
Unlike other budget-friendly designs, these shorts aim to be eco-friendly, too – they’re made with recycled polyester.
Ideal for beginner hikers or as a spare pair of shorts for walking holidays.
If you love to get active all summer, ACAI’s new panelled shorts could be your one-stop outfit.
The generous stretch of these shorts means you can hike, run, climb, cycle and even do yoga and barely notice you’re wearing them.
On test we loved the high-cut waist, with a thick waistband that doesn’t dig in as you move, and the deep side pockets that are designed so you can pop a phone in them on the go without it falling out in motion.
The material of the panelled shorts is also highly breathable, so sweat is wicked away, and they dry fast if you have to wash them on the go.