Tactical pants are everywhere. They are popular with law enforcement, military members, and even outdoorsmen, and so the market has exploded in recent years. Sometimes, it seems like every company that is in any way associated with tactical equipment is making its own version. The question used to be, “Where can I get a good pair?” Now the question is, “Which pair is good enough?”
I would like to help by explaining what I look for in tactical pants. Hopefully, these insights will help you during your next shopping adventure.
Not All Tactical Pants Are Created Equal
I don’t think I need to tell anyone how overused the term “tactical” has become, or that simply adding it to your product title does not make it so. Far too many “tactical pants” on the market today are no better than a pair of chinos from the thrift store. Performance is what matters, and that is built on a solid foundation of the right features.
Over the years, I have bought, worn, and even thrown away more tactical pants than I can count. My first pair were Royal Robbins, the precursor to 5.11, and I have probably tried everything offered since. At first, they were worn for comfort. Today, they are worn professionally, and occasionally, off duty as well. Over the years, I have developed a list of features I look for every time I shop. If any are missing, I keep looking because I know no matter how attractive the pants may appear, in the long run, I will not be satisfied.
Must-Have Features for Tactical Pants
Durability tops the list of must-have features because if the pants are not durable, they are unlikely to withstand the day-to-day wear and tear they are exposed to. I prefer the original, old-school cotton canvas. I know that it is heavier and hotter in warm climates, but it lasts. My first pair of Royal Robbins lasted for almost 20 years, although they had to be mended several times. Best of all, the cotton canvas is very comfortable when broken in. Nowadays, thinner, lighter materials are more popular. They do have their advantages, so I do not discount a pair if they are not made from cotton. A big benefit of modern materials is how they react to water. Not only do they repel water easier than cotton does, but if they do become soaked, they remain lighter and dry much quicker.
Good material is not enough; that material has to be put together in a way that takes advantage of that durability. Look for double stitching, strengthened stress points, and reinforced areas that are prone to wear (such as around the knees). Because you will probably be wearing a heavy belt, often carrying additional weight in gear, wide belt loops are a must as well. Finally, check all snaps, zippers, and Velcro for good fit and strength.
Plenty of Useful Storage
One of the advantages of tactical pants is the extra storage they provide. Unfortunately, far too many designers appear to add pockets simply for the sake of saying they have more than their competitors. They give little thought to how those pockets could even be used. Look for pockets that are placed where they can be reached easily, that can be opened and secured with one hand, and that provide storage without being so bulky they get in the way when moving. Specialized storage such as magazine pouches can be a plus, but you also want flexibility on where and what you can carry. It is also nice to have a dedicated knife pocket, a place to keep keys, and maybe a hidden pouch.
Selection of Colors
Color may not seem like a big deal, and if you wear tactical pants to look cool, it is not. But in an operational setting, it can be as important as any other feature. Whether you are looking to blend into the terrain or a busy urban street, it is important to look the part. Once you find a pair of tactical pants you like, consider getting them in more than one color.
A Good Fit is a Must for Tactical Pants
This is where many pairs I’ve tried have failed. The most durable, combat-ready tactical pants are no good if you cannot move when and how you need to. In most cases, you want a flexible waistband, as this offers the ability to carry IWB or extra layers if necessary; straight-cut legs to fit over boots and allow access to an ankle-carried firearm or knife; and a u-shaped groin to facilitate easier climbing or running. It is recommended that you try on any new pair before purchasing. If shopping online, make sure there is a return or exchange policy, just in case.
So, there you have it. These features are what I look for in a good pair of tactical pants. They might help you out until you develop some of your own favorite features.
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Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.