If you’ve been looking for cargo pants, then you are in the right place. Cargo pants can be tricky. As pants made for heavy use indoors and out, you need to be selective. Extremely selective. We are here to help you to make sure you get the cargo pants you need, no matter where and how you plan to use them.
The 9 Best Cargo Pants of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Lightweight: Propper EdgeTec Pants
- Best Durable: Carhartt RipStop Cargo Pants
- Best for Working: Wrangler Riggs Workwear
- Best Tactical: 5.11 Stryke Pants
- Propper Kinetic Pants
- Tru-Spec 24-7 Ascent Pants
- Blackhawk Tac Life Pants
- Vertx Men’s Phantom OPS Tactical Pants
- Under Armour Men’s Guardian Cargo Pants
|Category||Best Lightweight||Best Durable||Best Tactical|
|Product|| || ||
|No. of pockets||7||8||12|
|Material||100% polyester ripstop||100% cotton||65% polyester and 35% cotton|
|Outstanding feature||Durable water repellent (DWR) treatment resists dirt and moisture||Fabric helps resist tears and pockets are Cordura lined||Teflon fabric treatment for stain resistance|
|Pros||Remarkably light and cool||Extremely strong and resistant to tearing||Pants are triple stitched|
|Cons||Fabric is somewhat noisy||Somewhat expensive||Not exactly low profile in design|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Lightweight Cargo Pants: Propper EdgeTec Pants
Propper EdgeTec cargo pants are the budget line of Propper’s uniform gear, but they’re also the lightest of Propper’s pants. It’s incredible how light they can make a pair of pants, and the EdgeTec feel more akin to pajama pants than cargo pants.
That’s a good thing. A very good thing. When working in hot and humid environments, cargo pants can feel hot and heavy, but EdgeTec pants are absolutely fantastic in how light they are.
The EdgeTec Pants come with seven pockets, including standard front and rear pockets, two cargo pockets, and one front knife pocket. The EdgeTec Pants are light but have a reinforced knee and tool clip reinforcement around the pocket.
Features and Specs
- 7 total pockets
- Durable water-repellent treatment resists stains
- Contoured waistband
- Remarkably light and cool
- Easy-access pockets
- Reinforcements where needed
- Fabric is somewhat noisy.
The Propper EdgeTec pants are an outstanding example of both durability and design when it comes to lightweight pants. They are well suited for hot environments and feel almost nonexistent when worn.
2. Best Durable Cargo Pants: Carhartt RipStop Cargo Pants
Carhartt isn’t known for being a tactical company but are well known for their extremely well-produced clothing and boots. Their Carhartt Cargo pants are no different. They are incredibly strong. They utilize a double-front knee that’s built to bend, stretch, and move.
On top of that, there are even openings to slide kneepads into the pants for increased comfort.
The Carhartt pants are built from 100% cotton ripstop fabric that helps resist tears. The pockets are Cordura lined, which offers superior strength when tools are poking and prodding your pockets. Overall, these pants are very durable.
Features and Specs
- 100% cotton
- Available in a relaxed fit
- 8 pockets total
- Comfortable and very soft
- Extremely strong and resistant to tearing
- Low maintenance (machine washable)
- Somewhat expensive
Carhartt is well known and well respected for a reason. They make products that work extremely well. These pants are designed to take abuse.
You shouldn’t have to fear your pants ripping or tearing under normal use, and with Carhartt, you don’t have to worry about it with extreme use. These pants live up to Carhartt’s outstanding reputation.
Carhartt RipStop Cargo Pants is also available at:
3. Best Cargo Pants For Working: Wrangler Riggs Workwear
Wrangler is mostly known for its famed blue jeans, but they produce a number of outstanding cargo pants. The Wrangler Riggs Workwear Ranger pants are very dynamic cargo pants made to last and work.
The Wrangler Workwear pants are incredibly well made and come complete with a full toolbelt of pockets. This includes a hammer loop, two miniature pockets on the right-hand cargo pockets, and leather reinforcement to carefully keep knives and tools from damaging your pockets.
The rear pockets are Cordura reinforced and extremely roomy. You get a ton of pockets and lots of room for storage. They are made from 100% cotton ripstop fabric, but they still find a way to be breathable and relatively lightweight.
The Wrangler Riggs pants are also affordable, and they are excellent for any work you can toss at them.
Features and Specs
- 100% ripstop fabric
- Reinforced knees
- Action gusset for mobility and durability
- Plenty of pockets and reinforcement
- Comfortable and loose fitting
- Large red Riggs label is annoying
The Wrangler Riggs pants are perfect for the working man. The Riggs pants are perfect for any job that involves hard work. This includes outdoor work, construction, plumbing, electrical, and beyond.
Wrangler Riggs Workwear is also available at:
4. Best Tactical Cargo Pants: 5.11 Stryke Pants
5.11 is a very well-known company that produces a wide variety of different tactical clothing options, and the 5.11 Stryke pants are their premier tactical cargo pants. Among the 12 pockets, these pants are small front utility pockets that will fit a knife, multi-tool, phone, or reload for your handgun.
The Stryke Pants are 65% polyester and 35% cotton ripstop fabric. The Stryke pants even have a Teflon fabric treatment that keeps the pants from getting stained.
The 5.11 Stryke pants also have a self-adjusting tunnel waistband, fully gusseted crotch, and articulated knees. This allows for a massive amount of flexibility. These pants allow you to run, to jump, crawl, and move with ease.
Features and Specs
- Teflon fabric treatment for stain resistance
- 12 cargo pockets
- Available in a multitude of colors.
- Awesome mobility and comfort
- Plenty of pockets for premium-grade storage
- Pants are triple stitched and have tons of bar tacking at all the major seams
- Not exactly low profile in design
The 5.11 Stryke Pants are incredibly comfortable and well made. They are designed for professional use by cops, soldiers, EMTs, and other first responders. They are also perfect for the range and amazing for camping, hiking, and hunting.
5. Propper Kinetic Pants
Propper is a major name in the uniform world and produces tons of different clothing options for the tactical world. The Kinetic Pants line is relatively new, and it’s one of my favorites.
Popper Kinetic pants are super lightweight and very flexible. They’re made from 79% polyester and 21% cotton, allowing you to move with ease and in comfort. Kinetic Pants feature Propper NEXStretch, a two-way mechanical stretch that makes them incredibly comfortable.
The Kinetic pants are outfitted with eight pockets, including two front utility pockets that allow for awesome storage potential. The pants have a durable water repellant treatment to resist both stains and moisture. These pants dry very quickly if they do get wet.
Features and Specs
- Made with ripstop fabric
- Cargo pockets have an internal divider
- Gripper waistband ensures a tucked-in shirt stays put
- Offers impressive maneuverability
- Plenty of storage room
- Dries fast
- Somewhat baggy
The Propper Kinetic Pants are excellent for professional use by police and first responders. They are also awesome outdoor pants and well suited for concealed carry too. The design is intuitive and well thought out.
6. Tru-Spec 24-7 Ascent Pants
The Tru-Spec 24-7 Ascent pants are an excellent budget option that stays well within the professional realm of cargo pants.
Designed for duty, the Tru Spec 24-7 Ascent pants are outfitted with mechanical stretch, ripstop fabric, and a water-resistant coating that prevents stains and moisture build-up. The pants offer an awesome degree of mobility and are quite durable.
The cargo pockets are plenty and feature a convenient drop-in opening, as well as a traditional flap. Placed directly behind the front pocket is a utility pocket for flashlights and folding knives.
The knees have an opening for knee pads for extra low-profile protection. The belt loops are two inches wide and designed for duty belts. They’re also quite thick, which provides extra support for a loaded down duty belt.
Features and Specs
- Comfort-fit slider waistband moves with you
- 8 pocket design
- Teflon coated for stain resistance
- Stain and fade resistance
- Convenient drop-in pockets
- Internal knee pads
- Very duty oriented and not low profile
The Tru Spec pants are designed for duty use and are perfect for police and first responders. Their design is made to accommodate duty belts, badges, and knee pads. As general pants, they are rugged and tough and could be used for outdoor activities as well as for work and range time.
Tru-Spec 24-7 Ascent Pants is also available at:
7. Blackhawk Tac Life Pants
The Blackhawk Tac Life Pants are quite unique in their design. What really stands out are the three AR-magazine compartments in the cargo pockets. These compartments act as awesome dividers when carrying gear besides ammo as well.
You could pack an entire med kit in there and have easy access to everything. You get seven multi-purpose pockets, with knife reinforcements on the front pockets.
The pants have a gusseted crotch and articulated knees that allow for maneuverability and comfort. There is strategic reinforcement throughout the pants to allow for rough-and-tumble use. The pants also have a Teflon shield and fabric protector that repels water, dirt, and oil with ease.
Features and Specs
- 7 multi-purpose pockets
- Reinforced throughout the knees and crotch
- 100% nylon
- Low profile for everyday wear
- Awesome AR-mag-sized pockets
- Excellent mobility
- Fits tight in the thighs
Incredibly well made and designed to last, the Blackhawk Tac Life Pants are perfect for concealed carry. They’re a low-profile, lightweight, and comfy option for everyday use. They come in a multitude of colors as well.
8. Vertx Men’s Phantom OPS Tactical Pants
Vertx is well known for its series of sling bags and backpacks, but their pants and shirts shouldn’t be ignored. The Phantom OPS pants are designed for duty use, and since they come from a high-end retailer, these pants are a premium product.
This also means you should expect to pay a premium price. What you are paying for is an eight-pocket design. This includes two cargo pockets as well as two small hip pockets designed to accommodate small tools. These unique pockets are perfect for pocket knives and flashlights.
The OPS Pants have articulated knees that are double reinforced for protection against wear and tear. The rear pockets have a privacy flap that makes you almost impossible to pickpocket. The OPS pants are very low profile and do not stand out too much if you choose to use them for civilian use.
Features and Specs
- Two hip pockets are very handy for quick tool access
- Articulated knees maximize mobility
- Athletic fit
- Excellent mobility
- Plenty of space for all your gear
- Low-profile design
The Vertx Phantom OPS pants are built incredibly well and are ultra-durable. They are expensive but well worth the price. They offer excellent mobility and are at home for tactical use as well as concealed carry and general adventuring.
9. Under Armour Men’s Guardian Cargo Pants
Under Armour is mostly known for being a sports company. They produce jerseys, socks, underwear, and more. They have recently embraced the tactical community, which has supported them for years.
The Guardian Cargo Pants are an excellent example of what Under Armour offers. These pants are 100% nylon, so they are very lightweight, and they use ripstop fabric that stretches and moves with you.
The Under Armour Guardian pants are complete with US Storm technology that allows you to repel water and stay dry.
The waistband is engineered to stretch for superior mobility and comfort. That waistband stretch also makes it easy to conceal carry a gun in an IWB position. Speaking of, Under Armour has offset belt loops to allow for proper holster placement.
Features and Specs
- Traditional six-pocket design
- Stretch engineered waistband
- Cargo pockets zip for extra security.
- Incredibly comfortable
- Perfect for concealed carry
- Excellent water resistance
The Under Armour Guardian pants are perfect for civilians who want an all-weather pant that allows for personal readiness.
They are tough enough to be excellent hunting, hiking, or camping pants. They are also perfect for concealed carry, allowing plenty of room for a gun, as well as additional spacing with the offset belt loops.
Under Armour Men’s Guardian Cargo Pants is also available at:
Why Cargo Pants?
Obviously, the first advantage of cargo pants is the extra storage capacity. Some of us need to carry more for one reason or another. Cargo pockets allow us to not only carry more but to carry bigger items more comfortably.
How much more depends on the pants, but the majority of cargo pants often have at least six pockets. Cargo pockets also make it easier to retrieve gear and goods when placed in a multitude of positions.
For example, if seated in a patrol car or Humvee, or even just in traffic, it’s much easier to reach into your cargo pocket than your standard front and back pockets.
Besides the storage and the accessibility, cargo pants are often built to be tougher. This is a result of how cargo pants and have been used historically—for activities considered a little rougher than office work.
Police and military forces have widely adopted cargo pants as their standard due to the extra room and accessibility they offer. Outside of government use, cargo pants are often also used for trade work.
Men and women in construction fields, in landscaping, plumbing, and more will often utilize cargo pants for the extra space and ability to carry tools and goods they may need.
Lastly, cargo pants are awesome for outdoors hobbies. Want to hike, hunt, or camp? Cargo pants are always an awesome choice for those outdoor activities. Cargo pants are often built to be strong, flexible, and resistant to the outdoors.
How to Choose Your Cargo Pants
How Much Storage Do You Need?
This is a two-part question. First, how many pockets are you looking for? Some come with the standard two back, two front, and two cargo pockets—and that works.
However, maybe you want a dedicated tool pocket for your knife, your flashlight, or multitool. Some cargo pants have split cargo pockets as well, which doesn’t double your space necessarily, but offers greater organization.
The second question is about just that, organization. How do you want your pants organized?
Some cargo pockets are just open. Others have installed dividers that allow you to better organize your goods. Some cargo pants have mini-pockets that also allow for better organization, protect what you are carrying, and impact ease of access.
For example, my Propper Kinetic pants have internal dividers, letting me pack a small med kit on one side and retrieve certain goods from the other. For example, my tourniquet is placed all by itself to make it easy to grab.
How Durable Do You Need Your Pants to Be?
This is a big one if you are buying cargo pants for the traditional uses. If you are military, police, working in a trade, or a big camper, you likely prize durability. This means choosing slightly more expensive pants that will last longer than Walmart specials.
You want to look for pants made from ripstop material. This stops the pants from ripping when torn. It’s invaluable if you have demanding jobs or hobbies, especially since you likely can’t just go back home and new pants in the middle of the day.
Additionally, the presence of spandex means pants will stretch a bit. This gives you more mobility but will also prevent your pants from ripping and tearing at the crotch.
Lastly, three materials that work well as cargo pants are cotton, polyester, and nylon. All three are strong, durable, and mostly resistant to tearing. Blends of these materials make great pants overall.
Features to Recognize
A gusseted crotch offers more mobility and prevents you from ripping your pants when crouching or squatting. A gusset is typically a diamond-shaped piece of material sewn into the crotch area of your pants. This gives you four seams coming together to provide a wider degree of flexibility.
It’s not a feature you can see without close inspection, but it’s one you’ll appreciate.
Articulated knees are similar to a gusset. They offer a wide degree of flexibility, allowing the pants to mimic how you move. You can also sit and kneel without your pants rising. Articulated knees are addictive, and at this point I refuse to wear any pants without them.
Tool Reinforced Pockets
I carry a knife and flashlight with pocket clips pretty much every day of my life. These pocket clips can be destructive to a pair of pants. My cargo pants have to have a reinforced pocket that has a thick layer of fabric right below the pocket opening.
This layer protects pants from wear and tear when wearing tools day in and day out.
Belt Loop Size
Your belt loop size will dictate that size of the belt you can use with your pants. Some allow for belts 1.5 inches high, others 1.75 inches, and some even up to 2 inches. A lot of us have belt preferences, and it’s critical you ensure your pants match your chosen belt.
The Best Cargo Pant Brands
5.11 Tactical is a massive company, and they’ve been producing tactical pants since 1992. They received a contract from the FBI Training Academy to produce the first pair of 5.11 training pants. Since then they’ve dived headfirst into the realm of tactical apparel.
These days they are making apparel for everyone, from armed professionals to fitness fanatics. 5.11 Tactical has it pretty much covered when it comes to clothing in general, not just pants.
5.11 Tactical cargo pants are likely the most well-known pants in the tactical realm. Essentially, they’re the Xerox or Kleenex of cargo pants. They make pants for men and women, fulfill government contracts, and are always innovating. 5.11 makes pants for basically any purpose you can imagine.
The good thing with shopping with 5.11 is the variety you can choose from. You can be outfitted with 5.11 pants for any time of the year and for any task you have. These include motorcycle pants, low-profile pants, pants with knee pads, and even tactical camouflage uniforms. 5.11 has it all.
Propper has been in the business for over 50 years, and they started making hats for the Navy. They slowly slid into the tactical realm and burst into the police and military market with clothes, body armor, boots, and more.
For decades, Propper was the go-to company for producing tactical uniform pants. Several jobs I’ve had have issued me Propper pants. However, they aren’t limiting themselves to just tactical uniforms anymore. They produce the awesome Kinetic Pants in a multitude of colors, including khaki for the civilian market.
Their cargo pants come in tons of configurations, and they include uniform-style tactical pants as well as stretch-style pants for outdoor use. Propper as a company produces a wide variety of different pants at a wide variety of price points.
You can get a pair of Propper pants for well over 100 bucks, or well below 50 bucks. They have you covered for every task and for every budget. They cover the tactical realm, the hunting realm, and the general work and hobby realms.
Propper is an awesome company with top-notch quality control and an excellent variety of different pants. Propper is perfect when you want to see the latest and greatest in tactical cargo pants.
If you are looking for pants that are extremely rugged, strong, and designed for either the great outdoors or hard work. Carhartt has made a name for themselves and quickly become a favorite of the working man. Their pants, and their brand in general, have become known for their design and their ruggedness.
Carhartt focuses solely on the outdoors and working industry. Their pants don’t come in modern camouflage patterns or equipped with internal magazine pouches. Carhartt pants are subtler and more suitable for street wear and day-to-day use. They will last nearly forever, even in the harshest conditions.
It’s their rugged toughness and focus on civilian use that sets Carhartt apart. Their cargo pants are imbued with ripstop materials and extra pockets, including multiple small utility pockets that allow you to store and organize your tools day in and day out.
The rugged reinforcement of these pants will keep you going long after most pants would have tapped out. Additionally, Carhartt supports their pants with accessories like knee pads and flex Cordura knees and gusseted crotches. Carhartt pants are an outstanding choice for workers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Cargo Pants Just for Men?
No! Not anymore. Back in the day women had to basically buy men’s pants and hope they got the right size. These days companies have embraced women and cargo pants full on. Most major manufacturers and reputable companies are building pants to fit the female form and to ensure they fit and work as needed.
Does the Military Use Cargo Pants?
Yep! Full stop. The United States Military has adopted various forms of cargo pants with their utility uniforms, which are designed for day-to-day wear. You won’t find cargo pants on a dress uniform, but in the day-to-day tasks, cargo pants are the choice of all four services.