1620 work pants

The Best Work Pants for Men in 2021

Work pants are tough and provide functional utility for anything from carpentry, construction, ranch work, or DIY home projects. But they need to fit tight. These are the best work pants we have found.

When assessing work pants, we considered how well the pants do hard jobs while protecting the body. We also considered durability and how it relates to pricing, comfort, and overall construction.

The pants below will suit many full-time tradesmen. They will easily suffice for the weekend DIYer or someone who needs something a bit tougher than jeans (especially those new soft, stretchy ones) but are probably not going as far as adding a tool belt to their ensemble.

The Best Work Pants: A Note on Selections

It’s always tough to include every brand. We didn’t dive into several great brands aimed specifically at the tradesperson like Jobman Workwear, Blackrock Workwear, Walls, and Snickers Workwear. Although they make excellent clothing, these don’t bridge into the recreational DYI apparel that this review targets.

Below, we profile some top products from mainstream brands Carhartt, Dickies, and Duluth Trading Company; outdoor brands like Patagonia and Mountain Khakis; technical brands like 5.11 Tactical; and boutique brands like 1620 Workwear and Topo Designs.

WorkPants-1620

But we’re always keen to learn about other brands you love. Share the story on your social media channels and tag us. Be sure to mention what your favorite work pants are and why. And we’ll update this article over the years as we put more pants to the test.

The Best Men’s Work Pants

Across the board, I favored the pants that had a mid-thigh utility or cellphone pocket. My quip for most is brands tend to place utility phone pockets on the right side.

It would be nice to see a left-side phone carry pocket here and there. Even as a right-handed person, I like to use my phone with my left hand to leave my right hand free for other things. But we all have to make compromises.

For sizing notes, I’m 5’11” and 170 pounds. I have a 33-inch inseam, which puts me in that awkward place of needing to get pants an inch longer than I’d like because most manufacturers only cut even-numbered lengths.

That said, as you’ll see below, some manufacturers cut their pants on the short side of 34 inches, which works better for me. All of the pants tested are size 32-inch waist and 34-inch inseam.

Also, I have an iPhone SE2 in a protective case. That’s a relatively small phone by today’s standards, and I suspect most bigger phones might have a hard time fitting into some of the utility pockets mentioned below.

1620 Workwear

1620 USA utility pant

For the second test in a row, after trying lots of pairs of pants, the Utility Pant ($174) from 1620 Workwear reigned supreme. I love these pants and wear them nearly every day I’m not testing a pair from another brand.

Not only is the cut of these pants a perfect fit for me, but the pocket configuration matches my EDC needs perfectly — no matter if I’m working in the field, guiding, sitting at my desk, or traveling. In short, they sport a modern regular cut, as well as a true-to-size waist and inseam.

They also have a great feel and functionality with a stretch nylon-cotton fabric, aka NYCO — a cotton/CORDURA/spandex blend or Tweave Durastretch Tech Stretch fabric — CORDURA/nylon/spandex.

The only argument against 1620 is that they are pricey. However, since they launched in 2016 when we started testing their pants, the prices have come down and they occasionally put items on sale.

Buying products from 1620 means paying for American-made fabrics (North Carolina) and American labor (designed and sewn in a shop in Massachusetts — they just upgraded to a larger space). It’s worth checking out their take on justifying the price tag on their about page.

These pants are tough. The NYCO fabric meets NFPA 1975 No Melt No Drip thermal standards and has been lab-tested. It’s 10 times more abrasion-resistant and dries twice as fast as 100% cotton canvas of a similar weight and construction.

This keeps them out of the landfill for as long as possible. The brand even has a buyback and resell program called Patina — a great place to find discounts.

WorkPants-Lead_3928

I’ve tested many of the models from the brand: the Double Knee Utility Pant ($174), the Foundation Pant ($128), the Shop Pant ($198), and their latest — my new favorite overalls: The Overall ($248).

All their pants have innovative pocket designs, including slanted rear pockets for easy access (especially while sitting, and it keeps a clip knife in place), as well as easy-reach-in and good volume front hand pocket bags. And with the exception of the five-pocket Foundation Pant, it has useful mid-thigh utility pockets that sit behind the outseam.

Within the left-hand pocket is a traditional coin pocket that is too deep to dig coins out of. I like to use it for credit card-size items. The website describes it as a Watch Pocket, which I find amusingly nostalgic of them. All of 1620 Workwear’s pants include wide belt loops.

1620 USA double knee 3.0 work pant
Photo credit: 1620 USA

The Double Knee 3.0 Work Pant is made with 1620’s tough Tweave Durastretch Tech Stretch CORDURA/nylon/spandex fabric cut to a comfortable regular fit. These pants have a PFC-free DWR finish to shed some light precipitation.

The fabric is stiff enough to inspire confidence in durability but also has some give for comfort and ease of movement. The pants also include a vertical zipper pocket on top of the right-hand utility pocket where I stash an iPhone lightning cable when I travel.

The left thigh has two pockets for a tool and a pencil. When I travel, I slide a USB battery like a BioLite Charge 20 or Goal Zero Flip 24 in the tool pocket. I’m not left-handed, so I’d like to see those pockets trade sides. And the outside edges of the hand pockets are reinforced for clipping a knife or tape measure.

The 3.0 Work Pant also has two new zippered pockets above the rear pockets. I haven’t found a use for those yet, but they are subtle enough that they don’t bother me. These pants do not have knee pad pockets under the double knee.

The new Overall ($248) is made with the NYCO fabric and has all of the same pockets as the Utility Pant plus the extra features and pockets that come on the bib section like the hidden kangaroo pockets. The Foundation Pant ($128) is exactly the same as the Utility Pant minus the mid-thigh utility pockets.

Check Double Knee Price at 1620 USA Check Workwear Price at 1620 USA

Mountain Khakis

Arborwear Men's Original Tree Climbers'

We’ve tested MKs before, and this round we jumped into a pair from the heritage line — the double knee Camber 107 Pant ($79).

These pants are accurately described as a Classic Fit, which is between a Relaxed Fit and Regular Fit. The 9-ounce, 98% cotton, 2% spandex canvas is very comfortable but doesn’t exude durability for harsh environments. The 32-inch waist feels true to size, as does the 34-inch inseam.

Like many MKs pants, these have the mudflap feature, which is a reinforced patch at the heel side of the cuff. That’s a spot I tend to wear out when I wear flip-flops and the hem slips under my bare heel where the hem gets worn down. When wearing shoes or boots, however, the length is perfect.

The front hand pockets are a good depth and have a comfortable swooping horizontal cut that helps prevent items from dribbling out when sitting down. The rear pockets are a standard straight-across patch style.

mountain khakis men's camber 107 Pant
Photo credit: Mountain Khakis

The utility pocket is 6 inches wide with a snap button in the middle, and it straddles the outseam. That’s much bigger than all of the other pants in this review and is a borderline cargo pocket.

It will accommodate the biggest phones out there, maybe even small tablets. My relatively small phone feels lost in there, but the snap button bumps my confidence that the phone isn’t going to jump out. My iPhone SE2 can squeeze between the snap and the rear seam.

The double knee is cut chap style with a swoop from the middle of the patch down to the inseam. The patch has articulated darts around the knee, and it provides good coverage from mid-thigh to just below the knee. It does not have knee pad pockets.

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Mountain Khakis

Arborwear

Arborwear Men's Original Tree Climbers'

A reader’s comment on the original post of this review turned us onto this brand. And they are the tough and durable pant one would expect from a brand targeting professionals climbing trees all day long. We opted to check out the product that launched their brand in the late ’90s, the Original Treeclimbers’ Pants ($75), which come in a comfortable Classic Fit.

Without any spandex in the weave, the 12.5-ounce ringspun 100% cotton canvas is a little less forgiving and features one of the tighter 32-inch waistbands of the test. These pants will be the most comfortable for waists that fit perfectly into them.

For anyone between sizes and sizing down, the pants will be tight and uncomfortable. Someone a little smaller will feel the pants are a little loose and will need a belt or suspenders.

But confidence in the durability of these pants is high. They are as tough as they feel and break in nicely to be a little more pliable after some rigorous use and the ensuing wash cycles.

The pockets are pretty standard with patch style in the rear and swooped horizontal bag-style hand pockets. Without any give in the fabric and the fact I’m on the plus size of their version of a 32-inch waist, the front hand pockets are a little tight. So, it takes a bit of a push to get my hands in and out of the pockets. But that’s just at the hem of the pockets — once my hands are in, the pocket bags are a good depth and are cut to a comfortable volume.

My biggest gripe with these pants is the minuscule utility pocket on the right thigh. This patch-style pocket is only 3 inches wide with a half-inch opening. Clearly, it’s not designed to hold a phone. Maybe an old clam-shell phone could be wedged in.

Instead, many arborists use it to hold a chainsaw scrench or a clip knife for when they’re in the trees while their back pocket is covered by a harness. The thigh pocket sits on the front side of the outseam.

The double-knee reinforcement is stitched straight across the upper thigh from the outseam to the inseam and reaches down to just below the knee. There are no articulated darts or pockets for knee pads.

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry

prAna

prana bronson pant

The Bronson Pant ($180) is a single-knee pant with a reinforced heel cuff and not the best cut for me. They are on the tighter end of a regular fit for me, with the leg tubes a little narrower than I’d like nearly hugging my thighs.

Somehow, the hips of the pants feel a little snug as well (which is amazing, considering like most men I don’t really have hips). And the waistband is on the generous size for a 32-inch, which then flares out some and feels a bit like I’d imagine the paper-bag top style on some women’s pants would feel.

The tightness in the hips makes the swooping horizontal hand pockets a little tight to get my hands into. Once in, the pocket bags are quite deep. The coin pocket in the right-hand pocket is as deep as my index finger and fits a credit card perfectly.

The utility pocket is on the outside of the right outseam, and it’s 3 inches wide and 5 inches deep with a diagonal cut top.

The fabric is very soft and comfortable, made from 98% organic cotton and 2% spandex. The description mentions a “peached finish” which I find barely noticeable.

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry

Kühl

kühl free rydr

The brushed twill exterior of the fabric used on the Free Rydr ($89) has a nice hand feel, and the substantial 10.8-ounce, 98% cotton, 2% spandex feels protective and durable. Kühl describes this pant as a lean fit, but it feels more like a regular fit to me with plenty of room for the legs with articulated knees.

It’s only a single-knee construction, but it does sport a few other reinforced areas. These include along the tops of the front and back pockets for clipping a knife or tape measure, as well as on the hem above the heel as scuff guards.

The swooping horizontal hand pockets are a little tight to reach into, thanks in part to the reinforced layer along the cuff of the pocket. But they are a good depth and have a moderate amount of volume to the pocket bags. The coin pocket is on the right side, not too deep, and easy to reach into with the index finger.

The cell phone pocket is on the right side and behind the outseam with an eighth of an inch lip above the pocket to help catch a phone from slipping out while sitting. The back pockets are deeper than usual with 8-inch-deep patch-style pockets (most are 6 inches).

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Kühl

FAQ

What Are the Best Work Pants?

The two key factors in picking the best pair of work pants for you are fit and function. Each brand has their own cut or silhouette. And while I try my best to describe how each of the above pairs of pants fit me, the only way to really know how they fit you is by trying them on.

When shopping at a store, that’s an easy solve by jumping into the fitting room. But when buying a brand for the first time online, be sure to check out their return policy in case they don’t fit how you like and you need to send them back.

Pro Tip: Order a few different sizes in the first batch to avoid a bunch of shipping back and forth. Try them all on and just send back the pairs that don’t fit right.

Things to consider are features like articulated knees or a gusseted crotch. These are important depending on how much squatting, kneeling, or climbing you will be doing in the pants. A pair of pants that don’t fit well won’t get worn or will just cause endless frustration.

The second factor is function. Some key features to consider are pocket configuration, reinforced areas (pockets, knees, hemlines, etc.), hammer loops, and the ability to take knee pads. These vary in importance depending on what you will be doing in these pants.

What Are the Most Durable Work Pants?

Durability is usually a tradeoff with comfort. The softer and more comfortable the pant, the more likely it’s going to be less durable. But it may not matter. If you’re not rubbing or scraping up against rough surfaces, you can get away with a less durable and more comfortable pant.

If you work in a high-abrasion environment, it will be worth getting a stiffer pant that won’t move as easily but will last longer. For a more durable pant, look for a higher denier count, heavier fabric, or brands that use tough fabrics like CORDURA.

1620 USA Made Work Pants for Men

Which Work Pants Are Best for Hot Weather?

Similar to the durability question above, the tradeoff is usually between thinner, more breathable pants that are comfortable in hot weather and thicker, more durable pants. Another factor that can help in hot weather is a looser cut or fit to allow for some air circulation within the pant.

Finally, the material used can play a role. But usually, the more breathable a pant fabric is, the less durable it is.

How Long Should Work Pants Last?

Most clothing is expected to last about 30-40 wash cycles, but my experience has shown that work pants last longer than that. The biggest factor is how the pants are used. If you’re going to a job site and bending and squatting all day or hauling cinder blocks every day for work, the pants are going to wear out much faster than occasional DYI projects at home.


Looking for women’s work pants? Check this out:

Dovetail - Women's Work Pants
The Best Work Pants for Women in 2020

For women with tough and demanding gigs, here are the workwear pants that hold up. Read more…