Anyone who has been interested in the great outdoors, the military or law enforcement should be familiar with 5.11. The original 5.11 pant was developed in 1992. Their offerings have expanded significantly and now offer clothing options for military, law enforcement, outdoors and athletics. The technology that now goes into their garments makes them more adaptable to today’s user.
I remember my first pair of 5.11 pants from almost 20 years ago. I bought two pairs: one in Khaki and one in Charcoal. I wore them until they frayed apart a decade later. At the time, they were cutting edge and in style, or at least for me. They had lots of pockets, an elastic waistband, heavy belt loops for my issued riggers belt and just felt good.
As I have gotten older, I am still in decent shape, but having clothing that stretches and flexes with the way I move is an absolute must these days. So, keeping that in mind, I decided to take a look at three of 5.11’s latest tactical pant offerings.
For this comparison, I will be looking at the TACLITE PRO, the APEX, and the STRYKE. Each pant came to me brand new sized 34×34.
The TACLITE Pro looks like the original legacy 5.11 pants I wore a couple decades ago. While they look like the original pants we are all used to, they do feature some upgraded features. First, they are made from 6.2 oz ripstop TACLITE fabric. While not super flexible, they do have some stretch to them throughout the waist and crotch area. They still feel rugged, if not a little stiff fabric-wise, however, after a few washes they should loosen up some. The knees are reinforced and ready for knee pads. The seams have double and triple stitching. They still have the 8 pockets: two cargo, two hip, two front, and two rear. The hip-mounted D ring is still in place and the rear right still has the horizontal strap originally created to hold the long and heavy mag lights used back in the day. Honestly, I am not sure why that feature still exists. The pants also have a Teflon finish that repels water. When wet, the water just beads up and rolls off.
The pants fit fine. I would not call these an athletic fit, meaning they felt a little baggy in the crotch. Squatting down wasn’t difficult; however, the reinforced knees would catch a little on my skin during extreme dynamic movements. I liked the fact the front pockets have a reinforced section for holding up to items that clip to pockets like knives and lights. As these are tactical pants, they need to hold a wide variety of duty items. While they have a lot of pockets, all your tactical goodies will just get jumbled up since there aren’t any internal sub-pockets to organize your goodies. I also found that in the summer heat they had a tendency to get a little warm. They are a little heavier in order to stand up to more abuse, but they sacrifice some of the breathability that one would want in hot environments. Don’t get me wrong, these pants are good. They build upon and improve the legacy pant, but don’t make any leaps and bounds in style or features. Also, you will stick out like a sore thumb in the civilian world. The pants scream, “Hey, look at me and how tactical I am.” These pants are right at home for duty use and will serve you better than their earlier generations.
It was clear from the moment I laid hands on the APEX pant that we were going to be friends. The APEX is an extremely lightweight and flexible pant made from 6.4 oz. of Flex-Tac mechanical stretch canvas. It has a comfort waistband, articulated knees, reinforced belt loops, and gusseted construction. Like the TACLITE PRO, it also features deep pockets, reinforced knife clip area, and the water-resistant Teflon treatment to resist staining and water. The APEX has a more modern take on pocket design over the TACLITE PRO. It has a hidden waistband pocket for a handcuff key. The cargo pockets have sub-load space that will accommodate two AR15 magazines, a cell phone or other small items. Cargo pockets are secured with YKK zipper hardware and open by pulling the zipper forward.
The APEX pants fit great with an athletic cut. As mentioned before they are extremely flexible and held up to every type of movement I could through at them. I ran in them, lifted in them, did calisthenics in them, hiked with them and even slept in them. All this was done in 85+ degree weather. They took it all and breathed fairly well. I really appreciate the modern design. They don’t scream “Tactical Warrior!” to everyone that passes by. These pants are right at home on the gun range, police beat or backwoods. As noted the cargo pockets will support two AR15 mags aside. They will print like crazy, but it would work in a pinch. Also, the forward motion to unzip the cargos seems counter-intuitive to me. I would prefer a rearward motion especially if I was trying to draw a magazine from the pocket. Bottom line, if you want modern style, functionality, and comfort, the APEX is a winner.
The 5.11 STRYKE Pant is a mid-weight flexible pant that is kind of a cross between the TACLITE PRO and the APEX. It features heavier construction similar to the TACLITE PRO, but with more flexibility like the APEX, but utilizing heavier 6.76 oz. of Flex-Tec rip-stop fabric. It feels more rugged than the APEX and features a wide assortment of pockets including two front upper thigh pockets for smaller EDC items, two rear, two cargo and two deep front pockets.
Like the APEX, the cargo pockets feature sub-load compartments large enough for two AR-15 mags. Each cargo pocket and rear pocket is secured with a heavy flap with loop and hook fastening. The flap also has a small opening at the top for coms wiring or a pen. The front two pockets feature an aggressively reinforced knife clip area. The belt loops are heavy and the waistband has a compartment for flex cuffs.
The STRYKE fit great. The weight was noticeably heavier than the APEX but the flex was just as noticeably better than the TACLITE PRO. The STRYKE is basically the result of a love affair between the TACLITE PRO and the APEX. These pants did great on the trail and were plenty rugged to take a beating. They heated up more than the APEX which made the hot summer days a little uncomfortable; however, moving around in the pants was great. These pants would be my go-to for a fall hike where there was a bit of bite in the air. They flexed any direction I wanted and I never felt restricted in my movement. Like the APEX, the sub-loads in the cargo pocket areas were welcomed, allowing some organization within the pockets instead of one big jumbled mess. Also, like the APEX, the STRYKE would be at home in both urban and rural environments. They are a bit more Tactical in appearance than the APEX but not as iconic as the TACLITE PRO.
If I could only choose one, the APEX would win hands down. Comfort and flexibility trump ruggedness and roomy storage. They breathe better, move better, dry out quicker and look better than the TACLITE PRO or STRYKE. The cargo pocket zipper is more preferable to me over the hook and loop found on the STRYKE, primarily for the noise factor. I am fairly confident the latter two pants would hold up to abuse longer, but that is an assumption on my part. Stylistically, I feel I could wear the APEX out and about and be far less assuming that if I were wearing the TACLITE PRO or STRYKE. If you are looking for extreme comfort, the APEX is where it’s at. If your mission profile requires more durability but you still need the flex and modern pocket design, get the STRYKE. If you are a diehard 5.11 legacy fan and need the durability and classic styling of the original pant, get the TACLITE PRO.
All these pants can be bought directly from U.S. Patriot Tactical and are backed by their warranty and returns policy. The TACLITE PRO can be had for just under $50, while the STRYKE will run you close to $75. The APEX is the most expensive at $80, but worth the investment.
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.