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Cargo Shorts vs. Hiking Shorts

Cargo shorts can be an amazing bottom for hiking, but hiking shorts can also be a good all around bottom. Learn more about these two here.

Young hiker wearing hiking shorts.

I must admit that I love seeing men wear cargo shorts(not the overly baggy ones). However, what I failed to understand was that they can be cumbersome, particularly when hiking. So, when my hubby started steering away from them toward hiking shorts (and I saw how he rocked them), I began to understand that not one style fits all occasions or every individual.

I’ve compiled this article to give you an in-depth look at both types of shorts so you can choose the right ones for each event.

What are Cargo Shorts?

Wrangler Authentics Men's Performance Comfort Flex Cargo Short, Sagebrush, 34

It’s a variation of cargo pants, but in shorts form. Cargo shorts typically have legs that reach just below the knee.

Since they are loose-fitting and suitable for carrying extra items on daily footpaths or while cycling, both cargo shorts and pants have also become popular as urban casual wear. They did lose their charm for a short while but have again continued to reign supreme.

What are Hiking Shorts?

Wespornow Men's-Hiking-Shorts Lightweight-Quick-Dry-Outdoor-Cargo-Casual-Shorts for Hiking, Camping, Travel, Fishing (Army Green, Small)

All the pockets and materials in these shorts are designed for functionality: two front pockets for storing hands, two rear pockets for holding small items, a zipped pocket on the thigh, and a small pocket for storing coins and other small items. Chafing can also be prevented by using abrasion-resistant materials.

Despite having a lot of pockets, they aren’t big and can still hold a variety of supplies for your hike, making them perfect for it. Shorts and hiking shorts both have the same inseam length in the legs.

Cargo shorts vs hiking shorts

Back of grey cargo shorts.


Cargo Shorts

The main features of cargo pants are:

  • Breathable 
  • Multiple Cargo Pockets
  • Below-knee length

An accordion-folded “cargo pocket” is a type of patch pocket that can be closed with a flap that is fastened by Velcro, a snap, or a button. In some cases, designers incorporate cargo pockets into the leg sections of various cargo shorts.

The removable lower legs on some cargo pants allow them to be worn as shorts.

Hiking Shorts

  • Above the knees
  • Zippered pockets
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Breathable 
  • Water repellent 
  • Lightweight

Because they are constructed of very thin materials, hiking shorts tend to be extremely light. When hiking, it’s best to wear lighter clothing because it’s more comfortable and allows you to move around more freely.


Hiker man wearing hiking shorts.

Cargo Shorts

Cotton or a mix of polyester and cotton are the most common materials for cargo shorts. As a versatile pair of shorts, cargo shorts are constructed to last and are machine washable. They can be worn for a variety of activities, from camping and hiking to yard work and grocery shopping.

Hiking Shorts

It’s common for hiking shorts to be manufactured out of polyester or nylon. The durability of nylon outweighs the moisture-wicking and breathability of polyester. However, nylon is more abrasion-resistant (durable).

Both materials are quite abrasive to moisture, so they dry quickly. Polyester has somewhat superior moisture-wicking and breathability than nylon, but nylon is more abrasion-resistant (lasting).

Both materials are quite abrasive to moisture, so they dry quickly. The use of spandex is common in these less-stretchy textiles to increase elasticity and recovery time. It is possible to find shorts that have been coated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) so that rain does not soak into the fabric.


Couple wearing hiking shorts.

Cargo Shorts

Shorts with more than four pockets are on the market. Flap-closure pockets situated squarely on the thigh are common.

It’s also popular for cargo shorts to have a length that reaches past one’s knees. Many people think this is a good length for shorts since they cover the knee but aren’t too short. If you don’t want your legs to overheat while wearing cargo shorts, then don’t bother.

As a result of their loose fit, cargo shirts are extremely pleasant to wear. Sometimes, people refer to cargo shorts as “combat shorts” because of their utility. In some cases, a smaller pocket might be found either within or outside the cargo pocket.

Hiking Shorts 

To swiftly store and retrieve all of your hiking gear, your hiking shorts should include pockets that are both conveniently located and easy to get to. There should be enough room in the pockets so that things don’t slip out while you’re doing something. Above the knees is the most common location.

To keep the crotch area free of chafing, they have a gazetted crotch.


The durability of cargo and hiking shorts boils down to the type of material used as well as the design. 

Wrangler Authentics Men’s Premium Twill Cargo Short, Anthracite Twill, 38

Cargo Shorts

Designed to be both comfortable and sturdy, cargo shorts are perfect for a variety of outdoor excursions because they can hold a wide variety of objects. They’re also excellent for everyday wear because, nowadays, everyone has a lot of things to tote, whether they’re doing errands or searching for a fantastic fishing site.

Hiking Shorts

MAGCOMSEN Quick Dry Shorts Men with Pockets Hiking Shorts Men Biking Shorts for Men Athletic Shorts Mens Cycling Shorts Mens Shorts Workout Shorts Men Army Green

Those made of nylon are the most durable. Nylon is more abrasion-resistant even though it is a little less breathable than the polyester version. The nylon hiking shorts also absorb very little moisture and therefore dry very fast.

Cost differences

The more durable cargo shorts or hiking shorts are, the more you’ll pay for them. After all, quality and price go hand in hand. You can pay as little as 17 dollars for a cargo short to as much as $120 for a pair. However, the average price for a cargo short is $35.

For hiking shorts, you can purchase them for as little as $15 to as much as $130. The average cost for hiking shorts is $50.

The more features that either short has, the material and breathability, help to determine the cost. 

Benefits of each

Brown cargo shorts, white background.

Cargo Shorts

With flaps on the pockets, cargo shorts of the 1980s were marketed as suitable for the sportsman or fisherman, assuring that the contents of the pockets were safe and secure. Cargo shorts were fashionable in men’s fashion in the late 1990s. Then in 2012, even while cargo shorts’ pockets were unquestionably handy for transporting work-related items and other common tools, people viewed them as more utilitarian than attractive in their design. It’s light and breezy.

Hiking Shorts 

Hiking in warm weather is made easier by wearing a pair of good-quality shorts, which are more breathable, comfortable, and allow for a greater range of motion than conventional pants. To avoid injury from rocks, cliffs, and other hazards, hikers should only wear shorts on well-designed and less demanding trails. The majority of them are soft, light, and able to keep you cool and dry in hot weather.

In addition, most hiking shorts are made to wick away moisture and dry quickly. Many hiking shorts offer UV protection for the upper portion of your legs. The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) measures how much of the sun’s rays are absorbed by a piece of clothing before it becomes damaged.

Brief History of Cargo Pants

Shorts appear to be a relatively recent development. Since they were first created in the 14th century, you might be surprised to learn about them. While battling in hot, tropical locations, soldiers needed a way to keep cool. To combat the oppressive heat, soldiers began donning shorts. Soon after, civilians followed suit. They became a fashion staple and have never been away from the limelight since.

As time went on, the style transformed to keep up with the latest fashion trends. There are now a plethora of short designs to choose from, and they’ve proven to be a popular choice for warm-weather wear.

Brief History of Hiking Shorts

Hikers along the Appalachian Trail and other popular hiking paths have been changing clothing styles for many years. It was within the last decade (the 2010s)that hikers started the transition from cargo pants and shorts to hiking shorts. Hiking shorts are most popular on the shorter and less risky trails, but they have become the more sought-after option. 

The Bottom Line

Cargo Shirts are great for many occasions. However, when hiking, it’s best to select shorts made specifically for that to prevent chafing, reduce sweating and allow for a comfy trip. Additionally, hiking shorts do look more classy depending on the style you choose. Therefore, I’d go in hiking shorts.