The folks at 5.11 Tactical built a company on a polo shirt that could stand up to the rigorous training encountered by the trainees at the FBI Academy in Quantico.
Since that humble beginning, 5.11 has added to an ever-expanding line of quality gear from boots to packs and more. I’ve previously told you about the boots (still holding up nicely thanks, and I have worn them often and in less than hospitable terrain), so I was really curious if their clothing line could compare to their footwear. Short answer is yes…yes, they can.
I was fortunate to receive some of 5.11’s more popular pants and belts and was told to go crazy. So, let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
Pockets, Pockets, Pockets
If you are looking for pants that can take you from the office to the backcountry on the same day (and during hunting season around here that happens a lot!) then the 5.11 Apex Pant and the Stryke Pant are just what you’ve been looking for. Redundancy and reinforcement are watch words with 5.11 gear and these pants are no exception. Double stitching on all seams, bar tacking at stress points, heavy-duty YKK zippers and of course, why stop with just a single waist fastener when two will ensure you don’t experience slippage.
And don’t even get me started on pockets. There are more pockets in these two pair of pants than you might find in an entire closet. The Apex has magazine pockets inside the main cargo pockets on each side, two magazine pockets on the back yoke in addition to the normal slash pockets in front and standard back pockets. The Stryker is a more traditional looking cargo pant and clocks in with a total of 12 pockets with double deep cargo pockets and are kneepad ready (which, if you are not planning to storm the citadel would come in pretty handy in taking that kneeling shot on the side of a mountain). Both are constructed of 5.11’s Flex-Tac fabric, stretch canvas for the Apex and ripstop fabric for the Stryker.
I wore each pair over the course of 6 months pretty regularly in temps that ranged from the mid-thirties to over 100 degrees and stayed comfortable in each extreme. Even though the fabric is lightweight, it keeps cold wind out and does not get over hot in the blistering Arizona summer sun.
The Apex retails for $79.99 and the Stryke retails for $74.99
Go Belt Yourself
Pants are only as good as their waist support system (belt) and with the number of pockets you find in 5.11 Tactical’s pants you need something pretty substantial to keep your britches from sagging south if you have all those pockets full. 5.11 sent three belts for me to test and I was very impressed with them.
Starting with the Apex 1.5” Gunners Belt, it looks like a standard, dress or casual wear belt. That perception changes when you put it on. The first thing you notice is the material, though it looks like leather, it is actually a B 10 web material with what 5.11 calls a TPU coating. It gives it the look of leather but makes the belt stiffer and keeps your holster from relocating itself. The next thing you notice is the dual retention prongs. Again redundancy. I have to admit, it did take a bit of getting used to, but it does keep the belt in place and your pants cinched up nicely. For those who carry concealed, the belt works very well with either IWB or OWB holsters. The Apex Gunner retails for $59.99
Next is the Maverick Assaulters belt. This heavy-duty web-type belt is just as handy as a platform for field or open carry as it is at keeping your pants from slipping to half-mast. This rigger’s belt features a patented AustiAlpin buckle that allows for quick attach/detach capability with a one-time “set and forget” fit that helps you avoid fiddling with the fit every time you put it on. The web loop in the front is supposed to be for a carabiner. Though my days of jumping backward off tall things are well behind me, I suppose it would be a comfort if you found yourself in a precarious spot in the back country.
What I do like about this belt is the curve built into the design. This prevents the back droop one usually finds with this type of belt. The Maverick Assaulters belt retails for $89.99
Finally, my personal favorite…The 1.5” Trainer is the perfect belt for outdoors or casual wear. I have to admit, I have purchased quite a few belts of this type, and have been disappointed with virtually every one of them. The Trainer is the first version that I find myself putting on whether I’m going camping, into the field or just hanging out. It’s built tough from ultra-strong nylon mesh and features a solid stainless-steel buckle that’s tested for a tensile strength of more than two tons. With that kind of load bearing potential, you could really depend on it in a rescue situation. Plus, it can serve as an impromptu compression strap, tie down, carry strap and in at least one personal case, an improvised leash for a neighbor’s dog who decided to go exploring early one morning. This belt works well with either IWB or OWB carry and seems built to stand up to pretty much everything you can throw at it. The Trainer retails for $39.99
All 5.11 Tactical belts run small so ordering one size larger is recommended.
5.11 Tactical has certainly expanded its product lines from the FBI polo shirt days. Its website now boasts everything from clothing and BDU’s for first responders to backpacks and tactical pens. Everything is made to withstand the rigors of hard use and to perform in all kinds of situations. All in all, I doubt the average citizen will put their 5.11 gear through the heavy-duty use that professionals will, but 5.11 makes everything with the assumption that everyone needs that kind of durability in their gear. I for one, am sold. In fact, I just saw their new jeans on the 5.11 website. I’m thinking my Levis may be in for some competition.–Randy Gibbs