Hiking Pants VS Shorts

Hiking Pants VS Shorts

If your backcountry hiking adventure is coming up soon, the question of what bottom to wear may cross your mind. Both options come with their own benefits and drawbacks, so we will take a look at them side by side to help you decide which one will work best for your needs.

Hiking Pants

Hiking pants are a great option for anyone who is looking for a bit of extra warmth in the colder seasons. It is also a necessity for anyone who wants to protect their legs from scrapes and cuts, especially if they will be hiking off the rugged trail conditions and paired with insulated or non-insulated hiking boots. Hiking pants are usually made of a mix of cotton and nylon or some other synthetic material, which means they offer more protection than shorts but don’t retain as much heat as some winter-long johns would. If you plan on getting off the beaten path, it is a good idea to go in hiking pants. The built-in belt will help you keep them up as you climb over rocks and logs.


  • Offers extra warmth: When you are hiking early and the sun doesn’t yet have a chance to warm things up, you will need all the extra warmth you can get in your legs. Hiking pants will help keep you safe from the wind and cooler weather while adding some extra warmth.
  • Protection From The Sun: Hiking off the beaten path often means that you will be exposed to the sun’s rays for longer periods of time. It is a good idea to wear pants that offer UV protection. If you decide to go hiking in shorts, remember to wear sunscreen on your legs as well as your torso.
  • Providing Abrasion Protection From Plants And Rocks: Hiking pants will help protect you from the abrasions that may occur while jumping over rocks and crawling through bushes. Hiking pants also have a built-in belt, which provides extra support for the lower back.
  • Leg Protection From Insects And Ticks: If you hike in warm weather areas, bugs can be a nuisance. Wearing pants will provide extra protection from mosquitoes and ticks, so you can enjoy your hike without getting irritated legs.
  • Wind Resistance: Hiking pants can be made out of various extra fabrics, making them more resistant to the wind than shorts.
  • Breathability: If you are wearing hiking pants made of synthetic material, they will be able to breathe a bit better than your average pair of shorts.
  • Provide Protection Against Scrapes And Cuts: Because hiking pants are made of nylon or some other synthetic material, they will be able to protect you from scrapes and cuts if you get them while climbing over rocks and logs.


  • Not Great For Colder Weather: While hiking pants will keep you warm even if they are not made of warm stretchy fabrics like fleece, they will not provide the same level of warmth as winter-long johns.
  • Lack Of Breathability: Hiking pants made from cotton will not breathe as well as shorts.
  • Take Up More Space: When you pack for your hike, you may have to put your hiking pants inside your hiking backpack if you bring a limited amount of space.
  • Your Legs Will Get Hotter: If you hike in warm weather, hiking pants are made of synthetic material and can make your legs feel very hot.
  • Expensive: While cheap hiking pants are available online, it is usually more expensive than shorts.
  • Heavier In Weight: Hiking pants have more extra weight than shorts, which can be a problem for individuals who want to reach the backcountry as quickly as possible.
  • Cotton: If you are allergic to cotton, then you may have issues with your hiking pants.
  • Drying Time Is Longer: If you don’t like to take them off after a shower, wet pants will have to wait for extra drying time.

Running Shorts

If you are hiking in fair weather, shorts are a great choice because they give your legs (and rear end) the freedom and comfort they need to keep you cool on the trails. They are usually made of cotton or some sort of synthetic fabric, which means they will offer much less protection than hiking pants or winter-long johns. However, if you are hiking in warm weather and want to stay cool and comfortable on the trails, shorts will be the best option. Hiking shorts are also look good with your hiking waist pack or backpack. They also have a few additional benefits that make them a great option for everyone in the family.


  • Cost-Effective: Shorts are cheaper than pants. They may be the most cost-effective piece of hiking gear you can buy. There are many styles and designs to choose from, all with varying price tags.
  • Lightweight: Because they are so light, shorts can be folded down and placed into your backpack without taking up a lot of space.
  • Cool And Comfortable: If you hike in warm weather, these types of shorts will keep you cool and comfortable on the trail.
  • Excellent Range Of Motion: As you hike, you will be able to move your arms and legs in any direction without restriction.
  • No Stitches: Shorts are made entirely of fabric, so there are no seams that could rub against your skin.
  • Very Breathable: Because shorts are made of synthetic materials, they will breathe a lot better than pants or winter-long johns.
  • Positive Vibes: If you are wearing shorts, you will likely be doing some kind of social activity such as kayaking or paddleboarding.
  • Easy To Layer: You can layer your shorts with any shirt or T-shirt for extra warmth without needing a lot of extra space.


  • Short Life Span: Shorts can get very worn down over time because these types of shorts are so lightweight and do not provide much protection against scrapes and scratches.
  • Some People Think It’s Not Right: If you decide to wear shorts on a hike with your family, it may be hard for some of them to accept it as the right thing. They may also think that shorts are not masculine enough for men or seem too feminine.
  • Hiking In Winter: If you decide to hike in shorts when it is below freezing outside, you will quickly learn what hypothermia feels like.
  • Leather: Because leather pants are so popular in motorcycle culture, people may make a negative assumption about you just because you are wearing shorts.
  • Lower Protection Level: Shorts do not provide a higher level of protection than hiking pants and winter-long johns. They only offer the bare minimum when it comes to protecting your legs from the elements.
  • No Protection From Abrasion: Shorts do not have built-in knee pads or any other kind of protection against abrasion.
  • Not The Ideal Choice For Hiking In The Rain: If it is rainy weather outside, you will get wet and cold no matter what you wear. However, hiking pants and winter-long johns provide much more protection against the elements because they are made of water-resistance materials that will keep the water from soaking through and reaching your skin.
  • No Sun Protection: If you hike in shorts without any sun protection, you will quickly develop a burn on your legs.
  • Generally Less Pocket Space: Because shorts do not have any pockets at all, it would be difficult to carry any items.

Does Hiking in Shorts Make Sense?

The decision whether to wear hiking pants or shorts depends on what you want to accomplish on your hike. If you are just going for an easy stroll and want to just get a feel for the temperature, then wearing shorts would be fine. But if you are planning on doing a long, strenuous hike, then hiking pants will protect your legs and keep you a lot warmer. The best choice for you depends on your hiking style and the type of trail you are hiking.

What Should You Wear While Hiking In Shorts?

Even if you decide to wear shorts while hiking, you still have to take proper precautions so that your legs stay warm. Start by wearing a pair of hiking socks and then put on your regular hiking shoes. The socks will provide cushioning and an extra layer of warmth for your feet. When you are wearing hiking pants, wear a pair of hiking boot and socks to keep your feet warm.

Bringing along your windbreaker is always a good idea. You can put it on over your shorts when it’s cold and use the rear pockets to carry water and snacks. It also can be used to keep your back and chest warm if you are sitting down Another good idea is to use hiking sticks, it will help you walking up and down on trail. Wear Windproof Gloves and a Warm Hat to protect your hands and head from heat or cold temperatures. Finally, take along a pair of sunglasses so that you will not have to squint while hiking in the sun.

The Hybrid Hiking Short: What Are They?

The hybrid hiking short is meant to be worn as your only hiking shorts. It can be worn in various ways to keep warm and cool depending on the temperature. The hybrid hiking shorts can be used just like any regular pair of comfortable shorts. They are equipped with belt loops and a zipper fly rather than Velcro or snaps, but that’s about the only difference.

These shorts are meant to be lightweight and they come in many different styles. They are made with water-resistant nylon or polyester on the outside and lined with more nylon or cotton. The seams are reinforced to add strength to the overall structure of the garment. Because they are essentially made from the same material that tents are, they tend to be very durable and usually last several years with normal use.

Different Types Of Pants

1. Convertible Pants: Convertible pants are perfect for hiking because they have the versatility you need to remain protected while still feeling comfortable. Convertible lightweight hiking pants can be converted from shorts to pants.

2. Winter-Long Johns: These types of pants are designed to be used all year long. They can be worn underneath your ski pants when you go skiing in winters. In the summer, they will keep you warm when you go camping or hunting.

3. Cargo Pants: Cargo pants are made of cotton, polyester, or some combination of the two. The most common color for this type of pants is khaki. 

4. Roll-up Pants: These pants are very stretchy and can be used as shorts, swimsuits, or just as regular pants. They have no pockets, but they do have some different functionalities depending on what you use them for.

5. Base Layer Pants: Baselayer pants are generally made of polyester and are used by people who do a lot of outdoor Adventures. They usually have lots of pockets located on both the front and the sides for easy accessibility.

6. Wind Pants: These types of pants are designed for people who spend a lot of time outside. They can be used as everyday clothing or for outdoor activities like snowboarding and hiking.

7. Rain Pants: Rain pants are usually made of nylon and polyester. In the summer, they can be used as regular shorts. In the winter, they can be used below your normal jeans.

8. Water Proof Hiking Pants: Waterproof quality pants are made with a blend of nylon and polyester that makes them more water-resistant than the other types. They come in different colors and styles including cargo pants, cargo knee pants, and wind pants.

9. Standard Hiking Pants: Standard hiking pants are the most common type of light pants. They come in many different colors and styles. They are made with a polyester/cotton blend that is comfortable and sturdy.

10. Zip Off Pants: Legs Zip-off pants are most commonly used by experienced hikers who plan on doing a lot of backpacking. They are usually made of nylon and have a cotton lining. They are also used for horseback riding and camping.

Shorts vs. Hiking Pants – Conclusion: 

We have a winner, but it depends on where you are headed. If you intend to get off the beaten path and onto some rocky terrain, then go in hiking pants. This will ensure that no matter where your hike takes you, you have full coverage for your legs and you don’t end up with scraped or scuffed legs from your knees down (and that includes your calves). If you are planning on taking your kids on summer backpacking trips, then shorts will be fine. You don’t have to worry about hurting them and you can use the pockets to carry snacks and water bottle or bladder.