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Kit Guide

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Hiking Shorts

By Steve Cockerill 2nd October 2020

Listing the most common mistakes and discussing the history of Hiking Shorts from year dot to today, this article will certainly help you shop with confidence.

Most Common Mistakes: Mistake No 1. Choosing your Hikers by your waist measurement, not your thigh dimension - I have fitted Finn sailors into our size 3! Mistake No 2. Not watching the video to show you the easy way to place your hike pads into your Pro Hikers or Race Armour shorts. See video below. Mistake No 3. Buying hike pads that are far too long for your experience - it is better to start small and increase the length of them as you become accustomed to the odd feeling of them. There are more helpful hints on pad size selection below. Mistake No 4. Not getting the hikers wet before you decide they are too small. I recommend sitting in the bath to get them wet and feel them grow! Mistake No 5. The misconception that fitting hiking pads is to remove the pain of the side. The lift off the side deck for laser sailors is probably the largest contribution to boat trim and speed - check out the Boat Whisperer DVD Upwind. ) Mistake No 6. Thinking that all hiking shorts are all 3/4 length. We have introduced Race Armour Shorts, Supertherm and Thermaflex Longjohns that can take hike pads in them. Mistake No 7. Not taking the wear protection shorts with your selected hikers. Wear protection will make your base product last longer. Mistake No 8. Thinking that you have to take hike pads when you buy a pair of our hike shorts from the Pro Hike System. Many sailors wear our hikers without hike pads when trapezing or hiking. We even have teams rowing across the Atlantic in our Race Armour Shorts. N.B. Classic Hikers have the battens built in.

The History of Hiking Shorts: When I was racing the International Europe in the late 80's I first came across strap on hiking shorts from a Dutch sailor called Henk Tebbertman. They were canvas strap on shorts with glass fibre battens sewn into them.

Early Hikers by Steve's Mum

They were not very hard to make and improve on, my Mother and I started manufacturing our own version and I sold them widely to Europe sailors in the UK.

Pink was the colour in the early 90's Pink was the colour in the early 90's

I took my new design to Banks who made them for me as the demand increased above what we could cope with, which is where Banks started making their own.

During my 92-96 Laser campaign, I started making my own hiking pads with battens and velcro hooks sewn into some heavy PVC canvas. I found that I could stick them to the inside of my neoprene shorts.

Steve's Early Hikers at Savannah Pre Olympics Steve's Early Hikers at Savannah Pre Olympics

This was an amazing improvement on the old strap-on hikers. They enabled me to have a great series at the Laser Standard Worlds in Wakayama in 94 finishing 23rd. A young Ben Ainslie won the silver fleet that year coming 51st. At that stage, hiking shorts were definitely not a standard part of the Laser sailor's wardrobe, let alone the general sailing public's. The UK marine industry was very stale, perhaps I should say super conservative. They could not imagine ever making them despite my appeals. By the end of the 90's, hiking shorts were being made and marketed by a couple of Australian brands but there were no quality ones made in the UK. When I started Rooster Sailing in 1999, hiking shorts development was top of my hit list. It took me until 2001 to develop and perfect Rooster 3/4 Classic Hiking Shorts, in the early days they were commonly known as Roosters.

Original Rooster's (name often used for Rooster Classic Hikers) The Original Roosters

Roosters had the battens built into them but also had a fairly tight knee which help to control the position of the battens and keep them away from the back of the knee. Their pre-bent knee was ahead of it's time. They also had very thin super stretch material behind the knee to reduce any excess bulk when crouching. The middle of the back area was made of some much less stretchy fabric so when the shoulder straps were crossed, the lower back would be protected. We developed some excellent patterns for Optimist Sailors too, notably the Saxtons who were eager to exploit every advantage. Rooster then sold 100's of hikers to Optimist Sailors thanks to their input - and we still do. :)

The original medium pattern had been fashioned on me - but once I used them in anger I found they loosened off too much - so I ended up wearing our size small despite being around 75Kg! We later re-graded the sizes to numbers so you have to read the size chart before you select your correct size. The reason for the size growth is in the behaviour of Neoprene: the glue holding the nylon onto the neoprene loosens with water which is why I was fooled into misgrading the first production. If I had £1 for everyone who phoned to say that the hikers they had received were too small - who then tried them wet and kept them - I would be a very rich man. Hikers are meant to be tight on the leg so that when you put pressure on the hull through your legs using body movement, the boat moves rather than the hiking pad around your leg. In the early 2000s, I spent many regattas letting sailors try our hikers and educating them to their benefits. It was hard work, but the sailors appreciated it.

Rooster 3/4 Hikers

Our 3/4 Classic Hikers are still very very popular with sailors who want a no-fuss pair of hikers that are super comfortable. They are also a big hit with smaller sailors, perhaps more so with their parents as children might commonly lose hike pads in the changing room.

Rooster Pro Hikers

I was keen to developed the next generation of hiking shorts which we called our Pro Hikers. The key design requirement was to try and replicate my hand made hike pads that I had used to great success in Wakayama. The Pro Style of pad enabled me to position the pads in the most effective place and select the right size pad for my experience and fitness. Ideally you want to position the middle of the pad on the outer edge of the hull at your standard effort of hiking. The fitter you are, the more you are able to extend your legs outboard and you may need to position them ever closer to the knee seam. To aid the hiking efficiency a top hiker would then also want to purchase long pads to compensate and help reduce bum droop.

The key to the success of our Pro Hikers is the hike pads. They need to be thin at the knee end so Olympic Athletes can wear them very close to their knee. They also need to be stable in their shaping around the leg. This helps support the shape of the leg - stops it squishing and reducing the sailors 'lift' above the deck.

Rooster Hike Pads - Hike harder for Longer

The pads need to remain in the position they are attached so velcro is used to attach the pad to the fluffy on the inside of the hikers. You would be amazed, once in position they just stick. The hikers themselves are the vehicle that holds the pads - and should be comfortable. Rooster's Pro Hikers have been on the podium many times at the Laser Worlds. The knee pads were upgraded to kevlar so they could cope better with gritted floors. Do watch the original video showing you how to position your pads. I have seen many a sailor who finds putting their pads into the shorts is hard until they see the video:

So Why are 3/4 hikers so popular? In the 90's clothing was often weighed so we were keen to wear as much weight in our weight jacket (water filled bottles on our shoulders) and remain within the weight limit. Only clothing worn above the knee had to be weighed, so we used to minimise the weight of the garments worn above the knee. Once you have fallen in love with a 3/4 hiker - it is pretty hard to wean yourself off them so we developed Hot Legs and Polypro Legs to keep you sailing in them throughout the winter.

As my sailing took me to other centreboard dinghies like Scorpions, Merlins and Solos, it became apparent that sailors also favoured more protection below their knees. With ever more flexible neoprene, we made longjohns like the Supertherm and Thermaflex that could take our Pro Hiking Pads. However, the more comfortable solution we have developed is to wear the pads outside the longjohn in some Race Armour Shorts.

Race Armour Shorts

These have extra padding in the bum to make sitting on the side deck more comfortable, combined with a super durable polyester outer so there is no need for Wear Protection Shorts. They can be worn with or without hiking pads; we even have a team rowing the Atlantic in the spandex version called Race Armour Lite. I put my hike pads into mine and wear them over either of our Longjohns, saving money in the long run as the shorts take all the wear.

Selecting Hike Pads:

Choose the size that suits you. Choose the size that suits you.

Personally I find there is a compromise between comfort and hiking efficiency. The taller the sailor, the longer the hike pad you can wear. But do not be deceived, we have Team Rooster sailors (Paige Railey for example) who are not so tall using the 270 hike pads as she can place the pads well into the bum seam of the hikers to improve her hiking efficiency. I tend to use 245 or 265 depending if I am sailing a Solo, 4000 (245) or Laser (265). Hiking Pads Position

I am prepared to put up with being more awkward in the Laser as hiking efficiency (or reducing the amount of droop) has a major effect on boat speed as the boat has so little freeboard. You can measure your A dimension by working out how high you want the upper end of the pad and how close to the knee joint you are prepared to put up with. If you are unsure - give our technical team a ring.

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