OFFICER Labs: 5.11 XTU Uniform Review

Dec. 19, 2023
LT Frank Borelli (ret) put the new V.XI XTU uniform through field/wear testing with positive results.

At IACP when we were shown the new V.XI XTU uniform and the suggestion was made that we field test it, the 5.11 staff accepted the opportunity. They were confident in the design and functionality, and they had every reason to be. 5.11 Tactical has been designing and manufacturing apparel for 20-plus years and incorporate all lessons learned. I received the test uniform pant and shirt and, after laundering, commenced to wear testing it.


This article appeared in the November/December issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.


There’s a learning curve to fully leveraging all of the design features of the XTU. It was laundered before wearing. In the pant, the triple-layer kneepads (more on those later) appeared built in with no way to remove—so in the washer they went. Washed in cold water, no bleach, tumble dried on low. The XTU was ready to go.

Several days of wear revealed no issues or challenges. The pants proved very comfortable, although the zipper initially seemed a little short (more on that). The kneepads stayed in place thanks to the integral design features and, although I didn’t realize why, my pants belt and duty belt were both more comfortable than previously experienced. The XTU shirt fit perfectly and moved freely. Worn under a fully equipped plate carrier, the XTU shirt kept me comfortable—both in temperature and chafe (a plate carrier worn directly on a uniform shirt can be uncomfortable due to weight and seam chafe).

After the wear testing, I reached out to the staff at 5.11 Tactical to gain more insight into the design features—and immediately wished I had done so before wear testing it. I first asked about the new 5.11 designation published: V.XI. I saw Roman numerals for 5.11 but learned that’s not how it’s said. Pronounced “Vee Ex Eye,” the V.XI represents their new line of products designed for those who perform high risk or specialized duties. For law enforcement, this means SWAT and special assignment teams. The designers and marketing team at 5.11 consider the V.XI line the highest level of uniforms produced, meant for “the elite.”

Getting more into the design features I found out that both the pant and shirt are made from organic cotton-based materials that are no melt/no drip. The top is a performance base material that insulates for warmth but wicks away moisture to remain dry and cool as necessary. The pant incorporates the cotton-based material in a mechanical stretch design making them feel almost tailor-cut. They fit snug enough to reduce potential for snagging on objects but are not binding or restrictive to movement.

The triple-layer knee pads are removable, comprised of the outer hard shell, the D3O removable soft kneepad insert and the sewn in Ortholite-padded knee. The user can have two layers (sewn in D3O or sewn in hard shell), only the sewn in, or all three. The kneepad area itself is secured at the wearer’s most comfortable height by a strap accessed inside the zippered cargo pocket.

Further, there’s a hook-and-loop strap that adjusts across the back of the knee for additional fit. The pant is designed so that the kneepad section doesn’t rub against the leg/ knee when standing, instead allowing for it to fall away enough to promote airflow.

Additional design features include a padded (also Ortholite) high waistband in the back to promote lower back comfort as related to duty/gun belt. On the front edge of the cargo pocket is a zipper that opens a vent to allow for more airflow if desired. That zipper I said was too short is actually dual direction—so it can be unzipped from the top or bottom. Knowing that solved my challenge with zipper length.

A few last comments: Remembering that uniforms are ultimately a consumable item, price and longevity are considerations. Price comparing the XTU shows a lower price than some competitive products, and the color stay/ color fastness allows for a longer service life. For colder circumstances, 5.11 has a cold weather rapid operations shirt in its collection.

OFFICER Media Group is proud to present our “Tested— Field Rated” award to 5.11 for their V.XI XTU uniform.

About the Author

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret), Editorial Director | Editorial Director

Lt. Frank Borelli is the Editorial Director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience in addition to 40 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team.

Frank has had numerous books published which are available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other major retail outlets.

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

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