Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Dynafit Ultra DNA 2-1 Shorts and DNA Short Sleeve Trail Running Apparel Reviews

Article by Jeff Valliere, Mike Postaski and Sam Winebaum

In the article Jeff, Sam, and Mike put Dyanfit's top of the line running summer apparel to the test: the super light and airy, big carry Ultra DNA 2-1 Shorts and the the equally light DNA Short Sleeve both part of the elite focused collections. Dynafit, an Austrian brand is well known for its mountain endurance focus: ski mountaineering, mountaineering and of course mountain running. We will also soon be reviewing their trail running shoes here : Sky DNA and Ultra 50. Jeff recently reviewed their Ultra Pro Sunglasses here.

Dynafit DNA Ultra M 2/1 Shorts ($139.99)

Jeff V:  The DNA Ultra 2/1 shorts are super light and feature a combined snug stretch liner inner short with an outer short, a wide waistband of stretch materials that can be adjusted with an inner drawstring and a near 360 degree mesh pocket system, only interrupted in the back with a secure zippered pocket.


The DNA Ultra 2/1 Shorts are exceptionally light, breathable and comfortable.  With a long inner liner that is perforated for breathability and an outer short that is also perforated, these are the lightest shorts of this type that I have seen.  

The pocketing system is good, as I can stow food and other light items.  The rear zippered pocket is nice for securing your most valuable items like a car key or a small phone.

The perforated inner liner here is especially nice and is the most comfortable, light and breathable liner of any 2/1 shorts I have used.  The outer liner is also perforated in the back for added breathability  which is noticeable when the temperature climbs.

The stretch pockets around the perimeter are handy for storing items like food, a small windbreaker, but find that they do not have quite enough structure for heavier items like a full soft flask.  I have an iPhone 12 mini and have tried multiple pockets for carry and while it fits in either of the stretch pockets along either side, or the front  I find the phone on the hip to be awkward and phone in the front is OK for flat running or downhill, but is awkward when going up steep terrain.  My solution is to stuff it into the zippered pocket at the small of my back, but it just barely fits.  

I normally wear medium size and I was provided with a large.  The large is OK, definitely a bit big in the waist, but am able to snug well with the drawstring.  The liner though is a bit loose, particularly around my quads, but still not a huge issue.  While a medium size would be ideal, the large is OK (though I also think proper fit would also help the mesh pockets hold heavier items more securely).

Sam: I also tested the DNA shorts. I received a size medium, my usual and waist fit for my 32 inch waist is perfect. A thin but very effective drawstring keeps the shorts up no matter the load.  The outer shell length is considerably longer than I typically prefer for road or trail. 

The liner is almost short tight length and is highly perforated and very lightly compressive. 

I often wear short tights even in summer and I for sure like shorts with storage so on balance with the additional “modesty” plus carrying capacity I end up OK with the overall length, although they do look a bit goofy. Unlike most “long” outer shorts, in a 2-1 or otherwise the DNA outer short has not only plenty of stretch but also a wide enough bottom opening to allow the legs to move as they wish.

The waistband storage and its comfort is excellent. Sometimes mesh storage waist bands are a bit snug (Ultimate Direction Schlarb and Velum come to mind) or it hard to find their access, my previous favorite S/Lab Sense 6”. Here Dynafit puts a thin white binding along the top edge while the inner layer is slightly denser mesh with the top drawstring tunnel and its stitching providing tactile difference so the pocket can easily be found.  I have run with a full Salomon soft flask in the front mesh compartment with an iPhone 14 Pro in the side compartment with no bounce and excellent security with room for more. I was kind of surprised as the waistband mesh is not very compressive and there is no waist band. I suspect the tight length liner keeps everything close to the body as the inside layer of the mesh compartment unlike a more free floating brief might.

I particularly like the inner tight/short. By perforating it while giving it some compression at the same time there is great breathability, soft comfort, a bit of compression and never any chafe. I was also surprised during a recent road half I wore them in with very windy conditions in lower 40’s how perfectly temperature regulated I was the whole race,

As with Jeff I wish the rear zip lightly moisture resistant pocket was a bit bigger. My iPhone 14 Pro fits but takes a bit of work to maneuver in and out. While the zipper pull is big and easy to reach and use, given the snug fit of my phone in the rear pocket there is no real need to close it, a plus. Back to that excellent waistband drawstring. I typically stuff the phone in the waistband of shorts using the Pocket Socket pop out holder of my OtterBox case to clip to shorts and here it worked perfectly even during a half marathon. 

It fit and stayed equally well put in the front mesh pocket as well.

An update. I recently wore the DNA Shorts every day during a 5 day trek in Italy. They were incredible comfortable in both heat and during rain for 6 plus hours per day with no chafing and plenty of breathability. I especially liked that the inner short is not much thicker than the outer shell and was never overly sensed or snug as 2-1 liners can be I was able to wash and almost always have them totally dry by morning.

Mike P: We are able to throw a few requests out for Dynafit apparel that we would be interested in testing - I immediately zeroed in on the DNA Ultra 2-in-1 shorts. I’m a big fan of 2-in-1 shorts. I find boxer or long tight liners much more comfortable and chafe-free as opposed to brief liners. Throw in full around-the-waistband pockets, and you have a great design for ultra-distance comfort and functionality. 

With Dynafit being a European brand (Austria), I knew sizing may be a little tricky. Let’s just say Americans and Europeans have different sensibilities regarding style and fit/sizing. I initially received a size Small - which was labeled “Euro Medium/US Small”. These were way too big on me - the inner liner was practically hanging off of me. For reference - I’m a 30” waist, and typically wear size Small in most running brand shorts.

I was able to exchange for a “Euro Small/US XS” which fit much better. I still find the inner liner to be a bit loose - but that’s more due to the lighter weight material, and not the sizing. The inner liner is just that - more like a liner material, not a compressive spandex tight. It’s extremely thin and the material is perforated, making it extremely breathable and airy-feeling.

I’m a big fan of having pockets integrated around the entire waistband. The Ultra short features a large rear zipper pocket, 2 side pockets - 1 on each hip, and a large front pocket. All use the same stretch mesh and work well to hold smaller, light-weight items such as gels, nutrition, gloves, etc. You could possibly fit a small soft flask, but for me the shorts feel a little bit too light to securely hold that much weight. I typically use the waistband pockets during 100 milers to hold a couple gels, lip balm, spare Bindi headlamp, ace note sheets, empty wrappers/trash until the next aid stations, and other similar small stuff. 


Jeff: I really like the DNA Ultra 2/1 short.  Many other 2/1 liner shorts that I like so much are great in spring, fall, chilly mornings and higher mountain runs, but not on warmer summer days because I find them to be a bit warm.  I don’t think that will be the case here though, as these shorts are made with lighter weight materials, plus more vented with the perforated liner and rear of the outer short.  I will have to test more when it truly gets hot, as high 60’s was the highest temps I have tested in, but they feel much lighter, airer than most and am confident they will be comfortable no matter the temperature (they also come in white which would be even cooler).  If I had any suggestions for improvement, it would be to make the rear zippered pocket a bit larger to accommodate a wider range of phone sizes and the addition of a key clip somewhere within the stretch mesh pockets would be really nice.  Either way, I highly recommend the DNA Ultra 2/1 shorts for runs of any distance.

Sam: Long, comfortable, super light and with ample storage, the DNA Ultra is a great option for both trail and road especially if you want to carry a phone and more and like a short tight type liner. Lighter than the excellent but a bit over the top GoreWear 2-1 with its tighter compression liner and heavier materials, more substantial if equally as airy as the Salomon S/Lab Sense 6” in having the boxer short tight liner instead of the brief of the Salomon and with easier to access storage, I found them perfect for my breezy cool half and they performed magnificently during 5 days of trekking often in the heat.

Mike: The shorts are quite comfortable on the run. They are made of extremely lightweight materials, and have no issues with mobility. They have that barely-there feel, and also, being so light, evaporate moisture well. I don’t mind the longer length of the inner tight, especially given the fact that it’s so light and thin. I actually prefer the longer coverage to reduce any chance of chafing over very long ultras. The price is quite high, but if you can swing it - it’s a premium running short and absolutely a top option for long summer ultras.

DNA S/S TEE ($100)

Mike P: Yes, this is a $100 t-shirt. But, as with the DNA Ultra shorts - you’re getting a premium piece or running apparel. These days there are many very high end, high price point running brands out there, so $100 is not as much of an extreme outlier as you would think. 

Unlike the DNA Ultra shorts, the size Small shirt fits me perfectly. There’s probably some extra space around the torso and arms if you’re thicker than me, but I prefer a looser fit in my running t-shirts. Again, perhaps Euro styling sensibilities may differ, which may explain the difference in fit between the shorts and t-shirt. 

The DNA t-shirt is the lightest running shirt I have. The material is extremely thin, much like the shorts, and it almost feels like you’re not wearing a shirt at all. Due to this fact, and the fact that we haven't seen temps in the 60s for 150+ days here in Boise, I haven’t been able to test the t-shirt outside. But I’ve used it indoors on the treadmill and the indoor bike, and it’s been great, as expected. It will definitely be an option for warmer weather racing later this year. 

Another small detail - I’m typically not a fan of split hems, but the split is angled forward here making it contour well over the hips as opposed to flapping around aimlessly. 

Sam: The Short Sleeve along with the 2-1 Shorts was my go to for 5 days of trekking and for a pre trek run on the 4 km city wall loop Lucca. It has an easy but not sloppy fit in my medium, was remarkably cling free, and dried literally in minutes and about as fast as any shirt I can recall after a run or hike and after washing overnight. 

I was particularly impressed that 5 days with a pack did not cause any wear at the shoulders despite the very thin mesh. and I had no chafing or rubbing. Airy light on the skin on the go it will continue to be my got to for summer running replacing my almost as fine but not as mesh like or airy Craft Hypervent Pro short sleeve.

The complete Dynafit running collection is available at our partners


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