The Best Cargo Pants for Men and Women

Reminiscent of military garb that features pants with multiple pockets for carrying an abundance of small items, cargo pants are designed to be functional yet comfortable.

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Best Cargo Pants

Photo: iStockphoto.com

Designed for outdoor activities and as work pants, cargo pants are the pants of choice for those who frequently bend, kneel, or climb during the course of their day. The “cargo” designation comes from a plethora of pockets that can be used to carry small tools, smartphones, keys, and more while keeping your hands free for other things. The best pair of cargo pants for you will depend on what type of fit you prefer, whether you want the pants for work, hiking, or everyday wear, and how many items you want to carry.

  1. BEST OVERALL FOR MEN: TRU-SPEC Men’s 24-7 Series Pro Flex Pant
  2. BEST OVERALL FOR WOMEN: NAWONGSKY Women’s Utility Cargo Pants
  3. BEST MEN’S SLIM FIT: PULI Men’s Tapered Cargo Pants
  4. BEST WOMEN’S SLIM FIT: BenBoy Women’s Fleece Slim Cargo Pants
  5. BEST MEN’S TACTICAL: CQR Men’s Tactical Pants
  6. BEST WOMEN’S TACTICAL: 5.11 Tactical Women’s Stryke Covert Cargo Pants
  7. BEST MEN’S OUTDOOR: Wespornow Men’s Breathable Cargo Pants
  8. BEST WOMEN’S OUTDOOR: Toomett Women’s Fleece Lined Cargo Hiking Pants
Best Cargo Pants

Photo: iStockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cargo Pants

Your new cargo pants will undoubtedly come with extra pockets, but they should also allow you to move freely and be compatible with your footwear, such as work boots. Above all, they should be comfortable enough to wear all day without pinching or binding, so consider the following before buying a pair.

Material

Cargo pants are often worn in active careers, such as construction or package delivery, where the worker is on the move throughout the day. The type of material the pants are made from will help determine their suitability for specific activities.

  • Cotton: The most common fabric found in cargo pants is cotton or a cotton blend. A natural fiber, cotton offers a smooth surface feel and it breathes, allowing sweat to evaporate. While some cargo pants may feature 100% cotton, most will offer a cotton blend to increase durability and enhance flexibility.
  • Stretch: Cargo pants are often roomy to allow for movement, but when made from a fabric that stretches, they offer even more flexibility. The stretch factor comes from the inclusion of a synthetic fiber, such as spandex. A cotton/spandex blend offers increased elasticity while still providing breathability.
  • Canvas: A popular choice for those in active careers, canvas, also called “duck,” is a heavy, durable material that’s widely used for work pants, duffel bags, and even shoe uppers. The fabric is smooth, and the fibers are tightly woven to reduce tears and punctures. Cargo pants made from canvas may look and feel stiff at first, but after a few washings, they’ll soften up nicely.
  • Ripstop: This fabric is typically lightweight (think parachutes and box kites), and it often includes nylon fibers interwoven with cotton or other natural or synthetic fibers to give it strength and resilience. Cargo pants made from ripstop material will resist punctures and tears.
  • Denim: Another popular material in cargo pants, denim is a durable cotton fabric that resembles canvas but with a looser weave. Like canvas, it can be stiff at first but will soften up with laundering. It’s often found in carpenter-type cargo pants, which are designed to carry tools, such as a hammer, in addition to other items.

Size and Fit

Cargo pants run in sizes similar to other types of pants, but size may vary slightly by brand, so if you’re ordering a pair of pants online—without the ability to try them on before buying—look for a sizing chart to ensure you get the correct size. In addition to size, cargo pants come in a number of identifying fits that are suited to various body types.

  • Classic: Cargo pants with a classic fit feature a waistband that sits at or slightly below the wearer’s natural waist. In classic fit cargo pants, the fabric lays smoothly over the hips and seat, and the legs fall straight to the ankles.
  • Athletic: In cargo pants, an athletic fit lays across the seat and hips similar to a classic fit, but the legs are roomier to make bending and stretching more comfortable. The waistband sits just below the wearer’s natural waist.
  • Relaxed: This fit features extra fabric in the hip and seat area and legs that are looser than a classic fit but not quite as roomy as an athletic fit.
  • Slim: Cargo pants are typically pretty roomy to allow for a wide range of movement, but some are also available in a slim fit, where the fabric follows the wearer’s hip, seat, and leg shape. Slim-fit cargo pants can sit just below the wearer’s natural waist or be low-rise, known as “hip-hugger” and sitting below the natural waistline. Most slim-fit cargo pants have a high degree of stretch to allow for movement.

Pockets

In addition to the standard front waist pockets found on most pants, cargo pants can have multiple extra pockets located on the front thighs, outer thighs, and even on the calves in some cases. Pockets vary in size, and some may feature button, zipper, or Velcro closures to help secure the items carried inside.

Additional Features

A few bells and whistles are designed to make cargo pants extra durable or well-suited to specific conditions.

  • Double knee: Frequent bending and kneeling can wreak havoc on the knees of any pants, so some cargo pants have reinforced knees made with double the fabric. Others are crafted with a knee pouch that allows the wearer to slip in knee pads to help protect knees from becoming sore with frequent kneeling.
  • Seam construction: Double- and triple-stitched seams are often found on cargo pants that are designed for active careers. Some pants also feature rivet reinforcement where the seams meet the pockets.
  • Water-resistant: This type of cargo pant comes with a laminated coating of wax, rubber, Teflon, or another product that repels water and helps you stay dry longer if you’re working in wet conditions. For the best results, pair water-resistant pants with other weather-resistant clothing, such as a lined denim jacket, a warm hat, and quality work gloves.

Our Top Picks

When shopping for the best cargo pants, take into account your body shape and how you’ll be moving while you’re wearing the pants. You can choose from a variety of styles and fabrics, but at the end of the day, look for comfort—a pair of pants that binds or restricts movement is going to leave you feeling miserable, even if they have a dozen pockets and a stylish look.

Best Overall for Men

Best Cargo Pants Options: TRU-SPEC Men's 24-7 Series Pro Flex Pant
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re looking for a good pair of cargo pants for work or outdoor activities, check out this pair from TRU-SPEC. These pants are designed to withstand just about any abuse you dish out. The pants feature a comfortable, relaxed fit with deep cargo pockets on the thighs, waist pockets, back pockets, and two additional knife or accessory pockets on the hip. The TRU-SPEC pants come with a gusseted crotch for added flexibility when climbing or squatting, and the fabric features a water-repellent coating to help keep you dry and comfortable longer in rainy or wet conditions. They feature a waistband that sits right at waist level, and they come with reinforced knees. Made from a blend of polyester and cotton and featuring stretch panels sewn into the hip and knee area, these cargo pants are designed to move with the wearer.

Best Overall for Women

Best Cargo Pants Options: NAWONGSKY Women's Utility Cargo Pants
Photo: amazon.com

Carry keys, a smartphone, pocket change, and other small items in the multiple pockets on these women’s relaxed-fit cargo pants. These boyfriend-style pants (style borrowed from men’s pants) fit easily over the hips and seat and feature straight legs with a bit more room than traditional women’s tailored pants. The mid-rise waistline sits comfortably below the natural waist. Made from durable cotton, these pants are designed to be tough yet soft and flexible. Flap and button closures on the cargo pockets help keep items from spilling out.

Best Men’s Slim Fit

Best Cargo Pants Options: Men Tapered Cargo Pants Slim Fit Chino Joggers Work Trousers with Pockets
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re looking for a slim-leg pant that will slip easily into a tall boot, consider these PULI Men’s Tapered Cargo Pants, designed with a slimmer fit than other cargo pants. These 100% cotton cargo pants feature a classic fit over the seat and hips and a slim fit from the hip down. The leg opening comes with stretch ribbing that expands to pull on over the foot and then sits smoothly on the ankle. The waistband falls at the natural waist level and comes with elastic panels for a comfortable fit. The pants feature front waist pockets and rear pockets in addition to large cargo pockets on the outer thighs that come with a flap and snap to keep pocket contents secure. The soft cotton fabric is breathable, and the pants are designed to allow easy movement.

Best Women’s Slim Fit

Best Cargo Pants Options: BenBoy Women's Outdoor Waterproof Windproof
Photo: amazon.com

BenBoy’s slim cargo pants are as stylish as they are practical. Made from a polyester-and-spandex blend with a fleece lining, these cargo pants are designed for working outdoors in the elements. The waistband sits at the natural waist level, and the supple fabric follows the body shape from hips to ankles. The pants can be comfortably tucked into boots or worn with ankle-height boots. The knees are reinforced for durability, and cargo pockets located on the thighs are secured with zippers to keep contents from falling out. The pants bend and move with you, and the fabric resists water and wind to keep you warm and dry even in cold, wet weather.

Best Men’s Tactical

Best Cargo Pants Options: CQR Men's Tactical Pants, Water Repellent Ripstop Cargo Pants
Photo: amazon.com

Reminiscent of military combat-style garb, the CQR Men’s Tactical Cargo Pants are designed to be durable and functional while being comfortable enough to wear for hours. Made from cotton and polyester ripstop fabric, the CQR pants are puncture- and tear-resistant, and they repel water and dirt to help you stay clean and dry even in dirty or messy conditions. The pants feature large cargo pockets on the thighs and additional knife or accessory pockets, as well as standard waist and seat pockets. The pants feature a relaxed fit with the waistband sitting at true waist level and the legs offering a bit of extra room to allow for ease of movement. The CQR pants are also wrinkle-proof, so they’ll smooth out as soon as you stand up—even if you’ve been sitting for hours.

Best Women’s Tactical

Best Cargo Pants Options: 5.11 Tactical Women's Stryke Covert Cargo Pants
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re looking for a tough pair of pants with ample storage options, look no further than these 5.11 Women’s Tactical Cargo Pants. They’re made from ripstop fabric made from a polyester/cotton blend that’s designed to resist moisture, dirt, stains, and tears while still being flexible enough to allow you to bend and stretch with ease. These classic-fit cargo pants feature a total of 12 pockets and come with articulated knees (darts sewn into the seams to increase flexibility). They also feature drop-in knee pockets that accept thin kneepads so you can protect your knees if your job or activity requires kneeling. The 5.11 cargo pants also come with a gusseted crotch to allow for a maximum range of motion.

Best Men’s Outdoor

Best Cargo Pants Options: Wespornow Men's-Convertible-Hiking
Photo: amazon.com

Get your hike on with Wespornow Men’s Outdoor Cargo Pants. Made from a blend of polyester and spandex, these cargo pants are durable and flexible, allowing the wearer to climb and bend without binding or tearing. The waistband on these athletic-fit pants features elastic insets for a comfortable fit, and the fabric is lightweight, breathable, and abrasion-resistant. The lower part of the pant leg is attached by a zipper and can be removed when the temperature ticks up and you would prefer a pair of shorts to long pants. In addition to standard front waist pockets and one back pocket, the pants feature large cargo pockets on the outer thighs for bringing along a cellphone, keys, or other items.

Best Women’s Outdoor

Best Cargo Pants Options: Women's Fleece Lined Outdoor Cargo Hiking Pants
Photo: amazon.com

Soft, stretchy, and stylish—those three words sum up this pair of cargo pants from Toomett. Featuring an ultrasoft fleece lining, these outdoor pants will keep you warm in chilly temps, and their fabric shell—made from a polyester and spandex blend—resists water and wind while offering flexibility for hiking, climbing, or even skiing. The zippered cargo pockets will keep your phone and other valuables safe while you’re out enjoying the great outdoors. The pants offer a slightly slimmer-than-classic fit with an elasticized waist that sits just at or below the wearer’s true waistline. The narrow leg bottoms can be tucked into winter boots for added warmth and wind protection.

FAQs About Your New Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are popular options for a wide range of uses, but if this is the first time you’ve shopped for a pair, you might have some questions.

Q. What are cargo pants used for?

Cargo pants are used for work, outdoor activities, and casual wear and are notable for their abundance of pockets, which allow the wearer to tote along a variety of implements. They’re versatile and come in a multitude of fabrics and fits.

Q. What is the difference between cargo and carpenter pants?

The line between the two types of pants is blurry and the terms are used interchangeably—but in general—carpenter pants feature a side utility loop that’s designed to hold a hammer.

Q. Are cargo pants supposed to be baggy?

Not necessarily. While many are loose-fitting, others are form-fitting. Slim-fit cargo pants are usually crafted of a stretchy fiber, such as spandex, to allow the pants to move with the wearer.