All Cargo Shorts are Not Created Equal

I am a big fan of cargo shorts, whether I’m hiking in the mountains or picking up some groceries at the store. One of the best features of cargo shorts is, of course, the cargo pockets. I usually have my camera in one of the pockets and a Leatherman® multitool in the other, and maybe even my 18oz. Kleen Kanteen® if I’m hiking without my hydration pack. I recently picked up several new pair of cargo shorts, at a popular outdoor specialty store, and have noticed some differences between them and my tried-and-true ones.

I am not a big fan of the belt on these cargo shorts

My new shorts have an integrated nylon belt. I do not have a huge beef with this belt, but it runs through narrow channels around the hips, which preclude me from using a wider belt. My older pair cargo shorts do not have a belt, although  they do have regular-sized belt loops.

Unlike a snap, if a button comes off on a camping trip you can sew it back on

Another feature I like about my older cargo shorts is the button closure. Buttons may seem “old school” in this day of snaps, but buttons can be sewed back on. When a snap fails, you are pretty much out of luck. And, while I am not having any trouble with the snaps on my new shorts now, I’m worried that in a few years they will not stay snapped, as well as they do now. There is nothing more annoying than a snap-closure that keeps coming undone, particularly if it is underneath your backpack’s hipbelt.

These loops on the pocket make them easy to open with one hand

My old cargo shorts have these cool loops on the pocket, making them easier to open with one hand. The Velcro® closure on each end of the pocket is also reinforced with cross-stitching. The new shorts do not have either of these features.

One interesting difference between these cargo shorts is that my old ones are 100% nylon and the new ones are 100% polyester. So far, I have not noticed any difference between the two materials – they both breathe reasonably well, and dry-out very quickly. The nylon shorts are several years old and do not show any signs of snags or abrasion damage, so only time will tell if the polyester shorts hold up as well.

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12 thoughts on “All Cargo Shorts are Not Created Equal

  1. I’ve been very happy with my Mountain Hardware convertibles. they are very smooth on the outside and use velcro for the pockets. They also have a chamois type of material in places that would have a backpack against it. I’ve had them since 2004 and they just don’t seem to be wearing out.

      • i like the pants with the integrated belt. what brand are they. they are very difficult to find. cotton fabric?

        • Checkout an outdoor gear store, Jerry. Depending on your area, they might be listed under backpacking gear, outdoor gear, or outdoor adventure.

          • unfortunately i live in hawaii and we dont have much of that available. i was hoping you had a manufacturer i could contact and have them shipped here. thanks for you help in advance

  2. Great post. I wear cargo pants / shorts all the time. I have found I like both the fabric and nylon types, but which I wear depends on what I am doing. For example summer hiking I prefer the nylon. Also I prefer Velcro to close the pockets over buttons. I do not have an special brands that I like better then another.

  3. I just bought some REI convertible pants, with the built in belt, and agree with that being one of its problem. The biggest problem to me though is that where the cargo pockets separate at the middle of the pocket it sticks out way too far. Every time I walk near a stick or my bathroom cabinets they catch and tear a little. Really comfortable shorts/pants, but I doubt they’ll last because of this.

    • Justin – I can’t believe I forgot about that, I should update the post about those $#$% pleated pockets! It’s mostly in the kitchen for me, but it happens in the woods, too – stuff catches those pleats all the time. My old shorts have smooth cargo pockets, but I’m not sure if you can get those anymore.

  4. I have only tried to the Columbia convertible pants, which I live in during the summer as cargo pants. My only complaint is that after repeated washings during the summer months, the shorts section tends to fade to where it is significantly lighter than the pants sections, making me look a bit silly come fall!

    I really don’t like when manufactures take away features, like the loops you mentioned on the pocket tabs.

    • Strange – must be slightly different material, Marc. I’ve had some Columbia shirts over the years – seems like pretty good stuff.