10 Best Lightweight Cargo Pants for Hot Summer Weather


For those of us who rely on cargo work pants, finding lightweight cargo pants for hot weather can be critical for those brutal summer months. You’ll need breathable cargo pants that are lightweight but still tough enough to handle a work site.

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These are our choices for best lightweight cargo pants for summer work:

  1. CQR Men’s Lightweight Vented Knee Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  2. Columbia Silver Ridge Lightweight Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  3. Carhartt Men’s Force Relaxed-Fit Ripstop Work Pant (click here to view)
  4. 5.11 Tactical Men’s Taclite Pro Lightweight Performance Pants (click here to view)
  5. Wrangler Riggs Workwear Men’s Lightweight Ranger Pant (click here to view)
  6. CQR Men’s Water Repellent Lightweight Ripstop Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  7. FREE SOLDIER Men’s Lightweight Quick Dry Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  8. Duluth Trading Co. DuluthFlex Fire Hose CoolMax Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  9. *Women’s* Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Zip Cargo Pants (click here to view)
  10. *Women’s* 5.11 Women’s Taclite Pro Lightweight Cargo Pant (click here to view)

Because so many work pants are made with tough, heavyweight cotton, it makes it difficult to find dependable work pants that won’t bury you in sweat. But this list of lightweight cargo pants gives you quality options that can provide relief in that summer heat.

The list above contains a wide range of fabrics that vary in weight. Yes, they are all lightweight compared to heavyweight 12-ounce cotton, but some will be lighter in weight than others. Ultimately, you know the demands of your job better than anyone.

I own the top 3 options on this list, so I can give you a good idea what to expect from these cargo pants, including photos and weights of the pants I own. Let’s take a closer look at these lightweight, breathable cargo pants so you can decide what style might be best for you.

lightweight-cargo-pants

Comparing the Best Lightweight Cargo Pants for Summer

I own all of the first three options on our list. Here’s how they compare (in my opinion) on weight, toughness, and breathability:

PantWeightToughBreath-
ability
CQR Vented0.68510
Columbia0.6259
Carhartt Force1.2868
  • Weight – Weight in pounds. Information from table is based off size 32×34. Photos of the weights are below in body of article.
  • Toughness – Based out of 10, and I’m comparing this to a heavy duty canvas work pant. This is not a scientific study, it is just my opinion based on wearing these pants. A 10 in toughness would be a heavyweight 12-ounce canvas pant.
  • Breathability – Just like toughness, this is based out of 10 and is not a scientific study. Simply my opinion from wearing these pants. 10 would be the most breathable pant.

Best Lightweight Cargo Pants for Hot Weather

CQR Men’s Vented Knee Lightweight Cargo Pants

CQR makes a wide range of pants, many of which are designed to be lightweight and responsive. What I love the most about these pants is the vented back knee that increases air circulation.

Here’s what these CQR Vented Knee Cargo Pants look like:

This is the current price of these CQR lightweight cargo pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these pants:

  • Material – Yes, these pants are very easy to move around in. They are built with a very lightweight cotton/nylon/spandex blend that, in my experience, is still reasonably durable.
  • Moisture Wicking – These pants are designed to wick sweat away from your skin, allowing it to dry quickly. The evaporation process naturally helps pull some heat away from your body.
  • Vented Knees – Again, this is like the one summer work pant I can find on the market today that offers vented knees. I have just found that this is an awesome way to get air circulation and keep the legs a little cooler.
  • Please Note – As a word of caution, if you click through to buy these at Amazon, just be sure the color you select has vented knees. Some styles of this pant do not have the vented knees. *These pants are not flame-resistant.

Here I am wearing these CQR vented knee pants. In my experience, these fit true to size:

cqr-work-pants

These pants are very lightweight, but I have found that – all things considered – they are still reasonably durable. No, they aren’t as durable as canvas pants (ripstop compared to canvas).

cqr-weight
cqr-material

These pants have plenty of storage options, including flap-close cargo pockets and front utility pockets, a perfect place to store smaller utility tools:

cqr-cargo-pockets
cqr-cargo-pocket-side

These pants have a diamond-shaped crotch gusset for extra comfort and range of motion while bending and crouching:

cqr-gusset

But the main takeaway here are the vented knees. The vent is on the back side of the knee.

This is an awesome way to improve air circulation and help keep you a bit cooler out there in the heat. The vent has a mesh panel and small flap that covers it:

cqr-vented-knee
cqr-vented-knee-back

Click here to buy these CQR breathable cargo pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These pants are machine washable.


Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Pants

Columbia specializes in making outdoor activewear, including a lot of hiking gear. In my experience, hiking pants can make for great summer work pants because they are usually lightweight, breathable, and easy to move around in.

Here’s what these Columbia Silver Ridge breathable cargo pants look like:

This is the current price of these Columbia lightweight cargo pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these pants:

  • Material – These pants are made with a 100% ripstop nylon fabric. This is a lightweight fabric that won’t weigh you down, but is still designed to discourage tearing. The Omni-Shade exterior is a UPF 50 shield that helps protect you from the sun. Moisture-wicking fabric.
  • Fit – This regular-fit pant with straight-cut leg is not only functional and durable, but exceptionally easy to wear. The partial elastic waistband with an exterior adjustable belt offers a custom fit while the gusseting detail and articulated knees allows for increased mobility.
  • Pockets – Two front pockets, two tabbed rear pockets with hook-and-loop closures. These pants have side cargo pockets – the left leg cargo pocket is zip-close, giving you a secure pocket to store essentials. No tool loop.
  • Work – Again, although this is primarily hiking pant, it fits perfectly for those of you who prefer a super lightweight summer work pant. No, this won’t be the most durable pant on the list, but the ripstop fabric does offer some toughness. You’re buying this pant for its lightweight, breathable design.

Here I am wearing these Columbia Silver Ridge summer work pants. In my experience, these fit true to size:

columbia-work-pants

You’re buying these pants for their lightweight breathability:

columbia-weight

Despite being lightweight, they are made with a nylon ripstop to help discourage rips and tears. No, these won’t be as durable as canvas pants, but this helps add some durability:

columbia-ripstop-material

These pants have a large inseam gusset so you can comfortably bend and crouch on the job:

columbia-gusset

Another bonus for comfort is these pants have side-elastic panels on the waistline (best elastic waist cargo pants):

columbia-elastic-waistband

These pants have a side cargo pocket on the right leg and also have a side-zip utility pocket on the left leg:

columbia-cargo-pocket
columbia-zip-pocket

If you are looking for something that is very breathable, moisture wicking, and lightweight, these pants are a great option. These are typically used for hiking, but the nylon ripstop makes them durable enough for most types of jobs.

Click here to buy these Columbia breathable cargo pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These pants are machine washable.


Carhartt Men’s Force Relaxed Fit Ripstop Cargo Work Pants

Carhartt is synonymous with workwear. When you think of Carhartt, you often think of heavyweight 12-ounce duck cotton canvas, but Carhartt does have a nice selection of lighter-weight pants, including these summer cargo pants.

These pants use a 7-ounce ripstop fabric that is both breathable and durable. Here’s what these Carhartt cargo pants look like:

This is the current price of these Carhartt lightweight work pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these pants:

  • Material – Built for ultimate ease of movement, the lightweight 7-ounce, cotton/polyester construction of this pant features Carhartt’s durable Rugged Flex® stretch technology. This is a ripstop fabric that discourages rips and tears.
  • Pockets – There’s plenty of room to stash anything you may need on the job with reinforced front slash pockets, heavy-hauling reinforced rear pockets. The side cargo pockets also have utility pockets on the outside for extra storage. No tool loop.
  • Sweat Wicking – Yes, these pants are designed to wick moisture away. They are built using Carhartt’s FastDry® technology.
  • Fit – Sitting at the natural waist, these are relaxed fit work pants with plenty of room to move throughout the seat and thigh. Straight leg opening. A gusseted crotch provides more stretch between the legs for increased range of motion.

Here I am wearing these Carhartt summer cargo pants. In my experience, these fit true to size:

force-carhartt-work-pants

These pants sort of fall in a middle ground for weight compared to all the other options on our list. They are made with a durable ripstop fabric:

force-carhartt-weight
force-carhartt-ripstop

These pants do have a large inseam gusset for extra comfort and range of motion while bending and crouching:

force-carhartt-gusset

Plenty of storage options, including side cargo pockets. There’s also a utility phone pocket on the outside of the cargo pocket:

force-carhartt-cargo-pocket
force-carhartt-utility-pocket

If you are looking for cargo work pants for hot weather that have a bit more weight and toughness than the CQR and Columbia pants from earlier, these will be a nice option.

Click here to buy these Carhartt summer work pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These pants are machine washable.


5.11 Men’s Taclite Pro Lightweight Performance Pants

5.11 is well known for making tactical service clothing, and many of their pants also function well as work pants. Because first responders need something responsive and easy to move around in, many 5.11 pants are lightweight, and great for summer.

Here’s what these 5.11 Taclite Pro Cargo Pants look like (multiple colors available):

This is the current price of these 5.11 lightweight cargo pants available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these pants:

  • Material – These pants are made with a 6.2-ounce poly/cotton ripstop fabric blend that is both lightweight and durable. An elastic waistband helps add comfort and flexibility.
  • Pockets – If you want to maximize your pockets, these will have more pockets (8 total) than many of the other pants on this list. For some people, the 8 pockets is overkill. For others, the 8 pockets are helpful and sometimes essential.
  • Crotch Gusset – These pants have a gusseted crotch for extra comfort and increased range of motion while bending and crouching on the job.
  • Teflon Coating – These cargo pants have a Teflon coating that is stain- and moisture-resistant.

Click here to buy these 5.11 cargo work pants at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These pants are machine washable.


Other Lightweight Cargo Pants to Consider

  • Wrangler Riggs Workwear Men’s Lightweight Ranger Pant – These Wrangler Ranger pants are heavier than other options on this list because they are made with canvas, but they’re lighter in weight than most canvas pants. Nice option if your job needs a durable fabric. Stretch fabric blend with crotch gusset for comfort and freedom of movement. Click here to view these lightweight cargo pants (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
  • FREE SOLDIER Men’s Lightweight Quick Dry Cargo Pants – These FREE SOLDIER pants are made with a lightweight nylon/spandex stretch blend. They have a water-resistant coating and offer UV protection. The cargo pockets zip close giving you a safe place to store essentials. Click here to view these summer cargo pants (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
  • *Women’s* Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Zip Cargo Pants – If you are shopping for lightweight women’s cargo pants, these Eddie Bauer cargo pants are a popular option. These pants have low-profile zip cargo pockets that aren’t bulky. Made with a nylon/spandex and have a water-resistant finish. Click here to view these Eddie Bauer women’s lightweight cargo pants (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).

6 Things to Consider When Buying Lightweight Cargo Pants for Summer

Crotch Gusset

Buying cargo work pants that have a gusseted crotch is a great way to add additional comfort to your work pants.

A crotch gusset is extra material sewn into the crotch to increase your freedom of movement. Not only does it make it more comfortable to crouch, bend, and kneel, it also takes some stress off the crotch, which can help prevent tears and rips.

Some gussets will be large inseam gussets that run down near the knee, while others will be diamond-shaped, and confined to the crotch area. To read more, visit our article about the best gusseted work pants. If you prioritize a loose fit, visit our article about the best relaxed fit cargo pants for work.

Material Weight

Are you okay using a lightweight work pant, or do you need something with a bit more toughness? Most lightweight cargo pants will use a ripstop material which, even though it isn’t as durable as canvas, still helps discourage rips and tears.

But if you need toughness, I’d recommend the Wrangler Riggs Ranger pants on our list. Those pants use a lightweight canvas (8.5-ounce fabric) that still provides toughness.

To read more about summer work pants, visit our article about the best work pants for hot weather. For all types of summer workwear, visit our article about the best lightweight work clothing.

Moisture Wicking Work Pants

Moisture wicking pants are designed to combat sweat. They are made out of a fabric engineered to move sweat away from the body and disperse it across the outside of the fabric in a way which causes it to evaporate quickly.

Not only does this help keep you dry, but the evaporation process naturally helps pull heat away from the body, which can provide a minor amount of temperature relief.

No, it won’t feel like a cool spring day, but it will provide you with some small relief, and as we all know, every little bit counts in the summer heat. If you are looking for the most breathable cargo pants, I’d stick with something that is moisture wicking.  

Water Repellent Cargo Pants

Some cargo pants will have a water-repellent finish that helps repel moisture to keep you dry. No, don’t expect these types of pants to take on a monsoon and keep you dry.

Water-repellent pants usually repel light precipitation, but this can be helpful when working outside, especially during the wet spring months. To read more, visit our article about the best water resistant cargo pants.

Vented Cargo Pants

Using vented pants is a very sneaky way to find nice relief in the heat. The bad thing is, there isn’t much selection for these types of pants.

The CQR pants that I posted photos of earlier in the article are basically the only vented cargo pants I personally can find on the market today. These pants have vents behind the knees that really help air circulate inside the pants.

Convertible Work Pants

You can find a lot of lightweight cargo pants that are convertible and zip off at the knee. Yes, these aren’t necessarily for everyone. Some people don’t like the way they look.

But these types of convertible pants do add versatility and allow you to adapt as the temperature changes. To read about your options, visit our article about the best convertible pants for work.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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