Thinking of buying some new tactical pants? With the plethora of styles, fabric options and features available, the choices can seem endless. You need to focus on four main points.
Types of tactical pants
Classic tactical pants mimic military uniforms with combat features such as deep cargo pockets allowing ample storage and convenient transport. They look a lot like the BDU pants, the legendary combat uniform worn in combat well into the 80s. If functionality is the priority, the overt tactical pants are your gear. The ample storage space and specialized pockets make this style ideal for outdoor excursions, days at the range and combat situations where performance is paramount.
When tactical pants became associated with law enforcement, wearers lost the tactical advantage of not being recognized as carrying a weapon. Security professionals specifically need to be able to go unnoticed. Tactical product brands evolved to meet this need and quickly began to develop low-profile models to complement the visible models already on the market.
Tactical jeans take the understated look even further. Whether in the backcountry, at the range, or even on a quiet day indoors, these tactical pants will be right up your alley. This denim offers the functionality of a gun in an understated look.
Features of tactical pants
Pockets are the most defining feature of any tactical pants. Through years of innovation, the types of pockets and their functionality have multiplied. Below we review the most popular types of pouches, along with their typical use and associated benefits.
Knife Pockets: Most high-end tactical pants come with a pocket designed specifically for a pocket knife. These pockets are distinguished by specific characteristics such as a long, narrow shape and a reinforced bottom with a flat edge. Many have double-stitched openings to withstand the weight of folding knives with an integrated clip.
A hallmark of early tactical pants, cargo pockets have become standard due to the optimal storage space they provide.
Hidden Pockets: Just because a pocket isn’t cargo doesn’t mean it isn’t tactical. As the popularity of concealed pockets grew, so did the preference for inconspicuous pockets. Many of them are concealed in the side seams, behind other pockets and inside the waistband, allowing sensitive items to be stowed discreetly.
Handcuff Pockets: This type of pocket is a useful perk for law enforcement, security, and corrections professionals. Dedicated handcuff key pockets are traditionally located inside the cuff of the trouser legs or inside the waistband, which is perfect for discreet key storage.
Phone pockets: Tactical pants evolve at the same rate as technology. Most models feature a cell phone pocket designed for modern phones and media devices.
Gun enthusiasts and competitive shooters swear by tactical pants for one key reason: the magazine pocket. Never run out of ammo when your magazines are safely stored on your person in a specially designed pocket.
Symmetrical pockets: Ideal for the ambidextrous or the rare left-handed, the symmetrical pockets are placed identically on the right and left sides.
Oblique pockets: This model is recognizable by its characteristic oblique top. This feature eliminates extra fabric and allows quick and efficient access.
Knee Pad Pockets: Indispensable for operators, these pockets allow for the insertion of knee pads to cushion the joints in tough combat situations.
While the style of a pocket closure may seem insignificant to the average customer, it can be a game-changer for tactical professionals who must consider every detail.
Closure with buttons: The most traditional type of closure – and the most outdated – is the button. Used on Army field uniforms whose use was discontinued in the 1980s, the buttons give a vintage look without offering much security or comfort. This is why this type of closure is no longer common.
Hook-and-Loop Velcro: A top choice for pocket closure due to its reliability. Not only does it keep items secure, but it’s also easy to repair when it starts to show its age. However, Velcro has one major drawback: noise. The loud, distinctive sound of Velcro tearing makes it difficult to access hardware undetected.
Zippers: Another type of zipper that eliminates the problem of noise. This feature, along with the high level of security, makes the zipper a top choice in coverage pant options.
Concealed Weapon Carry (CCW)
Manufacturers are well aware of the difficulties of carrying a concealed weapon and have innovated with clever solutions. Fabrics are chosen carefully to prevent the weapon from being printed through the material. The deep pockets also serve to conceal your weapon.
When you compare tactical pants to other pants and jeans on the market, you will notice that the belt loops are slightly taller and wider. This additional fabric, combined with reinforced stitching, allows for additional support for weapons and holsters.
Models suitable for concealed carry allow you to carry a weapon without drawing attention to yourself. They look like regular pants, so you can wear them to dinner or out on the town without anyone knowing you’re carrying a gun.
Durability is a consideration for any apparel buyer, but it reaches another level of importance for tactical pants customers. To get the most out of your pants, look for styles with the following reinforcements:
Knees: Squat, crawl, and kneel without worrying about wearing out your pants. Many tactical pants feature reinforced knees instead of or in addition to knee pad pockets.
Crotch: nothing worse to ruin a day than tearing his pants at the crotch. Unfortunately, this type of tearing is so common that manufacturers of tactical pants have started adding extra seams in the buttocks and crotch area for a bit more reliability.
Belt Buckle: Weapons and tactical belts are a lot of weight, but tactical pants are designed to handle it. Special stitching prevents the loops from sagging and tearing under the weight.
Security professionals have a job where every second counts. Your clothes should not limit your performance. That’s why tactical pants are designed for increased mobility.
Most modern pants are equipped with a gusset – an additional piece of fabric, usually triangular or rhomboid in shape, sewn in the crotch. This extra fabric releases tension in other areas of the pants and allows for quick mobility.
Premium quality pants are equipped with articulated knees. The shape is trimmed to fit the joint, eliminating unnecessary fabric for an ergonomic fit. This streamlined construction allows for a full range of motion.
Look for features such as a stretchy or elasticated sliding waistband, which not only aids movement but also adds extra comfort when on the go.
Materials of tactical pants
You should always think about the fabric you choose for your next pair of pants. Determining the correct weight and flexibility will help you avoid overheating in hot temperatures and prevent an unfortunate crotch tear. It’s important to understand the nuances of weight, weave, and fabric types to get the best pants for your use, as well as the best value.
Ripstop Fabric: Ripstop is a fabric known for its durability. Aptly named, the checkerboard weave prevents tears and abrasions while keeping the weight of the fabric down. Twill is another popular weave known for its traditional look. The parallel diagonal ribs allow for a heavier and softer fabric. The textured design helps minimize the appearance of smudges and soiling. This fabric is also wrinkle resistant.
Stretch: The latest innovations allow stretch fabrics to retain their shape and integrity like never before possible. Favor fabrics containing blends of spandex, elastane or neoprene to get the best in terms of flexibility with your pants.
100% cotton: Cotton tactical pants have one major advantage: breathable fabric. Cotton is a very breathable fabric, perfect for keeping the legs cool. However, the downside is cotton’s tendency to shrink and wrinkle. It is also a heavier fabric, ideal for colder climates and seasons.
Polyester/Cotton Blend: A polyester blend isn’t as breathable as a 100% cotton fabric, but it makes up for it in durability. The addition of synthetic fabric makes the tactical pants more resistant to shrinking, fading and wrinkling. Polyester/cotton blends are a popular choice for tactical clothing as they strike a good balance between the pros and cons of each material.
Nylon/Cotton Blends: Like polyester, nylon is a popular fabric because it’s lightweight, durable, and highly resistant to wrinkling and shrinking. While polyester is known for its quick drying, nylon and cotton blends are softer and more durable.
Fabric Treatments: Fabric treatments can help you get the most out of your garment. Many pants on the market are treated to make them water and stain resistant, which also helps extend the life of the garment. Also, it prevents the fabric from absorbing water, which would make the pants heavy, uncomfortable and less mobile.
Cut of the tactical pants
Relaxed fit: Roomy and relaxed, relaxed fits are ideal for customers who prioritize comfort.
Slim fit: Slim does not mean skinny. These pants are not form-fitting, but rather cut close to the leg for a polished, yet still functional appearance. Compared to the relaxed fit, the slim fit is more formal and modern.
Find your size: To find your correct size, you need to find your waist and inseam measurements. To find your size, you need to measure your waistline with a flexible sewing tape measure. Without sucking or inflating, wrap the meter around your belly, directly below the navel. Make sure it lays flat against your skin and isn’t creased or turned out. We recommend putting a finger between your skin and the tape to make sure your pants aren’t too tight.
Once the tape measure is wrapped around your waist, note the number the metal tab reaches in inches. It’s your waistline.
To find your inseam, grab one of your best-fitting pants. Lay it on a flat surface and fold it in half lengthwise, making sure the legs are evenly aligned and the creases are ironed out. Lift the top leg of the pants and bring it over the waistband to expose the crotch. Find where the inseam seam meets the seam running down the pant leg and measure to the hem of the pant leg.
Remember that the majority of tactical pants are a little higher in the waist than regular pants. This fit allows the pants to fit around duty belts and heavy equipment without dragging them down.
Some tactical pants may run larger or smaller than the standard size. If this is the case, this will be indicated on the product sheet for your convenience.
History of tactical pants
The very first pair was developed by outdoor clothing manufacturer Royal Robbins, with the intention of serving as multi-purpose hiking and climbing pants. Years later, a few FBI agents from Colorado, who were also avid climbers, discovered that these tough pants could be used for more than climbing mountains. They ended up making it to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The news spread like wildfire, and soon tactical pants were adopted by law enforcement, first responders and security professionals. This is how pants once used for leisure have become a major player in the industry.
As the popularity of tactical pants grew, so did their use. Operators began to wear them outside of work, as well as in the field. It didn’t take long for the high-level functionality to be adopted by outdoor sports, such as shooting, hiking, hunting, and camping.