The Royal Robbins Backcountry short ($55) is one of those shorts that when you take them out of the bag and hold them up you think, “Um…Don’t think so.” Then you put them on and shout “Damn my doubting, pessimistic self to eternal Hell!” from the mountain tops.

My initial aversion was due to their length. The size four that I tested has a five-inch inseam and I wasn’t sure how I would pull that off as a hiking short. Specifically for an eight-day backpacking trip in Scotland this summer. So I gave them a full-go trial period on three long day hikes in California in April.

Royal Robbins Backcountry Short contemplates Big Sur while testing out the reinforced ass fabric

Royal Robbins Backcountry Short testing the integrity of the reinforced ass fabric above Big Sur

What I liked

  • Pockets. Really, really plentiful in the pocket department. To be clear I did not fill all six pockets because I was carrying a daypack. But if you’re an ultra-lighter and carry either the most minimalist of packs or no pack at all then you will have a pocket for just about everything you need on the trail for the day. The two rear pockets are big enough to hold trail maps and are easily accessible without dislocating a shoulder. There is also a secured zippered pocket for something small like a key or ID. But literally a key or ID. No way it holds a cell phone.
  • Quick-drying. Why is this good? A few reasons. People have been known to fall into rivers. Ultra-light backpackers don’t like to pack extra shorts so being able to rinse off the daily filth accumulated from hiking a trail all day and have them air-dried and ready to wear quickly. I’m not an ultra-lighter and I will be packing an extra pair of shorts on my Scotland trip. I need something that I can wash in a B&B bathroom sink and hang in the window to dry so I don’t have to shell out ten quid for a laundromat.
  • Fit is true to size and allows for plenty of mobility. I wear a size four and the Backcountry short size four was the right size. On my California trip I was maneuvering around cliffs and rocks perched high about the Pacific and the Backcountry shorts did not restrict or impair mobility. They will be a little stiff in the legs at first but after you wear them and move about for an hour or so they will soften up.
  • Royal Robbins Backcountry short strolling the sands of Big Sur

    Royal Robbins Backcountry short strolling the sands of Big Sur

    Wrinkle-resistant. You can take these out of the bottom of your backpack, shake them out, put them on then hit a brew pub and not look like you rolled out of a dirty laundry basket.

  • Quality fabric. Durable. Made for many trails of all terrains!
  • Reinforced ass fabric. How often do you stop and sit on a rock, tree stump, log or on the ground for a break? Or lose your footing on a descent and skidded the rest of the way down on your rear? Royal Robbins is a bit more eloquent in this term, though. They call it a “double layer seat”.


What I didn’t like

  • Adjustable waist is just a gratuitous add-on. Yes, it cinches the waist in for a better fit but the end result was two big puckers on my hips. Not a good look for anyone.

Final thoughts

The Royal Robbins Backcountry short is on its way to Scotland in July, aye. I am confident that the amply-sized rear pockets will hold a sheep-stomach full of haggis for my trail lunch.