The 8 Best Cargo Pants

Don’t call it a comeback; we’ve always loved cargo pants
We tested the best cargo pants.

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If you’ve been to a department store recently, you might have noticed that styles from the 90s are enjoying a renaissance. Shelves are loaded with baggy jeans, neon colors, bucket hats, and—you guessed it—cargo pants.

Here’s the thing: Some of us have always known how good cargo pants are. They’ve never stopped being functional and comfortable, and we’ve never stopped wearing them. I guess that makes us trendsetters. 

If you’re turning to Outdoor Life for a list of the best cargo pants of 2023, it’s safe to say that you have more on your mind than showing off the latest trends around town. You probably need to keep gear within arm’s reach while you’re hunting, hiking, fishing, or doing the kind of work that doesn’t involve Microsoft Office calendar invites. You’ve come to the right place. 

How I Chose the Best Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are all about functionality, and that can take several forms. I started my search by establishing different categories of cargo pants: hunting, hiking, tactical, casual, and convertible. I always look for a budget-friendly option and one product that stands out above the rest.

Hunting, hiking, and tactical cargo pants need to be durable and functional. They have to be strong enough to protect your legs from cuts and scrapes but breathable enough to keep you cool and dry while you’re working up a sweat. For this, I turned to retailers like Black Ovis and brands like Kuiu, Sitka, Fjallraven, and Born Primitive.

When you don’t need advanced camouflage patterns and high-performance fabric, you can save some money and enjoy softer materials in some cases. Some of the best cargo pants I found come from brands like Carhartt, 5.11 Tactical, and REI Co-op.

As always, I have your back when it comes to spending money wisely. There are no shoddy products or suspect brands here; only ones worthy of your hard-earned dollar. 

Best Cargo Pants: Reviews & Recommendations 

Best Overall: Kuiu Pro Brush

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Key Features

  • Fabric: Polyester
  • Size Range: 30- to 42-inch waist; short, regular, tall inseam
  • Colors: Valo, verde, vias, ash, gunmetal

Pros

  • Removable suspenders included
  • Hidden thigh cargo pockets
  • Water-repellent and puncture-resistant

Cons 

  • Not ideal for everyday wear
  • Not built for severe rain or cold

Kuiu is one of the biggest names in the hunting gear market but the brand’s Pro Brush pants are good for more than trying to fill your tag on opening day. The same features that make these pants excellent for hunting are equally suited to hiking, tactical wear, or working outdoors.

Polyester construction keeps the Pro Brush pants lightweight and breathable when you’re on the move. The water-repellent material sheds light rain or dew and dries quickly. Reinforced sections of durability paneling add extra puncture and tear resistance in the thighs and lower legs. If you want to carry extra gear in your pockets, there are plenty to choose from—all placed to keep you agile and comfortable—and removable suspenders to bear the extra weight. 

Kuiu Pro Brush pants are ideal for hunters who need to beat feet through rough terrain. You’ll get an excellent fit, bonus features like zippered ventilation and Makspec odor control, and your choice of Kuiu’s proven camouflage patterns. These versatile pants combine toughness and athleticism to land the best overall pick on this list. 

Best Budget: REI Co-op Sahara

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Key Features

  • Fabric: 96 percent nylon, 4 percent spandex
  • Size Range: 28- to 50-inch waist; 28- to 34-inch inseam
  • Colors: Army cot green, asphalt, burlap, terra firma

Pros

  • Huge selection of sizes
  • Classic cargo pant lines and cut
  • Quick-drying

Cons 

  • Not as durable as our other picks 
  • Limited color selection

Quality products are getting more expensive every day but there are still bargains out there. REI Co-op is one of my favorite places to find good deals and the brand’s in-house Sahara cargo pants are a steal.

Unlike a lot of bargain-basement clothing, these cargo pants aren’t going to fall apart the first time you put them through the washing machine. The classic six-pocket design uses a blend of synthetic materials to stretch and move with you, wick sweat away from your body, and dry fast. The lower half of Sahara pant legs zip off so you can wear them as shorts and save even more money—you’re getting two for one and paying less than $80. 

If you hate to spend a bunch of money on premium clothing that you’re going to destroy in the field or just want to keep costs to a minimum, it’s hard to do better than these cargo pants. Wear them to hunt, hike, or work, and put the money you saved toward getting the most out of enjoying your hobbies rather than dressing for them.

Best for Hunting: Sitka Mountain Pant

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Key Features

  • Fabric: Polyester
  • Size Range: 30- to 42-inch inseam; regular or tall inseam
  • Colors: Optifade subalpine, optifade open country, dirt

Pros

  • Articulated fit stays comfortable on the move
  • Advanced, versatile camouflage options
  • Removable knee pads

Cons 

  • Expensive
  • Only three color options

Shelling out more than $200 for a pair of cargo pants sounds a little extravagant, but the more you learn about Sitka Mountain pants the more it makes sense. These pants are packed with premium features that earned them the top spot in our roundup of the best hunting pants.

Sitka Mountain pants do a great job of disappearing into their surroundings with optifade subalpine or optifade open country camouflage but the pants’ features go beyond looking good. Articulated seams and four-way stretch prevent the fabric from bunching up while you’re climbing over rocks and trees to find the perfect hunting spot. A water-repellent DWR coating protects against light precipitation and removable knee pads make unconventional shooting positions a lot more comfortable.

Unless it’s the dead of winter, these pants are up to the challenge of whatever you throw at them. Yes, Sitka Mountain pants are expensive, but they might also be the only hunting pants you need for years to come.

Best for Hiking: Fjallraven Vidda Pro

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Key Features

  • Fabric: 65 percent polyester, 35 percent percent cotton
  • Size Range: 42 to 58 EU waist, short, regular, tall inseam
  • Colors: Black, buckwheat brown, dark navy, dark olive, dark gray/black, laurel green/deep forest, mountain blue/basalt

Pros

  • Excellent blend of durability and comfort
  • Great color selection
  • Thigh pockets are well-placed

Cons 

  • Pay attention to EU sizing differences
  • Cotton blend is poorly suited to wet weather

If you haven’t gotten your hands on Fjallraven gear yet, you’re missing out. The Swedish manufacturer’s clothing is built to endure the harsh Nordic mountains so you know it can handle whatever abuse your hiking involves.

Vidda Pro pants use a blend of polyester and cotton. That means they aren’t ideal for cold, wet environments but the soft cotton fibers make these pants a little more comfortable when the weather cooperates. Reinforced panels in the knees and seat add strength where you need it most so you can scramble over rough terrain without worrying about tearing up your pants. There are no back pockets on the Vidda Pro; instead, all the pockets are located on the thighs with snap flaps for easy access. In true Swedish form, there’s even a loop for a small ax.

While these aren’t the best choice for hostile weather, Fjallraven’s Vidda Pro pants are awesome for keeping you comfortable and confident in the woods. Sizing comes in EU measurements, so make sure to find the right fit before you order. These pants will have you perfecting your bushcraft skills in no time; maybe you can start by treating them with beeswax to make them waterproof.

Best for Cold Weather: Stone Glacier M7

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Key Features

  • Fabric: Polyester
  • Size Range: Small to 2XL
  • Colors: Grey, tarmac

Pros

  • Waterproof and windproof
  • YKK zippered pockets
  • Fleece lining is warm enough for winter

Cons 

  • Very expensive
  • Only two color options

What do you wear when it’s too cold for regular cargo pants and too warm for snow pants? Easy, grab a pair of Stone Glacier M7 cargo pants.

Stone Glacier’s M7 pants somehow manage to be light (1 pound, 6 ounces) despite being the best cargo pants on this list for nasty winter weather. The HydraShield SS polyester soft shell is waterproof and windproof while still remaining breathable. Sweat and moisture can get out but warmth stays in. This material is stretchy so the pants move with you instead of being bulky and restricting like a lot of pants that are this warm. Zippered cargo pockets on the front of the thigh area keep your gear handy and out of the way when you’re on the move. 

What’s the downside to all this excellence? Price. A pair of Stone Glacier M7 pants will set you back more than $300 and there are only two colors to choose from. For a lot of people, this is overkill. For people who hunt, hike, or just spend a lot of time in harsh climates, it’s money well spent.

Best Tactical: Born Primitive Frontier

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Key Features

  • Fabric: 60 percent nylon, 35 percent polyester, 5 percent spandex
  • Size Range: 28- to 42-inch waist; 30- to 36-inch inseam
  • Colors: OD green, coyote brown, black/fog, wolf gray/black

Pros

  • Light, comfortable, and tough
  • Nine well-placed pockets
  • Reinforced seat and knees

Cons 

  • Form-fitting cut isn’t for everyone
  • Some colors and sizes sell out quickly

You might know Born Primitive as a fitness brand, but the company is branching out from workout attire to make clothes for the outdoors and its Frontier pants are a strong start. These pants prioritize mobility and breathability to keep you comfortable and dry, even when you’re pushing your physical limits.

Born Primitive rates these pants for temperatures ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to frigid. Extremely breathable synthetic fabric and zippered vents on the outside of each thigh let you release heat when you’re moving and retain it when you’re stationary. You’ll get a nice mix of open and zippered pockets to stash small items. Reinforced fabric in the seat and knees increases durability without adding unnecessary weight—these pants are built to move fast, after all.

These pants aren’t the best for hunting but they aren’t a bad choice, either. Where they really excel is making you feel like you’re wearing a set of gym shorts while keeping your legs protected, your gear stowed, and your body performing at a high level anywhere adventure takes you. Three-gun competition, anyone?

Best Casual: Carhartt Rugged Flex Ripstop Work Pant

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Key Features

  • Fabric: 59 percent cotton, 39 percent polyester, 2 percent spandex
  • Size Range: 30- to 44-inch waist; 30- to 36-inch inseam
  • Colors: Basil, black, dark coffee, greige

Pros

  • Renown Carhartt durability
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Gusseted crotch for flexibility and strength

Cons 

  • Cotton is comfortable but it soaks up water
  • Limited color selection

No roundup of rugged clothing would be complete without mentioning Carhartt. The company has become the darling of hipsters who’ve never been further into the wild than a city park, but that doesn’t mean its products are any less capable of handling the real thing. 

Carhartt’s Rugged Flex Ripstop Work Pants keep things simple with a proven recipe. The poly-cotton fabric is a solid all-around performer that’s just as useful on the job site as it is around the yard or garage. There are no high-tech features and no proprietary camo, just a pair of old-school thigh pockets and a roomy leg that’s comfortable and timeless. Considering the massive list of available sizes, you’ll definitely be able to find a perfect fit.

As long as cotton isn’t a deal breaker, I’d feel good about wearing these pants just about anywhere. Working in the field? That’s what they were made for. Hiking through thick brush? Sure. Running errands around town? Of course, it’s the trendy thing to do.

Best Professional: 5.11 Tactical Ridge

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Key Features

  • Fabric: 67 percent polyester, 33 percent cotton
  • Size Range: 28- to 44-inch waist; 30- to 36-inch inseam
  • Colors: Ranger green, black, khaki, kangaroo, dark navy

Pros

  • Low-vis, ergonomic pockets
  • Cargo pockets have interior dividers
  • Built-in storage for flex cuffs and cuff keys

Cons 

  • Some water protection would be nice
  • Slim cut won’t fit everyone

For those in law enforcement and other professionals who need to look sharp and still maintain a tactical edge, 5.11 Tactical has always been a reliable go-to. Ridge pants offer a rough and ready garment that looks perfectly natural in the office or around town.

These pants keep a low profile while packing in a bunch of duty-ready features. You might miss the Ridge pants’ low-viz, zippered cargo pockets at first glance but they’re right on the thigh where you need them. Hidden inside the waistband is a flex-cuff compartment, and the left leg hem hides a compartment for your cuff key. Even the cargo pockets have interior dividers to keep small items organized.  

We’ve come to expect clothing that blurs the line between professional and tactical, and these cargo pants don’t disappoint. They’re great for people who want understated clothing that can still make moves when called upon.

Read Next: The Best Puffer Jackets of 2023

How to Choose the Best Cargo Pants

Dress for the Occasion

Cargo pants are inherently versatile but that doesn’t mean you can grab any pair from your closet and be dressed for success. Cargo pants for hunting, hiking, tactical duty, and casual wear are all built with different strengths. 

Pay Attention to Materials

Before you head out the door, you should know what your clothing is made of. If you’re going to be inside all day, there’s nothing wrong with cotton pants. But if you’re going to be active or run any risk of getting wet, look for synthetic fabric or a synthetic blend. If snow is in the forecast, consider adding wool to your wardrobe. 

Watch Out for Sizing Differences

As with anything, not all manufacturers size their clothing the same way. You might wear a size 32 waist in one brand and a size 36 in another. The cut of your cargo pants will affect how they fit, too. For example, if you carry more weight in your thighs, slim or straight-cut cargo pants won’t fit as well as pants with a more relaxed fit.

FAQs

Q: Are cargo pants business casual?

Business casual is a broad category, but it usually calls for khakis, slacks, and knee-length dresses or skirts. If your workplace is more relaxed, it might be appropriate to wear clean cargo pants or dark jeans.

Q: Are cargo pants good for hiking?

Thanks to their extra storage, cargo pants can be great for hiking. Just make sure that the pockets secure whatever you put inside comfortably snug against your thigh so your legs don’t take a beating with every step.

Q: Do cargo pants dry fast?

How fast your pants will dry depends primarily on the fabric they’re made from. Merino wool is the fastest-drying natural fiber but synthetic materials like polyester and nylon perform even better.

Q: Are cargo pants good for cold weather?

Some cargo pants are great for cold weather but others are not. Whenever you need to dress for cold weather, avoid cotton because it retains moisture (cotton kills, the saying goes). Consider wearing insulated cargo pants or a pair that’s loose enough to wear a thermal base layer underneath.

Final Thoughts on the Best Cargo Pants

The best cargo pants are more than just dad wear, they’re function pieces of outdoor gear. Take a look at my recommendations for your next hike, hunt, or fishing trip.

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