The newest version is well-designed, flattering, and dries within 20 minutes. Get a few pairs for the whole family, and you won't need to think about your summer adventure outfit ever again.
Summer days are for burning daylight at both ends, maximizing fun, and staying outside until dark. To make the most of the season, you need gear that works, every time, in all sorts of activities. You need a uniform. Not school uniforms, but adventure uniforms: proven, versatile pieces you reach for day in and day out that simplify your closet and streamline your transitions so you spend less time thinking about your gear and more time playing in it. I have backcountry skiing uniforms and running uniforms, Saturday uniforms for the farmer’s market, and mountain biking uniforms. Uniforms save me minutes each day, hours each month, and maybe days each year.
In summer, I turn to Patagonia Baggies. Made from Supplex nylon, Baggies are exceptionally light yet hardy, with a durable water-resistant (DWR) finish that dries within 20 minutes in direct sun. They were the only shorts I wore on a four-day family raft trip down the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico last month. I don them for after-dinner bike rides around town with my daughters, as a layering piece over mini yoga shorts, and I even wore them while taking a break from my chamois on a bikepacking trip to Bears Ears National Monument. I’ve worn them for the past week at our island cottage in Ontario: during morning kayaking and paddleboarding sessions, for cocktail hour on the porch, and DIY yoga on the dock.
As the origin story goes, Patagonia launched Baggies in 1982 as lightweight, fast-drying “beach shorts,” a technical knockoff of a pair of nylon shorts that company founder Yvon Chouinard spied in a window of an Oxnard, California, department store. Baggies have been a fixture in the summer catalog ever since. Like the Synchilla fleece snap top, they sold like crazy from the start. “Our best selling pieces were our least technical,” writes founder Yvon Chouinard in Let My People Go Surfing. My first pair, which I bought in college, sometime in the early ’90s, were purple with white mesh lining. Sized and styled for men, they were long and droopy, grazing the middle of my thigh, and far from flattering. I didn’t care. For rock-hopping along Vermont rivers and sea kayaking in Maine, there was nothing better; drain holes in the pockets let the water leak out. The mesh lining chafed my thighs when I went trail running, so I snipped it out with scissors.
When I bought my first pair of women’s-specific Barely Baggies last summer, I was a little leery. They seemed impossibly old-school, a retro hangover in a world of slim-fit boardshorts and skin-tight yoga shorts. Had the cut improved? Would they bunch up at my waist? Even without a liner and with the scaled-down 2.5-inch inseam, the sizing was a bit funky, the rise too short, and I had to size up. And yet they were the only shorts I wore, and not just because I had a broken leg and they were the only bottoms that fit over my cumbersome brace. I wore them because they were one less thing to think about in a summer when I had a lot of things, some of which were unpleasant, to think about.
This year’s Baggies are even better: a slightly longer rise on the 2.5-inch inseam makes them more flattering, even slimming. The drawstring waist lies flat without pinching and hides a small interior mesh pocket. The fit is baggy but not boxy; they’re true to size and hold their shape remarkably well, even after a week’s worth of wearing. The leg openings are wide enough for busting out a spontaneous set of squats or sun salutations. Baggies come in bright solid colors, but I recommend at least one pair of multicolor prints, ideal for disguising dirt for days on end.
Baggies come in five styles and inseam lengths for men, four for women, and seven for kids and babies, so you can geek out and pack the same pair of shorts for the whole family. My girls live in them for pack rafting trips, sailing and canoeing lessons, and kicking around the house. Kids’ Baggies come with all the same features as mine, so I know they’ll withstand the littles’ abuse. Best of all, a quick dunk in the lake or river washes them clean, which means less time doing laundry, more time having fun. That’s my kind of uniform.