The warmer weather of summer always brings with it an uptick in activity, to which my Endomondo account can attest. Over the past few months, the trails around Pittsburgh have served as a head-to-head testing ground for outdoor shorts from Outdoor Research, Icebreaker, Sherpa Adventure Gear, Salomon, and Mountain Hardwear. The purpose of the test was to look for shorts that covered a wide variety of fabrics and designs, and that could be used for multiple activities both on and off the trail. You will find my thoughts on each below.
Outdoor Research designed the Backcountry Boardshorts for sun soaked weather using a 100% polyester fabric that offers up UPF 50+ sun protection. A single zippered back pocket provides just enough room for carrying the essentials, while cutting down on bulk in the rest of the shorts.
Versatility—that’s what I liked about the Backcountry Boardshorts. The shorts are technical enough for Class III whitewater runs on the Yough, but after white knuckling Dimple Rock rapid and floating through Swimmer’s rapid, you can simply shake off then fill-up at the Falls City Pub in Ohiopyle. MSRP $65
Icebreaker’s Escape Shorts were tested extensively on the trails of the Oak Hollow Land Trust. An area that was once the site of a Nike Missile Base, Oak Hollow has been in recovery since the stagnation of the national defense program and its closure in the late 1960s. Now, over 400 acres of green space is open to public use.
The multipurpose Escape shorts are designed for both urban and rural wear, made from a material combo of merino (67%) and cotton (33%). Don’t cringe with the inclusion of cotton, these wick fine, and you benefit from a little more next to skin comfort than your typical non-cotton materials. Icebreaker included pockets where you would expect—two front and two back.
Icebreaker keeps the Escape true to a hiking short with a length that comes just above the knee. The hybrid design came in handy when I had plans directly after pounding out some major trail mileage. Simply throw off your sweat drenched tee, add a nice casual shirt and some flip flops, then you can be off to lunch with friends. MSRP $120
Designed for performance, the Baato Hybrid Short features a fast-drying and stretchy nylon and spandex fabric. For extra comfort, panels on the seat and thighs flex when riding a bike or when vigorously hiking.
I liked the feel and fit of the Baato Hybrid Short—the combination of material and design never failed me during the endless hours logged testing the short. Sherpa Adventure Gear uses a DWR finish, something which came in handy when the skies opened up during one particular hike. The Baato provide plenty of pockets for storing snacks, small gear, and other essentials. MSRP: $55
Although the bright yellow pocket zippers may blind fellow trail runners, the color pops provide extra visibility for excursions around dusk. Built for the trail, Salomon designed the Float Short with breathable, stretchy material (100% polyester) meant for accommodating vigorous body motion. Mesh panels built into both sides of the shorts add to the ventilation.
The spring overgrowth is impossible to avoid when headed out on trail runs around Pittsburgh. As such, you will appreciate the below-the-knee length of the Float Short for protecting your skin from fields of stinging nettle. MSRP $55
Made for more casual wear, the Mountain Hardwear Trotting Stripe Short has been my go-to for conquering one of the most grueling urban hikes—The Southside Slopes of Pittsburgh. Touted as the neighborhood with the most steps of any in the U.S., you can get your stair workout in with over 70 sets of steps that connect the various streets. Ascend and descend all of these, and it’s the equivalent of hiking up and down a 2,000-foot elevation climb—packed within a 6 mile span.
The Trotting Stripe Short is made from a combination of cotton, polyester, and elastane. The fabric mix makes it wrinkle free, quick drying, and easy to wash. The color schemes on offer – shark and cigar – are far from plain but not flashy. Two deep front pockets let you carry a pack of Sport Beans to refuel along with the other essentials for an urban hike – Chapstick, wallet, keys, and sunglasses. And after crushing thousands of steps, they look equally great catching lunch at the Hello Bistro. MSRP $65