Now that springtime is here, it’s almost time to put the long pants in the back of the drawer and assess your inventory of running shorts. If you’re an ultrarunner, it’s also time to start thinking about what specific clothing items you’ll wear on the start line of your upcoming events.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to test two new shorts from Patagonia – one of which isn’t technically new, as I’ll explain shortly – and they’re both quite impressive, but distinctive enough to meet a variety of preferences. Brief reviews of each follow, with purchase information at the end of the post.
Patagonia Strider shorts
A couple of months ago Patagonia introduced their Strider short , a lightweight option (total weight is 116g / 4.1 oz) that is great for warm days. Fabric construction primarily consists of a thin, breezy polyester mesh that feels super comfortable against the skin, with vertical mesh insets on the sides that provide even more ventilation. The cut is sufficient to allow complete range of motion, and the fabric has a slight stretch component just in case you need a few extra degrees of movement. I tested the 7” inseam version, but if you want to go even lighter there are 5” and 3” versions available. (Trust me – you don’t want to see photos of me in a 3-inch short.) They come in five color options if you want to buy several pairs and rotate your look throughout the week as well.
7" inseams on a 9" tan line ... or as I like to call it, geek sexy.
Both the liner and exterior fabric are highly effective at moisture transfer, and dry very quickly if you happen to get caught in a brief downpour (it is spring, after all). There is a DWR coating on these shorts, but they don’t resist moisture for very long in the aforementioned spring shower. One quirk I found was with the internal drawcord, which is continuous around the waist. I always find these difficult to manage, so I end up cutting them in front – but then you’re left with ends of the cord that are very short and prone to slipping back into the waistband.
Strider waistband; original (uncut) drawstring at bottom
From a performance standpoint, the Striders are pretty much problem-free, with no chafing, excess moisture, or other discomfort during outings in excess of 20 miles. When the weather gets toasty and you’ve got a long trail day ahead, they are great shorts to reach for.
Patagonia Nine Trails shorts, in gray
The other short I tested is an old reliable favorite that was part of my go-to race gear throughout 2011: Patagonia’s Nine Trails shorts , which tend to sell out online when they’re released each year. The 2012 version is now available in four colors at Patagonia stores and the company website , and I haven’t seen any reason to take it out of my A-lineup heading into this year’s ultras.
Nine Trails in black, on an early-morning 30-miler
Some of the things I like about the Nine Trails may not be for everybody; at 184g (6.5 oz), it’s slightly heavier than other shorts I own, with a longer-than-usual 8” inseam. However, this is an ideal combination for me during ultras: the longer inseam gives me better sun protection during the day, and the thicker material provides better insulation during the night. Fabric construction features a highly breathable stretch-woven polyester - made from recycled plastics, so it’s green! - with a 4-way stretch component from a small dose of spandex. These shorts also have a DWR finish and wick moisture very efficiently from the soft microfiber liner as well as the main panels.
Air-flow polyester mesh crotch, dual reinforced seam construction
What I appreciate most about the Nine Trails is that they are comfortable enough to wear for 30 consecutive hours without chafing or irritation, and durable enough to stand up to hundreds of miles of training and racing. In my experience, the first point of weakness in a pair of shorts is the crotch area, usually due to the seams unraveling, but occasionally due to pilling or thinning of the fabric from excess heat or friction. Patagonia combats this by using a fast-drying Air Flow polyester mesh for maximal ventilation, and reinforced seam assembly for enhanced durability. After more than 18 months of high-mileage running, my Nine Trails shorts show no signs of breakdown, and there’s no reason to suspect the 2012 version is any less dependable.