Best Belts of 2020
Hanks Everyday "No Break" Leather Belt is made from some of the thickest and most durable leather we've seen. Constructed from 13-ounce full-grain leather that is nearly a quarter-inch thick, this product is built to withstand the test of time and even comes with a 100-year warranty to demonstrate the manufacturer's confidence in its durability. The look, feel, and even the smell of this leather lets you know that you have some high-quality material in your hands and around your waist. It holds its shape very well and doesn't bend or sag as easily as other products, and is ideal for everyday wear or even during work to hold tools or other equipment. It also has oval holes for easy adjustability through a wide range of sizes.
While the leather on the Hanks Everyday is impressively thick and durable, it can feel a little bulky around the waist and at the buckle. The buckle is attached with a doubled-backed leather loop that is very strong but does stick out a bit more than other products, and can look and feel bulky, especially when sitting down. This bulk will lessen over time as the natural material becomes more pliable from use and conforms to the shape of your body. We also found that the standard black powder-coated buckle began to show some small cracking and chipping during our testing, but the buckle is easily removable with two easily accessible screws and can be replaced. With high-quality materials, incredible durability, and great aesthetics, the Hanks Everyday is our favorite overall model.
The Mountain Khakis Nylon Webbing Belt is a basic 1.5-inch webbing design with a simple slide-through metal buckle. It does a good job of balancing heavy-duty nylon construction with a simple buckle design and a low overall weight. Ideal for active use in the outdoors or general casual use, this model is simple yet effective, and one of the strongest nylon models that we tested. As a bonus, the buckle doubles as a bottle opener for those impromptu beverage sessions.
The Mountain Khakis design has a few minor downsides. First, the nylon material is initially a bit stiff and can feel bulky and protruding where it passes through the buckle. While this is partially due to the buckle design and how many times the webbing must pass through, this will improve with use as the material naturally softens and becomes more pliable. Second, this product comes in one size with a 50-inch length and is meant to be cut to size and heat-sealed to prevent fraying. We were able to cut it to our size and seal the trimmed edge without too much effort, but this is an extra step that some consumers may not be experienced with. Overall, we are pleased with the quality and simplicity of this model, as we found ourselves choosing this model more often than the others for informal affairs.
One of the most unique and innovative models we tested is the Lavemi Leather Ratchet Dress Belt. Available in a variety of leathers and a huge assortment of buckle colors and styles, the Lavemi has a sleek and modern style with a slightly thinner width and a square buckle. The pass-through buckle has a spring-loaded clip that engages with a strip of small teeth embedded into the end of the leather that creates a ratcheting closure system. The system makes it very easy to dial in a snug fit across a wide size range and is easy to engage and to remove. This is one of our favorite buckle designs that we really enjoyed wearing on more dressy occasions.
We really enjoyed using the Lavemi but did identify two notable downsides. The square buckle is a bit bulky and heavy, which can sometimes feel awkward, and due to its reliance on a spring mechanism, we feel that its use of moving parts could threaten the long-term durability. Also, this model comes in a wide size range and is meant to be trimmed to fit. After trimming to the correct size, the leather reconnects to the buckle by a lever that sinks a small row of metal teeth into the material. We were able to get a snug connection on our first try, but there is a slight movement of the teeth in the leather, and we fear that this could become a weak point with extended use. We recommend leaving a little extra length when you trim to your size so that there is some extra slack to re-trim in case the connection weakens over time. Overall, this model surprised us by how much we liked it during testing, especially considering its low price tag.
With a very lightweight design, soft and stretchy material, and a convenient plastic buckle that is airport friendly, the Arcade Ranger is our most comfortable pick for travel. Available in a wide range of fun and stylish colors and prints, the Ranger is made from stretchy nylon that is some of the softest and most comfortable material that we tested, and sits very flat against your body to maintain comfort while sitting or lying down. With no metal parts, the Ranger is travel friendly, and the plastic quick-release buckle is easy to use. The whole thing can even be left on your pants through the washer and dryer for easy cleaning on the go.
We appreciate the convenience of the plastic quick-release buckle, but the Ranger is one of the only models we've seen without a metal buckle, giving us concerns about long term durability. While we didn't have any problems during our testing, the plastic is thin and light, and could potentially be broken if accidentally mishandled. Also, the webbing is comfortably stretchy, but adjusting the overall fit by threading the webbing through the plastic buckle is very challenging. The buckle's tiny pass-through opening and the thick, stretchy material are a difficult combination. Overall, once your correct size is dialed in, no further adjustment is needed, and the quick-release buckle makes this a comfortable and convenient option.
The Fairwin Tactical Rigger is a heavy-duty, military-style model made from durable nylon webbing and one of the strongest rated buckles in our lineup. Made for military or tactical situations, the Fairwin's buckle has a high strength rating and can be released in less than one second with its quick-release buttons. The heavy-duty nylon webbing is ideal for attaching tools and equipment for easy access while on the move.
This product is designed with a specific use in mind, but its versatility is limited because of its distinct tactical style. One probably wouldn't wear this model every day or during casual or more dressy occasions, unless the style speaks to you. While the buckle is printed with a strength rating, we did not do any force tests and cannot speak to the accuracy of the ratings, and recommend having proper safety equipment and training for any tactical situations.
The Main Street Forge Bootlegger is another handsome full-grain leather model with incredible construction quality, style, and durability. The luxurious material has a rich leather smell to it and a natural-looking rustic finish. It is thicker and more durable than most other models we tested and is also plenty soft and pliable. It shares many same design characteristics as the Hanks Everyday, but has slightly thinner and softer full-grain leather with a rustic finish, while the Hanks Everyday has thicker, bulkier leather, and a more uniform and polished finish. The Bootlegger has seven holes for adjustability, and a basic metal buckle held in place by a doubled-back leather loop with removable screws.
Perhaps the only notable downsides to the Main Street Forge Bootlegger are the typical tradeoffs that one would find with high-quality natural materials. The rustic full-grain leather can show scuffs and scratches pretty easily, and is also bulkier than many other materials like nylon, canvas, or lower grade leathers. While the Bootlegger's natural material may pick up character marks through normal use, it will also mold to your body as you wear it, will likely last much longer than other products, and has a rich leather smell instead of the chemical odors found on other artificial materials with cheap, plastic finishes. Our testers slightly preferred the thicker leather and the more polished finish of the Hanks Everyday, but you won't be disappointed with the quality and style of the Bootlegger.
The Under Armor Webbing 2.0 is a basic reversible nylon design available in a few simple and classic color schemes. The nylon webbing passes through a basic square buckle that is easy to close for a snug and secure fit. The webbing is attached to the buckle with a spring mechanism that is easy to use and provides a more secure fit than most other adjustable models. The classic lightweight design is part of Under Armor's golf equipment but would be equally useful for hiking, general outdoor use, or everyday casual wear.
This Under Armor model doesn't have any major flaws but also doesn't stand out in any particular metric. The most notable downside is that the product comes in one size and must be trimmed to fit. Fortunately, the nylon webbing is thinner than most other trim to fit materials, making it easier to cut and effectively heat seal. The spring connection mechanism that connects the webbing to the buckle is also one of the most effective designs we've seen in an adjustable or trim to fit model. Overall, this is a simple and classy design.
The Grip6 Casual Web Belt is a simple yet strong canvas model with a unique slide-through buckle system. The material is strong and lightweight and the overall product has a very clean and sleek aesthetic. The unique pass-through buckle design is a simple single piece of metal with a slot on each side. One end of the webbing stays stationary against the buckle, while the loose end of the webbing passes through behind the buckle for a very clean finished look. The buckle system works differently than most other products and takes some getting used to, but is pretty simple to use once you get the hang of it.
This simple and sleek design doesn't have any major flaws once you get used to the unique buckle design. Because the loose end of the webbing connects by passing behind the buckle, it can be a little more challenging to dial in a snug fit. Also, the interface between the webbing and the buckle can feel a little awkward or bulky at first, but we expect this to lessen as the material softens and becomes more pliable with use. Overall, this is a very light, simple, and sleek design that would be suitable for both active use and casual wear.
The Columbia Trinity Casual Belt is a classic leather model with a simple design and construction for all-around casual wear. Classy and versatile, the Trinity would be suitable for everyday use and even dressier occasions. The simple design and high-quality buckle combine to make a solid product.
The Columbia Trinity looks pretty similar to most other leather models but falls a bit short when you start looking into the details. While some of the top-ranked models we tested are constructed from thicker full-grain leather, the Columbia model is made from a blend of lower grade genuine leather, bonded leather, and synthetic leather. While this combination is more affordable and looks pretty good at the beginning, it tends to wear out quicker which can lead to cracking, peeling, fading, or bleeding of the dye. We didn't experience any issues during our testing period, but the thickness, feel, and even the smell of the material simply does not compare to higher-quality models. For the price, this would be a suitable model for general use, but likely won't have the durability or lifespan of higher-grade materials.
The Marino Genuine Leather Dress Belt is a classic leather model with a slightly thinner width that gives it a sleeker look for dressier occasions. With its thin profile, soft and flexible material, and sleek and stylish metal buckle, the Marino model looks the part and can easily complete your stylish outfit. The classic design is lightweight, comfortable, and unobtrusive.
This Marino model doesn't have any major downsides but is simply made from a lower-grade material than some of the highest-rated products that we tested. While others are made from thicker full-grain leather, the Marino is made from genuine leather, which includes only a thinner portion of the leather hide. The material looks nice initially and will hold up against general wear and tear, but won't have the durability and longevity of higher-grade leather materials.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by Nick Bruckbauer. With over a decade of experience as a professional engineer, Nick brings an analytical and scientific approach to his reviews and is an expert across a wide variety of consumer and outdoor products. His close attention to detail helps him evaluate and explain small nuances that may have a great impact on the comfort or performance of a product, and he takes pride in helping you determine the performance features that are important to you and your needs. Nick wears belts daily, from more formal attire at his office job to lightweight models on weekend backcountry excursions.
In this review, we bought and tested 10 of the highest performing and best-selling belts available, comparing them day side-by-side. With each model in hand, we paid close attention to the thickness, rigidity, texture, and feel of each material, and the weight and density of each buckle. We put each model on and took it off several times, weaving it through our pant loops, buckling and unbuckling the buckle, and practicing tightening and loosening. We cut the trim to fit models to our preferred size, and wore each model with a variety of outfits on various outings. Finally, we rated each product across five different performance metrics to help you find the best option for your needs.
Analysis and Test Results
We put our lineup to the test and rated each model to determine the best materials and construction quality, buckle hardware quality, ease of use, adjustability, and style and versatility. We think that these performance metrics are the most important qualities to look for when searching for a new belt, and we will help identify the most suitable options based on your needs and priorities.
Material and Construction Quality
Many options look the same at first glance and may have similar colors, styles, and general types of materials. For a simple product meant to help hold up your pants, quality might not seem like a very meaningful priority, but we've found that higher-quality materials and construction techniques can be the difference between a product that loses its luster after a few months or one that lasts several years, even decades. By spending a little more upfront for higher quality materials, you open yourself up to options that won't crack, peel, warp, sag, or fade as you wear them through the years.
The most impressive option that we tested is the Hanks Everyday Belt, made from a single piece of full-grain leather that is nearly a quarter-inch thick and noticeably burlier than most other leather models. The thick leather is fairly rigid to hold its shape well but also with a smooth finish. The buckle can be removed or replaced and is connected by a doubled-back leather loop with two removable screws. The beauty of this product is in its simplicity. Constructed with high-quality materials and replaceable hardware, we would expect the Hanks Everyday to last a lifetime, and so does the manufacturer, who offers a 100-year warranty.
Similarly, the Main Street Forge Bootlegger is another full-grain leather model, though with a slightly thinner and softer build that is a bit less bulky and more pliable than the Hanks Everday. It also has a more weathered and rustic finish than the smoother and more polished looking finish of the Hanks Everyday. Both full-grain leather models have similar materials and construction and would make a great choice that should last a very long time. We expect the models we tested with inferior leather materials to wear out quicker in the punch holes, making the fit less precise over time.
Several of the nylon options in our lineup are well-made with high-quality materials and simple and strong construction. The Fairwin Tactical Rigger has a high strength quick-release buckle and is ideal for military or tactical use, while the Mountain Khakis Webbing, the Under Armor Webbing 2.0, and the Grip6 Casual Web are a little bit lighter and would be more ideal for active outdoor use or casual wear.
Buckle Hardware Quality
Today's marketplace has some intriguing buckle designs in addition to the traditional prong style. Our lineup also includes models with plastic or metal quick-release clips, metal slide-through buckles, clamp style buckles, and a pass-through ratcheting design. We evaluated which styles are the easiest to use, the most reliable, and the least intrusive. The Fairwin Tactical Rigger has one of the most impressive buckles, with metal quick-release design and a very high strength rating, made for military or tactical scenarios. Its design is certainly impressive, but note that we didn't perform any force tests to confirm the Fairwin's strength ratings, and recommend having proper training and protective equipment for any tactical scenarios.
The two full-grain leather options that we tested both also have high-quality buckle connections. Both the Main Street Forge Bootlegger and the Hanks Everyday buckles are attached with double-backed leather loops and removable screws. This construction method is very durable and versatile and allows the buckle to be removed or replaced.
One of the most unique buckle designs is the ratcheting style on the Lavemi Ratchet Dress Belt. This buckle has a spring-loaded bar that connects to a row of teeth embedded within the end of the leather. As the tail passes through the buckle, the bar engages the teeth and grabs for a snug and secure fit. This design is also easily adjustable and can be tightened by pushing more of the tail through the buckle, or loosened with a simple flick of the spring-loaded lever. The buckle itself is a dense metal with a good heft to it, while the reliance on a spring mechanism makes us hesitant to call it a favorite for the long haul.
The Arcade Ranger has a unique plastic quick-release buckle that is meant to be airport-friendly and washer and dryer safe. While we appreciate the flexibility, the plastic is noticeably more fragile than the other metal buckles, and we are a little concerned about accidental breakage. Anecdotally, one of our testers has worn this belt for two winters of skiing and snowboarding with no issues with the buckle.
Ease of Use
None of these products are necessarily difficult to use, but a high-quality belt should be easy to thread through your pant loops, easy to buckle and unbuckle, and easy to adjust on the go. Simple designs are usually better, and special features like reversible designs, trim to fit sizing, or tails that pass underneath the buckle can add to the difficulty. The simplest design is typically the traditional prong design where the tail of the belt is easily threaded through the pant loops, slides through the buckle, and the prong connects through one of the holes. The downside to this design is that the adjustability may be limited by the spacing or number of holes. We still found this to be the easiest style to use, and this is found on all four classic leather models in our lineup, including the Hanks Everyday, Main Street Forge Bootlegger, Columbia Trinity Style, and Marino Leather Belt.
The Mountain Khakis Webbing model is also easy to use with its simple nylon webbing design and a double pass-through metal buckle. This design is easy to adjust and tighten, though it can be a little bulky with all of the material passing through the buckle. The Lavemi Ratchet model has an intuitive ratcheting design that provides simple adjustability through a wide range of sizes. It is easy to tighten or loosen and make minor adjustments on the go.
A few of the models in our lineup have trim to fit sizing, where the product comes in one standard size, and the belt can be detached from the buckle, cut to size, and reattached to the buckle. A potential problem with reversible styles or trim to fit sizing is that the connection to the buckle is usually a weak point and can be jeopardized as the material undergoes wear and tear. Of the models in our lineup with detachable buckles, the Under Armor Webbing 2.0 has the most reliable connection where the webbing material doesn't seem to slip.
Traditional prong belts typically have a series of five to seven holes for sizing adjustments, but oftentimes the wearer may fall between sizes if there is a large enough gap between the different holes. Other models with slide-through buckles offer unlimited adjustments within the overall size range. The Mountain Khakis Webbing is one of the easiest models to adjust to a precise circumference with its double slide-through buckle. It's easy to tighten and loosen and make micro-adjustments while on the go. Similarly, the Under Armor Webbing 2.0 has a slide-through clamp style buckle, where any specific sizing can be achieved, and adjustments are likewise simple. The Grip6 has a unique slide-through buckle where the tail-end of the webbing passes behind the buckle.
The Lavemi Ratchet belt is easy to adjust with its intuitive ratcheting buckle system. Simply push the tail through the buckle and the ratchet automatically catches and maintains a snug fit. Simply release the spring-loaded lever and the ratchet releases, loosening the tension. Micro-adjustments are achieved by gently pushing on or releasing the ratchet.
It's pretty easy to adjust most of the traditional leather models that we tested, but with a standard prong buckle, it's possible to get stuck between sizes, especially if the spacing between the holes is too big. While most of us hope to only jump between a couple of different belt sizes in our adult lifetime, having a wider range of adjustability is a nice feature.
Style and Versatility
While style is a subjective metric, certain styles tend to be more versatile and can be worn in a wider variety of occasions. Traditional leather models are typically very versatile and can be worn on both formal and casual occasions, during travel, or for general daily use. Nylon models tend to be more sporty and are usually lighter and softer, making them more comfortable and ideal for active use, but might not be as appropriate in the office or on a more formal occasion. Simple designs with classic colors and materials can usually be worn in a variety of situations. One of our favorite versatile styles is the Arcade Ranger. It is available in 30 different colors and prints, allowing you to dial in the right color scheme for the right situation. It also has some of the softest and stretchiest material out of any model we tested, making it ideal for long travel days, and able to be machine washed and dried without removing it from your pants.
For more formal occasions when you're dialing in a sleek and stylish outfit, the Lavemi Ratchet is our go-to pick with its sleek rectangular buckle and soft leather construction. It's also available in a wide variety of leathers and buckle styles to match your outfit just right. During more casual scenarios or days spent on the trail, the Mountain Khakis Webbing is our pick for a versatile option that is light enough to wear under a backpack but stylish enough to wear to your post-hike happy hour. Our two favorite leather options overall, the Hanks Everyday and Main Street Forge models, offer a great combination of classy and hip style.
Our testers closely examined our diverse lineup of belts and are happy to bring you our expert recommendations. While we tested some very intriguing and useful design features, we've found that simple is often better and the simplest designs with the highest quality materials will often be easiest to use and will last the longest. In this category, spending a little extra money upfront can add years to the lifespan of your purchase. Whatever your style or budget, we hope that this guide helps you find the right product for your needs.
— Nick Bruckbauer