Note: Filson provided this item for review.
When I first saw these, I thought they looked interesting, but was about to move on when I noticed the fabric. Then as I started reading about it more, and looked into Birdwell, I knew I had to check these shorts out. Luckily I was able to get a review pair, and while not perfect, these are a pretty amazing pair of technical shorts.
These are made form two primary materials “SurfStretch” and “SurfNyl” which are both Birdwell creations. The SurfStretch makes up the body of the shorts, while the SurfNyl is used to reinforce the seat of the shorts. Filson lists the composition of this as “90% spandex/10% nylon + nylon”, I didn’t typo that, I promise. It’s 90% spandex.
But they are not tight fitting — this is what caught my attention. The material (as you might guess) is very stretchy, very smooth, and have a decently matte appearance to them. The hand feel is great, they feel like most heavier nylon shorts for the most part, with a somewhat heavy drape to the material. Not at all what I was expecting in a good way. It’s and unique material for sure, and well executed here.
Fit & Style
These are really a hybrid short, enough style that you can wear them casually, but enough performance you can be very active in them — including surfing. Having said that, I don’t think they really give off a strong “board short” vibe, and shorts are not overly dressy to begin with. From a style standpoint, even with the cargo pocket, they look solid and clean.
The fit is what I would call tailored, not at all baggy, but not tight. With an 8.25” inseam they will feel shorter for those who like a longer 9-10” inseam, but the short inseam gives them a less casual/hiking/boardshort vibe. Those who prefer a shorter-short are likely to find the single cargo pocket a non-starter to begin with.
I am not a cargo shorts fan, but these don’t give me that vibe at all, even though it looks very apparent in the product photos, in person it is not a billowing cargo pocket. It’s more there ‘just in case’ and for ‘style’ than anything else.
Let’s talk about the hand pockets though, I am rather particular about those. On these shorts they are a rather large spacer mesh, with a relatively short depth to them. I was very worried at the start that these would be the type of pockets to dump out everything you place in them the moment you sit down. That’s simply not the case. They are not my favorite, but they never lost a single thing I placed in them.
The only other attributes of this are the button fly, which either concerns you are doesn’t — it is not a normal choice but it works fine in practice here. On the side of the shorts are cinch straps, whereas most swimming shorts will offer a string cinch waistband, these have two nylon webbing straps on each side. They run through a ladder lock and you pull to tighten. When loose, which is all that I generally need the metal ladder locks tend to protrude a bit too much for my liking. Once snugged down that problem goes away.
Ok, let’s talk about the performance claims:
- Quick-Dry: yes, as you might expect these dry pretty quick. I would not say fast, but quick is the right word for it. Some shorts dry much faster, but these do not take so long to dry that there is any issue with them.
- Lightweight: I don’t see it here. The are decently heavy weight material. That’s not really a bad thing either, but if we are talking about overall weight, they are also not the lightest shorts I have.
- Roomy for Beach/Hiking: yes, the cut is fantastic to give you the room you need.
- Unparalleled Freedom of Motion: yes again, 90% spandex will do that for you. There’s very little restriction of movement, in fact I can’t think of a time I really felt as though there was.
- Durable: so far, yes. The material seems to be holding up well to washing, and generally wearing about.
I started a day by putting on these shorts, and I went for a workout (rucking) in the 85°F humid weather — the shorts performed great for that activity. Then I went straight into the yard in the now 90°F humid weather and started working about in the bushes to prune them and pull weeds — again they worked great without issue. Then I jumped straight into our pool to cool off, with the shorts on, and swam around. I got out, wiped down some of the chairs by the pool and let the shorts dry — all good.
I have other shorts which say that can do that, but none that work this well. They breath decently well, but are roomy enough that other ventilation occurs. They shed water and keep it from building in the pockets really well when swimming. And the cinch straps work amazingly well when you want to go jump into water, as you can quickly pull them tight and they hold the shorts really well.
At the end of that, despite me getting them dirty, they looked ready to wear back out to the next task.
I’m a big fan of these shorts. They are a little quirky and might not fit every fashion need out there. But if a single short which can do most things you need from shorts, these are right up there with the best. At $140, they are not cheap, but they certainly offer a very unique value proposition.
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