5.11 Tactical has owned the tactical pant market for some time now. Chances are you own at least one pair of their best-selling TacLite Pro pants if you're reading this. I have owned many pairs through the years. In fact the Khaki TacLite Pro (and only that particular one) is an option for the alternate uniform at the law enforcement agency at which I work. So my 5.11 pants typically start out as uniform pants until they get too grungy and torn to be acceptable for use on duty. Then they are relegated to casual wear around the house and trips to the store and then finally are retired as “range pants.” I'm wearing a pair right now as I type this.
The classic tactical cargo pant isn't a one size fits all for everyone. Some people can't stand how they fit for them. For me they work fine. I like them, I'm used to them, and go ahead and call me a “tacticool mall ninja.” I wear them around in public, I don't really care. I am comfortable and I'm able to carry the EDC tools I require.
But 5.11 is breaking out of that mold with their release of the 5.11 Defender Flex jeans (check out the review video below). Yes, JEANS I said! They're not exactly traditional denim as they have some stretch to them, but that is one of the beautiful features of these pants.
I stopped wearing jeans years ago except for an occasional jaunt now and then. I had just grown tired of heavy, hot, tight pants that lacked pockets and storage for all of my EDC gear. And by “tight” I mean that the ability to bend down, crouch and squat has no comparison moving from a denim jean to a slightly baggy ripstop tactical pant. I also found myself wearing out the knees too quickly in my jeans. Anytime I would go to the range and work on tactical and defensive shooting drills, I would come back with visible wear to the knees.
So I moved away from jeans and to the conspicuous 5.11's.
Styling & Fit
But these new Defender Flex pants just might change all of that for me. They look like jeans, and style-wise they look great. The washing of them is attractive and tasteful. They fit in nicely with today's fashion trends. That might also be one of my first critiques, however. The pants that 5.11 Tactical chose to release first is the Slim Fit version. Like I said, right in line with today's trends. Not exactly my style. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about myself parading about in skinny jeans. For my wife it's a no brainer, she thinks they make me look “hot.” So I guess my critique about the fit and cut of these pants is also a bonus. My love life is improved!! 😉
But all kidding aside, I really was skeptical about the slim cut of these pants. I thought they would be terribly uncomfortable not giving me the room I needed to be free!
Okay, I'm really done now with the jokes. I didn't think I would like the unfamiliar tightness. But that's where the stretchy fabric that these things are made of comes into play. Surprisingly it is incredibly easy to bend, jump, run, crouch, and otherwise be very active in these pants. I don't even really notice them when I'm going through drills and shooting in various uncomfortable positions. Honestly, I was shocked at how good they feel. To the point of almost convincing me to convert to these so-called skinny jeans.
The good news is that 5.11 Tactical will be releasing shortly a boot cut/straight leg version of these pants. That should be the perfect combination for me. I think they will still look really good but have even more room and stretchability. I look forward to getting my hands on these ones as well and will report back once I do.
Material & Construction
One thing that is important to note is the fabric. It is not your typical yoga stretch pant material. This is 5.11 Tactical’s own cotton/poly blend that is what they call a “mechanical stretch”. The difference is that the material isn’t going to wear out like most elastic materials often do, it is like a bunch of little coils that allow the material to stretch and return back to shape thousands of times without compromise.
The construction is top-notch with solid, double stitching throughout and in all the right places. The button is secure, and there's even nice touches like the chamfered corner of the overlapped material at the button that seems insignificant, but actually takes away any discomfort and bunching up that sometimes occurs just underneath the belt buckle.
Features & Storage
I haven't even talked about the best part yet though, and that is the pockets. The Defender Flex pants have 7 pockets. There are your standard front and back pockets in the usual spots. There's also the classic coin pocket just above and slightly inside the front right main pocket. But this coin pocket is full-depth. You could store a spare magazine of ammunition for any standard full-size pistol.
That only accounts for 5 pockets though…the remaining pockets are two cleverly disguised and arguably hidden pockets that sit just slightly aft of your hips and right about even with the bottom of your belt line. These two pockets are deceptively large. They are perfect for flashlights or knives and are big enough for your cell phones including the iPhone 6/7 Plus models, although I cannot quite fit my iPhone 6+ with the Otter Box case on it. But even better, they are large enough to store a 30-round AR .223/5.56 magazine, so in theory you could carry 2 spare AR mags (one in each of those two pockets), a spare pistol mag in the “coin pocket,” and all of your other typical gear. Super cool!
My typical daily load out is:
- Streamlight Microstream
- CRKT Fossil Knife
- iPhone 6+
- Glock 19
- Spare Glock 17 mag
As you can see, I am able to carry all of this gear easily and comfortably and yet still be very concealed and inconspicuous. No one is the wiser as to the arsenal of firepower on my hip and in my pockets.
I even tried out carrying a spare 33-round Glock mag in one of those hidden hip pockets, and it worked great. It is pretty reassuring knowing I can carry my Glock 19 with 49 total rounds for defense, not that I think I would ever need that many rounds in a typical encounter, but I do believe in being prepared. Plan for the worst, hope for the best!
I have been wearing these pants for about two and a half months now a couple of times per week, and so far they seem to be holding up just fine. They have been through DOZENS of washes, and I was a little worried that the stretchy denim-looking fabric wouldn't hold up to daily use and abuse, but they seem to be about on par with any of my normal denim jeans. Of course, only time will tell, and if I have any updates for you on the durability of these pants, I will be sure to report back.
The Defender Flex pants are on store shelves now. If you are fortunate enough to have a 5.11 Tactical store near you, go grab a pair today. 5.11 Tactical is opening new stores each month throughout the U.S. For more information on these great pants and where to find them, please visit their website: www.511tactical.com