A Tale of Two Pockets: Summer MTB Shorts Roundup

Five pairs of summer mountain bike shorts put to the test.

What is the perfect number of pockets for a baggy mountain bike short? Exactly how much storage space do you need outside of your hydration pack?

Keep this question in mind as you read this summer mountain bike shorts roundup, and once you’ve analyzed this diverse lineup of five different pairs of shorts, be prepared to cast your vote in the poll at the end of the article.

This roundup covers the gamut of baggy short styles. From ultra-minimalist shorts with one tiny pocket to full-on cargo shorts, and from these five picks you can choose the exact right short for you.

But what’s the perfect short weight? What’s the perfect number of pockets? What’s the perfect cut? That all depends… read on for “A Tale of Two Pockets.” 

Dakine Boundary Short

Number of Pockets: 1

This roundup is organized from shorts with the fewest pockets to pairs with the most, and the Dakine Boundary Short starts things off with… a whopping one pocket! That’s right, this pair of shorts sports one singular, minimalist, low-profile zip thigh pocket for storing… not much of anything. The pocket is so small that, despite my aversion to large-screen smartphones, I still couldn’t fit my modest 2020 iPhone SE (complete with Lifeproof case) inside.

The Boundary short is specifically designed to be a lightweight, breathable short for long-distance riding with hours and hours of pedaling and thousands of feet of vert—both up and down. The “Airflow material” provides visible mesh breathability that helps keep riders cool, even on the longest ride.

With the short hitting below the knee (at least for me), it’s a nice change of pace to see an endurance-oriented short that doesn’t feel like a cross country kit from the 90s. Props to Dakine for finding a way to cross casual mountain bike styling with a design that could comfortably be worn on a dirty century.

Note that while the Boundary is ultra-minimalist, Dakine does produce an entire line of shorts with a variety of options. Check out the Syncline for a heavier weight short with a few more pockets—this was the short that I chose to purchase earlier this summer with my own cash money.

MSRP: $90. Available online at Amazon and other retailers

Pactimo Tellus Shorts

Number of Pockets: 2-4

Pactimo’s design philosophy feels heavily inspired by the mountain bike race scene across the entire line of products that they provided for testing. Consequently, the Tellus is arguably even more minimalist than the Dakine Boundary shorts, despite having 1-3 more pockets (depending on how you count them).

The cut of the Tellus is much tighter than the boundary, and the short hits just above the knee for a classic XC styling. However, that’s not to say it’s uncomfortable; the short’s material is quite flexible, and the light weight of the fabric feels delightful during the heat of summer. I anticipate the Tellus to become my new go-to short for gravel biking.

The Tellus features two zippered side pockets that can each fit my iPhone. To get to that “4” number, you’ll have to include the two mesh storage pockets on the back of the waistband, but aside from an energy gel or two, those pockets ain’t hauling shit. Again, keeping with the race-inspired philosophy, perhaps those pockets are designed precisely for Gu packets. 

MSRP: $120. Available at Pactimo.com.

Fox Ranger Short Camo

Number of Pockets: 3

The Fox Ranger Short consistently hits the top of Singletracks’ best-of gear lists as a perennially-popular baggy short. Part of this popularity is due to the wide number of Ranger models available—so many, in fact, that I had a hard time finding the exact version I tested on Fox’s website. But a quick trip to the search engine revealed that Google does, in fact, know all.

The model tested here features two open hip pockets and one zippered stash pocket that barely fits an iPhone. The zippered pocket is secreted away on the side of the short, keeping it out of the way and allowing the short to flex as you work the bike down the trail. If you need more pockets than this, the Ranger Camo Short also comes in a cargo configuration, for all of your storage needs.

The Ranger’s fabric runs a fine middle line between lightweight and breathable, and durable and protective. Unlike the minimalist shorts mentioned above, I have no doubt that the Ranger could take a tumble or two and brush the hits right off.

Reaching right below the knee, this short will hit a sweet spot for most mountain bikers.

Bonus: the listed MSRP includes a chamois liner.

MSRP: $99.95. Available online at Fox Racing and other retailers.

Pactimo Terrain Shorts

Number of Pockets: 4

The Terrain maintains the slimmer, athletic, race-oriented cut found throughout the entire line of gear that Pactimo provided for test, but this short will fulfill the needs of all-mountain and enduro riders. Gone is the lightweight fabric of the Tellus, replaced by “durable, hard-wearing fabrics,” according to Pactimo. Indeed, this is the hardiest-feeling short in this lineup, so if off-the-bike adventures happen to you quite frequently, consider the Terrain short.

If the tapered leg of the race fit is too tight, zip open the leg-zip system for increased breathability and a more relaxed fit thanks to a mesh panel.

The short features two open hip pockets and two zippered side pockets in a very similar style to the Ranger. The unique design integration of the leg mesh opening and the zippered hip pockets into Pactimo’s new dual-direction leg-zip system is pretty slick, helping you look that much better in the backcountry.

MSRP: $100. Available online at Pactimo.com.

Club Ride HiFi Short

Number of Pockets: 8

Club Ride has always prided themselves on producing mountain bike apparel that can easily be worn on the street without attracting any strange sideways glances, and the HiFi Short is no exception. The styling of this short is almost just like a casual cargo short, with a few features to specialize it for mountain biking. The addition of built-in waist adjustment, a gusseted crotch, stretch panels in the right places, and RideLight reflective accents turn this into a mountain bike short.

But the best part for those who like to carry all the things with them, and maybe ditch the pack?

8 pockets.

That’s right, this short features a whopping eight individual pockets! You’ll find two front and two rear hand pockets, two zippered side pockets, and two stretch mesh pockets. I found the zippered side pocket, a la cargo shorts style, to come in hand and be very comfortable to slip a phone into—unlike many of the other shorts in this review. But even the hand pockets are deep enough to accommodate a phone comfortably… just maybe not while pedaling. 

MSRP: $99.95. Available online from at Club Ride website.

Final Thoughts

After cycling through these shorts several times, I personally find myself coming back again and again to the Fox Ranger for general mountain biking. The cut and the weight provide the perfect balance between baggy and casual, without the weight or heat of some other shorts. For hiking and generally kicking around town, the Club Ride HiFi has been pulled from the suitcase very often. It rides on the body just as well while walking down the trail as it does pedaling up a mountain.

Finally, the Pactimo Tellus stands out from the rest with a radically different fit and styling… but the ultralight weight makes me want to shed the hydration pack and pedal miles and miles in this short with just a couple of bottles on the frame. I think this will be the perfect short for some big gravel biking adventures.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for… cast your vote!

Check out our mountain bike shorts buyers guide and our picks for the best mountain bike shorts.