While it may seem strange to review shorts as the cold season approaches, I tend to wear shorts year round when I run. That and the folks at NW Alpine kindly provided a pair of their new Approach Shorts to NWDC to test and review. I have now worn them on about half a dozen runs and in general I like them. I have a few feature requests listed below, but overall NW Alpine has a solid pair of first generation shorts here.
NW Alpine is an Oregon based company that has been making quality gear, manufactured in Oregon, since 2010. They are dedicated to supporting the products you purchase from them for the life of the product. While NW Alpine is not alone in making a commitment to repairing their gear for life, they are in a much smaller group when it comes to their dedication to manufacturing gear here in the US. For me, this positions NW Alpine in a category beyond larger brands who have similar mission statements but lack this commitment to domestic manufacturing. And yes, it doesn’t hurt that NW Alpine happens to be based in my home state of Oregon.
The Approach Shorts are a light, comfortable pair of shorts. They have a slender fit which is nice as it reduces the amount of fabric while still giving you space to move. They have a 5.5-inch inseam and many small laser cut holes on each leg that provides air flow as you move. There is a pocket on the back of the shorts that is quite generous in size. The zipper is easy to use one-handed, and the pocket can fit a plus size phone (although it can be tricky when it is in a case) as well as a few gels, ID, and a key. There are a few issues with placing a key and/or ID in the pocket, which I reference in the feature request section, but space is not one of them. Currently, the shorts do not have a liner of any kind, but there is the talk of adding one in 2019. That does allow you to use your preferred brand of liner.
In terms of function, they are a pair of shorts so that is pretty straightforward, but I did want to mention a couple of items. The material that NW Alpine has used for these shorts feels very durable but is also quite light. They have added a DWR coating, which does a great job at keeping the elements at bay. It also, if you tend to sweat a lot which I do, keeps the shorts from soaking up all that sweat. That is certainly a plus, but it also means that the sweat ends up rolling off the leg and dripping onto my calves. While not a deal breaker, it has caused me to think that my hydration bladder is leaking on at least one occasion.
The main item that I would love to see is the addition of a small secure pocket big enough for a key, ID, and a credit/debit card. The reason for this is simple: when reaching for my phone in the one existing pocket, I worry that my ID or debit card will slip out with my phone. With the key, I am concerned about it scratching my phone’s screen. A separate pocket would rectify this. This pocket could be in either the existing pocket or in another location entirely. Other than that, while I would love to see a built-in liner similar to what my other shorts have, I am also ok using them as they are.
Combined with the right liner these shorts would work for any distance, at least from a comfort standpoint. My longest run in them has been 16 miles, and I can easily see running further. For me, until a separate key/credit card pocket has been added, I will mostly be wearing these shorts either in tandem with my hydration vest, or when I don’t need to bring a key or cards with me. In my humble opinion, the addition of this pocket would make these shorts shine. That said, they are certainly a solid first entry by NW Alpine in the mountain running gear market. I highly recommend taking a look at the full range of gear they offer, including the Approach Shorts. Also, for a limited time, you can use code CHURNER20 for 20% off the gear.
- Unlined, to be worn with your go-to liners (or none).
- 5.5″ inseam, slender fit.
- Lumbar pocket for stowing essentials, like our FÖHN Wind Jacket.
- 91% Recycled Polyester / 9% Spandex blend, with DWR coating.
- Laser cut vents.
- Internal drawcord on the waist.