This photo shows the author wearing KUHL Renegade Shorts while crossing a creek on a log outside while hiking during the testing and review process.

KÜHL Shorts Review: Renegade, Radikl, Ramblr & More

- Buying Guide -

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As we head into shorts season, you need to get KÜHL shorts on your radar. Why? KÜHL offers a wide range of outdoor adventure shorts, as well as shorts that transition seamlessly into everyday wear. Better yet, many KÜHL styles let you choose the length of inseam you want.

I’ve been wearing KÜHL pants and shorts for years. I appreciate their great fit, excellent style, and superb built-in smartphone pockets. I’ve personally purchased more than a dozen pairs of pants and shorts over the years. When I think about it, I’ve spent more than a 1,000 days in KÜHL pants or shorts so far. When I’m not wearing KÜHL pants or shorts, it’s likely that I’m swimming in a true board short, skiing, or testing some other brand of outdoor apparel. Other brands are starting to catch up to KÜHL’s sweet active outdoor vibe, size, and performance options . . . but the point remains: I wear a lot of KÜHL.

This image shows the author wearing KUHL shorts as he hikes down a steep trail while wearing a backpack.
The KÜHL RENEGADE Shorts, like most KÜHL shorts, use stretch fabric blends that provide excellent comfort and agility.

My favorite KÜHL shorts are the RENEGADE, which I tend to wear most often, along with the RENEGADE Cargo version, which has more traditional cargo pockets.

To get us a closer look at a few new short styles, KÜHL sent Man Makes Fire some new review units — the AMBUSH Cargo Short, SILENCR Kargo Short, and SHIFT AMPHIBIA Short. After testing the shorts while hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, rafting, biking, backyard barbecuing and tooling around town, this is what we learned:

Table of Contents:

Why choose KÜHL Shorts?

There are a lot of great competitive outdoor shorts available these days, but KÜHL offers many styles and inseam length options. At the time of this writing, KÜHL offered 19 different pairs of men’s shorts, most of which come in several, if not many, colors. When you add in the inseam choices, most guys can find the fit they’ll appreciate most.

For example, if you want to show off your thighs, you can choose an 8″ inseam. Or, if you like to kick it old-school, go with a 12″ inseam. Or settle for the middle ground with a 10″ inseam! We’re big fans. With KÜHL, you can dial in the waist and the inseam . . . and get the look you want.

This review photo shows the author testing the KUHL Shift Amphibia Short while whitewater rafting.
The KÜHL Shift Amphibia Shorts shed water and dry fast.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot more to KÜHL than sizes and colors. All of the KÜHL shorts we’ve worn over the last six years have been rugged. They lasted through summers of backpacking, huckleberry picking, fishing, camping, barbecuing, rafting, hiking, and swimming with ease. It takes us many wearings, many washings, and usually at least two years to wear out so much as a pocket stitch. Even so, stitch failures are rare and we’ve yet to see a button or velcro patch fail.

Maybe we’re just lucky — but we don’t think so. KÜHL clothing is well-made and it lasts.

As for fit, KÜHL shorts rank as some of the most comfortable shorts we ever wear. Stretch fabric blends are part of the reason, but KÜHL shorts include gusseted crotch designs. A gusseted crotch is more complicated to sew, but the result is better freedom of movement and comfort — no matter what you’re doing. (Incidentally, gusseted crotches are another design element that contributes to KÜHL’s durability. You won’t blow out your KÜHL shorts while scrambling over a deadfall on the hiking trail.)

 

 

Don’t forget the smartphone pockets!

This review testing photo shows how a large smartphone easily fits into a KUHL smartphone pocket.
Almost all KÜHL shorts include a dedicated smartphone pocket. Even large smartphones fit. The iPhone 11 Pro Max with a case pictured above will fit completely into the SHIFT AMPHIBIA pocket shown here.

Last of all, KÜHL includes built-in smartphone pockets in nearly all of its shorts and pants. Some of these pockets are essentially stealth pockets that don’t jump out at you. Most of them are positioned on the outer sides of KÜHL shorts and pants, which makes them easy to get to. Plus, these side smartphone pockets do a great job of taking the weight so you barely notice your smartphone.

Best KÜHL Shorts

KÜHL makes a lot of shorts — 19 different styles, which are also offered in multiple inseam length options. Some of these styles might fit your interests, personal style or particular needs, but these are our favorites for 2022:

RENEGADE Short Review

This photo shows the men's KUHL Renegade Shorts.
The KÜHL RENEGADE Shorts have a trim profile but feature cool ‘stealth’ cargo pockets for versatility.

The KÜHL RENEGADE Shorts are our all-time favorite KÜHL shorts because they’re a cargo short that doesn’t look like a typical cargo short. The zippered cargo pockets are set on the side seams, which gives you a trimmer profile that looks fantastic. To make sure the RENEGADE doesn’t look like a basic chino short, KÜHL adds a stylish seam stitch across the upper thighs to bring a bit of subtle contrast to the front. On the right side, KÜHL uses a 3D drop-in pocket, which we tend to use with our smartphone when we’re not super active or are accessing our phone frequently. When it’s time to get after it, we swap the smartphone over to the left side smartphone pocket, which is a bit more secure. The fabric is 95% DURALUX nylon with 5% spandex for stretch. All-in-all, the KÜHL RENEGADE Shorts are super comfortable and are available in nine color options with three different inseam options. Very highly recommended.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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KÜHL RENEGADE Shorts
Benefits
Excellent overall design
Durable lightweight, breathable, stretch fabric blend
You get 8 total pockets without adding bulk from typical cargo pockets
Drawbacks
Front thigh cargo pockets aren't traditional exterior cargo pockets (if you want that)
4.8

AMBUSH Cargo Short Review

This photo shows the men's KÜHL AMBUSH Cargo Short.
Want pockets? The KÜHL AMBUSH Cargo Shorts have you covered.

The KÜHL AMBUSH Cargo Short delivers a relaxed outdoor vibe. They have a slightly canvas look, but the fabric blend is far more modern: You get 68% cotton, 29% nylon and 3% spandex. The result is a unique, rugged feel that’s surprisingly lightweight and breathable. We like the baggy zippered cargo pockets. They offer great gear security. Comes in seven color options with two sweet faded camo colors. One more thing: We’re not sure what the little piggyback pocket on the left is for but it looks cool.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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SILENCR KARGO Short Review

This photo shows the men's KÜHL SILENCR Shorts.
The SILENCR Shorts feature a unique fabric weave that somehow feels rugged but also surprisingly refined.

The KÜHL SILENCR KARGO Shorts are particularly interesting — they have a similar design to the RENEGADE with stealth front thigh cargo pockets. The main difference from the RENEGADE is the fabric. The SILENCR KARGO Short is made from a durable ripstop REFLEX fabric that delivers 4-way mechanical stretch. In addition, the fabric has a bit of crosshatch sort of texture to it that makes it seem extra rugged . . . and somehow a bit luxurious and refined. The Grey Camo — pictured above — reveals the texture. In our Raven color option review pair, the fabric is rugged enough for the woods but nuanced enough to wear out to dinner on a hot summer night. The SILENCR KARGO is the kind of short where you buy the Grey Camo for camping and hiking but also grab a smooth color pair for anything and everything around town.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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SHIFT AMPHIBIA Short Review

This photo shows the men's KÜHL SHIFT AMPHIBIA Short.
The SHIFT AMPHIBIA Shorts look like common hiking shorts but they’re also water-ready and dry quickly.

The KÜHL SHIFT AMPHIBIA Short is a fast-drying breathable short that’s perfect for guys who plan to get wet but want something more versatile than traditional board shorts. You can wear them with a belt, but KÜHL also includes an interior drawstring so you don’t have to. I tested the SHIFT AMPHIBIA Shorts on multiple whitewater rafting trips and they held up — handy with pockets but fast drying, too. The fabric has a surprisingly classy weave. It’s made with 54% nylon, 41% polyester and 5% spandex and is super comfortable. The only drawback is that it doesn’t come in a truly bright and bold swimwear-style color. On the other hand, the KÜHL color palette makes it quite versatile.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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RADIKL Short Review

This photo shows the men's KÜHL RADIKL Shorts.
The RADIKL Shorts are built like the popular RADIKL Pants — with super stretch panels for agility and comfort.

If you’re a fan of the lightweight RADIKL Pants, you’ll like the KÜHL RADIKL Short. The shorts version has the same unique fabric and panel construction that delivers so much comfort. Like the pants, the shorts have a main ENDURO fabric construction of 68% cotton, 29% nylon, and 3% spandex. The real genius, however, comes from a knit fabric nylon panel that has 12% spandex for extra stretch. KÜHL places these panels in strips down the outside and inside of the legs, as well as in a section above the rear pockets. The result is a short that feels like lightweight cotton but fits and moves better than straight cotton. KÜHL offers the popular RAKIKL Short in eight color options in 8-, 10- and 12-inch inseam length versions.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

*Note: Don’t confuse the RADIKL with the ‘FREE RADIKL’ version. They both primarily use the same ENDURO fabric, but the FREE RADIKL has a slightly different style that has fewer seams, no metal rivets, trimmer pockets, and smaller, subdued extra stretchy panels. Choose the FREE RADIKL if you want a stretchy short but with a more traditional style.

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RAMBLR Short Review

This photo shows the men's KUHL RAMBLR Shorts.
The RAMBLR Shorts have excellent pocket and stitch patterns that give them extra visual texture.

The lightweight and fast-drying KÜHL RAMBLR Short has a lot of great stitching around seams and pockets that gives them a little extra outdoor-ready vibe. They also have some small, unobtrusive stealth cargo pockets similar to the RENEGADE and SILENCR cargo pockets. For the fabric, KÜHL uses its ÜBERKÜHL blend of 68% cotton, 29% nylon, and 3% spandex for a bit of stretch. It’s the same fabric that’s used in KÜHL’s popular REVOLVR lightweight pants. The only drawback to the RAMBLR Short is that it’s only offered with two inseam lengths — 8″ and 10″.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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VANTAGE Short Review

This photo shows the men's KÜHL VANTAGE Short.
The VANTAGE is swim-focused — but you still get a drop-in phone pocket!

The KÜHL VANTAGE Short might be KÜHL’s best swim short option — but true to KÜHL’s versatile roots, you don’t have to swim in the VANTAGE. You get two front hand pockets, a zippered rear pocket, and a drop-in smartphone pocket. For the waist, the VANTAGE sports an elastic waistband with external drawcord. The soft fabric is a lightweight 86% polyester with a whopping 14% spandex weave that delivers 4-way mechanical stretch. The biggest drawback to the VANTAGE Short is that you get fewer size options. Instead of choosing your waist size in inches, KÜHL offers S-XXL. Fortunately, KÜHL offers the VANTAGE in three inseam lengths.

Check size/color/shipping & availability at:

Backcountry.com | KÜHL | REI

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Best Office Crossover Pants?

Need an office-ready, do-everything pant that fits fantastically well and doesn’t look like all the other dumb pants?

Check out the KÜHL RENEGADE Afire Chino Pant — full review coming soon!

This photo shows the men's KÜHL RENEGADE AFIRE tapered chino pants.
We like the KÜHL RENEGADE AFIRE tapered chinos when you need to step up your in-town game but refuse to give up your outdoor roots!

 

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