The Best Women’s Shorts for Travel

The versatile Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts are boosted by UPF 50 protection.

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Best Women's Travel Shorts Lead

REI and Patagonia

Whether you’re going on a long hiking journey, a cruise with daily excursions, or a road trip, some great pairs of shorts are essential in warmer months. What you need from a pair of shorts will depend on what you’ll be doing while traveling, but you’ll most likely be looking for things like ample pockets, stretch, comfort, and maybe even some UV protection if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time. 

We’ve rounded up the best shorts for women based on price points, style, durability, and type of travel. Our favorite are the Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts because they’re great for active travelers and those just looking for a reliable pair of shorts for sightseeing. They come with UPF 50 sun protection, Omni-Shield technology to repel spills, and come in basic, solid colors so you can mix and match them with all of your outfits. 

Here’s our breakdown of the best women’s shorts for traveling.

Best Overall: Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts

Columbia Saturday Trail Shorts

Columbia

Why We Love It: Sun protection and lightweight material make these shorts a must pack for any trip. 

What to Consider: The material can pill if something rubs against it for a long time.

Numerous sizes, a lightweight material, and Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection make this pair of shorts a win for any traveler. Wear them while hiking up a strenuous trail or while shopping for souvenirs in the big city — either way, these shorts are packed with features that will complement your journey. They’re made with Omni-Shield repellency technology, which repels light moisture and stains, and they come in a mid-rise fit with two-way comfort stretch that’s perfect for active days and suits a range of body types. Four basic colors are available, which we like for easy mixing and matching with outfits while on the go — minimalist travelers will love not having to pack multiple shorts. They also have the perks of being breathable, wrinkle-free, and quick-drying, which is ideal for both in-transit days and lively activities at your destinations. Even better, the Saturday Trail Shorts are made in a factory that incorporates BSR’s HERproject, a program that “strives to empower women working in global supply chains through health, finance, and gender equality training,” according to Columbia. 

Sizes: 2-18 | Material: 96 percent nylon, 4 percent elastane

Best Budget: Willit Women’s Yoga Lounge Shorts Women’s Yoga Lounge Shorts

Willit Women’s Yoga Lounge Shorts

Amazon

Why We Love It: The drawstring closure and spandex/nylon material make for a stretchy, comfortable pair of shorts. 

What to Consider: These shorts run a bit large.

Loads of color options are available for these shorts, meaning you can find lots of different pairs for a variety of trips and occasions. Since they’re made from a stretchy nylon and spandex combination, they’re perfect for yoga, hiking, running, walking, or daily wear. The fabric is also breathable, moisture-wicking, and lightweight, so you can throw a pair or two into your suitcase without compromising on luggage capacity. You can adjust the fit to your liking and activity thanks to the closure being a drawstring cord rather than buttons. The shorts have hand pockets that can hold small items like car keys and credit cards, and flatlock stitching helps reduce chafing and improve comfort. 

Sizes: XS-3X | Material: 80 percent nylon, 20 percent spandex

Best Splurge: Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer Shorts

Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer Shorts

Fjallraven

Why We Love It: The four front pockets are great for adventures and storing things like a map, phone, credit cards, and more. 

What to Consider: These shorts hit right above the knees, so they’re a bit on the long side.

If you’re really serious about hiking and looking for a lightweight, packable pair of shorts that could work on rugged trails or in the jungle, these shorts from Fjallraven are a great investment. Perfect for warm climates, they’re made from ventilated, quick-drying G-1000 Air Stretch and flexible material. G-1000 is Fjallraven’s own outdoor fabric that’s built to last for years, which means these shorts’ longevity can help you cut down on waste. There are two leg pockets in the front (one zippered and one buttoned), plus two more hand pockets that have hidden zippers with ventilated mesh lining. The Abisko Midsummer Shorts come in four understated but trendy colors.

Sizes: 26-37 | Material: 65 percent polyester, 35 percent cotton

Best Versatile: Patagonia Women’s Baggies Shorts

Patagonia Women’s Baggies Shorts

Patagonia

Why We Love It: These shorts are great for all summer activities — you can wear them to the lake and then right into a casual dinner. 

What to Consider: These shorts don’t have much stretch.

Made for fun in and out of the water, Patagonia’s Baggies shorts come in lots of bright colors and prints that might just make you feel like a kid again. You can wear them while you're fishing or frolicking through mountain ponds, but they’re also suitable for shopping and casual dinners with your family. They’re made of lightweight, post-consumer recycled nylon that was produced from former fishing nets. The nylon is quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and a great way to help reduce ocean plastic pollution. The rise is a bit on the higher end, with an elastic waistband and inner drawstring so you can cinch them up to your liking. The pockets are lined with a polyester mesh for fast drainage, and the right front pocket has an elastic key loop. 

Sizes: XXS-2X | Material: NetPlus post-consumer recycled nylon

Best Water-repellent: Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Shorts

Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Shorts

Eddie Bauer

Why We Love It: Rinse these shorts off after a long, dusty day on the trail or after swimming, and they’ll be dry in no time. 

What to Consider: The side pockets are not quite big enough to store a standard phone.

Made with a durable, water-repellent finish, these shorts are a must for sweaty hikes or activities involving water. They’re designed for high exposure on the trail, but are also great for everyday use. They have UPF 50+ sun protection, moisture-wicking technology, and strategically placed cargo pockets with a secure zippper. With a mid-rise fit, they sit below your natural waist. Pair them with a T-shirt, tank top, or even a nicer button-down shirt, and you’re good to go. These shorts are Bluesign certified, meaning the fabric was made in a sustainable textile factory to keep harmful chemicals out of the air and oceans. Eight colors and a wide range of sizes, including tall and petite, are available. 

Sizes: Regular 0-16, Petite 0-14, Tall 6-18, Plus 18-24 | Material: 94 percent nylon, 6 percent spandex

Best for Long Walks: REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts

REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts

REI

Why We Love It: Stretchy, cool comfort meets durability that works for active and leisurely travelers in these shorts. 

What to Consider: There is only one pocket in the shorts, and it’s a stash pocket in the liner.

Breathable, quick-drying, and great for hot weather, these shorts bring comfort whether you’re running, hiking, walking, or sightseeing around town. They’re made with recycled, four-way stretch polyester that wicks away moisture to help keep you cool while on the move, and a built-in polyester mesh liner also ensures you stay dry. The elastic waistband on these shorts is wide for added comfort, and an inner drawstring cord allows you to tighten the shorts if you wish. These shorts come with UPF 50 sun protection, and the flat seams keep you comfy for hours. Four colors are available. 

Sizes: XS-XL | Material: 86 percent recycled polyester, 14 percent spandex 

Best Size Inclusivity: Columbia PFG Tidal II Shorts

Columbia PFG Tidal II Shorts

Columbia

Why We Love It: Sun protection plus moisture and stain repellency in a plus size design? Yes, please. 

What to Consider: These are designed after board and wind shorts, so the length is a bit longer than other shorts.

Columbia has an extensive plus size clothing section, which makes them an inclusivity winner. The PFG Tidal II shorts are available in standard and plus sizes, and come in lots of prints and patterns to suit any type of traveler. They’re designed to wear on a boat, which means they have UPF 50 sun protection, rain and stain repellency, and are quick-drying and moisture-wicking. They’re described as a hybrid model of board shorts and wind shorts, meaning they’re stretchy with a partial elastic waist with a drawstring cord for comfort. Hand pockets are zippered, so you can safely store your belongings without worrying about losing them.

Sizes: XS-3X | Material: 91 percent polyester, 9 percent elastane

Best for Style: Prana Halle Shorts II

Prana Halle Shorts II

prAna

Why We Love It: The combination of a button snap with stretch comfort gives you a pair of shorts you can move in while also looking nice. 

What to Consider: Fabric can pill near the inseam area.

If you’re looking for function without compromising on style, these shorts from Prana are a great option. The recycled nylon material is stretchy for comfort and performance, while a zip fly and button closure with interior drawstring give the shorts a bit of an elevated look compared to other elastic band shorts. The back pockets have snap closures for extra security, and the front pockets are deeper and more secure than traditional pockets. The shorts are also moisture-wicking, abrasion-resistant, and fair-trade certified with Bluesign approved materials. Four colors available. 

Sizes: 0-16 | Material: 95 percent recycled nylon, 5 percent elastane

Best Lightweight: Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts

Columbia Sandy River Cargo Shorts

Amazon

Why We Love It: These lightweight shorts are super packable, so fold them or roll them in your suitcase without using much space at all. 

What to Consider: The attached belt might be a nuisance if you're climbing, as it could get hooked on a rock or limb.

In lots of vibrant color options, the Sandy River cargo shorts keep you cool with UPF 30 sun protection and quick-drying material, and you can even use them for watersports as well. They’re lightweight and breathable so you’ll feel comfortable wearing them while hiking, fishing, walking, cycling, and more. The partially elastic waistband includes a belt for cinching to your liking, and the classic fit comes with a mid-rise design. There’s one security pocket with a zip closure and two side pockets to store items. 

Sizes: XXS-XXL | Material: 100 percent nylon

Best for Light Activity: Mountain Hardwear Dynama 2 Bermuda Shorts

Mountain Hardwear Dynama 2 Bermuda Shorts

REI

Why We Love It: The wide waistband provides loads of extra comfort to these already stretchy shorts, so you won’t be bothered by a belt or drawstring. 

What to Consider: Only two colors are available.

Stretchy nylon fabric with a touch of elastane means these shorts are super comfy and would work great for walks, sightseeing, fishing, boating, and other casual activities. The stretchy waistband gives you freedom to move, and the water-repellent material helps wick away moisture while quickly drying in case you get the shorts super wet. They also come with UPF 50 sun protection, plus two hand pockets and one zippered pocket to store essentials. They have a mid-rise fit, with the hem hitting just above the knees. Two basic colors (stone green and black) are available, so you can easily pair the shorts with any top. 

Sizes: XS-XL | Material: 94 percent nylon, 6 percent elastane

Most Comfortable: Outdoor Research Women’s Zendo Shorts

Outdoor Research Women’s Zendo Shorts

Outdoor Research

Why We Love It: The wide waistband combined with nylon means you can pull these on without worrying about discomfort. 

What to Consider: Only three colors are available.

Yes, this is another pair of shorts with a wide, comfortable waistband, but they won the most comfortable category because they’re a touch shorter than other pairs, meaning you’ll get more mobility and less sweat with them. The fabric is newly updated and made from eco-friendly recycled nylon, which provides a stretch that is perfect for lounging. It also has UPF 50+ sun protection, is quick-drying, and comes in three color and print options. Take these on the trail, on the cliff, or on the shoreline for a stress-free pair of shorts that keep you more focused on the fun in front of you. 

Sizes: XS-XXL | Material: 94 percent recycled nylon, 6 percent spandex

Best Biker Shorts: Baleaf High-waist Biker Shorts

BALEAF Women's High Waist Biker Shorts

Amazon

Why We Love It: The size range here is phenomenal. 

What to Consider: Size up, as these run small.

Sometimes you need to throw a pair of biker shorts into your suitcase. They’re great for versatility — just put on an oversized tee and you’re good to go for the day, or pair them with a tank for a long run while traveling — and they’re typically super affordable and packable. We love these from Baleaf because of the range of sizes, colors, and the included side pockets that are crucial for holding your phone and essentials while traveling. These biker shorts are also moisture-wicking, breathable, and, of course, stretchy due to the materials. They come in a high rise and hit your thigh about midway, which helps control chafing while on the move. 

Sizes: XS-3X | Material: 87 percent polyester, 13 percent spandex

Tips for Buying Travel Shorts

Materials make a difference

Look for soft, wrinkle-free, and breathable fabrics that will keep you cool while also wicking away moisture. Cotton is generally not ideal for traveling, as it wrinkles and isn’t super breathable. Nylon and polyester are often great choices, while finding a fabric that has a bit of spandex or elastane in it is nice for stretch and comfort. If you’re going to be spending some time outdoors, you’ll also want to look for shorts with a UPF of at least 50 to keep your legs from getting crispy. 

Search for versatility

Lighter is always better if you’re looking for shorts you can use time and again while traveling. Airlines have suitcase weight limits, and if you’re road tripping or doing outdoor activities, you’ll want to be as portable as possible. Having basic colors to pack also helps promote versatility, since they can easily be paired with a host of other wardrobe items. Functional features like pockets also widen the range of activities you can wear your shorts while doing. Two hand pockets are great, while shorts that also have two back pockets and side pockets are better. Look for pocket dimensions if you’re planning on storing your phone in them. If you need to secure your items, consider zippered or buttoned pockets. 

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure writers are experts when it comes to traveling, packing, and adventuring. They’re well-versed in travel products that actually work and make your time adventuring easier. For this article, Amanda Ogle used her personal expertise as a travel writer as well as research to craft the perfect list of women’s travel shorts for your next adventure.

Up Next: The Best Sun-protective Clothing for Women

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