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6 Alternatives to Cargo Shorts

Choose any of these alternatives to cargo shorts to have the option of a comfortable short with a similar length. These options include tactical shorts and fishing shorts as well as chino shorts, messenger shorts, and casual shorts.

This is a close look at a pair of dark gray men's cargo shorts.

Summer arrived hot, humid, and muggy. You want to spend time outdoors, and you want a spot to carry all of your gear and necessities. You choose a pair of cargo shorts as your trusty ally for so long now, but lately, you have thought maybe you need to find an alternative to cargo shorts.

Perhaps you want to diversify your style. Maybe your spouse kindly suggested you expand your fashion options. It could just be time to do some shopping.

You have plenty of options because many alternatives to cargo shorts exist. In fact, at least one option provides you a greater number of pockets if you can imagine that. Read on to learn your plethora of options.


Your fashion choices include shorts designed for general casual wear and those designed for specific sports. Fishing, hiking, and hunting/tactical pursuits all contribute to the list of possible alternatives you can wear to any sporting event or casual outing this summer. Their length may differ as most provide a slightly shorter inseam, but the fit remains comfortable.

Drawstring Shorts

A pair of dark and sporty drawstring shorts.

Drawstring shorts, like cargo shorts, provide a relaxed fit. You can typically find these shorts in cotton or a linen blend. The drawstring closure provides a comfortable fit, especially as active wear, plus you get a few pockets in which to stash keys, wallet, and other items. You can dress them up or down depending on your event, and they provide you with a greater diversity of looks than cargo shorts would.

One to Try: Spend less than $25 on a pair of INC International Concepts Russ Soft Shorts from You can style these linen-blend shorts numerous ways, and they fit nearly any casual event including baseball games.

Fishing Shorts

Wrangler Authentics Men's Performance Comfort Flex Waist Cargo Short, sagebrush, 32

Fishing shorts might go a bit shorter than you would like since they use a seven-inch inseam. They provide many benefits though including built-in UPF sun protection. That’s like sunscreen built-in your clothes.

Fishing shorts usually come in cotton and may have a partially elastic waistline. Many of these shorts contain two large pockets at least one of which can accommodate a canned beverage. They also usually provide a zip-closure security pocket. Some of these shorts have a D-ring detail. Even if you do not fish, these can provide a great look for summer.

One to Try: For $40 for regular sizes or $45 for big and tall sizes, you can nab Columbia’s PFG Brewha II shorts. These all-cotton shorts provide a beer pocket and work well for all water sports, especially fishing and sailing.

Messenger Shorts

Unionbay Men's Cordova Belted Cargo Short Messenger - 34 - Black

Maybe you love your cargo shorts, but you just want a slightly different look. Maybe a little more fitted? You can go less baggy with a pair of messenger shorts. You keep the vibe of cargo shorts, but with a less bagged, more fitted look. You keep the just below the knee-length of cargo shorts and the oversized pockets. Messenger shorts provide the ideal cross between the jams a surfer wears and cargo shorts.

One to Try: For just under $50, you can take home INC’s International Concepts Evans Messenger Shorts, so you can spend the summer cozy. Available at

Plaid Casual Shorts

Lee Men's New Belted Wyoming Cargo Short, White Jamestown Plaid, 36

Casual shorts provide two slash pockets and two back pockets, typically. This type of short may close with buttons or a zipper and a visible button. Choose casual shorts in a refined plaid for a versatile pattern that works for casual work events as well as a summer baseball game. You can easily style casual shorts in a preppy look.

One to Try: Shop Macy’s or eBay to pick up a pair of Calvin Klein Men’s Vanderson Plaid Shorts for $65.

Chino Shorts

A pair of brown chino shorts.

No need to suddenly switch to short shorts. No one is trying to shock your system. Chino shorts offer a few inseams though and going with something just above the knee can provide you with a nice opportunity to show off your legs.

Try a nine-inch or seven-inch inseam. These offer a much greater diversity in colors than you typically get with cargo shorts, so enjoy the options. You can still stash your wallet in a back pocket while your keys go in the front pocket. These aren’t as baggy as cargos though.

One to Try: J. Crew Factory Nine Inch Chambray Gramercy Shorts offer a jaunty look. The cleaner line of these fitted shorts lets you style a dressier look for under $40 from

Tactical Shorts

A man wearing a pair of camouflage print tactical shorts.

Do you say the pockets in cargo shorts really do it for you? Do you love stashing things in each pocket and never having to take a backpack, fanny pack, or purse with you? Okay. How about a pair of tactical shorts then?

This provides a more fitted look than baggy cargo shorts, but you get an awe-inspiring nine pockets or more! Tactical shorts give you more organizing pockets than cargo shorts. In fact, cargo shorts are a type of tactical shorts.

Most tactical shorts come in either cotton, polyester, or a polyester/cotton blend. This type of shorts uses ripstop material with a DuPont Teflon fabric protector. This combination of features means that most tactical shorts resist wrinkling, shrinking in washer or dryer, and fading plus they resist stains and liquids.

You can find these shorts with a French fly snap closure, a button closure, or zippered plus button closure. They often design these shorts with a long-lasting double seat, reinforced pockets, plus stretch waistbands. Choose from multiple inseam lengths. A nine-inch inseam will probably provide you with the closest fit to cargo shorts.

One to Try: For just under $35 you can take home a pair of Propper Lightweight Tactical Shorts featuring an unfathomable 11 pocket design, including two wallet pocket-in-a-pockets. Available at

Where can you buy these alternatives to Cargo shorts?

Lest you think that you have to shop Macy’s, Tactical Gear, or J. Crew for these alternatives, you do not. You can purchase these alternatives to cargo shorts at Dillard’s, Foley’s, Kohl’s, Belk’s, Cabela’s, ThredUp, and eBay. You can purchase bespoke versions of these types of shorts on

You can also find other alternatives to wear. While these options provide the closest choices to cargo shorts, you could go wild and try Bermuda shorts or madras plaid shorts. Yes, you do need to consider your build and the length of your legs, but you could shop at Jams, Ocean Pacific, or Sun Pac for other alternatives while picking up some drawstring shorts at those stores.

Your local Army supply store will offer numerous options for tactical shorts as will any supply store for police and fire uniforms. Your local sporting goods store will probably carry an extensive number of fishing shorts.

Frequently Asked Questions

You still have questions about these shorts alternatives. We understand, and we will do our best to answer them.

Will these alternatives to cargo shorts come in khaki?

Yes, you can still wear khaki shorts if you purchase fishing shorts or tactical shorts. You will also have many other colors at your disposal though. You can choose from blue, red, green, purple, yellow, orange, black, brown, olive, white, cream, and plaids.

What sizing considerations are there?

Your waist measurement remains the same as your current shorts, but you would change your rise and inseam with a different type of shorts. Cargo shorts have one of the longest inseams available. Making a change means choosing a different length.