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Lightweight Tactical Pants Review

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Mudinyeri, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    After losing 25 lbs over the last sixteen months I needed some new pants. I took the opportunity to pick up several pairs of "tactical" pants from three of the major brands - Vertx, Blackhawk and 5.11. I chose the VertX Phantom LT's, the Blackhawk Lightweight Tacticals and the 5.11 Taclite Pros.

    What follows is a side-by-side comparison of these three market-leading tactical pants along with a few of my likes, dislikes and thoughts after wearing them for several weeks.

    First, for those unfamiliar with these pants, here are the manufacturer's descriptions:

    5.11 Taclite Pro Pants
    Fashioned after our traditional 5.11 Tactical pant, 5.11 Taclite Pro Pants features a lightweight poly-cotton Ripstop fabric for ultimate breathability and a gusseted crotch for full ROM. Featuring two pleated cargo pockets and a magazine/cell phone pocket over the left cargo pocket for quick access, our ripstop cargo pants are the new generation in tactical pants.

    - Lightweight 65% polyester and 35% poly cotton ripstop
    - Magazine/cell phone pocket
    - Two cargo pockets
    - Signature rear strap and slash pocket design
    - Teflon fabric protector to repel water and stains
    - External knife pocket
    - Rear web strap
    - YKK zippers
    - Prym snaps
    - Clip loop
    - Perfect for the outdoors, including hunting and hiking

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants
    Our Lightweight Tactical Pants combine the popular features found in the original Tactical Pants but are made using a rugged, lightweight material to create the perfect pants for warmer climates.

    - Constructed of durable 6.5 oz. 65% polyester / 35% cotton ripstop fabric
    - DuPont™ Teflon® DWR (Durable Water Repellent) fabric treatment resists stains and dries quickly
    - Double layering in seat and knees for added wear and protection
    - High-quality YKK® zippers and Prym® snaps
    - Gusseted crotch allows increased movement
    - Extra-wide, reinforced belt loops accommodate BLACKHAWK!® CQB/Rigger’s Belt and other belts up to 1.75” wide
    - Silicone grip strip in waistband keeps shirt tucked in during extreme maneuvers
    - Hidden, expandable waistband slides to increase waist size for increased mobility
    - Angle-cut hand pockets have flat edges for proper placement and orientation of knives, pens, etc.
    - Each leg has an easy-access, top-opening mag pouch
    - Large, top-opening cargo pockets have segmented 2” elastic webbing inside to secure and properly orient up to three weapon magazines, flashlights, knives or other items for quick access
    - Zippered, rear hip pocket keeps wallet secure, out of the way, and separate from large rear pockets
    - Large, hidden zipper pocket behind right-hand pocket keeps valuable items secure
    - Secure, vertical, zippered storage pocket on the outside of each cargo pocket
    - Top-opening mag pouch pockets on each leg
    - Front thigh pockets have side zipper pouch and hook & loop top to secure valuables
    - 550 cord loop on front waistband allows attachment of carabiners and other items
    - Reinforced hems on leg cuffs and hand pockets increased durability
    - Traditional fit

    VertX Phantom LT Pants
    These pants are similar in design to the original VertX pants, but made with an incredible lightweight material that also features VertX's innovative IntelliDry system. IntelliDry keeps moisture OUT, yet unilike other water-resistant pants, does not keep the moisture IN too. We know the terribly hot feeling you usually get when wearing other brand's moisture-wicking pants, but these pants do not give you that feeling at all. Try one out and see for yourself how a true moisture-wicking pant should feel!

    Seucrity VertX Men's Phantom LT Tactical Pant have Concealed, on seam zippered pocket and back pocket credential flap [to] defend your valuables.
    Comfort VertX Pants have gusseted crotch, articulated knee & hip, and stretch waistband combined with world class patterning for the pinnacle of comfort. The pants that you want to wear.
    Arsenal VertX pants also have well organized, multi-purpose and high capacity pockets. The internal Haul pocket fits your mobile coms as perfectly as a set of handcuffs or an AR magazine.
    Mobility Additionally, VertX Men's Tactical Pant have tight sewing tolerances, patterning, and our advantage stretch™ material provide peerless athletic movement. The wide performance range makes these pants appropriate from the briefing to the chase.
    Concealment This combination of mobility, low visual profile, and inset cargo pockets give the function of a full battle garment and the appearance business casual. Stay overlooked and underestimated.
    Fabric Benefit Intelli-Dry™ fabric treatment that keeps the wearer cool while providing superior stain and fluid resistance. Pant fabric is extremely durable and colorfast.
    - 6.5-oz. 65%Polyester/35% Cotton, Low Profile Rip-Stop
    - Concealed zippered security pocket
    - Articulated patterning
    - Gusseted crotch
    - Pocket inside cargo pocket for blackberry or cell phone
    - Internal stretch waistband
    - Back pocket credential trap

    The Contenders (Left to Right: 5.11 Taclite Pro, VertX Phantom Lt & Blackhawk Lightweight)
    [​IMG]

    More to come ...
     
    Last edited by Mudinyeri, Feb 19, 2013
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  2. Atocha

    Atocha Loaded Pockets

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    Excellent so far. Looking forward to your opinions on these.
     
  3. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    Stay tuned. All I've really done so far is copy and paste. :D
     
  4. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    Test Subjects:

    1. 5.11 Taclite Pro Pants, Men's 30X32 in Charcoal
    [​IMG]

    2. Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pants, Men's 30X32 in Chocolate Brown
    [​IMG]

    3. VertX Phantom LT Pants, Men's 31X32 in Desert Tan
    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    While these three pants share many similarities there are also several marked differences. Let's begin with the waist.

    All three pants offer an elasticized waist to allow for freedom of movement ... and a big Thanksgiving dinner. The added advantage of the elasticized waist, for those that carry a concealed firearm, is that an in-waistband holster is easily accommodated. The Blackhawk pants fit the tightest of the three. Of course, the VertX pants are a 31" waist so one would expect them to be a bit roomier, but they seem as though they would still be roomier than the Blackhawk pants even if they were a 30" waist.

    Both the 5.11 and the VertX pants seem to fit about true-to-size with more room available via the elastic in the waistband. The waistband of the Blackhawk pants has a little cleaner appearance as the elastic section is hidden with a fairly creative design. Additionally, the Blackhawk pants offer a silocone "grip strip" to keep the wearer's shirt tucked in. This is a nice feature unless you carry a concealed weapon in-waistband with a tucked shirt and need to untuck the shirt to draw.

    All three pants utilize YKK brass zippers. However, the zipper of the Blackhawk pants is a bit more heavy-duty with a larger pull and bigger teeth.

    5.11 Taclite Pro Waist
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Waist
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Waist
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    Let's move on to the pockets. After all, these are cargo pants and the pockets are where the cargo is carried.

    Cargo pants have cargo pockets. With the exception of hook & loop closures there hasn't been much new in the cargo pocket design arena until recently. Enter VertX with a fairly innovative design that flattens the cargo pocket making it a bit less obvious and, instead of covering the pocket with a large flap held closed with hook and loop material, incorporates a more integrated flap with no closure of any sort. The end result is a less cargo pant looking pair of pants with a much sleeker design than traditional cargo pants. One might be concerned about losing items out of the cargo pocket without some sort of closure, but I have yet to have anything fall out of the pockets on my VertX pants.

    It bears mentioning that the Blackhawk and 5.11 cargo pockets are approximately the same size. The 5.11 pocket is 7.5" square while the Blackhawk pocket is 7.5" wide and 6.5" tall. The VertX pocket is the largest of the three at about 6.25" wide and 9" tall.

    5.11 Taclite Pro Cargo Pocket Exterior
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Cargo Pocket Exterior
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Cargo Pocket Exterior
    [​IMG]

    Both Blackhawk and VertX added functionality to the interior of their cargo pockets. Blackhawk has added several functional designs including three loops of elastic inside each pocket and an inner mesh pocket that can be accessed via a zipper on the forward edge of the pocket. One of the nifty things about the zippered insert in the Blackhawk cargo pocket is the wearer's ability to easily access the pocket while seated. Simply unzip the zipper (on top of your thigh while seated) and pull out the contents.

    VertX continues their sleek approach with an inner pocket sans zippers or mesh. The inner pocket is perfectly-sized for most smart phones and is easily accessible through the unique top flap even when seated.

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Cargo Pocket Interior
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Cargo Pocket Interior
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by Mudinyeri, Feb 19, 2013
  7. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    In addition to cargo pockets, most tactical pants offer a variety of other pockets and these three are no exception. All three incorporate some unique design elements - some similar, some different.

    I've seen a number of reviews on all three of these pants and, invariably, reviewers rave about the Taclite Pro's pocket protection - specifically the protective edges on the front and rear pockets and the knife/tool pocket. Each of these three pockets has an added bit of material to help slow down the wear and tear of inserting and drawing a clipped knife or tool from the pockets. As you can see from the photos, below, neither VertX nor Blackhawk add such protection. However, Blackhawk does triple stitch their front pockets. The flat notch of the VertX front pockets is really nice if you carry a clipped knife or tool. The Blackhawk pants have a very tiny notch but it's really not enough to make a difference when compared to a traditional front pocket design. The knife/tool pocket on the 5.11 pants is an interesting design, but I really don't like carrying my knife in a different spot so I don't utilize the pocket.

    The 5.11 and Blackhawk pants both provide magazine pockets - intended for carrying AR/M4-type magazines. For the average wearer, who doesn't carry their rifle to work every day, these pockets are better suited to cell phones, iPods and the like. Below, you will see some pictures of how my Motorola Droid Bionic fits in these pockets. Both pants accommodate the full length of the Bionic. I left the phone partially out of the pocket so you could see how it fits width-wise. I've also included photos of a standard 30-round AR magazine inserted completely (as far as it would go) into the magazine pockets of both pants. Neither the 5.11's nor the Blackhawk's magazine pockets are deep enough to conceal a 30-round magazine. The Blackhawk pants have magazine pockets on both sides. The 5.11 pants only have a magazine pocket on the left side.

    Both the 5.11 pants and the Blackhawk pants incorporate a slash or modified slash pocket for the rear pockets. The VertX pants, in keeping with their low-profile design, have more jeans-like rear pockets. A really nice feature of the VertX rear pockets is the security flap that is built into both pockets. Both rear pockets have a flap at the top inside of the pocket that is about 1.5" deep. Tuck your wallet under this flap and it will be very difficult for a pick-pocket to lift it without you noticing. I really like this feature. Although, it's perhaps not as secure as a zippered or buttoned pocket, it still provides a layer of security without the fuss of having to undo a zipper or button every time you need to get out your wallet.

    Speaking of security, both the VertX and Blackhawk pants offer zippered pockets if you really want to keep something secure. The Blackhawk zippered pocket is on the right-rear of the pants. The VertX zippered pocket is hidden inside the right-front pocket.

    5.11 Taclite Pro Pockets
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Pockets
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Pockets
    [​IMG]

    5.11 Taclite Pro Magazine Pocket
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Magazine Pocket
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A final word about pockets ... the 5.11 knife/tool pocket. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a big fan of this pocket for carrying a knife as it puts my knife in an unfamiliar position. The pocket is also unable to accommodate the average smart phone (see photo). However, if you wanted to standardize 100% of 5.11 Taclite Pro pants, the pocket certainly can accommodate a large folding knife, or even a fixed blade, or tool.

    5.11 Taclite Pro Knife/Tool Pocket
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Zippered Security Pocket above Right Hip Pocket (top left of photo)
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Zippered Security Pocket
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by Mudinyeri, Feb 20, 2013
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  8. ArkansasFan30

    ArkansasFan30 Loaded Pockets

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    I've spent a lot of times in the 5.11 taclites. They're pretty comfortable and functional. If I could change anything about them I'd tighten in the seat and thighs and let loose the cuffs. They're overly tapered, IMO, and I'd think it'd be awkward to wear them with half-quarters or tennis shoes. I've only worn them with eight inch boots (not bloused). Again, they are comfortable though, and if I didn't find them socially awkward I'd wear them casually, lol.

    There are some discrepancies in the purpose for the strap over the back pocket. None of the historic tales involve it being a drag handle. The 5.11 comes from a mountain climbing grade of difficulty, and that tale involves it being used to hang carabiners or other climbing gear from. The predecessor of the pants was some kind of boating shorts, and the strap was said to be used to extend the length of the rear pocket so that some kind of ship-winding-handle-thing could be stuck in the back pocket. It has no place on tactical pants as any tactical action figure would be wearing a belt or vest of some type that they could be drug by. I know I was when I wore them.

    Btw, it fades more rapidly than the pants.
     
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  9. kikaida

    kikaida Loaded Pockets

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    I agree word for word. I wear these everyday because it's issued as part of my duty uniform. I'm forced to wear my pants long. Longer than I'd like. And when wearing boots, the pants are so tapered that there isn't much leeway. They definitely need a boot cut version of these pants. Even hiking shoes with these pants looks weird. And that back strap, I think it's pretty much useless feature. I've never seen ANYONE use this back strap.

    I would also like to say that the width of the back pockets are too wide, and often find my wallet has turned sideways in the pocket constantly. Also, having 5 pairs of the cotton canvas version and 3 pairs of the taclite version, I definitely think the taclite version runs a size smaller.

    With that said, the slanted back pocket design is great if you're wearing a gun belt and full size duty holster. The slanted pocket design allows you to have access to your back pockets even when wearing a gun belt and full size duty holster and other items like handcuff cases, radio holster, etc.
     
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  10. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    In response to the comments above: I agree that the slash pockets are unnecessarily wide for the average wearer. My wallet also turns sideways frequently. I definitely prefer the design of the VertX back pockets.

    Interesting back-story on the back pocket strap for the 5.11's. I've seen video reviews of it being used as a drag handle and as additional security when stuffing a 30-round magazine into the pants' back pocket.

    I'll add some measurements of the three different pants to my review so people can compare leg openings, rise, etc.

    On to more of the review ....

    All three pants come equipped with crotch gussets. I have to admit that I'm not particularly well-versed in crotch gusset technology. Of note, however, is the fact that the VertX pants have the widest gusset of all three pants.

    5.11 Taclite Pro Crotch Gusset
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Crotch Gusset
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Crotch Gusset
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Erasergirl

    Erasergirl Loaded Pockets

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    i'm just stuck on the words 'tactical pants.' it''s like your pants have plans and tactics of their own. what do your pants get up to when you aren't in them? :cool:
     
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  12. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    One of my nitpicks on pants is how the clips of my CrossBreed SuperTuck IWB holster matches up with the belt loops. All three of these pants are serviceable but the double belt loop at the very back of the VertX pants comes very close to interfering with the rear holster clip. The belt loops on the 5.11's and the Blackhawks line up just fine with my holster.

    5.11 Tacklite Pro Rear-Center Belt Loop
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Rear-Center Belt Loop
    [​IMG]

    VertX Phantom LT Rear-Center Belt Loops
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    Wouldn't you like to know .... :D

    It's just a name. Call 'em "functional pants" if you can't get over the word "tactical". VertX uses the term "operational athlete" to describe their clothing's target customers. That has a hint of "operator" behind it, but I think it fairly well describes what I want out of my EDC clothing. I own a handyman company and my day may consist of anything from sitting in the office to climbing on someone's roof or into their crawl space. I need clothing that fits well, flexes with my movements and keeps my every day needs close at hand without being bulky or uncomfortable. I'm also very athletic and participate in a variety of events that require durable, flexible clothing. These pants fit that bill as well.
     
  14. VaBikePacker

    VaBikePacker Loaded Pockets

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    Have you checked out True-Spec 24-7? Polyester with teflon coating...talk about easy clean!!
     
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  15. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    The 5.11 Taclite Pro's and the Blackhawk Lightweight Tacticals both have a loop near the right-front pocket. The 5.11's have a metal D-ring while the Blackhawks have a loop of paracord.

    5.11 Taclite Pro D-Ring
    [​IMG]

    Blackhawk Lightweight Tactical Paracord Loop
    [​IMG]
     
  16. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    Coming soon:

    - Belt Loop Measurements
    - Leg Opening Measurements
    - Rise Measurements
    - Thigh Measurements
    - Favorite and Least Favorite Features
    - Overall Favorite

    Anything else you'd like to see?

    - Laundering Instructions
     
    Last edited by Mudinyeri, Feb 20, 2013
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  17. kikaida

    kikaida Loaded Pockets

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    Outstanding review so far. The most detailed review I've seen on the web to date. How about any so-called knee pad pockets, wash instructions, etc? I know the 5.11 has a tag inside that tells you to wash them inside out, how about the others?

    I'm allowed to only wear the khaki or black 5.11s at work, and while the cotton canvas khakis have faded, its not that noticeable compared the black ones. I have to confess, that I never looked inside the pants at the laundry instructions until I came to this forum. Yes, all cotton materials fade faster than others, but now I realize I could have prevented the black ones from fading faster if I had looked at the tag that tells you to launder them inside out. :(
     
    Last edited by kikaida, Feb 20, 2013
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  18. OrangutanClyde

    OrangutanClyde Loaded Pockets

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    Nice review!

    I personally wear 5.11 Covert Pants as I wouldn't get away with overt cargos at work. Most comfortable and smart trousers I've worn! and the hidden cargo pockets in the side seam are great for stashing EDC gadgets. Teflon treated fabric is great in wet weather too!
     
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  19. Mudinyeri

    Mudinyeri Loaded Pockets

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    None of these have knee pad pockets.
     
  20. jag-engr
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    jag-engr Semper Bufo!
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    Great review! The pictures are great, but what I really appreciate your review methodology - instead of reviewing one product at a time, you compare their corresponding features simultaneously.

    I'm going to have to look into those VertX pants - I love the combination of features with a low-profile look. I usually wouldn't even consider "tactical" pants, but those look awesome.
     
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