Battle of the Brands:
Patagonia vs. Outerknown

Murray White / PURE Certified

Battle of the Brands series compares the performance of outdoor gear from two direct competitors. All participating gear has similar attributes, prices, and is tested in the same environment. The goal?

Discover which brand is better FOR YOU.



Today’s matchup: boardshorts.

Outerknown’s Nomadic vs. Patagonia’s Light and Variable

Before we get into it, I’d like to thank you for your interest in these brands. With your support, they will continue to reshape the outdoor industry around sustainability.


Price: Outerknown $58 | Patagonia $59

Testing Grounds: 18 consecutive days on the North Shore of Oahu

Performance criteria:

-in the ocean

-on the beach

-on land

In the ocean…


Extremely flexible. We had no issues popping up on waves or tucking into summer-sized head dips. On turns, the trunks flowed with our body, no resistance. We really enjoyed the limited water retention, making them almost unnoticeable when standing, giving credibility to their name.






The limited stretch of the Nomadic trunks was the biggest hinderance on their performance in the surf. The above the knee design alleviated catch at the knees when standing up, and made them functional during turns, but our team would’ve liked to see more flexibility. We noticed some restriction when going from laying to paddling and vise-versa, which isn’t the end of the world, but did get annoying.
(Keep in mind that we are biased to stretchy shorts)




On the beach



The Light and Variable trunks don’t hold much water, allowing for an extremely quick dry time on the beach. However, this quick dry time comes with a consequence. A chemical treatment (DWR) takes place on these shorts during manufacturing and eventually makes its way into the environment by way of the shorts.


In terms of fit, our bigger team members thought the trunks hugged too tight and revealed more than necessary when wet. The stretch made up for the tightness in terms of performance, but if you have a bigger build and have no plans to take these shorts surfing, you might want to get a size up.

What do we classify as a bigger build?
(Murray 5’11 @ 200lbs) taking the trunks for a dive.




The Nomadic boardshorts have a durable feel that’s hard to describe, “it’s like you know they are quality”. There’s no DWR coating, meaning you never have to worry about them harming the environment when you interact with it. The durable feel and lack of DWR coating come with a drawback, they soak up water and take longer to dry than the Light and Variables.

The fit is neutral, with no complaints from anyone on our team.



To give you a better look at the water absorption rate, we soaked both shorts in a tub and hung them up to dry.

As you can see, the Light and Variable’s bead and rolling-off water, while the Nomadic’s simply soak it up.


Soaked to Dry Time (weather was overcast with light winds)

-Light and Variable’s roughly 1hr 20 mins

-Nomadic’s approximately 2hrs and 45 mins



On land


The Light and Variables felt great during workouts, and our team loved cruising in them too and from the beach, but that’s about it. Their tight fit and tiny pocket (barely fits iPhone 7) made them inconvenient as daily walking shorts.



The Nomadic’s larger pocket, durable material, and classic style made an awesome pair of walking shorts for the team. The ability to go from ocean performance to concrete cruising makes them a versatile weapon for traveling.





-Functional in the surf
-Durable material
-Great walking shorts
-Require longer drying time
-Limited Stretch


-Extremely stretchy
-Free-flow movement in the surf
-Lightweight and quick drying
-Might feel “too tight” on bigger builds



So, which pair would you bring with you on a surf trip to the Mentawai’s? Or how about a drive-thru Mexico?


We did the hard work for you by purchasing, testing, and reviewing the shorts; now tell us what you decide and why in the comment section below!


If you found this information helpful, you are in luck.


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I’d go with the nomadic, worth the wait on dry time if you are keeping DWR out of our environment!


I’d like to see a greater break down of the shorts sustainability aspect. It was almost entirely not touched on in this whole article… Other than that, I loved the content and break down. For me, I’d roll with the nomadics