Kit Up!

REVIEW: Shakin' the 5.11 Blues


They've become an icon of the "tactical" industry.

They're tan (or OD green), have side cargo pockets, cell phone pockets, big back pockets and that distinctive cargo strap running across the right rear.

They're the 5.11 Tactical Pants, derived from the Royal Robbins Blue Water pants, and it seems that every damn trainer, police officer, paintballer and tactical wannabe is wearing these things -- many BTDTs sprinkled in with the never-been-theres-never-done-thats.

Being a jaded skeptic and anti-conformist by nature, I rely on outside the box alternatives like my Patagonia cargoes or North Face convertibles while on assignment. It's not because I don't want a more "tactical" alternative, it's just that I refuse to run with the pack.

That's why the Vertx tactical pants caught my eye. They've got cleaner lines with subdued cargo pockets, plenty of tricked out internal storage and clean lines. They take the "tacky" out of "tactical"...

  • 9 oz. advantage stretch™ fabric 98% cotton / 2% LYCRA®
  • Articulated patterning
  • Gusseted crotch for increased mobility
  • Pocket inside cargo pocket for BlackBerry or cell phone
  • Internal stretch waistband
  • Pockets designed to securely store goods without Velcro closures
  • Two sturdy front pockets made from 100 percent woven cotton
  • Two rear patch pockets with credentials flap
  • One concealed zipper pocket on the right side
  • Two cargo pockets with flaps sewn down on each side
  • Cell phone pocket located inside each cargo pocket
It's an impressive list of features that made me think I'd found a better option than the 5.11s and their ilk. was kind enough to send me a pair of the Vertx pants for review. I wore them on a couple of assignments for Kit Up! and, including a day with rifle maker LWRC at their factory and range.

I liked the style of the Vertx pants right away. They have a big enough cargo pocket to fit a small water bottle and reporter's notebook and pen no problem, but they are a bit hard to access since they don't have an obvious flap. They were comfortable and the gut-accommodating waist helps with that extra little bit of padding that takes you just a bit over a 34.

But while the Vertx pants are a good alternative to the 5.11s on style, they still fall short on function in my book.

First of all, the 9oz fabric is just a bit too heavy for my liking. I don't like parachute nylon, but I get a bit bogged down in that weight for pants that I need to move around in. I also appreciate that these are made for bigger bubbas, but I'm pretty lean and the cut on the leg was a bit on the "relaxed fit" side of things for my taste. As I said, the cargo pockets were a bit hard to access quickly due to the flap geometry sitting flush to the leg -- the down side of a sleeker pant cut.

But by far the most annoying thing about them -- and it was too bad this detracted so much from an otherwise fine set of threads -- was what I'll call the "butt cut"...

Look, I'm tall and pretty slender and I ain't gonna win any awards for the aesthetics of my posterior -- let's just say I lack "definition" back there. Unfortunately it seemed to me the Vertx pants are designed for more defined derrieres. There was this extra fabric bunching up over my butt where my glutes should have gone and gosh darn it, it made me feel inadequate.

At the end of the day, there aren't a lot of more inconspicuous options out there for tactical pants and Vertx offers a stylish alternative for those who want off the 5.11 bandwagon. But if you're more slender, need more pocket access and sweat a lot, the Vertx tactical pants might not be the right one for you.

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