I’m on the Fence about the REI Co-op Sun Up Shorts

By Tony K

Photos by Wild Human

I have a very small wardrobe. I’m not even sure it can be called a wardrobe. It’s more of a pile. I don’t have a set of clothes for work, and another for going out. My work shorts are also my hiking shorts. I’m always on the hunt for clothes that can do it all. The new REI Co-op Sun Up Shorts may have just earned their way into my pile, but I’m on the fence. After just three weeks of abuse, I already need to exchange them.

In my corner of the Pacific Northwest, when the temperature finally starts to consistently hover around 60 degrees, I ditch the pants and commit to shorts full-time. I make a mental shift into summer long before June.

Before I explain why I had to exchange them for a new set, I’ll start with the good. REI’s Sun Up Shorts are at home on the trail, in a kayak, and around town. The built-in SPF-50 protection is perfect for kayak fishing, although I always assume that type of built-in protection eventually washes out. The waistband feels more robust than some of the other shorts I keep in my pile. 

One of the first places I usually start to see wear and tear in my pants and shorts is in the crotch. REI says the Sun Ups have a gusseted, or reinforced, crotch which will hopefully help keep these kicking for more than one or two seasons.

The specs you need to know about the REI Co-op Sun Up Shorts

How do they fit?

I’m on the husky side of a 34’ waist but I like how secure the Sun Up Shorts feel. The reinforced waistband seems to stop any sagging throughout the day. The nylon and spandex fabric, combined with my ideal inseam, 9 inches, means I’m mobile and comfortable whether I’m getting in and out of a kayak, or sitting at my desk.

The material feels thick and sturdy, which may be a turnoff for someone who’s looking for a lightweight hiker. 

Odd pocket combinations are one of my pet peeves in pants and shorts. I’m all for more pockets, but don’t eliminate my options. Luckily, the Sun Ups stick with the traditional two in front, two in the back pocket combo. The back right pocket has a zipper for valuables. There’s another small pocket above the front right pocket. Five pockets total.

Where did the Sun Ups fall short?

Front zipper defect in the REI Sun Up Shorts
Sorry for the crotch shot...but you see the problem, right?

Just over three weeks into my test, a thread along the flap of fabric that covers the zipper started to work itself out. Within 24 hours, the entire thread was gone. That caused the flap over the zipper to shift to the left, leaving the zipper exposed. The fabric shifting has created the appearance that the zipper is down or open at all times.

For now, I’m going to give the REI Co-op Sun Up shorts the benefit of the doubt, and hope that this is an isolated defect. Thanks to REI’s fantastic return policy, I already have a replacement set on the way. If that single thread over the zipper flap fails to hold up during my next three weeks of abuse, I will update this review.

reinforced waistband on the REI Co-op Sun Up Shorts
Photo by Wild Human

How did I test them?

I wore the Sun Up Shorts nearly every day for three weeks straight. I wore them in the workshop, on the trail, cooking dinner, fly fishing, gardening, and while writing this review.

The Bottom Line

I’m hard on my clothes. I wear them until they fall off, and I need them to get me through hikes, diaper changes, and fishing trips. I’m disappointed that after three weeks these $60 shorts are already in the exchange pile, but for now, I’m cautiously optimistic. The construction used on the rest of the shorts is still going strong. If I set aside the zipper issue, the Sun Ups are on track to become my new favorite summer shorts.

Better yet, The REI Co-op Sun Up Shorts are bluesign® approved. Bluesign® is a set of ethical and sustainable manufacturing and materials sourcing standards. Buying bluesign® approved products means you’re using your buying power to support companies and products that are using the most efficient, humanitarian, and environmentally conscious production methods.

REI has one of the best return/exchange policies you can find. Finding clothes that work for you is all about fit and longevity. Give the Sun Up Shorts a try.

Why Wild Human Supports REI

REI is a force in sustainable and environmentally conscious product movement. The best way that we can summarize our support for the Seattle based co-op is this: REI is providing a roadmap for other companies that want to focus on sustainability and responsible manufacturing. REI’s model proves that big companies can produce quality products, reduce carbon footprints, and work towards a more sustainable future.


We have some amazing stories that we’re excited to share with you. We’ll never share your contact information outside of Wild Human. You can expect roughly a few emails per month. 

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