My Favorite Lightweight Cargo Shorts for Summer [I Tried 8 Styles]


I recently put my hands on 8 of the most popular lightweight cargo shorts to evaluate them on several things, including weight. I use the Carhartt shorts a lot for work, but I would recommend the Lee cargo shorts if you are looking for a more casual style.

The Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts are great for outdoor recreation and hiking. They are the most lightweight and breathable, weighing in at only 0.42 pounds for a size 32.

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These are my choices for the best lightweight cargo shorts for hot weather:

As I mentioned at the top, I put my hands on 8 different lightweight cargo shorts so I could evaluate them on several things, including weight, and take my own real weight measurements. All of these shorts are lightweight and breathable (none of them weighed more than a pound), but as you can see in the results below, there was a wide range of difference in weight.

When I weighed these 8 styles of cargo shorts, these were the results (based on size 32):

StyleWeight (lbs)View
Columbia Silver Ridge0.42click here to view
Wrangler ATG0.61click here to view
Lee Performance0.62click here to view
Carhartt Force0.65click here to view
Wrangler Comfort Flex0.66click here to view
Lee Crossroad0.69click here to view
Lee Swope0.84click here to view
Carhartt Broxton0.98click here to view

To put these weights in perspective, below is a picture of my heavy-duty cargo work shorts that I use. As you can see, those shorts weigh 1.37 pounds for a size 32 (and use a much thicker material). All of the shorts on this list weighed under a pound, and are very lightweight and breathable compared to other types of cargo shorts.

wrangler-cargo-shorts-weight

In this article I want to take a closer look at all eight of these styles so you can decide what type of lightweight cargo shorts might make the most sense for you. I also want to discuss several things to consider when buying these types of shorts. For pants, visit my article about the best lightweight cargo pants.

Best Lightweight Cargo Shorts

Carhartt Men’s Force Ripstop Lightweight Cargo Shorts

These are my favorite lightweight cargo shorts. But, to be fair, these are work shorts, and that’s what I am using cargo short for the most. I also like the Carhartt Broxton shorts for work (we discuss them later), but these shorts weigh less, and are more breathable.

They’re made with a quality ripstop fabric that discourages rips and tears, which is perfect for working and hiking. And they also use front ledge pockets which make it so much easier to get my hand in and out while I work.

Here’s what these Carhartt lightweight cargo shorts look like:

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

  • Material – Built for ultimate ease of movement, the lightweight 5-ounce, nylon/spandex construction of this short 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 (phone).
  • Moisture Wicking – These shorts 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 shorts with plenty of room to move throughout the seat and thigh. A gusseted crotch provides more stretch between the legs for increased range of motion. These shorts have an 11″ inseam.

These shorts are made with a lightweight ripstop fabric. My size 32 only weighs 0.65 pounds:

carhartt-lightweight-shorts-weight

Even though these summer cargo shorts use a lightweight material, this is a ripstop fabric, made to discourage rips and tears. Here’s a look at the material – if you look closely you can see the ripstop weave:

carhartt-lightweight-shorts-material

These shorts have easy-to-access cargo pockets down the side, and also have the front ledge pockets that I like. The ledge pockets make it so much easier to get my hand in and out while working.

carhartt-lightweight-shorts-pocket
carhartt-lightweight-shorts-pockets

These shorts have wide belt loops, and also have an inseam crotch gusset for extra comfort when bending and crouching on the job:

carhartt-lightweight-shorts-belt-loops

I think these are the best lightweight cargo shorts due to their blend of comfort and toughness. If you want something ultra lightweight, I’d recommend the Columbia shorts we discuss next.

But these Carhartt shorts provide you with breathable comfort, and I feel like they are a bit more durable than the Columbia shorts covered next.

Click here to buy these Carhartt lightweight cargo shorts available at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these shorts fit true to size.


Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts

These Columbia Silver Ridge cargo shorts were the lightest-in-weight out of the eight shorts that I tried. If you are searching for breathable cargo shorts, that feel extremely lightweight to wear, these are probably your best option.

Because they are so lightweight, they aren’t quite as durable as some of the Carhartt work shorts on this list, but they are still made with a ripstop fabric that discourages tears. These are perfect for hiking, or if you just prefer something that is ultra lightweight.

Here’s what these Columbia lightweight cargo shorts look like:

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

  • Moisture Wicking – Yes, these shorts will wick sweat away from your body and distribute it in a way that helps it dry quickly. The evaporation process also naturally pull heat away from your body.
  • Ease of Movement – These shorts have a partial elastic waistband and also have gusseted details to allow you to move freely while wearing these shorts (best elastic waist cargo shorts).
  • Material – These shorts are made with a lightweight ripstop nylon. They offer UPF 50 sun protection to help protect you from UV rays. My shorts have a 10″ inseam.
  • Low Profile Pockets – These shorts have low-profile pockets that aren’t too bulky. The pocket on the left leg is a zip pocket, giving you a secure place to store essentials.

As I mentioned earlier, you’re buying these shorts if you want an ultra-lightweight cargo short. My size 32 weighs just 0.42 pounds:

lightweight-cargo-shorts

They’re so lightweight it almost feels like I’m wearing swimming trunks. This lightweight, moisture-wicking material really allows your legs to breathe.

That said, the reason these are tougher than swimming trunks (and still usable for work and outdoor tasks) is they are made with a nylon ripstop material that discourages rips and tears.

Here’s a close look at the material. If you look closely you can see the ripstop weave:

silver-ridge-shorts-material

Here’s a look at how mine fit. The inseam on these shorts is about an inch shorter than the Carhartt shorts we discussed first.

silver-ridge-shorts

One thing I like about these shorts is the low-profile zip cargo pocket that gives me a safe place to store essentials:

silver-ridge-shorts-zip-pocket

These shorts also have an inseam crotch gusset for comfort when bending and crouching:

silver-ridge-shorts-gusset

These shorts also have side-elastic panels on the waistband that help provide a snug, but comfortable fit around the waist:

silver-ridge-shorts-elastic-waist

The main takeaway here is you are buying these Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts for their lightweight breathability. The nylon ripstop fabric, despite being lightweight, is still tough enough to use for most jobs. Just don’t expect these shorts to take on a beating like a pair of canvas shorts could.

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


Carhartt Men’s Force Broxton Ripstop Cargo Shorts

I really like these shorts, and they are a great option if you are looking for a cargo work short. These Carhartt shorts weigh more than the Carhartt Force shorts we discussed above.

But because they weigh a bit more, they are more durable. You can feel that the material is thicker than the other Carhartt shorts we discussed.

These might be a perfect option for you if you need something lightweight and breathable, but still want them to be tough enough for a job site. These cargo shorts use a 7-ounce ripstop fabric that is both breathable and durable.

Here’s what these Carhartt lightweight cargo shorts look like:

This is the current price of these Carhartt moisture wicking cargo shorts available at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:

  • Material – Built for ultimate ease of movement, the lightweight 7-ounce, cotton/polyester construction of this short 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 (phone).
  • Fit – Sitting at the natural waist, these are relaxed fit work shorts with plenty of room to move throughout the seat and thigh. A gusseted crotch provides more stretch between the legs for increased range of motion. These shorts have an 11″ inseam.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I own these shorts and my size 32 weighs 0.98 pounds:

cargo-carhartt-force-weight

This is still reasonably lightweight compared to other heavy-duty work shorts, but this will be a heavier, more durable short than some of the other hiking-style cargo shorts on this list.

That’s why I recommend these shorts if you need something for the job that is lightweight, but still quite durable. They’re also moisture wicking and breathable to help you during those brutal summer days.

Here’s a look at the ripstop fabric in these lightweight cargo shorts:

cargo-carhartt-force-material

Here’s a look at how mine fit:

cargo-carhartt-force

I also really like the pockets on this short, and they’re very useful on the job. The angled hand pockets make it very easy to slide your hand in and out, and I also like the phone-sized utility pocket on the outside of the cargo pocket (pictured below):

cargo-carhartt-force-pocket
cargo-carhartt-force-pockets
cargo-carhartt-force-phone-pocket

These shorts also have a crotch gusset that runs the full length of the inseam to give you the freedom of movement needed while bending and crouching on the job:

cargo-carhartt-force-gusset

Overall, I really like the combination of toughness and breathability on these moisture wicking cargo shorts, and they make for a great summer work short.

Click here to buy these Carhartt summer cargo shorts available at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these shorts fit true to size.


Lee Men’s Performance Lightweight Cargo Shorts

If you are looking for casual lightweight cargo shorts to just wear around town during the summer, I think Lee is one of the best brands to consider. They have several different types of lightweight options (we discuss three of them in this article).

These shorts were one of the most lightweight shorts that I have. They aren’t necessarily built for work specifically, or for hiking, they’re just everyday cargo shorts that give you that breathable comfort you need in hot weather.

Here’s what these Lee Men’s Performance Cargo Shorts look like:

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

  • Material – The 100% polyester construction of this lightweight short is moisture-wicking, keeping you cool and comfortable whether at work or at play.
  • Fit – This cargo features a snap closure and zipper fly as well as a relaxed fit for enhanced ease-of-movement. The roomy leg has an 11-inch inseam that hits just above the knee, which is an attractive length for a variety of heights.
  • Pockets – Two front pockets, two rear pockets with flap closure, and two cargo pockets provide room for everything you need to have easy access to. There is also a media pocket just behind the cargo pocket so you know exactly where your phone is at all times.

This isn’t a ripstop material like some of the other options on this list. This material is just a normal polyester that you would find in casual shorts. Here’s a look at the material:

lee-performance-cargo-short-material

One thing to note about these shorts, is they have a snap button front. This may affect your decision, so I wanted to make sure I pointed it out.

lee-performance-cargo-short-button

Easy-to-access cargo pockets down the side:

lee-performance-cargo-short

Overall, these shorts are very lightweight and breathable. My size 32 shorts weigh 0.62 pounds:

lee-performance-cargo-short-weight

One thing I like about these shorts is the material moves with me as I bend, and doesn’t restrict my movement:

lee-performance-cargo-short-stretch

Click here to buy these Lee Performance Lightweight Cargo Shorts available at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.


Wrangler Authentics Lightweight Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts

I’ve worn these Wrangler Comfort Flex Shorts for several years and they stand out a bit from the other options on this list because they are made with zipper cargo pockets. This might be a nice option if you prefer a low-profile design that doesn’t have bulky side pockets.

Here’s what these Wrangler lightweight cargo shorts look like:

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

  • Moisture Wicking – Yes, these are moisture wicking cargo shorts designed to wick sweat away and disperse it in a way that allows it to dry quickly.
  • Fit – These shorts have a relaxed fit in the seat and thighs. They do not hug tight against your legs (but also aren’t obnoxiously loose). That relaxed fit in combination with the flex fabric makes these easy to wear. They have a 10″ inseam.
  • Pockets – As we discussed earlier, pockets are usually essential for work shorts. These Wrangler shorts have 2 cargo zip pockets, 2 slash front hand pockets, and 2 back pockets.

Here I am wearing these Wrangler Authentics Lightweight Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts:

wrangler-shorts

My size 32 shorts weigh 0.66 pounds, which makes them middle of the pack for weight out of the eight lightweight cargo shorts that I tried:

wrangler-shorts-weight

These cargo shorts are moisture wicking. The fabric is also rated UPF 30, so it will also provide some protection from the sun.

Here is a close-up look at the material on these stretch shorts. Again, although it is a lightweight material, it still has a bit of toughness to it.

wrangler-shorts-material

Just like the LEE Performance Cargo Shorts, these Wrangler shorts have a snap-button closure:

wrangler-snap-button

These shorts have low-profile zipper side pockets to help you safely store essentials. If you like low-profile pockets, visit our article about the best cargo shorts with zip pockets.

wrangler-shorts-zip

These shorts are great for summer and really allow your legs to breathe in the hot weather. A great option if you prefer something lightweight and flexible.

Click here to buy these Wrangler lightweight cargo shorts at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Again, in my experience these shorts fit true-to-size.


Wrangler ATG Men’s 9″ Asymmetric Cargo Shorts

If you prefer a shorter inseam, then these Wrangler ATG cargo shorts might be your best option. Yes, they are very lightweight and flexible, and very easy to move around in.

Here’s what these Wrangler ATG Men’s 9″ Asymmetric Cargo Shorts look like:

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

  • Material – These stretch cargo shorts are made with a lightweight 96% nylon/4% spandex stretch fabric blend. Very easy to move around and work in these shorts. The elastic flex waistband offers a smooth fit with no digging.
  • Weather Protection – This short is rated UPF 30 to give you some protection from the sun. It also has a water-repellent finish to help keep you dry in light precipitation.
  • Pockets – One thing I like about these shorts is one of the cargo pockets is a zip cargo pocket, which provides a secure place to store essentials.
  • Fit – This asymmetric cargo features a flexible fit that allows you to move through your day in total comfort. The regular fit through the seat and thigh aren’t restrictive and the gusseted crotch provides increased mobility. The 9-inch inseam makes these short inseam work shorts.

These shorts have a very lightweight design. My size 32 weighs only 0.61 pounds, which makes them the second lightest-in-weight out of the eight shorts I tried:

wrangler-atg-shorts-weight

The material is definitely designed for comfort, but it still has some toughness to it that makes these shorts usable for work and other outdoor activities.

Here’s a close-up look at the material:

wrangler-atg-shorts-material

These shorts have a standard cargo pocket down the left leg, and a zip pocket on the right leg:

wrangler-atg-shorts
wrangler-atg-shorts-zip

For comfort, these shorts have both an elastic waistband and a crotch gusset so bending and crouching on the job is comfortable:

wrangler-atg-shorts-elastic-waist
wrangler-atg-shorts-gusset

These are a great option for lightweight cargo shorts, just remember these shorts use a 9-inch inseam, which makes them the shortest shorts on this list. These shorts will finish above the knee for most people.

Click here to buy these Wrangler breathable cargo shorts available at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these shorts fit true to size.


LEE Men’s Crossroad Extreme Motion Cargo Shorts

Although many of these shorts are made with stretch material, I am probably giving these Lee Crossroad lightweight cargo shorts the nod for most flexible. Not only do they have a stretch material blend, but they also have the elastic waistband hidden inside the waist which adds flexibility, but still looks like a normal waistband.

Here’s what these Lee Men’s Crossroad Extreme Motion Cargo Shorts look like:

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

  • Material – These lightweight cargo shorts are made with a 98% cotton/2% spandex stretch fabric will provide the durable comfort you need on the job.
  • Fit – If a traditional cargo is too bulky for you, the Extreme Motion Swope Short will be a refreshing change with its streamlined-yet-relaxed fit and slim pockets. The 10.5-inch inseam hits right at the knee and the Extreme Motion elastic waistband provides maximum flexibility.
  • Pockets – Two front pockets, two flap rear pockets, side flap cargo/utility pockets, and a cell phone pocket offer plenty of space to stash whatever you need to meet your next job or adventure head-on.

Yes, these shorts are made with a lightweight fabric blend. My size 32 shorts weigh 0.69 pounds:

lee-crossroads-shorts-lightweight
lee-crossroads-shorts-material

These shorts have easy-to-access cargo pockets down the side of both legs:

lee-crossroads-shorts

These shorts are very comfortable to wear. Not only are they made with a lightweight stretch fabric blend, they also have an elastic waistband and a gusseted crotch which makes moving in these shorts very easy:

lee-crossroads-shorts-waist
lee-crossroads-shorts-stretch

As I mentioned earlier in the article, if you are looking for casual lightweight cargo shorts, Lee is a great brand to consider. And that’s exactly how I would categorize these shorts: perfect for those who want a lightweight and flexible short to wear around town in the summer.

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


Lee Men’s Extreme Motion Swope Cargo Short

These Lee Swope Cargo Shorts are another great option and are very lightweight and flexible, but they are probably my third favorite out of the three Lee options on this list. The other two types of Lee shorts weighed less, and although these shorts are very flexible, I like the Lee Crossroads flexible shorts a bit more.

One thing, though, that is worth noting is these Lee shorts are made with a ripstop fabric and the other two types of Lee shorts are not. So these will be the better option for work and outdoor recreation.

Here’s what these Lee Men’s Extreme Motion Swope Cargo Shorts look like:

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

  • Material – Yes, this short is made with a 98% cotton/2% spandex stretch ripstop fabric will provide the durable comfort you need on the job.
  • Pockets – Two front pockets, two flap rear pockets, side flap cargo/utility pockets, and a cell phone pocket offer plenty of space to stash whatever you need to meet your next job or adventure head-on.
  • Fit – If a traditional cargo is too bulky for you, the Extreme Motion Swope Short will be a refreshing change with its streamlined-yet-relaxed fit and slim pockets. The 10.5-inch inseam hits right at the knee and the Extreme Motion elastic waistband provides maximum flexibility.

Yes, these shorts use a lightweight, summer-friendly fabric that has a breathable feel to it. My size 32 weighs 0.84 pounds:

lee-swope-shorts-weight

But even though these shorts are lightweight, the material is a ripstop fabric designed to discourage tears. If you look closely, you can see the ripstop weave in the material:

lee-swope-shorts-material

These shorts have side cargo pockets, but also have additional pockets on the outside of the cargo pocket which gives me a nice spot to store my phone:

lee-swope-shorts-pocket
lee-swope-shorts-pocket-2

Yes, these shorts stretch and make it very easy to bend and crouch on the job. They also have an elastic waistband that is hidden on the inside of the shorts:

lee-swope-shorts-stretch
lee-swope-shorts-stretch-waistband

Click here to buy these LEE lightweight cargo shorts at Amazon (paid affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.


What to Consider When Buying Lightweight Cargo Shorts

Length & Fit

You will definitely want to consider the inseam length of your lightweight cargo shorts. Obviously, your height matters, but a 10″ inseam will often hit near the top of the knee.

Most shorts for work need to have a relaxed fit that give you proper space to move and function on the job. It’s much harder to find slim fit work shorts. If you prefer slim, visit our article about the best slim fit work shorts.

Cargo Pockets

How many cargo pockets do you really need? If you buy cargo shorts that have too many pockets it can be overkill and just add bulk and weight to your work shorts. That doesn’t help anyone. But not having enough pockets can be a problem too.

You’ll also need to consider how bulky the cargo pockets are. For less bulk, consider low-profile zip close cargo pockets.

Crotch Gusset

A crotch gusset is extra material sewn into the crotch to add comfort and flexibility to your shorts (buying a stretch material is another way). To read more, visit our article about work shorts with gusseted crotch.

Here’s a look at two gusset shorts I own:

wrangler-cargo-shorts-gusset
cargo-carhartt-force-gusset

There are several types of lightweight cargo shorts that have a crotch gusset. The size of the gusset can vary. Some crotch gussets will be smaller (diamond shaped) and confined to the crotch area, while others will run the full length of the short.

In comparison, the full length gussets will provide you with more range of motion when hiking and running. But for simple bending and crouching on the job, both types of gussets work just fine. Buying quick dry cargo shorts with a gusset adds flexibility and comfort.

Durability

In general, lightweight cargo shorts tend to be less durable than traditional heavy-duty work shorts. In my opinion, the toughest shorts on our list are the Carhartt Broxton shorts that are still lightweight, but more durable than other options.

Ripstop fabric is a good option if you need something durable. This type of material is very lightweight, but is designed in a way that discourages rips and tears, and can add some durability to your shorts.

I personally turn to a lightweight work short when the heat gets brutal, but which style is best for you will likely come down to personal preference and the demands of your job.

Other Cargo Shorts to Consider

If you don’t like any of the lightweight cargo shorts on this list, perhaps some of these other types of cargo shorts might work better for you:

Quick Dry Shorts

Buying lightweight cargo shorts that are designed to wick sweat away can be a very helpful way to stay cooler and drier on the job. When moisture wicking shorts pull sweat away, it gets dispersed on the outside of the short allowing it to dry quicker.

Another small benefit from this is the evaporation process can naturally pull a small amount of heat away from your body. This quick dry evaporation is a sort of win-win process.

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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