Monday, February 13, 2012

Product Review - 5.11 Tactical Pants

Along with the polo shirt that 5.11 Tactical provided for review, they also included a pair of their their Tactical Pants.  These are cotton cargo pants that seem to be built for rough duty.  They are well-fitting, tough, and comfortable.  They are a bit of overkill for the guy who wants a pair of cargo pants to wear while heading down to Starbucks on Valentine's Day, but they make great pants for outdoor work, sports, and anything where you need something that will stand up to abuse and still look good.

The pants are made of a cotton material that is somewhere between denim and canvas in thickness and strength.  It's very comfortable and breathes very well, but is stiffer than the material in jeans or khakis.  It's also tough.  I wore these mens cargo pants while doing yard work, running around in concrete and steel buildings, moving wood and running the chain saw, and while doing construction work around the house, and all they did was get dirty.  In comparison, the name brand cargo pants I bought at Superdupermegamart at Christmas time have several holes ripped in them, and are very faded.

Speaking of getting dirty, I couldn't keep them dirty.  I got these things filthy with motor oil, chain oil, dirt, fake blood (semi-intentionally), real blood (unintentionally), and just about every other funky thing I could find.  The only thing that took more than one washing to come out was red clay soil, and that didn't stain permanently.  The only thing I noticed after 20+ cycles through the wash was that the edges of seams started to fade a bit.  The pants didn't wrinkle if folded or hung up promptly after being removed from the washer dryer, but did get wrinkly when left in the bottom of a gym bag for a few hours.  Then again, these aren't dress pants, so I didn't mind them wrinkling a bit.
Some minor fading along edges

The construction of the pants is designed for hard use.  All places where seams come together are reinforced with extra stitching and material.  The knees are doubled over, with an interior pocket for knee pads if those are necessary.   The closure for the pants is a snap, which seems to be pretty rugged.  I personally prefer the rivet type closure you find on jeans, but this snap does not seem to be as delicate and prone to breakage as you find with other snaps and sewn-on buttons.

Snap Closure.
 I was evil to this thing, but it never popped open
unexpectedly or broke
The pockets that have closures are secured with hook and loop material.  The patches of this material are put on with double and triple stitching, so they're not going to come off under rough usage.  However, like anything else using hook and loop, you're going to make an unmistakable noise when you open a pocket, which is less than optimal when trying to be quiet when hunting.

Left thigh cargo pockets

One thing that I found missing on these pants was a shallow hip pocket on either side for a wallet.  There are deep hip pockets that go down to mid thigh, and those are quite roomy and good for keeping tools, magazines, and other things you want handy but not sliding around.  I tried carrying my wallet in one of these pockets, but it wasn't comfortable having a wallet banging against my thigh while I was walking or pressed up against my leg when I'm driving or sitting.  I found that the wallet could easily go in one of the cargo pockets with no discomfort, though.  I'm just a creature of habit, and I always reach for my wallet on my hip.

Rear pockets

The other pocket issue I found was the width of the opening for the front pockets.  These are nice, deep pockets that beg to be used for pocket carry, but I found that the opening was very tight for my hands when retrieving keys or trying to practice a draw from a pocket holster.  Now, keep in mind that I have very large hands (No commercial glove maker makes gloves big enough for me), so someone with smaller hands might find them more usable.  One good part of these openings being so tight was that I never had a problem with the sundry small items I carried around in them falling out.  Once it was in the pocket, it stayed in the pocket.

One nice fixture for me was the pocket that sits on the front of the left thigh.  I found this very handy for carrying either the reloads for my carry gun or a pocket knife and flashlight.  Two single-stack magazines had a lot of room left in the pocket with them.  Two double stack magazines were held very snugly.

Additional thigh pocket on left side of pants

Single stack magazines left a lot of room

One other feature that I had to figure out was the strap of webbing across the right hip. I eventually had to ask 5.11 what it was for, and their answer made sense at once:  it's for carabiners.  These pants were originally designed for climbers, and this was a convenient place to put all of the carabiners and other things that clip on for that sport.  Lo and behold, it was perfect for clipping on a knife or keys with a carabiner.  It was loose enough that clipping things on was easy, but not so loose that things flopped around.

Der Strap
That "just right" model seems to work for the rest of the way that the pants fit.  They're snug where they need to be without being tight, and they're loose where they need to be without being floppy.  There was enough room underneath them for me to add a layer of thermal underwear when it was cold without looking like the Staypuft Marshmallow Man.  The pants moved very well as I stretched and worked with no binding.  I have it on good authority that they looked good on me.  However, these are definitely not pants for office wear.  These are work and play pants, either because you're kicking in doors, walking through the woods, or working around the house and yard.  I got no weird looks at the grocery store, but interestingly enough, got some quizzical looks at the gun store.

Overall, I'd rate these as a good value.  The one thing that I see missing from them is the aforementioned pocket for a wallet, and they definitely can't have double use as something you could wear to the office and then wear on the weekends.  They price out at $54.99, but I expect that they will last for years with proper care.

Disclaimer:  5.11 Tactical provided me with the materials for this review, but I received no other compensation for doing it.  I offered to return the pants when I was done with the evaluation.


Old NFO said...

I love mine, wear em for work and have at least two pair that are 6+ years old and still going strong. Also, another reason for the strap was to hold a 3-4 cell mag light in the rear pocket. I can also carry a P-9 in a pocket holster and completely conceal it in those back pockets.

bluesun said...

Wow, and they actually make them with a 36 inch inseam... hmmm...

mmasse said...

I have 4 pairs of these and they have not disappointed me yet.

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