Skip to Content

7 Different Types of Cargo Pants You Need to Know

Cargo pants are not only useful for storage with its many pockets but also stylish. As proof, here are the seven different types of cargo pants.

A close look at a new pair of cargo pants.

Cargo pants are so ingrained into daily fashion, you probably don’t think twice about them. You probably have at least one pair of them in your closet right now and you’ve probably worn a bunch of different pairs of cargo pants in your life.

But there are many different types of cargo pants that put a special twist on this standard style. Which type of cargo pants should you be wearing? Cargo pants aren’t just for working or rugged situations anymore. It’s time to find out how cargo pants have changed and how they’re still evolving on the fashion scene.


Anyone can wear cargo pants now, and pretty much everyone has worn a pair at least once. But when they were first invented, cargo pants were only worn by soldiers. These pants were designed for soldiers in the British Armed Forces. The deep, easily accessible pockets on the legs of the pants were used to store extra ammo, wound dressings, and other battlefield items.

That may be a bit of a grim start for cargo pants, but this style has now become a standard in apparel for both men and women.

What Are Cargo Pants?

Cargo pants are characterized by cargo pockets. These are large pockets on the upper legs of the pants. They’re placed on the outer thighs, above the knees. Cargo pockets are typically made to be expandable, so they get bigger as more items are put inside them, and have flap closures. The flaps may be secured with Velcro, buttons, even magnets sewn into the cloth.

The large cargo pockets are rarely the only pockets in cargo pant styles. Usually, cargo pants have a minimum of six pockets. That includes standard back pockets and hip pockets that are found in many pant styles. Standard cargo pant designs are made to be somewhat loose-fitting and comfortable. Traditional cargo pants are made in khaki or camouflage designs, an homage to their military roots. However, cargo pants have evolved and changed a great deal since those early military days.

Who Wears Cargo Pants?

Because they are great for storage, cargo pants are still used in uniforms and they’re still worn widely by professionals who need to keep items readily available. Cargo pant styles are also still worn by military personnel and police officers. You’ll see them being worn by first responders and many other working professionals. They’re popular with construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and others who work with their hands.

However, cargo pants can be worn by anyone and often are. This is a popular look and it’s practical whether you’re working or just having a day of relaxation. After all, everyone’s got things to carry.

Types of Cargo Pants

Pants that have cargo pockets are cargo pants. However, there are many different designs and different types of cargo pants.

A close look at a male medical first responder wearing dark cargo pants.

EMT pants are cargo pants that are specifically designed for first responders. These pants are usually made with a blend of polyester and cotton fabrics that creates a durable material that’s easy to machine wash. Often, these pants are reinforced in heavy-wear areas like the knees. EMT cargo pants are made with lots of pockets. The big pockets often have dividers to make it easy to store medical supplies. EMT cargo pants are often made in dark blues, grays, and blacks, common uniform colors.

A close look at a man wearing tactical cargo pants.

Tactical cargo pants are worn by SWAT team members and other police officers. Tactical cargo pants are made to be exceptionally durable. These cargo pants are made with concealed pockets, smaller pockets that are hidden inside the large cargo pockets. Tactical pants are usually reinforced and made with double stitching techniques to make them wear-resistant. Tactical cargo pants are frequently made in shades of gray, black, green, khaki, and blue.

A female backpacker wearing cargo pants.

Hiking cargo pants are made to withstand the elements and provide lots of pocket space. Made for toughness, water-resistance, and storage capacity, hiking cargo pants are designed for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. These pants are perfect for fishing, camping, and any sort of outdoor leisure. You can often find hiking cargo pants in camouflage patterns and other natural Earth colors, like brown and khaki.

Cargo Pants Skinny Fit from H&M.

Source: H&M

Slim fit cargo pants are one of the newer types of cargo pants out there. This design is different from traditional cargo pant styles because it’s made to be form-fitting, rather than loose. Otherwise, slim fit cargo pants are like any other type of cargo pants, with plenty of pocket space and durable fabric.

A woman wearing cargo jogger pants.

Cargo jogger pants are designed as athletic wear that has the traditional cargo pant style. These cargo pants are generally made in soft, breathable cloth with a drawstring or elastic waistbands that are contouring and comfortable. These cargo pants still have the leg pockets but unlike traditional cargo pant styles, they’re made to be lightweight and they aren’t designed with heavy fabric types.

Dolce and Gabbana Black Embroidered Cargo Pants from SSense.

Source: SSENSE

High-end cargo pants are now totally a thing, too. Now, cargo pants are made from a huge variety of materials, from silk to leather, and made in straight-leg, flare, and skinny styles. High-end fashion designers have offered their own expensive versions of cargo pants that have been worn by celebrities all across the entertainment industry. High-end cargo pants are made in a dizzying array of colors and patterns.

Juunj Blue Denim Cargo Pants from Ssense.

Source: SSENSE

Denim cargo pants are another relatively new development when it comes to cargo pant styles. Cargo pant styles have now made the leap to denim to become a legitimate blue jeans style. Denim cargo pants have the classic big leg pockets and typically, several more pockets everywhere to emphasize the cargo pant design.

Wearing Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are highly adaptable and the design can be made in any fabric. Tactical and camping cargo pants are often made with cotton ripstop material. This is a fabric that is designed to prevent tears. The fabric is woven so that tears literally stop. Hence, ripstop.

Cargo pants can be worn in any season. Some styles are made to be heavier and more insulating for colder temperatures, while others are made to be lightweight and breathable for hot weather. Cargo pants can be worn with almost anything, but it’s common to pair these pants with casual shirts, like T-shirts, and casual shoes like boots and sneakers. Read our article on what shoes to wear with cargo pants here.

You don’t need a battlefield to have a need for cargo pants anymore. These pants have made it into every aspect of fashion. They can be worn as rugged outdoor wear, as part of a work uniform, as a casual style choice, or even as something totally expensive and high-end.

Cargo pants can be worn by anyone, even the ultra A-list celebs, and they can look good on anyone. Find the type of cargo pants you like best and start putting things in those super useful pockets. Because after all, storing items is what cargo pants are all about.