The Best Cargo Pants for Work

photo of a man wearing cargo pants while working outdoors.

Originally designed to be worn by military personnel, cargo pants eventually made their way into everyday fashion in the early 2000s. Since then, they have gone from trendy to not to on trend again, but they have always maintained their place as a go-to item of apparel for those in demanding jobs such as construction work, welding, field labor, and other strenuous work. 

This guide will help walk you through what to look for in a good pair of work cargo pants, as well as a few of our most popular 5.11 cargo pant options. 

What are cargo pants? 

As the name implies, cargo pants were designed to store and carry a wide range of items and equipment. Cargo pants are distinguished by the number of pockets they have, usually up to seven or eight.

Two main pockets on either side of the pant leg are the actual cargo pockets, large, convenient storage areas to put items you may need in easy reach. 

Why cargo pants? 

Cargo pants offer unparalleled versatility. They can take you from the jobsite to running errands, or even hiking in the wilderness all while providing incredible utility in each situation. The combined strength of durable fabric and convenience of extra pockets and compartments make cargo pants the ideal choice for welders, carpenters, construction workers, EMS, and first responders. 

Cargo pants are truly the go-to choice for many manual laborers, warehouse workers, and others whose jobs require durability and toughness. Cargo pants also allow you to safely store items you’re not currently using so that your hands remain free to work, carry other items, and climb ladders or navigate rough terrain when out in the field. 

Cargo pant pockets usually feature a snap-closure which helps keep items safely stored so they don’t slip out when crouching, squatting, or climbing. 

Let’s discuss the attributes and features that make cargo pants the perfect work-pant option. 

How to Choose the Right Pair of Cargo Pants for Work 

If you’re on the hunt for work cargo pants as opposed to casual cargos for everyday use, there are a few key features you’ll want to consider. 

Fabric and Materials 

Cargo pants come in a variety of materials and fabrics, including polyester, cotton twill, canvas, ripstop, and even denim. The thing you’ll notice about each of these materials is they provide varying degrees of toughness and durability. Ripstop especially is advantageous in that it is designed to prevent minor tears in the pant from spreading – hence the name, ripstop. 

Cotton is renowned for its breathability which is ideal for hot-weather environments. Conversely, many restaurant workers prefer polyester, as it does better at preventing stains that restaurant workers are bound to pick -up. Think closely about your job and what it entails to help choose the right material for you. 

Cargo Pant Construction 

As we’ve mentioned, durability is a critical component of a good pair of cargo pants for work. This means that the way the pants are constructed is important. You’ll want to consider the pants’ rivets and seams. 

Rivets help reinforce the pants at crucial wear points where strain is heaviest. For a good pair of heavy-duty work cargo pants, look for seams that are double- or triple-stitched for ultra-durability. 

Pockets and Storage 

This is one of the main reasons to choose cargo pants for work. Cargo pants feature at least six pockets – —two in front, two in back, and two on the side – and sometimes up to eight or more. If you have specific needs related to your work, you may want to spend a moment deciding how many pockets you require and where they should be placed. 

Choosing a cargo pant that is rugged and durable is critical here as it relates to pockets, because you’re likely to be carrying heavier items like hand tools, a heavy flashlight, notebooks, and other materials. That extra weight needs to be supported by a heavy-duty construction. 

Fitting, Size, and Comfort 

Cargo pants, and pants in general, often come in more than one “fit.” Among the most popular fits are classic, slim, and relaxed. Make sure you’re aware of the fit of your pant. A slim fit isn’t everyone’s jam, so look for a pant that matches your body type. 

When considering comfort, the fabrics and materials play a major role. For instance, if you work outdoors in hot weather, a denim cargo work pant may be too hot, and cotton would be a better choice.   

For those who do a lot of crouching or squatting, a gusseted crotch may provide the extra room needed for comfort. 

Practicality and Functionality 

Unlike searching for a pair of casual, everyday pants, cargo work pants require you to look a bit deeper at features like belt loops which need to be able to carry the weight of a belt, as well as various tools and equipment. Pockets should be easy to access so you can get your hands on the tools you need quickly. 

When selecting a pair of cargo work pants, go beyond the basic style and look to ensure that the materials, construction, and functionality meet your demands. 

Care and Maintenance for Cargo Pants for Workers 

Cargo pants are a low-maintenance item. Throw them on and off you go. They’re built to be rugged and durable, just what you need for tough jobs. Unfortunately, you’re bound to have to deal with things like dirt, grime, grease, oil, and other stains tarnishing your go-to pant. But that’s what they’re built for, right? Absolutely. Still, you want to take good care of your pants so that they’ll take good care of you. 

With so many materials used for cargo pant construction and a variety of different combinations of materials to boot, it is vital that you read the wash and care instructions on the pant’s label before attempting to clean them. 

For small stains, the best approach to cleaning is a spot approach. Use something like a pocket knife, credit card, or other hard, flat surface to gently scrape off any debris causing the stain. It is important to not rub the stain, as this will only push the culprit further into the fabric’s fibers, thus ensuring a permanent stain. 

Use a paper towel to dab out any moisture. One of the keys that is often overlooked is to also use a paper towel to dab moisture out from the opposite side of the pant. 

Next, use a cotton swab and apply a light application of a mild cleaning solvent to help break up the stain deep into its fibers. 

When you’re ready, wash as you would normally, and you should be good to go. 

Men’s Cargo Work Pants 

We have a large collection of men’s cargo pants to choose from. Keep in mind the important features we discussed above when selecting the right pair for you. 

Among our most popular men’s cargo work pants is the Taclite® Pro Ripstop Pant. It features our durable ripstop fabric, ideal for those who need something tough and to prevent potential tears from spreading. It also boasts a Teflon™ finish to help prevent soil and stains. 

The double-reinforced seat and knees, as well as triple-stitching and bartacking at major stress points, make this pant ideal for those who kneel, sit, crouch, and squat on the job. And what about those all-important pockets we’ve talked about so much? The Taclite® Pro Ripstop comes with eight total pockets, including strap and slash seat pockets. 

Like most of our men’s work pants, the Taclite® Pro Ripstop is available in a wide range of colors and sizes. 

Women’s Cargo Work Pants 

Women also need a work pant that is durable, practical, and comfortable. However, comfort is where designers have often missed the mark when it comes to women’s cargo work pants. Body shape and size haven’t always been considered as much as they should be. 

Our collection of women’s work pants and cargo pants, specifically, are designed with a reinforced action waistband, triple stitching, and a gusseted crotch area to provide the ultimate in comfort for long workdays. 

In fact, we took vital input from female professionals in a wide range of careers to create our Women’s Icon Pant. The mechanical stretch ripstop fabric offers supreme durability, while the strategic reinforcements at crucial areas provide unmatched comfort. 

And if it’s pockets you’re after in a cargo pant, well this is certainly the right choice for you. It features 12 strategically located pockets, including a pair of mag pockets inside the internally divided cargo pockets. 

Cargo Pants for Work by 5.11 Tactical 

When you need a cargo work pant that can keep up with you and the strenuous demands you place on it, 5.11’s collection of men’s and women’s work and cargo pants has you covered.  

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