Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

spartan wanderer

A Review: PrAna Stretch Zion Shorts

If you’re like me and enjoy the freedom of breezing through airports with as little as possible in tow, then you know that every ounce counts. Quality gear is important, as is not getting too carried away with buying it. This philosophy creates an unfortunate conundrum for my monthly reviews - I’m running out of stuff to review! More on the future of this segment later…

I’ve owned this week’s piece of kit for almost 3 years now and for some reason, it’s been off of my review radar. I suppose that’s just what you need in a reliable item. It does its job so well that it’s merged with your daily life and you don’t even think about it anymore. I’ve worn my PrAna Stretch Zion shorts in several countries, on several forms of transport, and in several different environments. They are vying for the title of the hardest-wearing clothing I own, and they barely show it. Here’s why.

Good form

Multifunctional clothing is a must for light travel, so I’m always looking for something that holds up well but can be acceptably worn in many different situations. These shorts are a 97% Nylon/3% Spandex blend, and anytime something is mostly Nylon, it’s nearly impossible to not look at it as a piece of technical clothing. The Zions are definitely that - they wouldn’t hold up as well as they do if they weren’t - but they also do a well enough job of remaining casual. However, shorts are in a weird category of being existentially casual. There are several situations where they aren’t appropriate no matter how hot it is. They are far enough away from dad’s hiking shorts to be worn in any shorts situation while still maintaining the durability and functionality you need in good hiking shorts. 

Good function

Style is important, but I’m not dropping any cash on something that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Good travel shorts need three things: sensible pockets, breathability, and some amount of water resistance. On the first note, I don’t like cargo shorts. The way the pockets are designed both look bad and become bulky with any amount of weight. The Stretch Zions have normal, but deep pockets, along with a dual zip pocket on the bottom left for valuables. I think this is just right to maintain comfort and provide a safe space for things while moving through a city. These ventilate well and will dry very quickly in direct sunlight. I’ve been swimming in these and out at dinner in them in the same day. The versatility in these shorts is wholly in the spirit of travel and active living.

Comfort

PrAna’s Stretch Zion shorts are a favorite of climbers due to their wide range of mobility and the extra bit of stretch from that 3% Spandex. You can feel PrAna’s vision for these when doing pretty much anything. I’ve been swimming in these, rode bikes, ran at a dead sprint, climbed trees, and partied, which brings a new meaning to “feeling good all the time”. If I need to do work outside during the summer, these are my go-to shorts. The breathability mentioned above allows you to do some pretty backbreaking work without becoming a complete sweaty man-beast. These are just right for being outside and on the go, whether it’s a walk through the city, a hike off the beaten track, or a spontaneous dip in a public fountain to get extra drinking money (cue Always Sunny music).

Durability

These shorts have spent most of their life in China, which means eating with chopsticks, which means I am an authority on dropping and spilling things on myself. It doesn’t matter what disgusting filth I subject these things to; it all just seems to roll off. Travel is a messy business, and the Zions are up to the challenge of making you appear clean when you are really, really not clean at all. But sometimes it’s not the spicy hot pot that’s assaulting your shorts; it’s the surface of a boulder. After miles of hiking in these, I am not exaggerating when I say I can’t find a single loose thread or scuff. In other words, buy these yesterday. 

The Future of Gear Reviews

So, as I said above, I’m running out of stuff to review and (shill out my Amazon link for). Instead of doing a 1,000-word review on a power outlet I really like, I think I will start grouping some of my smaller items that I get a lot of use out of into a sort of group review. I’ll still do longer form reviews on bigger buys, but only as I get them and have had time to test them out. This way we still get regular reviews and occasionally more thorough reviews!