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Mountain Hardwear J Tree Short

rated 5.0 of 5 stars
photo: Mountain Hardwear J Tree Short hiking short

A super comfortable hiking short for hot and dry conditions. Excellent fit and breathability, when you’re just trying to stay cool. A good-looking pair of shorts which transition from trail to town with ease. I wear them most every day during the summer.

Pros

  • Exceptional fit
  • Very breathable
  • Sturdy construction
  • Great looking on the trail
  • Great looking post-hike at the winery or brewery (no “cargo” look)

Cons

  • The cotton rip-stop fabric will not keep you warm in damp/wet conditions
  • Might not be stretchy enough for some people
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We’ve all had it hammered into us: “Cotton kills on the backcountry.” When it gets wet, it lacks few insulating properties, and can lead to hypothermia. But I would like to propose the idea, that in certain hot and dry conditions, where there is no chance of precipitation, cotton can be just right.

I originally bought these because I was looking for a cool pair of casual shorts for wine tasting, hanging out on the patio, you get the idea. But one very warm summer’s day, I had planned a long day hike in the Sierra Foothills near my home, and I decided to give these a try (the decision was also aided by the zipper blowing out on my nylon Arc’teryx shorts). The weather forecast called for temps in the mid 80s, with O% chance of precipitation, so I thought it was a pretty safe bet. 

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Good, comfortable fit

FIT: I’ve had really good luck with Mountain Hardwear’s sizing in regard to shorts and pants, and these are no exception. They describe these as “Standard Fit,” and they fit my size 38 waist beautifully. The legs are neither too baggy nor too snug.

The men’s J Tree shorts come in ten waist size options (28"-34", 36", 38", 40", 42"), with three inseam lengths (7"-9"-11").  I purchased shorts in both the 9" and 11" inseam.

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J Tree shorts 11" inseam

Comfort & Breathability:  The cotton ripstop fabric, while not super soft, feels good against the skin. The fabric is very breathable, and I never felt myself overheating because of them, even on the hottest days (80s-90s). In general, I found the fabric to be much more breathable than the typical synthetic fabrics in other hiking shorts I’ve used. While the fabric did get a little damp in the nether region on the hottest days, I didn’t experience any more chafing than I do with synthetic fabrics. They stayed much dryer than I anticipated.

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Cotton ripstop fabric

I normally pair these with Smartwool merino briefs when wearing them for hiking. 

MHW describes these as having “Seat gusset construction for ample mobility with harness compatibility.” Since I don’t climb, I can’t speak to that, but the shorts have plenty of room for movement, even on rocky Sierra steps.

Pockets: The pants have two hip pockets on the front, one zippered pocket on the right rear, and a non-zip pocket on the left rear. These shorts do not have a techy “cargo pants” look, which makes the transition from trail to town really easy. The roomy  pockets are made from a soft 65% polyester/35% cotton blend, which feels good against the skin on the

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Rear pockets
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Pocket from the inside

Construction & Durability: Workmanship is first rate, with good clean stitching. The waist button is an interesting feature… instead of being stitched into the waist with thread, it is held by a strip of fabric. I’ll be interested to see how this holds up over time, but after a summer of use, it is still solid. 

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Waist button

The main body of these shorts is their lightweight “Summer Stretch Ripstop (96% rip-stop cotton, with 4% elastane). While the inclusion of elastane makes the fabric slightly stretchy, it's not a huge amount of stretch. By comparison, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi line has 14% spandex in the fabric and is very stretchy. However, this was not a dealbreaker for me, but it might be for folks who like that extra bit of give in their shorts.

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Easy to care for

The waist accommodates a standard belt and has a zip fly (metal zipper). 

These shorts are machine washable (cold water/gentle cycle; tumble dry low). 

The shorts come in five different colors: stone green, dark storm, sandblast crag camo print, trail dust, and light zinc. I was so pleased with the first pair, I bought a couple more in different colors. 

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Staying cool

Conclusions: While I wouldn’t wear these on a multi-day backpack trip in the high Sierra or Cascades, where the weather can be unpredictable, they are great for all day hikes in warm and dry summer conditions, where precipitation is not going to be a factor. They transition from trail to town with ease, and are super comfortable, to the point that they have become my favorite summer shorts.

Note: Mountain Hardwear also makes two full-trouser versions of these: the J Tree Pants and J Tree Belted Pants. Unfortunately, there are no equivalent for women.

 

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Sierracanon in Paris (Church of St Eustache)

 

Review update: I took two pair of these on a summer trip to England and France, and they worked out great.. I also purchased a pair of the long trouser version of them for the trip, and wore them a LOT. Despite their being cotton, the fabric is lightweight enough that they dried quickly from the rainstorms we had a few times during our trip. It’s too bad that MHW seems to be discontinuing them!

 

 

 

Background

Summer hikes in warm to hot and dry conditions in the Tahoe Sierra (Desolation and Mokelumne wilderness) and Foothills near my home, temps in the mid 80s - 90s. Wine tasting. Pub hopping. Hanging out around the backyard firepit with friends. Three weeks in England and France in the summer.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $35

About the Author

David Link is a cathedral musician, hiker, backpacker, road cyclist, husband, grandpa, dad, and coffee/wine/beer drinker (though not all at once). His favorite places to hike are the High Sierra, Southern Cascades, and Trinity Alps, and he has begun exploring the Pacific Northwest. David climbed Kilimanjaro via the Western Breach in 2004, and thru-hiked the High Sierra Trail in 2010.

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Specs

Price MSRP: $70.00
Current Retail: $21.43-$5,899.00
Historic Range: $12.98-$5,899.00
Reviewers Paid: $35.00
Weight 4.8 oz / 162 gsm
Inseams 7 in / 9 in / 11 in
Material Summer Stretch Ripstop (96% Cotton, 4% Elastane)
Uses Rock Climbing, Backpacking / Hiking, Casual / Travel, Camping
Product Details from Mountain Hardwear »

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