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Work Pants

Carhartt Steel Cargo Work Pants Review

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Rating : 8.5/10
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Performance Breakdown


Bottom Line

Designed with thick yet stretchy material and Cordura-reinforced parts, the Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants allow unrestricted movements without sacrificing strength and durability.


  • Rugged construction
  • Thick yet stretchy material
  • Articulated knees
  • Cordura-reinforced sections
  • Multiple back and front pockets


  • Slightly heavier than other cargo pants


Cordura Stretch Ripstop (73% Cotton, 24% Nylon, 3% Elastane)


1.91lbs / 0.85kg / 29.9oz

Sizes Available

W (30/32/34/36/38/40/42) / L30, W (30/32/34/36/38/40/42) / L32, W (32/34/36/38) / L34




Not all work pants are designed to give you the freedom to move, but this aspect is where the Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants stand out the most. The thick fabric of these pants felt and looked quite rugged, assuring me that I’ll be able to maximize their remarkable performance for a long time, even with heavy use. I’m impressed with the material’s ample stretch as it didn’t feel restrictive, with exclusive technologies such as Full Swing and Rugged Flex working to increase further the pants’ ability to offer ease of motion that’s a must in every work setting. I also appreciated the articulated knees that gave my knees the extra room to bend and move naturally. I had enough storage space to bring my essentials throughout the day, thanks to the multiple pockets fitted into the pants’ front and back. The Cordura reinforcements on most of these pockets and other components, including the kick panels and utility loop, helped protect the pants against abrasion and other signs of damage. These pants feel heavier than other cargo pants (mainly because of the thick fabric), so it’s not the best choice for those who are after lightweight work pants.


Key Takeaways

  • The Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants showcase premium materials and rugged construction to keep up with various job settings.
  • The Cordura Stretch ripstop cotton is thicker than other cargo pants materials but maintains a comfortable feel because it stretches to accommodate natural motion. The articulated knees and exclusive technologies (Rugged Flex and Full Swing) also contribute to the ease of movement without compromising superior performance.
  • Multiple pockets in the front and back offer spacious areas where personal items and work-related essentials can be stashed so they stay within easy reach throughout the workday.
  • Cordura panels on most pockets, a hammer loop, and kick panels help strengthen these parts’ resistance to abrasion and tearing for enhanced durability.
  • These cargo pants are on the heavy side, so they may not be ideal for those who prefer lightweight pants.


Ideal For

  • People who prefer stretch work pants
  • Tough work environments
  • Those who like durable cargo pants with multiple pockets


Performance Analysis


The Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants were quite comfortable for work pants. However, I was a bit surprised as I expected them to feel uncomfortable because of the thickness of the material.

I was happy to discover this wasn’t the case, as the fabric had enough stretch to allow natural mobility. These pants also featured proprietary Carhartt technologies – Rugged Flex and Full Swing – that enabled a greater range of motion, so I had no trouble moving comfortably on and off the job.

I loved the addition of articulated knees, as these significantly affected how comfortable I could move around. When using other pants, I often felt like my knees’ movements were restricted when squatting, kneeling, and sometimes even while climbing stairs or ladders. I’m glad this wasn’t the case with these pants, as the curved structure of the material over the knees offered additional room. In addition, the articulated knees enabled easier and more comfortable knee movements because the fabric didn’t limit motion.

Even if these pants were thicker than other cargo pants I’ve tried, they still managed to stay comfortable throughout all the tasks that I needed to deal with. I liked how the thickness of the material made the pants comfortably warm enough for mild to cold weather, unlike thinner cargo pants that are strictly for warmer conditions. With enough stretch to allow a wider range of motion, the material made the pants feel comfortable enough to be used even if they’re not the softest or most lightweight garment.



The relative thickness of these pants’ material compared to other cargo pants also resulted in a heavier structure. They weigh approximately 1.87 lbs / 0.85 kg / 29.9 oz.

I noticed that these pants were thicker and a bit heavier than other Carhartt pants I’ve tried, although this wasn’t a big issue for me since they didn’t feel uncomfortable. The ease of movement offered by these pants balanced out the slight heaviness of the material to keep them comfortable.


Fit and Sizing

These pants are true to size, both in terms of waist size and length. Pick the size you normally wear in jeans and pants for the right fit. The fit isn’t too relaxed, but this wasn’t a huge problem since the stretch of the material, and articulated knees made movements comfortable and easy to manage. Those who want a relaxed fit can choose to go up one size for a larger waist portion and pair the pants with a proper-fitting belt.



These pants don’t come with waterproof materials, so they’re not suitable for use outdoors when it’s raining heavily or in environments with high exposure to extreme moisture. The thick material may not immediately let in a few drops of water, but it won’t resist or repel liquids enough to protect the skin against uncomfortable wetness.



The cotton element of the pants’ material allows air to get and circulate, although it still needs to be the most breathable pair of pants I’ve used. Overheating may only be an issue in extremely hot conditions, especially considering the thickness of these pants’ material.


Quality and Durability

The Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants have a rugged look and feel that’s ideal for different job sites. In addition, the stretch ripstop material has a strong, thick structure that can withstand heavy use while dealing with physically taxing activities.

I liked how it offers enhanced resistance to abrasion and tears, giving me the confidence to use the pants in tough surroundings without worrying that they’ll easily be damaged. In addition, the triple-stitched main seams offered additional durability to keep the pants’ components strongly bonded to one another.

Even if the material is thicker than the ones in other cargo pants I’ve tried, it still feels quite comfortable. This is because the fabric has enough stretch to allow ease of movement, so the pants don’t feel restrictive. Carhartt also uses proprietary technologies – Full Swing and Rugged Flex – to promote a wider range of motion while wearing these pants.

I loved the addition of articulated knees that offered enough room for my knees to bend naturally, making squatting, kneeling, and climbing stairs or ladders much easier and more comfortable. The multiple pockets ensured I could carry around all the items I needed in dedicated compartments. In addition, these pockets are reinforced with Cordura panels to resist better fraying and abrasion even with extensive use.

The cargo pockets had ample room to secure larger items, while the front ledge pockets (and a smaller pocket inside the right front one) held the smaller items I needed to access more quickly and frequently throughout the day. The back pockets were spacious enough to accommodate small tools and other important objects, while the zip pocket built into the leg was the perfect space for my mobile phone. Meanwhile, the Cordura utility loop fitted onto the right leg offered a convenient way to bring a hammer or other tools that won’t fit anywhere else.

I appreciated the pads on the knees to make kneeling on hard floors more manageable and less uncomfortable. These reinforcements also protected the pants from prematurely damaging, especially with frequent kneeling on abrasive surfaces. Meanwhile, the kick panels with Cordura panels protect the hems from extensive fraying. Finally, I liked the true-to-size fit, and the leg opening easily fits over work boots.

However, those who want a more relaxed fit may benefit from choosing a slightly larger waist size for better comfort, according to their preference.


Other Versions

The Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants are available in 2 colors – black and tarmac. In addition, they come in another version with a utility band but without cargo pockets.


The Challengers

Dickies Eagle Bend Cargo Pants

The Dickies Eagle Bend Cargo Pants are designed for all-day comfort without compromising superb functionality. Their relaxed fit doesn’t limit movements, making it easier to get the job done without discomfort getting in the way. The cargo pockets are ultra-spacious and can accommodate plenty of small items or even larger essentials that may need to be carried around for maximum efficiency in the work area. Meanwhile, an attachment point fitted on the belt loop provides a dedicated area where extra gear can be attached. The ripstop nylon fabric is made to resist tears and abrasion, giving the pants the strength to keep up with challenging settings without easily becoming damaged. The double layer of material on the knees offers reliable reinforcement and makes kneeling more comfortable. The hems are built with a herringbone adjuster that works to secure the opening for a better fit. The soft material and relaxed fit make these pants comfortable, although those who are after very rugged pants may be better off choosing a pair with much thicker fabric.

Carhartt Men’s Ripstop Cargo Work Pants

The Carhartt Men’s Ripstop Cargo Work Pants are made with ripstop cotton that has a strong resistance to tears and abrasion, giving these pants the strength needed to withstand being used in tough conditions. The strong material is surprisingly lightweight and feels more like a regular pair of jeans but with multiple pockets for ample storage space. Two cargo pockets have the space for larger objects that may be needed for the day’s tasks, while the two front slash pockets and two back pockets can hold smaller essentials that need to be within easy reach. Both these front and back pockets are reinforced with Cordura sections for improved durability. The knee panels have two layers of fabric to strengthen their resistance against normal wear and tear while also making kneeling less painful. These pants feel quite tight and short, though, compared to pants of the same size.


Dickies Duck Canvas Stone-Washed Carpenter Pants

The Dickies Duck Canvas Stone-Washed Carpenter Pants have a streamlined design that goes well with various work shirts and jackets. They’re quite comfortable and feel like a good pair of jeans with the same flexibility and less weight. The duck canvas material is long-wearing and ideal for work settings, although there are much stronger and thicker fabric options that can last a lot longer. The double stitching on the seams increases the strength of the components’ bond to ensure that the pants won’t easily fall apart, even with heavy use. The front and back pockets have enough space to hold items that need to be brought around the work area for the day. A tool pocket and hammer loop ensure that tools that won’t fit into the pockets can still be carried around conveniently. Unfortunately, the light construction of these pants makes them unsuitable for cold and rainy weather, which would require sturdier structures or insulation.

Dickies Renegade Jeans

The Dickies Renegade Jeans feel more premium and rugged compared to a normal pair of jeans. The exclusive Dickies FLEX technology infuses enhanced flexibility, making it much easier to move around using this pair as it doesn’t limit movements as regular jeans would. The relaxed fit also contributed to the enhanced comfort, offering enough space for the legs to move as required. The mid-rise waist provides extra space to promote a wider range of motion, while the abrasion-resistant waistband keeps this component strong enough to prevent premature damage. The back hem is also reinforced to make it more resistant to fraying, especially when the jeans are frequently used in tough conditions. The knees are protected against abrasion and discomfort thanks to the knee pads that can conveniently be placed using the bottom-loading design. These jeans are heavier than regular jeans, so they may not be the ideal choice for those who are after lightweight work pants.

Conclusion & Verdict

The Carhartt Steel Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit Cargo Work Pants are premium work pants that are ideal for mild to cold weather. The thick, rugged material makes these pants ideal for demanding jobs where lighter pants aren’t likely to last long. I loved how the stretch material made it so much easier to move around since there wasn’t anything stiff that could limit my mobility. This flexibility made moving more comfortable even if the pants’ fabric was thicker than other pants I’ve tried. The articulated knees made it possible for me to squat and climb ladders or stairs more easily, with the curved structure of the fabric giving this area more space for my knees to bend comfortably. Multiple pockets, most of them reinforced with Cordura, offered ample room for me to bring my essentials during the workday. These pants are slightly heavy, so I will only recommend them to people who prefer lightweight work pants.

What we like

  • Durable
  • Thick but stretchy
  • Articulated knees
  • Cordura-reinforced sections
  • Back and front pockets

What we don’t like

  • Slightly heavy

Professions These Are Ideal For

Carpenters, Construction workers, Warehouse staff, Car mechanics

Luke Davis

Luke is the lead author on He has a vast experience in construction engineering and project management in California and Texas, where he had the chance to put to test a wide range of safety boots and PPE. Outside work, Luke is an avid hiker and not surprisingly a DIY fanatic!