The best tactical pants are useful for everything from shooting to civilian errand running to hardcore physical activity, including self defense and hand to hand combat. It’s a lifestyle choice to have a pair of pants on at all times that are ready for action. In the case of the contemporary tactical pants offerings online, the level of comfort has always been high; the functionality is extreme comparative to fashion brands and the style is improving day by day.
What you get now instead of 100% cotton cargo style pants pushed off on consumers as tactical pants, is a higher quality of performance capabilities and a better fit. You also get smarter design of functional aspects of the pants and you get extreme material options. For those that have gotten into the EDC (everyday carry) concept, having a pair of these so-called “tactical pants” is a next step in being able to easily carry all your gear.
It’s simply a philosophy of better built products, that extends into everyday fashion for your legs. These aren’t the cotton jeans that make you cold in the rain, these are purpose built, very useful pieces of gear that enable you to have access to gadgets and tools more easily than other pieces of clothing and they allow for higher flexibility and better comfort.
The following article is made to help you understand what you are actually getting with tactical pants as buying clothing online can be somewhat difficult and having a good base of understanding as to what each offering actually promises, is important.
Quick Pick – Top 3 Tactical Pants
Why Do you Need Shooting Pants?
Not all pants that are labeled as tactical pants are specifically built for shooting, but the features in the pants labeled as “tactical pants” are generally well suited for the shooter. The extra pockets and the quality construction, as well as the flexibility of the fabric and the low staining fabrics offer you a good set of pants to keep for many years if your waistline doesn’t grow too much to necessitate a new pair.
Shooting requires a lot of sitting and standing; moving and then remaining stationary. The tools you usually need are able to be carried in a range bag but having pockets that can bring tools for you out to reset a target or change something on the fly makes these types of pants much more efficient than your single side pocket jeans.
The comfort level of the performance fabrics (which we will touch on later) is second to none. The toughness on these pants is second to none. And while you can wear some simple denim jeans to shoot, having more options is always a good plan.
Why do you need Tactical Pants as a Civilian?
You don’t NEED tactical pants as a civilian, but you also don’t NEED a Mercedes or a Porsche. You buy tactical pants for much the same reasons you pay a premium for a car like a Porsche or a Mercedes: performance and creature comforts. You can get by with a pair of cotton khakis or jeans, but you can really accomplish more with performance fabrics, better architecture and build quality and the enhanced functional capabilities of the tactical pant offerings on the market.
As a civilian you never know what you’re going to get into. But these pants weren’t built originally for civilians, so they didn’t cater to the things you normally get into as a civilian, quite the opposite. They were made for those who have to have the best functionality for real world situations that are on the border of “extreme” for most people. That’s why they make such good pants for “civilians”.
When you know you can go for a hike and get the cooling and breathability that you need, without the staining, and durability issues of a standard fabric like cotton, then the pants make a bit more sense, given their premium price tag.
When you know you can carry more things with you; a pen, a knife, your phone in a front pocket; any number of tools, then you start to see the capability of these types of pants better.
When you see the heavy duty triple stitched stress points and the heavy duty, wide belt loops, you start to get the reason why these pants are so popular.
When your normal jeans just cannot cut it with a heavy concealed carry IWB (inside waistband) holster for your gun, these pants start to look very good.
When you realize that the average pair of jeans might last a couple years, but these pants can last 5-6-7 or more years, then the price point seems to be more “on-point”.
There are a ton of reasons why these pants make sense, the least of which is stylishness. That’s not to say there aren’t stylish options for tactical pants, but they aren’t going to win any fashion awards any time soon.
With the improving market potential, more stylish options have come onto the scene recently, allowing a hybridized approach to the style and functional aspects of these types of pants. A hybridized form and function harmonization for a pair of pants that can easily be used to carry a weapon, but also looks good on a dinner date with your spouse.
Materials- Understanding How they look, How they fit & What they do
We’ve mentioned cotton pants a few times already. There is nothing wrong with cotton from a clothing perspective. It’s comfortable and it’s a staple. But it also doesn’t perform under adverse conditions or offer the same strength or stain resistance as some of the other materials available, specifically man made synthetic performance fabrics.
A very simple fabric we’ve been using in fashion clothing for decades. This is a synthetic material that is now becoming more of a performance fabric base. The basic makeup of the fabric is a resin compound that links esters with polymer. The good wrinkle resistance and the flexibility of the material makes it a great blend option and a decent standalone fabric for most conditions. It is not the best for close proximity to flames and it is less breathable than other fabrics, but it does wear well and is very durable.
A stretchy material that is usually used as part of blends when you need to have some durability and where movement and squatting is occurring often. Rather than just being used as a standalone now (like it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s), this is usually just added to fabric blends to make them semi-stretchy without losing the base qualities of the other blended fabric components.
A thermoplastic that is used for high durability fabric needs. It is an artificially created fabric that is a polyamide (natural polyamide examples are silk and wool), which means it is chainlike in structure and has strength as a result.
Performance cotton variants
Cotton is a natural, short structure fiber that feels great against the skin. It is not particularly durable under high stress conditions, but it is very comfortable and breathable. Adding certain fabric architectures to the manufacturing process makes cotton much more durable and can enhance its performance qualities.
Most of the pants in this list are blends. That means before they are turned into pants, they are rolls of fabrics made from many types of materials, combined into a single fabric to get the best qualities from each fabric. This is important for performance and activewear clothing, because you cannot just rely on a single fabric to have all the best performance qualities for such a variable piece of clothing. Utilizing different percentages of threads to make an all-encompassing fabric that allows greater flexibility (in use cases) as well as sometimes, just greater flexibility, means you are getting a better value for your dollar for variable use case scenarios. If someone will be sitting in a climate-controlled apartment all day, cotton or linen are probably the preferred materials. If someone wants to roll around in the mud and be able to wash the clothes clean or hike and get breathability, flexibility and durability, they need blends.
Most tactical pants are performance fabric blends and most are heavy oriented towards synthetics, because they offer specific benefits that are more conducive to the types of situations that tactical pants are used in.
- Ripstop fabric profiles
- High quality thread
- Reinforced stress points
- Heavier thread profiles
- Reinforced pockets and plackets/edges
Additional Build Components
Built in knee pads? Ability to add in component knee pads into the prebuilt pockets? A dedicated pen pocket or a dedicated phone pocket? These are just a few of the clever ways these pants outdo most other pants on the market.
Some of the following are available on these tactical pants, and represent better design functionality than standard broad market pants:
- Knee pads built in
- Knee pad pocket
- Pen pockets
- Phone pockets
- Velcro closures
- Slim pocket profile
- Deep pocket profiles
- Cargo type pockets
- Wider boot cut leg openings
- Reinforced stitching to improve movement durability
- Reinforced belt loops
- Hammer loop
- Reinforced knife clip pocket edge
- High quality hook and loop or physical closure hardware
- Heavy duty zippers
- Flex points around crotch or knees
- Zipper pulls
There are others that can be found on these tactical pants, but this is a good sampling of some of the extended functionality that these add-ons offer.
When it comes to tactical pants, each person will want to decide what’s best for their particular use case. Some will opt for more stylish, less overt pant styles, and some really want the extra obvious functionality traits. What you can be sure of is this: regardless which stylistic corner you are in, the durability and performance of the fabric and the build quality is much higher than broad market fashion pants. That’s a cold hard fact.
As you browse through the different options, we think you’ll find a pair that makes the most sense.
As a general matter of course, as the author is a man, the options reviewed in this article are men’s versions of these models and brands. The same pants are almost 100% across the board made in women’s sizing and cuts. The reviews extend to those women’s models as well, though the author has chosen not to opine on fit specific aspects for those models. Unreservedly, the author recommends the same things from a functionality perspective for women’s models as he does for the men’s versions.
5.11 Tactical Men's Taclite Pro EDC Pants
- Lightweight 65% polyester and 35% poly cotton ripstop is treated with HT Teflon wear-resistant finish
- Two cargo pockets; magazine/cell phone pocket
- Signature rear strap and slash pocket design; rear web strap
- External knife pocket
- YKK zippers.Prym snaps,clip loop.Hip-mounted d-ring. Gussetted construction for flexibility and strength
The 5.11 Taclite Pro is more of a gateway pair of pants because it’s not overtly “tactical” but it offers most of the features that you would want in a quality pair of day to day pants that are suitable as shooting pants or to be used as an upgraded version of your favorite cargo pants or chinos.
This is a 65poly/35 cotton blend that offers decent breathability, but a ton of durability. They are also very easy-care pants that can be washed and dried without shrinkage and without too many care considerations to remember.
- Comfortable, even if they are a bit heavy
- Nice reinforcement and decent pocket offerings
- A bit thick and not as comfortable as some of the other list options
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: The 5.11 Taclite Pro are the type of pants that last for many years if you don’t grow too big in the belly. These are a good hybrid model, that feel very well built because of the heavy fabric weight.
5.11 Tactical Stryke Pant
- The Stryke Pant is made from 5.11's patented two-way mechanical stretch 65% polyester/35% cotton ripstop fabric which makes them lightweight and durable. They provide outstanding comfort and performance in harsh conditions, professional and recreational
- The Teflon fabric treatment protects against stains, spills, and soil to keep your pants looking their best
- With comfort features like a self-adjusting tunnel waistband, a fully gusseted crotch and articulated knees you will be prepared for running, kneeling, crawling, and hustling your work demands
- The 5.11 Stryke Pants have many operational features which include 12 pockets including double-deep cargo pockets for tactical use, YKK zippers, Prym snaps
- The durability of the Stryke Pants is unmatched with triple-stich reinforcement and extensive bartacking at major seams and stress points
The 5.11 Stryke Tactical Pant is a heavy, durable pant that wears lighter than it actually is. This is a great choice for those who need ultimate in durability, easy care and long-term wear characteristics.
The Teflon coating doesn’t last forever but it is a great perk early on. The fabric is “proprietary” but the biggest benefit is the inherent wear and comfort characteristics more than the proprietary claims. Pocket placement is decidedly “tactical” looking but offers a ton of functionality.
- Good pocket assortment even if they are a bit awkward looking in placement
- Nice fabric that is very durable
- Stylistically very tactical, even though they aren’t a bulky pant
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: The brand and the reputation of the Stryke Tactical Pant model are above reproach in the tactical pants market. The functionality outweighs the form, and that can be a very good thing sometimes.
TRU-SPEC Men's 24-7 Tactical Pant
- Comfort fit slider waistband construction eliminates need for gathered elastic or adjustable side tabs
- 2-Cargo pockets with hook and loop closure and bellowed side gussets; 2-internal magazine compartments in both cargo pockets
- Reinforced knee with inside opening for knee pads (not included)
Simple, straightforward, the Tru-Spec Men’s 24-7 Tactical Pants offer a lot of pockets and good general wear characteristics for the trade off of being a bit “stiff looking”.
- Good stain resistance
- Great cellphone pocket for moderately sized phones
- Durable fabric mix
- A little too “practical machinist” looking for some people – these have a very “work uniform” look to them
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: Simple and offers a pretty good value relative to some of the other offerings. This is a very practical buildout, but it might be a bit too stuffy for some users with the very specifically job oriented look to the style. The durability of the fabric of the Tru-Spec Men’s 24-7 Tactical Pant is excellent and offers long-term wear characteristics.
ZAPT Tactical Pants
- Check Size Chart below to insure proper fit, the size detail in photo and Product Description.
- Located in front thigh pockets rope style kneepad height adjustment system
- The unique low-profile Velcro Velcro waist adjustment system. Designed for use with removable Knee battle
- Unique gusseted crotch stitching.
- After long waist plus a large cloth panels, pull more lateral force Oversized front thigh pockets. Knee pad is included
If you are an overweight tactical wannabe (no offense meant), you might want to steer clear of the ZAPT Tactical Pants– they mean business, and just because they have them in some of the larger sizes doesn’t mean they can properly be used by all that wear them.
They almost feel too over the top for 95% of users, though we cannot complain about the additional functionality. Operator pants for the tactically skilled individuals that have a team plan. Two is one, one is none.
- Made ready for the impending Zombie Apocalypse
- Incorporated kneepads
- Lower leg pockets
- Decent price for the amount of detail work involved
- Almost too tactical? Is that a thing?
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: You wear these pants because you enjoy hurting bad guys for a living, or you really like looking like a person who enjoys hurting bad guys for a living. The ZAPT are very tactical looking and have all the functionality to match the form.
5.11 Tactical Ridgeline Pant
- Back welt pockets sized for pistol or .308 magazines
- Outstanding performance, superior comfort
- Cordura knife reinforcements at front pockets
- Teflon finish for stain and soil resistance
- Full inseam gusseted crotch
The pants for the mainstream user that wants to dabble in tactical pants, or for when the hardcore tactical pants enthusiast needs to go to a party or a work event without looking like they can kill you with just their thumb.
These are sophisticated, comfortable and excellent for hand to hand combat. The 5.11 Ridgeline are also pants that could last a decade or more. If you don’t need a ton of pockets, these are among the most comfortable pants you will ever own.
- Simple design that looks good on many body types
- Very comfortable – like uncannily comfortable
- Tough as nails for such a soft fabric
- Can be worn to dinner at a nice restaurant without grabbing awkward stares
- Maybe not tactical enough for some users?
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: The 5.11 Ridgeline are the stealth play for pants. In fact, they are the stealth bomber of pants. Tough, capable, under the radar and really doesn’t need a bunch of extra functionality because they make do by getting by unnoticed.
HELIKON-TEX Urban Line
- RUGGED DURABILITY - Crafted with a blend of cotton, polyester and spandex, these tactical pants for men feature enhanced stitching for outdoor resilience
- COMFORT-FIT WAIST - These lightweight ripstop pants boast a stretchable waist perfect for quick response, on or off duty range exercises, or daily wear
- PROFESSIONAL COMFORT - A patented U.S. and EU design, these Helikon-Tex tactical pants even feature internal pockets for extra padding and knee pads
- CLIMATE RESILIENT - Whether you are going hunting, hiking, trail riding, or planning a SWAT assault, these men pants can withstand a variety of climates
- LOW-PROFILE POCKETS - Keep clips, ammo, first aid or tactical equipment accessible with 12 load-bearing pockets located across the front, rear and thighs. European Patent No. 001832254-0001. ACCESSORIES AND BELT NOT INCLUDED
Pretty overtly tactical in looks and in style. The Helikon-Tex Urban Line pair of pants will do well for people who know they need to have the extra functionality of the pockets and the reinforced seams, pressure points and waistband but also know they can get away with presenting as a tactical user 100% of the time while wearing them.
- Tough as nails
- Good reinforcement at waist for carry
- A little bit like a caricature of itself with how specific the build style is
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: The Helikon-Tex Urban Line is a tough pair of pants with an exceptional waistband.
Under Armour Men's Storm Tactical Patrol Pants
- UA Storm technology repels water without sacrificing breathability
- Ultra-durable ripstop fabric is tough enough to put up with anything in the field
- Anti-odor technology prevents the growth of odor-causing microbes
- Stretch-engineered waistband for superior mobility & insane comfort
- Reinforced knees & crotch provide superior durability
This is the pant for the person who doesn’t want people to know they bought tactical pants, but still wants to remain confident in their choice to buy tactical pants because, you know, functionality. The Under Armour Men’s Storm Tactical Patrol Pant offers some of that stuff by the way: functionality.
- The causal option that doesn’t overpower the tactical reference
- Very comfortable, even if it is all polyester
- Movement ready – purpose built for everything movement related
- Maybe not enough functionality because of the overwhelming “form” aspect of the build
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: Casual, but still very comfortable for heavy movement needs.The Under Armour Men’s Storm Tactical Patrol Pants are good for outdoor use in varied environments.
Helikon-Tex Outback Line
- Unique EU patented design - A well-known, Helikon-Tex best seller
- Thanks to its 4-way elastic fabric, you get a comfortable, slim look with an increased range of motion without unnecessary stress on its seams. Its stretchable waist gives you up to 2 additional inches for improved comfort
- It's lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking materials provides an increased comfort during prolonged use during outdoor activities and trekking
- The low profile design combined with is stretchable material gives the versatility and capabilities to fulfill the needs of professional users while in many different settings. It has a perfect, patented pocket arrangement for carrying all your essential equipment in an organized fashion without losing your tactical advantage
- ACCESORIES AND BELT NOT INCLUDED
The Europeans want their technical outdoor pants back. These are more about outdoor adventures than they are about tactical everyday usage. That’s probably a good thing though, as the fabric is incredible, and the functionality of the Helikon-Tex Outback Line is excellent.
- Sporty but causal
- Less about tactical and shooting than it is about hiking and granola
- Maybe a bit too outdoor technical in design
WHY IT IS RECOMMENDED: The material of the Helikon-Tex Outback Line is awesome. The reinforced build quality is awesome. While they may not be for everyone stylistically, you could backpack through Europe in a single pair of pants and still feel good about it.
Tactical pants come in all shapes, sizes and fabrics but they are all more durable and capable than what you’ve probably been wearing most of your life. That’s the point. You want a pant that is durable, comfortable and can help you turn into Captain America when you need to.
The problem with the older generation of tactical pants is that they were “tactical” to prove a point instead of being actually tactical. Which literally means they are useful and presented with specific advantage. The newest iterations of the tactical pants that are on the market and as showcased here will take your tactical pants game to the next level with the value proposition they offer and the exceptional functionality. The comfort is unmatched thanks to technical fabrics and as long as you watch your dinner muscle they will remain your favorite pants for the better part of a decade, at least.
The above pants represent the best tactical pant contenders on the planet.