I recently put my hands on some of the most popular moisture wicking cargo shorts to evaluate them on comfort, durability, and design. My conclusion was this: The Carhartt Force shorts are perfect for work because they also add durability and toughness, but the Columbia Silver Ridge quick dry cargo shorts are perfect for those who want something ultra-lightweight for hot weather.
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These are my choices for the best moisture wicking quick dry cargo shorts:
- Carhartt Men’s Force Relaxed Fit Ripstop Cargo Work Short (click here to view)
- Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- Lee Men’s Performance Cargo Short (click here to view)
- Wrangler Authentics Comfort Flex Waist Cargo Short (click here to view)
- Columbia Men’s Permit III Shorts (click here to view)
- *Big & Tall* Kingsize Moisture Wicking Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- *Women’s* Columbia East Ridge II Shorts (click here to view)
Although all of these shorts are moisture wicking quick dry cargo shorts, they are very different. The Carhartt Force shorts are made with a heavier, more durable fabric, while the Columbia Silver Ridge shorts are super lightweight, and (in my opinion) more breathable.
For example, my Carhartt Force Cargo Shorts weigh 0.98 pounds, and my Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts weigh 0.42 pounds. Obviously, the inseam length can also affect weight, but the Carhartt shorts are heavier and feel much more durable to the touch.
That said, the Columbia Silver Ridge shorts do use a ripstop fabric, so although the fabric is very lightweight, it still has some durability. Ultimately, you know your needs and working conditions better than anyone.
In this article let’s take a closer look at the shorts on this list and I will use photos of the shorts that I own so I can provide you with helpful information. Let’s also discuss what you’ll want to consider when buying quick dry cargo shorts. Also, for pant options, visit our article about the best moisture wicking work pants.
Best Moisture Wicking Quick Dry Cargo Shorts
Carhartt Men’s Force Relaxed Fit Ripstop Cargo Work Short
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 work shorts built more for summer.
These cargo shorts use a 7-ounce ripstop fabric that is both breathable and durable. Here’s what these Carhartt moisture wicking cargo shorts look like:
This is the current price of these Carhartt moisture wicking cargo shorts available at Amazon (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.
- Moisture Wicking – Yes, these shorts are designed to wick moisture away. They are built using Carhartt’s FastDry® technology. Is moisture wicking the same thing as waterproof?
- 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:
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 as the best. They’re still quite durable and tough, but they are also moisture wicking and breathable to help you during those brutal summer days.
Here’s a look at the ripstop fabric:
Here’s a look at how mine fit:
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):
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:
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 quick dry work shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these shorts fit true to size.
Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
Columbia is well known for making outdoor active-wear. What I like about these shorts are they are very lightweight, and are a nice option when summer turns brutally hot.
Here’s what these Columbia moisture wicking shorts look like:
This is the current price of these Columbia quick dry cargo shorts available at Amazon (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).
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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:
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.
One thing I like about these shorts is the low-profile zip cargo pocket that gives me a safe place to store essentials:
These shorts also have an inseam crotch gusset for comfort when bending and crouching:
These shorts also have side-elastic panels on the waistband that help provide a snug, but comfortable fit around the waist:
For comparison, here are these Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts sitting on top of the Carhartt Force Cargo Shorts we discussed first. As I mentioned earlier, the Carhartt shorts have a heavier fabric, and also have a longer inseam.
But again, 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 moisture wicking cargo shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Lee Men’s Performance Cargo Short
LEE is another well-established name in apparel, and they make these moisture wicking cargo shorts that are extremely lightweight to help keep you cool on the job.
Here’s what these Lee Men’s Performance Cargo Shorts look like:
This is the current price of these LEE moisture wicking cargo shorts available at Amazon (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.
- 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.
- 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.
This isn’t a ripstop material like the first two options, but in my experience the material on these shorts is still reasonably durable in comparison to how lightweight the shorts are. Here’s a look at the 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.
Easy-to-access cargo pockets down the side:
Overall, these shorts are very lightweight and breathable. My size 32 shorts weigh 0.62 pounds:
One thing I like about these shorts is the material moves with me as I bend, and doesn’t restrict my movement:
Click here to buy these LEE cargo shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Wrangler Authentics Lightweight Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts
These Wrangler Authentics Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts are another great lightweight option that also has plenty of essential storage space. Yes, they are made with a moisture wicking fabric. I like the low-profile pockets on this short.
I’ve owned these shorts for several years. Here’s what they look like:
This is the current price of these Wrangler cargo shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Comfort – These shorts, in my opinion, feel almost as lightweight as swim trunks, and that’s why I like them. In my experience, still tough enough for most types of work. Overall, a nice blend of lightweight and toughness.
- 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:
These are another lightweight option just like the Columbia Silver Ridge shorts we discussed earlier. The main difference is these shorts feel much more flexible.
My size 32 shorts weigh 0.66 pounds, which makes them a little bit heavier than those Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts from earlier:
Yes, 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.
Just like the LEE Performance Cargo Shorts from earlier, these Wrangler shorts have a snap-button closure:
Overall, it fits very comfortably around the waist. The belt loops have quality stitching:
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.
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 moisture wicking cargo shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Again, in my experience these shorts fit true-to-size.
Other Moisture Wicking Cargo Shorts to Consider
- Columbia Men’s Permit III Shorts – As we discussed earlier, Columbia makes a lot of lightweight options that make sense for the brutal heat. These shorts are made with a moisture-wicking quick dry nylon blend. Feature cargo pockets for storage and have built-in sun protection. Click here to view to view these shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
- *Big & Tall* Kingsize Moisture Wicking Cargo Shorts – Kingsize is a popular big and tall brand, and they make these moisture wicking cargo shorts that should be usable on most jobs. Made with a relaxed fit that won’t hug tight against your legs, these shorts also have an elastic waistband for extra comfort. Click here to view these cargo shorts (affiliate link takes you to kingsize.com).
- *Women’s* Columbia East Ridge II Shorts – If you’re shopping for women’s moisture wicking work shorts, these Columbia shorts will be a nice options. Yes, moisture wicking, with UPF 30 sun protection. These shorts feature a right leg cargo pocket for storage. Click here to view these moisture wicking cargo shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
4 Things to Consider When Buying Quick Dry Cargo Shorts
In general, moisture wicking work shorts tend to be lighter in weight than most other types of work shorts (there can be exceptions). But still, these moisture wicking work shorts will vary in weight.
Do you prefer lightweight, more comfortable work shorts? Or do you need something that is heavy duty and ultra durable? Often, this is what determines your choice between ripstop and canvas fabric.
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. I also prefer a flexible waist short for extreme heat.
Inseam & Fit
You will definitely want to consider the inseam of your work shorts. Obviously, your height matters, but a 10″ inseam will often hit near the top of the knee. For shorter options, visit our article about the best short length cargo shorts. If you prefer a longer inseam, visit our article about the best long cargo shorts.
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.
How many 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. If you prefer carpenter work shorts instead, visit our article about the best carpenter shorts.
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 the best gusseted work shorts.
Here’s a look at two gusset shorts I own:
There are several types of moisture wicking 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.