Patagonia Dirt Craft Shorts
Size Tested: Medium
Outer short: 4.5-oz 96% nylon/4% spandex stretch plain weave with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Liner: 5.2-oz 72% polyester/28% spandex stretch interlock knit with breathable 80% nylon/20% spandex power mesh panels. Fabric is bluesign® approved
Low-profile external hook-and-webbing adjustment at waist to fine-tune fit
Drop-in hand pockets and secure zipper pocket at left hip
348 g (12.3 oz)
Made in Vietnam.
Intended Use: Trail riding
Test Location: Whitefish, MT
Test Duration: About 8 rides
Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs
Patagonia makes a lot of apparel for various outdoor adventures, but as of late, there wasn’t any bike specific gear in the lineup. Patagonia now offers a few pieces of bike oriented clothing, including men’s and women’s jerseys and jackets, as well as the Dirt Craft shorts I spent some time in. Marti Bruce recently took a look at the women’s version of the Dirt Craft shorts – you can check out her take here.
Like most of Patagonia’s gear, the Dirt Craft shorts are a high end garment that comes with a high end price tag. And as with all of Patagonia’s gear, part of that price goes towards Patagonia’s support of environmental causes.
In that regard, Patagonia is arguably the industry leader. I will note, however, that as a mountain biker I’m a bit conflicted – a not insignificant chunk of Patagonia’s charitable giving has ended up funding organizations that are working to limit mountain bike access. But this is a review of some shorts, not a political statement, so I’ll leave it at that.
The fit on these shorts has me a little confused. I wear a size Medium in just about everything, and when I pulled on the liners on the Dirt Craft shorts, my first thought was that I’d gotten a lot fatter over the winter than I’d realized – they’re quite snug. The liner is stretchy enough that they’re not uncomfortable, but while I wouldn’t consider myself a large person by any means, it kind of feels like putting a wetsuit on a porpoise every time I pull them on. To add insult to injury, they don’t seem to come up quite high enough in the back – when I’m in riding position, I get a little bit of plumber’s butt peeking out of the liner.
But the outer shorts on the Dirt Craft are a bit loose on me. I’d like to think this is just a charitable attempt by Patagonia to bolster my self image, but I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not the case. I find I have to cinch down the aforementioned hook and loop adjustment to get the waist to fit correctly. And even once I’m adjusted, I still feel like they’re a bit loose when I’m in the saddle and pedaling – it’s like there’s a little bit of extra fabric hanging around in the small of my back (which, I suppose, is arguably a good thing because it covers up my inner-liner induced plumber’s butt).
For reference, most other Medium sized shorts I’ve ridden have fit me without issue. I frequently ride in shorts from Zoic, Specialized, Pearl Izumi and Sugoi, all of which I’m pretty comfortable in.
Patagonia says that the “fit of the outer short offers versatility for hiking.” And I’d say that’s about right – the outer shorts kind of feel like they’re cut for hiking. But unfortunately, I find that fit doesn’t work as well for biking – if I wanted hiking shorts, I could buy some from Patagonia for about ⅓ the price of the Dirt Crafts.
So, like I said, for what’s supposed to be a bike short, I’m a bit confused by the fit. They’re not uncomfortable per se, but the cut of the outer short could be improved for riding, and the fit of the inner liner compared to the outer short seems conflicted.
In terms of length, the Dirt Craft are at the short end of average. My Mediums have an 11.5” inseam, which sits a bit above my knee (I have a 32” inseam”).
Features and Construction
The Dirt Craft shorts have a few clever features, most of which work decently in the real world.
First, the outer shorts have a DWR coating on them, and while it’s nothing that’ll keep you dry for a serious rain, it’s nice for shrugging off spray from mud puddles. While I expect that the DWR will eventually wear off, thus far it’s held up to ~8 washings without any noticeable deterioration.
Patagonia also made an effort to avoid using velcro anywhere on the shorts (presumably because it tends to wear out over time). The main closure is a zipper with a normal button and buttonhole, and Patagonia made the button large enough so it’s easy to use with gloves on.
The waist adjustment employs a novel hook and loop arrangement – and I don’t mean hook and loop as in “generic term for velcro.” I mean a metal hook that attaches to webbing loops. The only downside here is that they seem to always come unhooked in the wash, so you have to reset them every time you clean the shorts.
The material on the outer short is lightweight and quite stretchy. While the Dirt Craft shorts don’t have any zippered vents, I didn’t find them to be overly warm.
The inner liner is high quality and conforms well. The liner itself is a lightweight, very stretchy mesh. The chamois isn’t as nice as you’d find in a high end road short, but it’s shaped and finished well, as you’d expect from a higher end mountain bike short.
My only complaint here is the liners don’t have any silicone grippy strip at the bottom, which means they don’t mate as well with leg / knee warmers.
As someone who tries to ride without a pack whenever possible, I tend to cram a bunch of crap into my pockets. The Dirt Craft shorts have three pockets (two front pockets at the waist, and one zippered pocket on the left thigh). The zippered pocket is fine and can fit as much crap as you’d realistically want banging around on your thigh, but the two hand pockets are quite shallow, which means that pretty much anything I put in them interferes with my pedaling motion – if they were and inch or two deeper, or even if they were just placed a little more to the sides of the shorts, I think they’d work a lot better.
The Dirt Craft shorts are certainly well constructed, and Patagonia has incorporated a few slick features. But despite that, the shallow pockets and somewhat odd fit mean these aren’t my favorite shorts in the closet. That said, I know others that are completely in love with these shorts, so your mileage may vary, depending on your body type. I would, however, suggest trying them on before you throw down the money for them.