Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Budget Pants for Men of 2021

The Dickies Original 874, a timeless pair of work pants.
Photo: Buck Yedor
By Buck Yedor ⋅ Review Editor
Friday March 26, 2021
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Searching for a versatile pair of pants while on a budget? After researching and considering an overwhelming number of options, we narrowed in our selection on 10 of the best pairs from 2021 that showed the most promise. From business wear to casual options ideal for hangouts and hiking, we have recommendations and options for it all. After ordering each pair at retail price, we wore each for several days so we could best understand how they all compared. After hours of testing and careful evaluations, we offer our feedback and recommendations. We constructed this review to help you find the best pair of pants for fit, style, and functionality.


1

Best Overall Men's Pant


Rhone Commuter Comfortable Stretch Straight-Leg Flat-Front


Extra Slim | Flex-Knit Stretch Fabric
Excellent travel pant
Extremely comfortable
Expensive
Must hang dry

The Rhone Commuter pants are an incredibly versatile pair of trousers that have no trouble adapting to whatever your varied days have in store for them. With a slim modern cut, these sharp-looking pants can be easily dressed up or down. The flex-knit fabric ensures that, despite the slim fit, your range of motion is fully unencumbered, making them an ideal choice for bike commuters, fast walkers, and those that simply appreciate excellent mobility. The soft material is comfortable and stretchy enough to even hit the local climbing gym on your way home from work — without needing to change.

The flex-knit fabric also proved to be the most breathable material of the pants we tried on, so whether you're crammed on the subway on a hot day or going for a hike, these pants help keep you from getting too sweaty. These highly versatile pants have a high price tag, and the top-tier quality is apparent as soon as you slide them on.

The Rhone Commuter Pants are stretchy enough to play in and look...
The Rhone Commuter Pants are stretchy enough to play in and look good enough to wear to the office.
Photo: Buck Yedor

2

Best Bang for the Buck


Dickies Original 874 Work Pant


Straight Leg | Heavy Weight Twill
Inexpensive
Durable
Heavy
Restrictive

The Original 874 work pant brings the heavy hitting durability you would expect from the workwear giant Dickies. This incredible durability comes at an exceedingly low price point, making these the ideal pants to thrash at the job site or the skate park. The straight fit and creased legs give the pants a classic look, appropriate for all but the most formal work environments.

The cotton-polyester blend that makes these pants exceptionally durable also makes them a little scratchy on the skin and somewhat restrictive of movement. The more you wear and wash these pants, the more supple they become. While they are great for heavy duty work, they wouldn't be our first choice to wear on hot days. That being said, they are an excellent option for cold weather, or when durability at a lower price is an important consideration.

With its subtle pleating, the Dickies Original 874 Work Pant is a...
With its subtle pleating, the Dickies Original 874 Work Pant is a timeless and classic look for work or casual wear.
Photo: Buck Yedor

3

Best Work Pant


Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Twill Dungaree


Relaxed Fit | Heavy Weight Cotton
Comfy material and fit
Great pockets and equipped with a hammer loop
Doesn't come in anything smaller than 30Wx30L
Not office appropriate

The Carhartt Relaxed Fit Dungaree is the quintessential work pant. Equipped with numerous utility pockets and a hammer loop, these pants were designed with construction work in mind. With a longer hemline and a relaxed fit, they comfortably fit over a pair of boots and ensure you have a decent range of motion. The 100% cotton fabric is one of the softest and most comfortable materials we felt throughout our testing. The material is thick enough to withstand the abuse of hard labor and airy enough to keep things comfortable, even in the heat.

As a clear favorite, we have a hard time finding any caveats. While these are, no doubt, excellent work pants, their fit and style details will keep them out of most office spaces. Buy them if you want a comfortable pair of pants that'll hold up while hammering away at a project or hanging out with friends.

The comfortable and loose fitting Carhartt Dungarees.
The comfortable and loose fitting Carhartt Dungarees.
Photo: Buck Yedor

4

Best for Business Casual Office


Dockers Workday Khaki Smart 360 Flex


Slim Fit | Stretch Cotton
Stretchy
Highly versatile
Too thick for warm weather
Some shrinkage after the first wash

The Docker's Slim Fit Workday Khaki is a comfortable office pant that is just as much at home at a backyard bbq as it is at your daily 9-5. Made from a stretch cotton blend, these pants are minimally restrictive despite their slimmer cut. Although these still fall into the category of slim fit, our testers found them to straddle the line between slim and straight. They're more relaxed fitting than the tight-fitting Rhone Commuter pants but by no means baggy. If you're looking for a modern looking office pant that isn't too tight, these are a great choice.

While these perform well in moderate climates, hot weather is not going to be your friend while wearing these slacks. We found the fabric was thick and less breathable than we wanted. These pants are versatile and stylish enough to wear to any semi-formal affair.

Dockers Khakis are perfect for cool weather days at the office.
Dockers Khakis are perfect for cool weather days at the office.
Photo: Buck Yedor

5

Best Cargo Pant


Wrangler Authentics Classic Twill Relaxed Cargo


Relaxed Fit | Cotton
Great utilitarian pockets
Inexpensive
Narrow waist
Casual workwear only

The Wrangler Cargo pant is exactly what you might think of when somebody says "cargo pants". Love them or hate them, cargo pants are an enduring trend that will always have their place in the world of work-wear. Whether you need pockets for small tools or snacks, cargo pants provide you the means to carry a surplus of items readily at your fingertips. These pants are equipped with a total of six pockets, including two extra-large flap closure side pockets. Our testers appreciated the utilitarian functionality these pants offer.

As far as cargo pants go, these are not over the top or in your face about their pocket space. On the slim side for a relaxed-fit pant, they have a clean silhouette and wear comfortably if not a little tight on the hips. While their range of motion is adequate for work pants, they were slightly too restrictive to use as say, a pair of hiking pants. That said, we recommend them for anyone needing a surplus of handy pockets.

The Wrangler Cargo Pants sport enough pockets to ensure you can keep...
The Wrangler Cargo Pants sport enough pockets to ensure you can keep track of all your odds and ends while at the job site or in the garden.
Photo: Buck Yedor

6

Outstanding Value Chino


Amazon Essentials Slim-Fit Wrinkle-Resistant Chino


Slim Fit | Cotton Polyester Blend
Inexpensive
Modern style
Small waist
Restrictive

The Amazon Slim Fit Chino is the more stylish and modern looking version of the Amazon Classic Fit Chino. With a much slimmer fit, these pants were more restrictive than their relaxed fit counterpart but not overly so. While you might not be able to max out your high kicks, they have enough range of motion to comfortably walk to work and spend the day moving around the office.

The slimmer fit and modern style has no trouble going straight from the office to evening drinks out on the town. Their affordable price tag means it's easy to grab a couple of pairs and round out your weekly office uniform. We appreciate these chinos for their budget-friendly price and style.

The Amazon Basics Slim Fit Chino is an affordably priced pant ideal...
The Amazon Basics Slim Fit Chino is an affordably priced pant ideal for the modern office or date night.
Photo: Buck Yedor

7

Excellent Comfort for Casual Weekend Wear


Lee Performance Series Extreme Comfort Straight Fit


Straight Fit | Stretch Cotton
Full range of motion
Soft and airy materials
Fits large
Potential durability issues

The Lees Extreme Comfort Straight-Fit Pants are incredibly comfortable. With a loose fit from the waist down through the thighs, these pants give you room to move. With mesh pockets designed to contribute to breathability, they make great hikers or summer work pants.

Living on the more casual side of the spectrum, these pants might not be office appropriate, but depending on the dress code, they could be suitable for a dressed-down office look. With a stretch waistband and breathable, stretchy fabric, these pants are all about maximizing comfort. Buy them if you are seeking a hiking pant that doesn't look too techy for your social scene.

The Lees Extreme Comfort Straight Fit Pants are perfect for hitting...
The Lees Extreme Comfort Straight Fit Pants are perfect for hitting the trail or warm weather manual labor.
Photo: Buck Yedor

8

A Summertime Chino


Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Wrinkle-Resistant Flat-Front Chino


Relaxed Fit | Cotton Polyester Blend
Breathable
Inexpensive
Low versatility
Small waist

The Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chino is an affordable no-frills office ready pant. With a relaxed fit, this is one of the looser-fitting pair of pants in our fleet. Despite the relaxed fit in the bum and thighs, we found the waist to be a little tight.

The cotton-polyester fabric proved to be soft on the skin and thin enough to be highly breathable. The relaxed fit and airy fabric made these our pant of choice for hot summer days stuck in the office. The baggy fit and pleated legs pigeonhole these pants to be exclusively for office wear.

9

Most Stylish Chino


Bonobos Stretch Washed Chino


Slim Fit | Stretch Cotton
Modern cut
Stylish details
Expensive
Restrictive

The Bonobos Stretch Chinos are made from a soft stretch cotton blend that is pleasing to the touch. Despite being 2% lycra, these pants were fairly restrictive and did not offer an exceptional range of motion. However, given their cut and look, these are best as business casual office pants or semi-formal dress pants, so their lack of mobility isn't entirely relevant.

The legs were a little too long and extended well past the ankle, which is fine if you cuffed the pants for a casual look. For a more formal look, we would have needed to hem the pants.

10

Lightweight With Excellent Storage


Unionbay Survivor IV Relaxed Fit Cargo


Relaxed Fit | Cotton
Ample pockets
Lightweight materials for a work pant
Runs large
Lacks style and versatility

The Union Bay Cargo Pants are a casual pant best suited for weekend yard work. With a relaxed fit bordering on baggy, these pants are much too casual for office wear and a little too thin to be serious work pants.

They have ample pocket space and are made from a light cotton material, making them comfortable and utilitarian but the least stylish of the pants we reviewed. If you're looking for a pair of pants to knock around the yard in or use for casual, cool weather hiking, the Union Bay Cargo Pants fit the bill.

Why You Should Trust Us


Buck Yedor, our lead tester for this project, fancies himself a bit of a pants connoisseur. Having worked jobs as far-ranging as working for Yosemite Search and Rescue to attending management meetings for one of the largest climbing gym companies in the world, he has experienced a dress code that is almost as diverse as the work. Buck knows first hand that to be successful, you have to dress the part, and having the right pants for the right job is a crucial part of the equation.

From style to comfort, a good pair of pants needs to check all the boxes. After scouring the internet to find the most sought after pants, we independently purchased 10 of the most promising models for Buck to put to the test. He hit the field to compare which pants had the most comfortable material and highest level of breathability, as well as which were the most stylish and versatile. We also determined how restrictive each pair felt on our tester.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


You'll find that the subtleties of what makes a pair of pants great lies in the details. To get a true sense of how each pair performed, we started by washing them per the manufacturers' instructions, and then walking a mile in each pair. After the walk, each pant was subjected to a series of squats and stretches. By running them all through the same tests, we could objectively compare how each fared in each of our specified metrics.

We stacked ten of the most sought after pants against one and other...
We stacked ten of the most sought after pants against one and other in our in depth review.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Ease of Care


To determine the ease of care for each pair, we washed them per the manufacturers' instructions and then took note of whether or not there was shrinkage, how well they dried, and if they needed to be ironed. Of all the pants we tested, only the Rhone Commuter Pants had to hang dry rather than be put in the dryer. While this made for a longer dry time, the pants came out completely wrinkle-free and ready to wear.

Hang drying the Rhone Commuter Pants.
Hang drying the Rhone Commuter Pants.
Photo: Buck Yedor

The Dockers experienced a bit of shrinkage after their first wash, and it's important to remember they must be washed cold. The Bonobos Chinos came out of the dryer a little wrinkly and, given their intended use as business casual wear, needed an iron.

Comfort of Material


To test the comfort of material, we looked at how the fabric felt against our skin, especially after continual rubbing during the mile-long walk.

The incredibly soft Carhartt material made from 100% cotton.
The incredibly soft Carhartt material made from 100% cotton.
Photo: Buck Yedor

The highest performer in the metric was the Rhone Commuter. Made entirely of synthetic "flex knit" fabric, they were incredibly soft to the touch and didn't chafe at all during testing. The next most comfortable pair was the Carhartt Dungaree. Made from 100% cotton, this heavyweight twill was incredibly supple — despite its thickness. The Dickies Original 874 were made from the least comfortable material. The 65% polyester, 35% percent cotton blend was a little scratchy and made the pants feel stiff.

Fit


While each pair is designed to be a specific fit, such as slim, straight, or relaxed, we looked specifically at how each pant fit at the waist, the bum, and around the thighs. We were also looking at where the hemline fell in relation to our tester's ankle. Our favorite fitting pant was the Rhone Commuter. The pants are slim fitting but not overly tight. The waist was true to size with a little extra give from the stretchy material. The hemline was a little long for our tester, but the pants accommodated a quick cuffing well.

Checking the range of motion on the Dickies Original 874.
Checking the range of motion on the Dickies Original 874.
Photo: Buck Yedor

The Carhartt Dungaree was another standout in fit. Tailored to have a relaxed fit, they were comfortable but not baggy. The waist fits true to size and didn't require a belt to keep them from falling off. The relaxed fit made walking in them comfortable despite being made of non-stretch cotton. The longer hemline is ideal for fitting over a pair of work boots and fit exactly how you'd want and expect if you were spending all day in them, performing manual labor.

We found the Union Bay Cargo to have the least flattering fit. Baggy all around, they required a belt to stay in place, and the extra-long hemline had the end of the pant legs pooling on top of our feet. The Amazon Classic Chinos were tight-fitting in the waist for how loose they were in the bum and thighs.

Breathability


When looking to evaluate breathability, we measured how sweaty and moist the different pants became during a mile-long walk. The highest performer was again the Rhone Commuter. The flex knit fabric kept our tester cool, and at the end of the mile-long walk, had little to no moisture build-up. The Amazon Classic Chino fared surprisingly well in this metric. The looser fit and cotton blend stayed pleasantly dry and cool on our summertime walk. The Dickies Original 874, given their thick and stiff fabric, proved to be the least breathable, and our tester reported high amounts of sweat being built upon their walk. Better suited to cool weather wear, the Dickies wouldn't be our first choice to go hiking in.

Checking the stretch on the Amazon Basics Slim Fit Chino.
Checking the stretch on the Amazon Basics Slim Fit Chino.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Ease of Movement


Ease of movement refers to how big of a range of motion each pant allows for. The Rhone Commuter gave the wearer a complete range of motion. The stretchy synthetic fabric lets any and all movements feel unencumbered, which is especially notable given the slim fit of the pants.

The Lees Performance Series lived up to their name and also offered unrestricted movement. The roomy fit and stretch cotton was highly flexible. A surprise high scorer in the metric was the Dickies Original 874, which allowed for a decent amount of movement, despite their thicker fabric and tighter fit.

Checking the stretch on the elastic Lees Extreme Comfort Straight...
Checking the stretch on the elastic Lees Extreme Comfort Straight Fit pants.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Style


Perhaps the only truly subjective metric in the bunch, there is an element of personal taste when it comes to rating style. That being said, we took into account modern trends and sensibilities when looking at this metric. A long time staple of streetwear fashion, the Dickies 874 Originals were some of the most stylish pants we tried on. With a clean silhouette and a fit that was straight, or bordering on a slim fit, they offer a classic look that won't be going out of style any time soon.

The Wrangler Cargo Pants pocket details.
The Wrangler Cargo Pants pocket details.
Photo: Buck Yedor

The Rhone Commuters were another pair that typifies modern style. With minimal details and a slim, slightly tapered leg, these pants simply look good. The Amazon Classic Chinos were some of the least stylish pants we tried. Their pleated legs and relaxed fit feel like they were taken from your dad's old stash of dated office wear.

Versatility


Versatility refers to how well each pant can be worn in a variety of situations. Are they relegated to office wear only? Can you go out on a Friday night in them? Can you ride a bike or go for a hike in them? The most versatile pair of pants we tested was the Rhone Commuter. With its modern style and breathable and stretchy fabric, this pant does it all. It would make a great travel pant given how well it functions in so many roles.

The Dockers Slim Fit Khaki is another choice that can work for a variety of functions. Dressed up or down, this pant fits in just as well at the office as it does for a Saturday bbq. Though high performers in specific categories, some pants are just meant for one purpose. The Carhartt Dungarees, for example, are great work pants, but given their specificity, aren't very versatile. Along the same lines, the business casual Amazon Basics Classic Chino is best suited in a dressier environment.

The Rhone Commuter, a highly versatile pant great for travelers.
The Rhone Commuter, a highly versatile pant great for travelers.
Photo: Buck Yedor

Conclusion


After trying on and wearing ten different varieties of men's pants that ranged from relaxed fit dungarees to slim fit chinos, we were able to break down the best and worst qualities of each pair. We tested ease of care, comfort of material, overall fit, breathability, ease of movement, style, and versatility. With an overwhelmingly large selection of pants on the market, it can be hard to know what you're purchasing. Our in-depth breakdown of the pairs in our fleet will help take the confusion out of what pair you want to slide into next.

Buck Yedor