In my line of work it's a typical day when someone in marketing sends me an email with a new product announcement. In 5.11 Tactical's case ... well ... it's a regular occurrence. What was out of the ordinary was when they asked me about my inseam measurements. Soon enough my desk donned a new pair of APEX Tactical Pants. They had company, but I'll get to that later.
This pant was released at the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, in Salt Lake City, Utah - MSRP $84.99. Reading this I thought they were just going to be in the style of a typical 5.11 pant, but without the tricks they seemingly ALWAYS include. (By tricks, I mean hidden features, covert zippers, and zillions of pockets.) The tradeshow is called "outdoor retailer", I figured assuming the pant was for and designed for the rough hiker.
I was wrong.
The pant's release claims they are a reinvention of the tactical pant, taking to heart feedback from the Stryke pant. (I can't comment on the Stryke, if you have a pair - let us know your thoughts in the comments. And if you sent in some comments about the Stryke pant, apparently they heard you.) Tom Davin, the company's CEO, says that some of the leading operators challenged them "to build a low profile pant with full tactical features." And this double-dare had to include the ability to carry 6 AR magazines.
The APEX pant is made of a new canvas weave from 5.11's Flex-Tac fabric. I haven't seen this before. It looks and feels slightly different than the ripstop I knew about. I think this concept is an improvement. While I understood the purpose of the ripstop "squares," it made a texture I just wasn't a fan of. The Apex's canvas feels soft, smooth, there's a bit of stretch, and just tough enough that you really REALLY don't worry about it being caught up in low-hanging sticks walking in the woods. This canvas went through some extensive testing. According to the company it holds a 159-pound tear resistance in the warp direction, 202-pounds in the fill direction.
Some specs for ONE pant:
- 63 different pieces
- 66 different machines
- 137 steps
- 226 people touching the pant during creation
And a ton of stitching.
I was impressed by the low profile look. Not having 6 ARs to shove into the pockets, I gathered everything I could including the items my APEX pants came with: a multi-tool, a small light, and a MOLLE pouch. The tool and the light included metal clips to help keep them still in your pocket - unless you need to tear 'em off, don't underestimate these. I also added an folding 5.11 knife I had around, a notebook, my wallet, my smartphone, and another larger multi-tool. While this really isn't much, you couldn't tell by looking at the pant ...
And I couldn't tell by wearing the pant either. It actually seemed to look better when you had stuff in them. The weight, I believe, gives a little gravity and straightens out the leg. Abra-ca-dabra ... low profile pants.
Some more specs - the Low-Vis "wishlist": (all these needed to be discrete and/or hidden from view)
- Cuff key pockets at inside leg hems
- Flexi-cuff storage at inner waistband
- Hidden pocket at center back waistband for cuff key or cord
- Volume in cargo pockets expands to the inside for a more discreet look
- Cargo pockets zip closed for security
- Athletic stretch panels for comfortable IWB wear and freedom of movement
- Integrated mag pockets at back yoke
- Back patch pockets for a casual look
Since we're talking about pockets, let me inject an embarrasing a short story here. I wore these pants for three few days straight, and I sit at a computer desk literally all day. They were comfortable, sized to fit (remember they asked me my sizes, so get measured and get the correct size for yourself), plenty of room in the seat, and "undercarriage." Being used to feeling my belt dig into the small of my back I disregarded the slight discomfort right above my tailbone. On the third day I discovered I had been sitting on the USB drive 5.11 sent along, cleverly tucked in the covert pocket. If you get a pair of Apex pants, remember this pocket - being well hidden it's easy to overlook. Apparently you can even forget about the items inside this pocket too.
Interested in learning more? Check out 5.11's infographic on these pants. It shows a hidden pocket I don't mention in this review. (Well, apart from just doing so.)
Just this past summer...
Even before the Apex pant, yet another package was delivered: the Tactical Kilt. Taking it out it spoke to me (not literally) and seemed to say, "I dare you to wear this. Are you tough enough?"
Yes. Yes, I am. The big question here: Are you?
Let's start on a down-beat, it seemed 5.11 just threw on some cargo pockets - they close by VELCRO (unless it's hook-and-loop) and are connected via a set of buttons. They're large and they'll fit plenty of stuff, but walking around they'll start to pendulum. These cargos aren't secured down to the kilt itself, they just hang there. This is very out of the ordinary for 5.11, who's pockets are usually locked down so much that people wouldn't be able to tell you had ... say ... 6 AR magazines on your person. Aside from that, there's also typical front pockets. A good amount of buttons close the entire thing together with large overlapping pieces of fabric. These buttons are tough, they'll stay closed. They also make a neat rectangle design in the front - so there's a plus.
For the life of me I have no idea how the Tactical Kilt is actually "tactical." Perhaps associate editor Paul Peluso was able to figure this out when it first came out. My guess is they couldn't use Bad-Ass as a product name. And I mean this. Before wearing one you think it's a skirt, maybe because it doesn't have the traditional look of a stereotypical kilt seen in the movies. Maybe because, like me, you've never worn a kilt before. A note here: I don't see this being worn on-duty, but rather more like a "day off" piece of clothing.
I'll say it: wearing one is empowering. On a hot day with high humidity, you'll be the comfortable one. We broke some hot-day records this past summer here in Wisconsin, any day it was too hot to exist I wore that kilt. Aside from the cargo pockets, the only real criticism I could think of was that it draped too light. Anything in those cargo pockets pulls the sides down when you sit. This pulls the piece where a sporran would go tight. Some advise: keep your modesty and just get into the habit of pushing it down a bit - you'll be fine.
I remember a hot and humid pool-side birthday, I had a bunch of strange looks being sent my way. If it's warm and you're bad-ass enough, I believe this is what the kilt was made for. But if the weather isn't being friendly and you'd like to keep your bad-ass card, you won't go wrong with the Apex.