I’ve tested well over 100 different pairs of shorts over my decade as Outside’s Gear Guy. Highlights include: “Shorts to Make Leg Day More Bearable,” “Best Shorts for Men,”and two different “Best Swim Trunks for Summer” tests. I have contemplated four-way stretch, gusseted crotches, and moisture mitigation qualities of britches for hundreds of hours of my life. In short, I know what makes shorts good: they get out of the way. My impressions of the Poplin AC Short—after spending more than three months wearing them and comparing them to a dozen other shorts that I currently have in my drawers—is that they do just that, brilliantly.
They are good-looking, as far as athletic-oriented shorts go, thanks to a matte black exterior, subtle pockets, and sleek fit. This attractive exterior hides some damned impressive stretch thanks to a 25-percent nylon and three-percent lycra blend. But the other 72 percent is cotton, so they feel supple and natural on your skin—they don’t chafe your inner thighs on long, hot hikes. They are also borderline gossamer—you can see through them when you put them up to a window but thankfully not when you’re wearing them.
I was going to run 20-miles in these, do like 1,000 squats or something, and raft something difficult or something else stunty to try and liven up this review but then I injured myself mountain biking. My busted up ribs turned out to be a boon. Wearing these every day and doing normal activities was the ideal way to test these shorts; it’s what they were made for after all. In day-to-day use in temps ranging from 52-degrees to 102-degrees—hiking, chasing a kid around playgrounds, and grinding out eight-hour work days split between sitting and standing—they really did disappear.
They were dynamic enough that they never tugged back at a thigh while taking long hiking strides or pinched a tender bit while sitting down at my desk. They did not hold on to sweat while being worn outside in the heat of the day during. The cotton-based blend is wildly light—they weigh 5.6 ounces in medium, which made them breathing machines.
I spoke with Elizabeth Davey, director of product at DUER, about how they built these disappearing shorts. Finding the right fabric was the key. “Athleisure and athletic brands have had these absolutely lightweight stretchy woven fabrics for a number of years now and I thought that if we could find something that was like that, but a cotton, that would be the perfect secret sauce,” Davey says. The mixture of the cotton with the nylon created a tear and tensile strength that would not exist if they were cotton alone. This allowed DUER to really lighten up the weave while maintaining a high level of durability. It showed: after washing these over six times, getting attacked by a rowdy kitten we adopted, and wearing them at least five days a week for the past three months they look no worse for the wear.
That combination of stretch and durability is what will make the Poplar ACs my go to shorts for the hottest days this summer. The ones when I will honestly wish I wasn’t wearing shorts at all. But thanks to these ultra light shorts from DUER, I can get all of the benefits of being dressed with fewer of the sweaty drawbacks.