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The Tactical Pants Style Guide

At a glance, tactical pants appear to be a simple cargo. Yet upon closer inspection, one finds strategic placement of an array of pockets tailored for the real-life action figure—someone ready to strike within a moment's notice with all the necessary tools in reach.

These über-durable trousers are far more than the average cargo pants. Reinforced with bar-tacks, gussets and some even coated with DuPont Teflon, tactical pants have become the everyday armor for those who put their lives on the line. Whether patrolling the streets or practicing at the range, men and women across the country select tactical pants as the choice operational wear.

However, these trousers didn't always hang in the closets of law officers, EMTs, FBI agents and military operators. Rather, they were first designed for those who opted to conquer the natural world—mountain climbers. Tactical pants were initially developed by Royal Robbins, an outdoor clothing company founded by an adventurous husband-and-wife duo. Years later, a few Colorado FBI agents, who also happened to be avid climbers, found that the resilient pants could be used for more than scaling mountains.

Eventually, tactical pants made it all the way to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. And just like that, pants once used for recreation became a major player in workday uniforms. As a result, tactical trousers have become as ubiquitous as gun holsters and pocket knives in the tactical world. Today, a number of brands offer countless options of these pants in many different styles, fabrics and colors. The options, at times, can be almost overwhelming. Use this review to learn more about each brand to map out your next pants purchase.



Brand: 24-7 Series

24-7 Series Men's Cotton Canvas

24-7 Series Tactical Pants

100% cotton canvas

Highs: Pure pocket bliss with too many to even count. It's symmetrical and extra roomy.

Lows: Its extreme tactical look might tip off the bad guys. 

Verdict: For those seeking functionality that's not exactly discreet.

Founded in 1950, Tru-Spec by Atlanco began as a surplus company that decades later transitioned into manufacturing BDUs. Still a family-owned business today, Tru-Spec entered the tactical pants game five years ago with its 24-7 Series line. This line filled the gap between hardcore tactical gear and an everyday cargo pant.

In order to differentiate the pants, 24-7 Series designers added pocket flaps with a slant. The slanted back pocket flap has less to do with functionality and is more of an immediate visual indicator of the pants' uniqueness. Because of this, Kevin Cain, who served as Tru-Spec by Atlanco's business development manager, said people can immediately tell a 24-7 Series pant when compared to others on the market.

Another feature that sets the trousers apart is its pocket construction. Although some tactical pants utilize patch pockets (a pocket sewn onto the pants themselves), 24-7 Series pants have a thigh cargo pocket that physically expands to open further. The pants are also extremely symmetrical—if there is a pocket on the right side, that same pocket will be mirrored on the left. This means that it doesn't matter if a customer is right- or left-handed; he or she will have equal functionality. On both sides of the pants, there is a small knife pocket unique to the 24-7 Series.

Best Seller: 24-7 Series Tactical Pants

Pockets: A symmetrical pocket construction with 14 pockets total including two internal pockets and two knife pockets. Although the pocket material is sturdy, the color of the inside pockets on a khaki pair is two shades lighter.

  • Front pockets are extra deep—more than 1 foot to be exact with a 7-inch-wide opening.
  • Rear pockets boast two internal magazine compartments (each are 5 inches long, 3 inches wide).
  • Two cell phone/magazine pockets (4.75 inches long, 3.5 inches wide) located on the outside of thigh cargo pockets. They fit an iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid.
  • Two rear pockets (7 inches long, 5.5 inches wide) have a slanted flap with a Velcro closure as well as bellowed side gussets. Facing the rear of the pants, side gussets include Velcro closures so you can decide whether to expand or contract the pockets as necessary.
  • Two thigh cargo pockets with Velcro and bellowed side gussets (about 6.75 inches long, 7 inches wide).
  • Two knife pockets (about 5 inches long, 2 inches wide) are unique to 24-7 Series pants.
  • Knee pad pockets have a 5.5-inch opening; the actual pocket itself is 10 inches long, 10 inches wide. Sold separately, the neoprene knee pad measures 8.5 inches long, 5 inches wide.

Fabric: 8.5-ounce, 100 percent cotton canvas. Its basket weave construction is typically stronger than other weave types and has a natural breathability. Pants are pretreated to prevent shrinkage and color fading.

Fit: For men with a heavier build, this non-pleated pant is roomier in all the right places. On a 34X34 pant, the front rise is 13.75 inches; the back rise is 16.5 inches with a leg opening width of 8.5 inches.

Crotch construction: With no gusseted or diamond-shaped crotch, the pants use its elastic slider waistband to relieve the tension and prevent blowouts. By leaving out the crotch gusset, Tru-Spec is able to offer its pants at a lower price.

Waist style: The elastic slider waistband gives two inches of flexibility per side. Not only is this beneficial for movement, but it also helps with weight fluctuation. Five 2-inch belt loops can accommodate a belt up to 1.75 inches wide.

Reinforcements: Reinforced knee with built-in knee pad pockets.

Fly type: French fly with Prym snaps and a thicker brass-colored YKK zipper (two sizes larger than the average zipper).

Colors: Black, coyote, dark navy, khaki, olive drab, stone.

Additional Styles

Lightweight Tactical Pants

The only difference between these lightweight pants and its cotton counterpart is the fabric type. Every other element is consistent. The blend of 65 percent/35 percent poly-cotton ripstop gives the pants color longevity, color consistency and makes it more applicable to uniform wear. A DuPont Teflon coating prevents it from absorbing liquid and stains.

Simply Tactical Cargo

Made for the heavier-set man, these pants come in big and tall sizing up to a 60-inch waist. It features an elastic waistband and a traditional cut for a more tailored fit. With a symmetrical pocket design, the six pockets include deep front-slashed pockets, bar-tack secured cargos and cell phone/magazine pockets.

Women's Lightweight Tactical Pants

The women's lightweight tactical pants have the same features as the men's version of the pants. The unhemmed pants have one big difference—it's designed to fit the female form.

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Brand: 5.11 Tactical

5.11 Tactical

5.11 Tactical Pants

100% cotton canvas

Highs: 5.11 is the original tactical pant. Its patented rear-slash pockets give easy and quick access.

Lows: With only seven pockets, these pants along with Under Armour have the least in the bunch. The buddy strap can snag on foreign objects at just the wrong moment. And again, 100 percent cotton is breathable but also notoriously fades, shrinks and wrinkles.

Verdict: Although 5.11's tactical pants may be the first, there's definitely a lack of innovation to further the pants' functionality and quality.

When people think tactical pants, the first thing that comes to mind is 5.11. That's because 5.11 Tactical was built around the cargo trouser. Although a female mountaineer named Liz Robbins designed the first tactical pants for Royal Robbins, Dan Costa purchased the outdoor gear company and later sold it to found 5.11 Tactical.

The start-up's flagship product was Royal Robbins' popular 5.11 Pant. Named for the most strenuous rock climbing difficulty, 5.11 turned out to be the perfect pants for a number of high-pressure situations requiring serious mobility. Costa identified and used this idea to market it to FBI agents across the nation. By outfitting high-ranking officers in 5.11, the rest followed suit. Costa's vision turned 5.11 Tactical into the staple it is today.

In addition to federal law enforcement, technology enthusiasts have picked up on the seven-pocket pants to stash all sorts of electronics—from Kindles to video cameras. The pants, made out of 100 percent cotton canvas, boast roomy front pockets with inverted pleats that expand when in use. Its Velcro thigh pocket is large enough for a magazine, cell phone or knife, and its Velcro rear slash pockets are extra deep for extended mags, a baton and even a 15-inch flashlight.

As evidence of its rock climbing heritage, the back of 5.11 pants still feature a patented "buddy" or utility strap initially created to tote carabineers. Although some see no use for the strap, others have found it an excellent place to store ear protection or even a flashlight. Another unique feature of 5.11 pants is a built-in blousing system at the pants' ankle, which can accommodate 500 cord.

The original tactical pants maker has no doubt expanded its brand through the years. There are now seven styles of tactical pants, which are made in Asia, available in a range of seven colors (gray, black, khaki, tundra, OD green, coyote brown and fire navy).

Even though 5.11 set the stage for tactical pants, some have come forward to criticize the original trousers. Online reviews show that there have been complaints about the 100 percent cotton pants fading too quickly and fitting incorrectly. Companies have even been founded to compete with 5.11 simply due to unsatisfied customers. Despite a few negative assessments, 5.11 remains the benchmark for tactical pants everywhere.

Best Seller: 5.11 Tactical Pants

Pockets: With just seven pockets (symmetrical aside from the extra pocket on the left side) and no hidden ones, these pants have the least amount of pockets in the lineup. Its slash pockets in back and front with knife clip reinforcements also differentiates it.

  • Two front pockets (about 1 foot long, 7.5 inches wide) were made with a less sturdy material than the pants themselves.
  • Two rear patch pockets (about 1 foot long, 7 inches wide) with Velcro closures.
  • One narrow thigh pocket on the left side (5.5 inches long, 2.25 inches wide.)
  • Two cargo pockets (6.75 inches long,7 inches wide).
  • Knee pad pockets (9.5 inches long,10 inches wide) with a 4.75 opening for 6 millimeter neoprene kneepads.

Fabric: 8.5-ounce, 100 percent cotton canvas, also known as original weight tactical pants

Fit: Although 5.11 calls the fit "legendary," some have said that the pleated pants are built for a lean hiker and not a heavier-built shooter. For a 34X34 pant, the front rise is 12.5 inches; the back rise is 16.75 inches with a leg opening width of 8.5 inches.

Crotch construction: No gusset

Waist style: An elastic waistband can stretch about 1.25 inches on each side. Five belt loops accommodate a belt up to 1.75 inches wide.

Reinforcements: Trousers have 48 bar-tacks with knee and seat reinforcements as well as front and back slash pocket reinforcement for a folding knife or a tool clip.

Fly type: French fly with a Prym snap and a bronze YKK zipper.

Colors: Black, gray, khaki, coyote brown, OD green, tundra, fire navy.

Additional Styles

Covert Cargo Pants

When stacked next to the 5.11 Tactical pants, there are several differences in the pocket configurations. The covert cargo has larger cargo pockets, casual-looking deep pockets and two mag pockets. It also boasts Cordura nylon lining in certain areas.

Covert Khaki 2.0 Pants

Tactical pants go undercover with the Covert Khaki 2.0 Pants. It may have one pocket fewer than 5.11's original tactical pants, but the pants still provide plenty of storage. Additionally, the pants feature no pleats in the front and are made out of a poly-cotton twill.

Stryke Pants

The Stryke Pants offer a more modern take on traditional tactical pants. By using a proprietary Flex-Tac fabric, 5.11 is able to offer a comfortable and mobile fabric. The stretch tactical pants' angled cargo pockets have a distinct, low-profile look with Velcro closures. The knees receive extra protection with double reinforcements and pockets for knee pads.

Taclite Pro Pants

In addition to the features on the original 5.11 pant, this trouser has a lightweight fabric of 65 percent polyester/35 percent poly-cotton ripstop. It is also treated with HT Teflon and features an external knife pocket, rear web strap and clip loop.

Taclite Jean-Cut Pants

This trouser combines the five-pocket jeans with the 5.11 Taclite pants. It uses the 6.14-ounce poly-cotton Taclite ripstop material that is stain and fade resistant. The triple-stitching, bar-tacks and reinforced seat of the original Taclite pants are also included. These pants feature nine pockets—two more than 5.11's original tactical pants.

Traverse Pants

Traverse Pants are the most evolved version of 5.11 tactical pants. If you're seeking extra mobility, the four-way stretch material delivers. Made out of 91 percent nylon and 9 percent spandex with a UPF 50 sun protection rating, the pants dry quickly and are super lightweight. Features such as a hem-to-hem gusset and articulated knees add to their range of motion. Cordura-lined cargo pockets give an extra layer of security.

Women's Stryke Pants

It's the female iteration of modern tactical pants. Women's Stryke Pants incorporate all the features found on the original Stryke Pants with a more feminine fit.

Women's Taclite Pro Pants

Take the original 5.11s, give them a women's fit; switch the fabric to a lightweight 65 percent polyester/35 percent poly-cotton ripstop; add an external knife pocket, HT Teflon treatment and a clip loop, and you have a pair of women's Taclite Pro pants.

Women's Tactical Pants

Identical to the 5.11 original pant in every aspect except it has a women's fit.

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Brand: Blackhawk

Blackhawk!

Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants

65%/35% Poly-cotton ripstop

Highs: A high bar-tacks count and substantial pocket material make these pants the sturdiest. Slick features such as intelligent magazine storage and a stay-tuck liner add to their appeal.

Lows: Packed with features at a premium price. If that's not what you're looking for, move along.

Verdict: If intelligent storage options, durability and extreme functionality are high on your list, then these are the pants for you.

The fact that Blackhawk makes some of the most durable and feature-packed tactical pants on the market shouldn't come as a surprise if you know the company's background. Founder of Blackhawk and ex-Navy SEAL, Mike Noell, was on a mission in Afghanistan when the strap on his issued backpack broke, falling onto a land mine that luckily did not detonate. Ever since, Noell vowed to make high-quality, functional and feature-rich products for operators that improve their performance rather than hindering it.

What sets Blackhawk tactical pants apart is the sheer number of bar-tacks in every pant. Bar-tack is a specialized sewing stitch that guarantees extra reinforcement. Upping the number of bar-tacks lengthens the assembly process, said Terry Naughton, who served as Blackhawk's vice president of marketing. However, this is essential in creating long-lasting pants with secure belt loops and Velcro areas.

"If you laid all the manufacturers' pants down next to each other, and you counted the number of bar-tacks in them, Blackhawk would have the highest number," Naughton said.

Other special features include a stay-tuck liner, flexible waistband and gusseted crotch. Stay-tuck liners are a silicon grip inside the pants that keeps shirttails neatly in place. The flexible waistband is forgiving enough to allow for placement of your weapon and holster without having to buy a size up. The gusseted crotch allows for more range of movement without constriction. Magazine clips located in the side cargo pockets offer a huge advantage as well.

"If you're a right-hand shot, you can have your hand on your weapon, and your right hand is in the ready position. You can release the magazine from an AR or a rifle and reach down with your left hand grab the magazine out of the pocket without ever removing your weapon from your shoulder or from shooting position," said Blackhawk Senior Product Line Manager Larry Hart.

To ensure they're equipping operators with the best gear, all Blackhawk products, including its tactical pants, go through an extensive testing process.

"If there's anything that isn't 100 percent validated Blackhawk, I won't put it out," Hart said. "It's not about offering the consumer a quick solution. It's about offering them the right material, construction, quality and a performance that can't be beat."

Best Seller: Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants

Pockets: With 14 pockets total, including one hidden zippered pocket, each pocket touts a flat cut at the bottom for a knife.

  • Two angled front pockets (1 foot long, 8.25 inches wide) with a coin pocket on the right side.
  • Two cargo pockets (6 inches long, 7 inches wide) on each leg have a Velcro flap with elastic webbing inside that can secure up to three automatic magazines.
  • Located on the cargo pocket on both sides, you'll find an additional zippered pocket (5.5 inches long, 5 inches wide) with a mesh interior.
  • Two smaller front pockets (4.5 inches long, 3 inches wide) can easily carry a cell phone whether it's an iPhone or BlackBerry.
  • The rear features two angled Velcro patch pockets (8 inches long, 9 inches wide.)
  • A single zippered pocket on the rear right side (5 inches long, 5.5 inches wide) can fit a wallet or ID. It's positioned higher on the pants instead of deep in the pocket.
  • On the right side of the pants, there is a hidden pocket with a 5.5 inch-wide zippered opening that is so well concealed, it might even take a few minutes to find for the first time.
  • Knee pad pockets (8.75 inches long, 9 inches wide) have a 5 inch opening.

Fabric: By applying an 6.5-ounce, 65/35 percent poly-cotton fabric to the pants with water and stain resistance treatment, this tactical pant is geared toward a long-wear cycle.

Fit: The front rise is about average for tactical pants at a one foot long as well as a back rise of a foot and a half.

Crotch construction: The pants have a gusseted crotch with an elongated diamond pattern that allows more freedom of movement.

Waist style: The expandandable waistband is equipped with 3.5 inches of elastic on each side. Five extra-sturdy belt loops accommodate belts up to 2.5 inches wide. In addition, the stay-tuck liner allows for a range of movement while keeping your shirt tucked in.

Reinforcements: Bar-tacks located on all major stress points increase the durability and longevity of this pant. Double layering along the seat and knees as well as along the cuffs and pockets gives extra protection against wearing down.

Fly type: French fly with a Prym snap and an extra wide YKK zipper.

Colors: Black, chocolate brown, khaki, navy, olive drab.

Additional Styles

LT2 Tactical Pants

Blackhawk removed all features on the Lightweight Tactical Pants that the operator deemed unnecessary, and the result is the LT2, a streamlined version of the pants at a lower suggested retail price.

Women's Lightweight Tactical Pants

These aren't men's pants shrunk down to fit a woman. Instead, the design pattern was made specifically with the tactical female in mind. Like their male counterpart, these pants are rugged, lightweight and equipped with well-thought-out storage options.

Women's LT2 Tactical Pants

Fitted for a female's body, these pants take style as well as functionality into account with their design. The Women's LT2 tactical pants offer high-performance features, various functional pockets and a lightweight fabric.

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Brand: Genuine Gear

Genuine Gear Tactical Trousers

Propper International, a supplier to the U.S. Military, introduced new tactical pants to its Genuine Gear discount sub-brand in July 2010. In addition to BDU trousers, coats and shorts, the brand now carries the 10-pocket trousers at an ultra-low price point of $29.99 (MSRP). This low price makes Genuine Gear tactical pants the most affordable brand on our guide.

Manufactured in China, the pants originate in the same factory where other Propper brand apparel is made. Compared to Propper's original tactical pants, the Genuine Gear pants have several design differences. Its biggest distinction is the double cargo pockets, a design that creates two pockets out of one. Featured on the lower thigh of each side, the cargo pocket contains one pleated large pocket with a hook and loop fastener along with an open-top stash pocket behind. The open-top pocket allows for storage of larger items like a notepad, wallet or even a flashlight.

"I find that being able to drop tools into the pocket is helpful," said Dan Bergeron, who served as Propper's design director. "It is a great place to put things temporarily for easy access."

Bergeron added pocket flaps with a hook and loop closure to the back pockets after receiving feedback from police officers and SWAT team members. The officers complained that, while the back pocket was a good place to store credentials, without a Velcro or button closure, it wasn't secure enough for storage.

"The open-top cargo pocket is pretty secure but probably not for credentials for an FBI agent or a Marshall," Bergeron said. "The intent of the back pocket flaps was to give them something that was very secure but easy to reach."

The new features on Genuine Gear trousers don't stop at pockets. Propper's previous tactical pant designs contained 35/65 percent poly-cotton blend, while the new pants boast 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester. Additionally, the trousers have a mid-rise fit that is less baggy than typical tactical pants with no pleats in the front. It's comparable to dress pants or a class B pants. Additionally, a smaller elastic waistband makes it easier to find the right size.

Genuine Gear Tactical Trousers

40%/60% poly-cotton ripstop

Highs: A smaller elastic waistband creates a near-perfect fit. Double-cargo pockets give twice the storage capability and display true ingenuity. And what a price!

Lows: Like any discount brand, the materials are less expensive and potentially less durable.

Verdict: Priced right for what you get.

Best Seller: Genuine Gear Tactical Trousers

Pockets: Arranged in an asymmetrical fashion, ten pockets are made out of a material that matches the color of the trousers.

  • Two front slash pockets (1 foot long, 6 inches wide) feature a reinforced bottom opening for a folding knife or tool clip. 
    • Front right pocket includes a coin pocket (3 inches long, 2.5 inches wide).
  • Two back pockets (5.25 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) have a flap with two Velcro closures.
  • Two double-cargo pockets have an open-top stash pocket (8 inches long, 7.5 inches wide) and an outer pocket (7.75 inches long, 7.75 inches wide). The outer pocket features a pleat that expands 1.5 inches and two Velcro closures.
  • One cell phone pocket (5.5 inches long, 3 inches wide) on the left side is larger than the one on Propper's poly-cotton canvas pants and easily fits an iPhone or BlackBerry.
  • Knee pad pockets (10 inches long,10.5 inches wide) have a 7.25-inch opening.

Fabric: A 6.25 ounce, 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester ripstop blend.

Fit: The trousers have a mid-rise, straight fit that leaves out front pleats found on other Propper tactical pants. For a 34X32 pant, the front rise is 11.25 inches; the back rise is 15.75 inches. The leg opening has a width of 8.5 inches.

Crotch construction: Just like Propper's original tactical trouser, there is no crotch gusset.

Waist style: A 3-inch-long internal elastic waistband on each side allows flexibility and is far less substantial than Propper's original pant band (7 inches long on each side). Six belt loops can accommodate belts up to 1.75 inches wide.

Reinforcements: Reinforced knee patch.

Fly type: A plastic button with a YKK zipper and a cloth zipper pull.

Colors: Black, khaki, LAPD navy, olive.

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Brand: Propper

PROPPER Canvas Tactical Pants

Propper Men's Tactical Trousers

65%/35% poly-cotton canvas

Highs: A novel fabric blend and the best overall value.

Lows: Lack of angled rear pockets makes for less easy access.

Verdict: Perfect for the frugal shopper who likes military-grade gear at an all-time low price.

For those seeking true military-grade tactical pants, look no further than Propper International. As one of the largest contractors for the U.S. Military, Propper's level of quality control is bar none. After manufacturing BDUs for 25 years, it was a natural progression for the Missouri-based company to branch into the world of tactical trousers.

With a no-corner-cutting state of mind, Propper employs staffs who monitor and review fabric quality and production. And when something doesn't meet its high standards? It's rejected. Even if it means the product line will be late to market or orders will go unfilled.

"Quality is what we firmly believe in," said Jim Guntli, Propper's former Vice President of Sales – Western Region. "That is our greatest selling point—quality. That it is the highest."

Propper's tactical pants come in four styles and are manufactured in China. The various styles range in price from $24.99 to $49.99 (MSRP) and can be found in up to seven colors (black, coyote, olive, dark navy, LAPD navy, gray and khaki). The manufacturer was one of the first to treat its pants with DuPont™ Teflon® coating. This coating prevents staining from blood to water to coffee.

When compared to other manufacturers, Propper's price points are the lowest. In addition to affordability, its lightweight tactical pants come with a matching belt—a feature offered by no other manufacturer—and will soon be added to all canvas pants, too. The pant fabric blend of 65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton, 8.5-ounce canvas keeps the fabric from fading, shirking and wrinkling. While cotton might be more breathable, Guntli said it begins to look crumpled and washed out overtime.

As far as pocket configuration, Propper's pants have the ubiquitous wallet pocket within a pocket. On its lightweight pants, there are two coin pockets, a cell phone pocket and nylon reinforcements to prevent knives or other objects from rubbing through the pants.

Best Seller: Propper Men's Tactical Trousers

Pockets: The structure (somewhat symmetrical aside from one extra pocket on the left-hand side) features 10 pockets including a coin pocket located in the front right pocket.

  • Two front pockets (1 foot long, 6 inches wide) are double stitched. On the khaki version, the inside pocket fabric isn't an identical color but a close match. It is not the same cotton canvas fabric yet is substantial enough to survive wear and tear.
  • One coin pocket (2.5 inches long, 4 inches wide).
  • Two rear patch pockets (9 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) with a single Velcro closure on each.
  • Wallet pockets (4.5 inches long, 4.25 inches wide) are located in each rear pocket.
  • Two cargo pockets (6 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) have a flap with two Velcro pieces.
  • One cell phone pocket (5.25 inches long, 2.5 inches wide) fits an iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid.
  • Internal knee pad pockets have a 5-inch opening (about 9.5 inches long, 8.5 inches wide).

Fabric: A blend of 65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton, 8.5-ounce canvas with a DuPont Teflon treatment. The polyester blend keeps it from fading, shrinking and wrinkling.

Fit: For a 34X34 pleated pant, the front rise is 12.5 inches; the back rise is 16.75 inches with a leg opening width of 8 inches.

Crotch construction: There is no crotch gusset, but the feature could be added in the future. Propper said it hasn't received a tremendous demand for that crotch type for its tactical pants.

Waist style: An elastic waistband expands and contracts with movement. Five belt loops around the pants can fit a belt up to 1.75 inches wide.

Reinforcements: Fabric is doubled at the seat and knees.

Fly type: A French fly with a Prym snap and a standard-size gold YKK zipper.

Colors: Black, khaki, dark navy, olive green.

Additional Styles

Chino Pants

In 2013 Propper introduced its Sweep collection—a collection made specifically with the purpose of creating tactical clothing that blends into the non-uniform environment. The collection features Propper's version of a "tactical chino" called the District Pant. These pants, made of a durable polyester/cotton twill, have functional features hidden in a sleek, professional-looking design. They offer nylon reinforced front pockets, seams that follow the movement of your leg for better ergonomics and a kick panel at the bottom of the pant for extra durability. A utility pocket on the left-hand side can accommodate either a phone or a magazine. In addition to two back wallet pockets, there is also a hidden back pocket.

Lightweight Tactical Pants

Its fabric, a 6.4-ounce, 65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton ripstop, is the first noticeable difference between it and Propper's flagship tactical pants. There are also two coin pockets, a cell phone pocket big enough for most smart phones, reinforced front pocket openings, extra-large belt loops and a D-ring. The pants also come with a belt.

Sonora Pants

Weighing in at only 4 ounces, these pants weigh even less than Propper Lightweight Tactical Trousers. These ultra-lightweight pants are made from 100 percent nylon ripstop material, which is a performance fabric that wicks moisture to keep you dry and comfortable during intense activity. For additional functionality, the pants are equipped with easy-access, slanted cargo pockets that sit high on the leg. Nylon-reinforced pockets sit higher up on the thigh with zip closures, and back pockets store either a magazine or phone.

STL 1 Pants

The STL 1 Pants aim to combine athletic and tactical components. Inspired by athletic wear, the stretch nylon/spandex fabric of the STL 1 Pant is comfortable, breathable and moves the way you do to enhance your performance. The gusseted crotch gives you a greater range of motion while rapid-access angled cargo pockets keep your crucial supplies quickly within reach. These pants aren't blatantly tactical, yet they have more usable features than other more covert options, such as the STL 2 Pant.

STL 2 Pants

The STL 2 Pants are tactical pants in disguise as regular pants. The clean-cut design of these pants makes it hard to spot the cleverly concealed tactical features. These hidden features include inverted cargo pockets, expandable openings for boots and reinforced kick panels. The pants are made of the same stretch nylon/spandex as the STL 1 Pants and are also outfitted with a gusseted crotch.

Women's Lightweight Tactical Pants

These lightweight pants are equipped with all the same features as the men's version but were designed with a female in mind.

Women's Tactical Pants

These pants have identical features to Propper's original tactical pants except for its female fit. It's made with an 8.5-ounce, 65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton canvas blend.

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Brand: Under Armour

Under Armour Tactical Pants

Under Armour Tactical Basic Pants

40% cotton/60% poly-cotton ripstop

Highs: It boasts superior lightweight yet durable fabric equipped with a DWR coating.

Lows: These pants lack the functional features many other pants offer. Luckily, Under Armour offers its Tactical Duty Pants, which step this style up to the next level of functionality.

Verdict: Made from high quality materials for high performance, it gets the job done without all the bells and whistles.

Under Armour is a brand recognized internationally for its innovative fabric and superior quality. Originally created for athletes, Under Armour was born in 1996 when Kevin Plank, a football player at the University of Maryland, got sick of having to change out of the sweat-soaked T-shirts he wore under his football pads and jersey. He then created a moisture-wicking T-shirt that remained cool and dry despite heavy perspiration.

The company grew to include everything from base layers to footwear for a variety of climates. It forever redefined performance clothing and gear, not only for athletes—but also for military and tactical professionals as well.

"Our CEO, Kevin Plank, is really passionate about serving those who help serve America and help protect our freedom," said Under Armour Assistant Designer Katie Bourgia. Under Armour released its Tactical Duty Pant in fall 2012. Because of the great success of the Duty Pant and a demand for a more entry-level pant, Under Armour released the Women's Duty Pant and the Men's Basic Tactical Pant in spring 2013.

The most impressive feature the Tactical Basic pants offer is its fabric technology. Lightweight yet durable, the poly-cotton fabric has as durable ripstop quality to it. Coated with DWR resistant, the pants keep you dry without holding in water and getting heavy.

"We like to know that the quality that people expect from us still continues even though it's our tactical line—especially that it's our tactical line," Bourgia said. "We want to make sure that we provide the people who serve us with the best product out there on the market."

The pants feature a seven-pocket design and comes in five colors—dark navy blue, marine OD green, black, desert sand and coyote brown. The front pant style is flat rather than pleated for what Bourgia described as a more modern look.

Best Seller: Under Armour Tactical Basic Pants

Pockets: With six symmetrical pockets and one right-side knife-pocket, Under Armour tactical pants, along with 5.11's tactical pants, have the least amount of pockets than any other featured on our guide. All pockets are made with ripstop fabric for increased durability.

  • Two front hand pockets (1 foot long, 6 inches wide).
  • Two rear pockets (6 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) have a flap with two Velcro pieces.
  • Two cargo pockets (8 inches long, 8 inches wide) also secured by a flap with two Velcro pieces.
  • One knife pocket on the righthand side (5 inches long, 3 inches wide) also fits an iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid.

Fabric: A 6.6 oz. with a 60 percent cotton, 40 percent polyester ripstop fabric treated with DWR.

Fit: For a 34X32 pant, the front rise is 1 foot and the back rise is 1 foot 5 inches. The leg opening is 9 inches wide.

Crotch construction: Unlike most tactical pants, the Basic Pant has a normal crotch construction with a 3-needle reinforcement instead of a gusseted crotch.

Waist style: It has a fixed waist style with a 6-inch internal elastic waistband on each side. These pants offer five sturdy belt loops that accommodate belts up to 2 inches wide.

Reinforcements: None.

Fly type: The Basic Pant offers your typical zippered fly with a button closure.

Colors: dark navy blue, marine OD green, black, desert sand, coyote brown.

Additional Styles

Tactical Duty Pants

Under Armour takes it to the next level with its original line of tactical pants, the UA Tactical Duty Pants. Made with the same high-quality fabric technology as the Basic Pants, the Duty Pants are jam-packed with features that the Basic Pants is lacking. It boasts a hidden document pocket, knife/light pockets, cargo pockets with internal magazine holders and reinforced knees and crotch.

Women's Tactical Duty Pants

The back construction of the panel has more definition so it forms to the backside of a woman better than a man. The fabric has a stretch to make it fit a woman's form but not too much that it hugs too tightly.

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Brand: Vertx

VERTX Men's Pants

Vertx Men's Tactical Pants

98% cotton/2% Lycra

Highs: The pioneering fabric blend, discrete look, odd sizing and excellent fit set it apart. To top that, it's the only pants out of the originals that doesn't use Velcro closures.

Lows: This level of sleekness comes at a high price.

Verdict: Fashion-forward pants for the tactical trendsetter that easily transition from work to play.

The Vertx brand was created through a partnership between Fechheimer, a uniform manufacturer owned by Berkshire Hathaway, and Arc'teryx, an outdoor clothing and sporting goods manufacturer. In 2008, the innovative brand developed tactical pants for a federal agency. The pants were designed to fight like a pair of BDUs yet uphold the discrete appeal of regular khakis.

Manufactured in Indonesia, Vertx tactical pants come in three different styles for both men and women. Most styles are offered in six colors: law enforcement black, khaki, desert tan, olive drab green, navy and MultiCam. However, the OA Duty Wear Pant is offered exclusively in navy, black and brown. The pants feature unique sizing that includes odd-numbered waist increments on certain inseams as well as articulated knees and hips. The nine-pocket pants set itself apart with a differentiated rise, a unique fabric blend and a specialized cut to accommodate firearms.

"It's arguably the most comfortable pair of pants you can buy," said David Walsh, who served as Director of Brand Management/Special Projects for Vertx. "The mobility of [the pants] is fantastic and the low visual profile. It is just cut better than the average pant."

Increased mobility can be attributed to Vertx's gusseted crotch, according to Walsh. It is cut in a specific way that reduces bulk and boosts freedom of movement. The fabric mix also plays a significant role in the level of mobility. With a high-quality fabric that's 98 percent cotton and 2 percent Lycra, the blend gives a comfortable stretch but doesn't make the pant appear too synthetic, Walsh said. When compared to the original tactical pant, which some call the "just-shoot-me pants," the Vertx pants design is much more discrete in nature.

Although the pant may only appear to have two pockets, it really has nine, which adds to the pants under-the-radar appeal. The no-Velcro pocketing gives the pant an extra layer of stealth. Furthermore, hidden pockets within other pockets increase ability for discreet carry and keep items from rolling out.

Best Seller: Vertx Men's Tactical Pants

Pockets: Nine pockets are designed in a way to keep gear from falling out without using Velcro or magnetic closures.

  • Two front pockets (1 foot long, 7 inches wide) are made out of 100 percent woven cotton and feel extremely sturdy. On khaki pants, the inside pocket fabric is a white color.
  • Two rear patch pockets (11 inches long, 5.75 inches wide).
  • One hidden zippered pocket on the right side (6 inches long, 4.5 inches wide).
  • Two cargo pockets (8.5 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) with flaps sewn down on each side (no Velcro, no magnets).
  • Cell phone pocket (3.75 inches long, 3.25 inches wide) is located inside each cargo pocket.
  • No knee pad pockets.

Fabric: A unique blend of 9-ounce, 98 percent cotton/2 percent Lycra gives Vertx pants a slight stretch feel yet doesn't make the pants appear too synthetic.

Fit: With lower rise when compared to other tactical pants, these nonpleated trousers are cut for mobility and comfort with an articulated knee and hip. For a 33X34 pant, the front rise is 1 foot; the back rise is 15.75 inches with a leg opening width of about 9 inches.

Crotch construction: A large gusseted crotch is cut in a specific way to reduce bulk in the seaming and boost freedom of movement.

Waist style:  An internal stretch waistband creates less bunching on the waist sides and stretches about one inch on each side. The pants feature unique sizing that includes odd waist increments of 33 and 35 on a 32-inch inseam. There are six belt loops that can fit a 2-inch wide belt.

Reinforcements: None

Fly type: Tack-button closure with an extra-wide bronze YKK zipper.

Colors: Black, desert tan, khaki, navy, OD green, MultiCam.

Additional Styles

Phantom Lightweight Tactical Pants

It took three years after the release of its original tactical pant for Vertx to release the much-anticipated lightweight version. In 2011 Vertx introduced the Phantom Lightweight Tactical Pants. These pants have the same fit and features of the original pant but in a 6.5 oz. polyester/cotton mini ripstop fabric. Also similar to the original tactical pant, the Phantom LT Pants are equipped with Intelli-Dry technology allowing for moisture wicking on the inside and moisture repelling on the outside.

OA Duty Wear Pants

Vertx's Operational Athlete Duty Wear Pants are aptly named. Not only does the OA Duty Wear Pant look professional, but also its articulated knees and gusseted crotch allow for mobility without restriction. These pants have the same features as the original pant including a stretch waistband, notch pocket with concealment zipper on the right-hand side, low profile cargo pockets and Intelli-Dry technology.

Women's Phantom Lightweight Tactical Pants

These lightweight tactical pants are the equivalent of the Men's PL Tactical Pants but with a women's fit.

Women's OA Duty Wear Pants

Made for the female officer, these tactical pants have all the same features of the male duty pants but in a design made for a women's form.

Women's Tactical Pants

For its women's line, Vertx focused on producing something perfect for female law enforcement officers. For this, the manufacturer started with an entirely new fit block—it didn't just take a men's pant and alter it. The pants have the same features and pocket structure as the men's.

"We built it from the ground up to make sure it fit the female form better because female pants are harder to pattern than men's," Walsh said. In addition to a flattering cut, Vertx offers a finished length and longer lengths for taller females.

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