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Comfy, Tough, Affordable: Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Pants Review

Don’t let the soft feel, flex, and slim fit of the Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pant fool you. They’re designed to put in the hard work!

(Photo/Nick LeFort)
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From 16 to 26, I worked at Mickey Finn’s, a family-owned business that sold camping gear, work clothes, work boots, and pretty much anything else you would need to live a rugged lifestyle.

During that time, we sold a lot of Carhartt clothing. In fact, they still do — and I still buy my Carhartt clothes from Finn’s. But a lot has changed with Carhartt over the years; from manufacturing to materials.

In all fairness, a lot has changed with me as well. I’m no longer eager to break in a pair of their unwashed duck work pants (now called “firm duck”). I want my pants broken in when I pick them up off the shelf.

I also don’t want the wide-leg design customary to Carhartt’s work pants. I’ve spent many miles at work and out on the trail in these work pants. I want softer, broken-in materials, with a more form-fitting, flexible fit.

That seems to be exactly what I’ve found in the Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pants. I’ve been wearing these pants for a significant portion of winter, on hikes, during work projects, around the house, and even around town. They continue to impress me.

In short: The Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pants are made from a 12-ounce, 99% cotton, 1% spandex duck blend. They have a second layer on the knee, reinforced pockets, and belt loops. These pants are comfortable, flex incredibly well, and look good on me. Don’t worry if you’re not ready for a slim fit; Carhartt also offers them in a relaxed fit, with an expanded line of colors.

GearJunkie named these Carhartt pants the Best Budget Work Pants in our round-up on the Best Work Pants. Check out that guide to see how they compare.

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pant


  • Fabric 12 oz., 99% cotton, 1% spandex duck
  • Pockets Deep front pockets, left and right phone pockets, right utility pocket, right hammer loop, reinforced back pockets, knee pad pockets on front of legs
  • Water resistance No


  • Comfortable off the shelf
  • Durable and flexible Rugged Flex, Carhartt duck fabric
  • Simple pocket layout


  • They may be less durable than the unwashed Duck (Firm Duck) version

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pant: Review

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Design and Features

Made from 12-ounce, 99% cotton, and 1% spandex duck blend, the Rugged Flex pants aren’t too stiff and aren’t too stretchy — until you need them to be. Carhartt claims that its Rugged Flex stretch technology gives you added mobility. And in my experience, that’s what it does.

There’s no DWR treatment or CORDURA weaved into the fabric blend. These are traditional Carhartt work pants with the added benefits of a second layer on the knee, reinforced pockets, and belt loops. They had a broken-in feeling from day one.

First Impressions

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Work Pants
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

When a fresh pair of Carhartt’s Brown Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pants arrived, it was nice to see that the rich duck color was paired with the soft and supple material. It was also nice to see that these pants aren’t built like “skinny jeans.” With only 1% of the material being spandex, you can’t pull on the pants to get them to stretch. That added benefit only shows up during deep squats and heavy flexes.

It’s important to note as well that I am not built like the slim-fit crowd. At 5’6” and 265 pounds, I’m what was referred to in the 1980s and ’90s as “husky.” So, I had some concerns as to how these pants were going to fit. But I knew from experience that the relaxed fit was too relaxed for my liking.

In the end, though they needed to be hemmed, the 38” waist fit just right. It fit well in the seat and contoured nicely around my calves, which is a general issue with most pants for me. The leg opening also fits over hiking boots and work boots.

However, the true test was going to be working in these pants all day as well as how long they could go without needing to be washed.

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pant: In the Field

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Work Pants
Double front on the Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Work Pants; (photo/Nick LeFort)

My first experience with the Rugged Flex Double Front Pants was at a holiday concert for my daughter at her school. The next morning I was up on my roof removing a massive limb that was hung up on my solar panels. That afternoon I took a 3-mile hike down to the river. I looked good and I felt good.

I never felt that the pants were loose. They literally flexed with me. I can’t tell you how awesome that is. Even when I had to walk through a stream that formed on the trail, the pants never felt like they were getting dragged down. That has always been my issue with loose-fit or relaxed-fit pants. The minute they get wet, they get looser and more relaxed.

Fast forward 3 months, and these pants have been washed half a dozen times and show little to no fading or wear. Believe it or not, I can tell a lot about the durability of a pair of pants based solely on how they hold up to the pocket clip of the knife I carry. I have replaced otherwise perfectly fine pants because I’ve worn a hole in the pocket with a pocket clip.

In this case, the only indication that I’ve carried a knife every time I’ve worn these pants is a little crumpling where the knife sits at the top of the back pocket. There are no other signs of wear.

The one caveat to all this wonderful news is that the pants tend to tighten up a bit when you wash them. I never experienced that with the unwashed duck pants. But it’s not really a big deal. They loosen up by the end of that first day and are good until it’s time for them to be washed again.

Washing in General

Raising two kids, I’m always doing laundry. But I make it a point to stretch out the periods between washings with all of my pants and flannels. In my opinion, if they’re not dirty, they don’t stink, and they maintain their overall shape so you don’t look like an unfettered mess, there’s really no need to wash and dry them.

Carhartt refers to this last feature of the Rugged Flex fabric as “recovery.” It helps its garments retain the overall shape while you’re using and abusing them. This comes in handy when traveling so that you can rely on a single pair of pants — even if you do have to iron them when you get to the hotel.

Pockets & Loops

Pockets on the Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Work Pants; (photo/Nick LeFort)

I’ve always got things in my pockets. At a minimum, there’s a multitool, knife, lighter, wallet, keys, and a really cool piece of smokey quartz my daughter, Penny, found me. But it’s not uncommon for there to be nuts, bolts, screws, and screwdrivers in there as well.

Carhartt has done exceptionally well with the pocket layout and material on the Rugged Flex Double Front Pants. In addition to your standard five-pocket configuration, there are utility pockets on each hip of these pants. These pockets are large enough to fit a Silky Super Accel folding saw.

Additionally, you can shove a 16-ounce can of your favorite carbonated beverage in any one of the pockets, save for the coin pocket, if you’re in a jam. That’s the beauty of Rugged Flex technology.

Carhartt Rugged Flex Utility Double Front Pant: Conclusion

For almost 30 years, I have relied on Carhartt to support me in my active lifestyle. I’ve worked in warehouses, out on job sites, and from the confines of a cubicle. Somewhere in there, I spent 10 years as an engineer for Thule. There were times when I needed to present projects to senior management and then head back into production areas to help assemble products.

Through all of that, Carhartt has been the one company I could rely on for durability and affordability.

It goes without saying that I am an active, hands-on person. My clothing needs to be able to keep up with me. Carhartt got the job done back then and I am glad to see that even with a drastic change in materials, they’re still able to do so. For years, I would only buy their firm duck pants. I believed they were the most durable and would last the longest.

The Rugged Flex Double Front Pants might have changed my preference. They have shown surprising durability. I don’t think they’ll be falling apart on me any time soon.

A man cuts wood while wearing work pants.

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