Carhartt is one of those brands whose rugged reputation precedes it. If you are a regular here at WellRigged.com you know I only focus on products like these. This Carhartt pants review has been a long time coming so prepare for a deep dive.
In This Carhartt Pants Review:
- Carhartts Brand Profile
- Carhartt Vs. Dickies?
- Carhartt’s Best Workpants: Top Picks
- Case Study/Review: Rugged Flex Double Front Pants
- How Much do Carhartts Cost?
- Conclusion: Are Carhartts Worth It?
Later on, for some hands-on perspective, I’ll be using my own pair of Rugged Flex Rigby Double Front work pants as a typical example of what you can expect from a pair of Carhartt work pants.
Carhartt Brand Profile
Let me just preface this section by saying…
In my years of researching durable products, a key recurring factor that divides the legendary legacy products from all the junk is that classic products begin as simple, thoughtful designs and are systematically tested and perfected (often over decades.)
No brand is perfect and, obviously, not every product on Carhartt’s website is flawless. Still, Carhartt’s long record of producing high-quality products should be a confidence builder for first-time buyers. Buyer’s remorse is rare.
Carhartt has been refining their craft as a family business since 1889. Their original bib-overalls for railroad workers was what put them on the map “back in the day.”
Today, the Firm Duck Double-Front Dungarees are one of their more modern legends. They remained practically unchanged since 1939.
Interestingly enough, Carhartt has become an urban street fashion phenomenon among hipsters and rappers as of late. In fact, Carhartt now has a sister brand called Carhartt-WIP(Work In Progress) to cater to this new demographic. Rapper culture isn’t exactly my scene so I’m not even gonna even try to speak to it… shall we carry on then?
Carhartt vs. Dickies
When it comes to workwear, Carhartt and Dickies are the two big boys on the block.
Both brands cross over in many respects, Carhartt specializes more in outdoor work and heavy-duty applications while Dickies tends more toward work uniforms(warehouse workers etc). Comparing them is like debating Toyota vs. Honda. They both have earned my respect.
Ultimately, if I could only choose one, I’d pick Carhartt over Dickies.
Now, I realize I’m kicking the hornet’s nest on this one. So, before all you Dickies fans start sharpening your knives, know that I own both brands. In fact, I owned Dickies long before my Carhartts. So I am speaking from experience here.
The difference between Carhartt pants and Dickies is most evident when you turn their products inside-out.(See photos below.) This is where the true workmanship is laid bare.
An examination of the back-stitching reveals that while Dickies aren’t terribly made, they show a lot less reinforcement stitching and much less attention to details. To be fair, Carhartts do have a few loose threads here and there too but a lot less.
Both Carhartt and Dickies use durable fabrics, but there is a perceptible difference in workmanship. The quality control in Carhartts demonstrates more time and attention to detail. Dickies cost less but aren’t generally as well made.
Ultimately, it is a good idea to teach yourself how to judge the quality and durability of a garment for yourself. If you arm yourself with a bit of knowledge and practice you’ll be able to consistently spot quality tailoring and make confident buying decisions.
Check out “The Most Durable Pants and How to Choose a Rugged Pair” for more tips on that.
Best Carhartt Work Pants
Typically, the more durable a pair of work pants are, the heavier the fabric and stitching will be. Unfortunately, this leads to the trade-off of extra weight, less breathability, less flexibility and less comfort overall.
It’s important, therefore, to know which weight of pants you actually need in order to maximize the life of your pants while maintaining as much comfort as possible.
Here’s a brief guide with top picks for each of Carhartt’s weight classes.
Super Heavy-Duty Carhartt Work Pants (12oz+)
At 12oz weight duck canvas or higher, these pants are designed for workers in the most extreme heavy industries like oil drilling, diesel mechanics, shipbuilding and foundries.
Top Pick: Firm Duck Double Front Dungaree
These are the most hard-core pants Carhartt makes. The Firm Duck Double Front Dungarees are all work and no play.
Stylish? Not really. Style is for sissies anyway. Who cares about style when you are a shipbuilder crawling through grime and metal shavings, an oil worker drilling wells in Texas, or a rancher managing the herd during calving season.
Heavy Duty Carhartt Work Pants (10 oz)
Carhartts 10oz work pants are great for folks like landscapers or masons who work regularly with abrasive materials while remaining decently flexible.
Top Pick: Rugged Flex Steel Double Front
The Rugged Flex Steel Double Fronts feature a heavy blend of polyester rip-stop Cordura. FYI, Cordura is a world-renown family of fabrics found in super-rugged luggage like the most durable duffel bags and super-tough backpacks. Incorporating Cordura into these pants was a smart move by Carhartt.
These pants are really tough without loosing the good looks.
Medium Duty Carhartt Work Pants (8oz)
Midweight work pants typically use a breathable yet tough 8 oz duck fabric which is better suited for summer or hot climates. These work pants are very flexible and are designed for medium-duty applications like, plumbing, carpentry or weekend projects. For the average Joe, these pants will last a long, long time.
Top Pick: Rigby Rugged Flex Double Front
The Rigby Rugged Flex Double Front pants are one of Carhartts most popular and my personal pick. The 8oz cotton canvas is very breathable, cool, and flexible. These are easily one Carhartt’s most comfortable work pants.
I personally own the Rigby Rugged Flex Double Front Workpants. I don’t work in heavy industry but I do need a tough pair of pants that stay cool since I’m headed to hot climates like Africa for work. The 98% cotton fits the bill.
Carhartt Rigby Rugged Flex Double-Front Pants Reviewed
I find the Rigby Rugged Flex pants hit the sweet spot between durability and comfort. They aren’t heavy and stiff. The mid-weight 8 oz of 98% cotton canvas comes pre-broken in, and the 2% spandex adds way more flexibility than a typical pair of jeans.
- 8-ounce, 98% cotton canvas(medium duty but cooler)
- 2% spandex for extra flexibility
- Relaxed fit for more room to move
- Double-layer knees with openings for adding Carhartt’s knee pad inserts
- Reinforced front slash pocket
- Right-leg cell phone pocket
- Left-leg utility pocket
- Hidden zip back pocket
- Gusseted crotch for more stretch
- Reinforced belt loops
Stitching, Seams & Hardware
Overall hardware quality is good and the stitching and seams are clean and straight:
- Triple-stitched inseams and outseams
- Double-stitched pockets all around
- Double-stitched belt loops anchored on the seam
- Rivet-anchored button
- Premium low-profile YKK Zipper
While Carhartts show more attention to detail than Dickies, you’ll still find the odd untrimmed threads at the end of seams. These are the ends often left behind when the pants come off the sowing machine.
I know it is more of an aesthetic thing and doesn’t affect the durability of the pants, but Carhartt could take a little extra time before shipping and trim a few more of those ends off. After all, Carhartt is a premium workwear brand so details and image matter.
Double Front = Double the Durability
If my younger years in dairy farming taught me anything about work pants it was this. Work pants wear out first at the knee and crotch.
Double-layered fronts dramatically extend the life of a pair of work pants. Carhartt has one of the most extensive lines of double-front work pants out there (I count 17 versions as of publishing).
Knee Pad Compatible Inserts
A unique advantage of Carhartt’s double-front pants is that they are also knee pad insert compatible.
They are certainly a brilliant idea and very comfortable even on gravel
The Carhartt’s knee pads are installed by rolling and inserting them into the debris cleanout opening at the bottom of the double-knee.
I found that the knee pads tended to slide down too far and needed to be adjusted frequently. Some other reviewers have noted this issue too.
Perhaps the double front pants could have a shallow internal pocket/hammock to cradle the bottom of the knee pads and keep them from sliding down and out of place.
This is one of Carhartt’s newer designs, so some tweaking would make these perfect.
A gusset is typically a diamond-shaped section of fabric sewn into the crotch. I call it “structural engineering” for pants.
The crotch is often the first place a pair of pants will fail. This is due to several converging factors:
- 4 structural important seams intersect at the crotch and it is very difficult to bind them together(center-back, center-fly & inseams from each leg)
- Especially in work pants, the crotch undergoes the most structural strain of all the seams due to squatting, sitting, stretching)
- The crotch suffers the most friction and twisting over time from walking and running.
A gusseted crotch solves problem #1 and substantially mitigates problem #2.
Essentially, what a gusset does is redistribute lateral strains on the seams instead of concentrating all the strain on the single intersection of the four seams found in the crotch of traditionally constructed pants.
While not all of Carhartt’s work pants have gusseted crotches. My Rigby Rugged Flex Double Fronts do, but whichever model you decide on I highly recommend choosing a pair of work pants with a gusseted crotch for the extra durability, and flexibility it brings.
What impressed me most about the pockets in these pants was actually the tough cotton linings. They are deceptively big, stay in place and don’t bunch up. That’s about all I want my pockets to do.
Extra Flex Is Nice
Carhartts Rugged Flex line of work pants incorporate a tiny bit of spandex(2%). It’s just enough stretch for you to appreciate without compromising much durability.
I find it amusing that my Rigby Rugged Flex work pants are actually more comfortable than my jeans. The relaxed fit, 2% spandex and a gusseted crotch combine for surprising freedom of movement.
If you aren’t doing serious industrial work I’d highly recommend considering a pair of these workpants.
How Much To Carhartts Pants Cost?
As part of this Carhartts pants review, I did a quick price audit of two other premium workwear competitors. Duluth Trading and Filson roughly average $80 and up per pair(often much more).
By comparison, 60 out of the 65 pants Carhart makes cost less than $80(as of publishing)
They are actually really great value considering their quality. Actually, that’s why I ranked Carhartt work pants number one in a recent article of the most durable pants.
Yes, there are other brands with similar build quality but Carhartt doesn’t gouge the pocketbook as badly as the others do.
Conclusion: Are Carhartts Worth It?
If you are a professional tradesman, the price of Carhartt work pants is easily justifiable. Whenever an item is “high-use,” critical to one’s livelihood, or affects safety, it’s a no-brainer to pay more for quality and reliability.
Carhartt’s brand recognition is also a plus when dealing with savvy clients. When you’re out doing first-time quotes for quality-conscious potential clients they will be sizing you up by your appearance. Even that little Carhartt tag tells them that you care about quality.
Even If you’re tight on cash, all you need is a little delayed gratification. Just put them on your Christmas wishlist or just gift a pair of Carhartts to yourself on your birthday. Heck… make up a special occasion or something!
Carhartt really does make some solid stuff. The Rigby Rugged Flex pants may be right for me, but I’m not you. Your needs and tastes are different. It would be impossible, in this Carhartt pants review, to cover all the many options they offer.
So, if you’re seriously considering them, it’s really worth just taking some extra time to browse Carhartt’s website so you can make an educated decision on what works for you.