5.11 Tactical has been big in the tactical clothing industry for a long time. In fact, they practically invented its wide-ranging practical application and the market that exists today.
While they have an enormous line of pants suited to just about any purpose, the 5.11 Tactical Apex pant truly shines.
In the fall of 2011, 5.11 debuted the Stryke pant. For many people, this was the first tactical pant that put fit and comfort at the forefront. The Flex-Tac fabric was soft but durable, and stretchy, yet rip stop. It seemed like they had covered everything you could want in a duty pant.
For many of us, though, the appearance of the pant was still too tactical. The ripstop squares were not the most aesthetic feature, and the exterior-facing cargo pockets ensured that any time you actually used them, everyone else could see it too. And although the tunnel waistband was comfortable and convenient, the added waist girth meant that you might need to buy a new belt to go with your bulkier waist.
Don't get me wrong--the Stryke pant is still one of the better pants on the market in the outdoors and tactical clothing arena and a go-to in my own closet. But in true 5.11 fashion, they listened to feedback and continued to innovate. In 2016, we got the Apex pant.
5.11's Apex pant grew from their highly successful portfolio of stretch poly/cotton fabrics that they now put in almost every new apparel product in some form or another.
Cargo pockets are set in. That means the 'bulk' of the pocket will push inward instead of outward when you put something in them. The comfort of storing something in your cargo pocket is no different, but the appearance is much flatter on the outside.
There's no Velcro to scream at everyone around you when you take something out of your pocket, either. Instead, the cargo pocket closures are YKK zippers They are essentially silent, and deep enough that I personally leave mine unzipped all the time and use them as a daily dump pouch. There's a small top flap over the zipper, so it's not obvious that they're open, but it doesn't get in the way of quick access.
There's no tunnel waistband, which is a pro/con to every person that tries them. Some people really love the tunnel waistband of the Stryke Pant. I was always liked it because I got a better fit by going one size down in the waist and letting the fabric and waistband fill the baggy dead space I would have by wearing the 'proper' size.
The lack of a tunnel waistband means that these will not stretch as much as the Stryke pant waistband will. The fabric itself still has quite a lot of flexibility to it, and the bigger your waist is, the more fibers there are in circumference to keep stretching.
One more thing: you can get these in 31", 33", and 35" waist sizes. Odd sizes are a rarity in the tactical pant realm, where many companies let their products exist in alpha sizes and they can't be bothered to sell properly-fitting garments. You'll want to try these odd sizes if you're like me, and 34s feel a little bit too small, but 36s are far too large.
The more overt features of this pant are that the cargo pockets are obviously still visible. It's not lost on people around you that this is a tactical/outdoor pant. You won't get away with wearing these to a wedding. They are great to take to the top of a mountain, though. The 'hidden' handcuff key pocket in the left leg is great if nobody looks closely, but these pants are only 1 layer of fabric thick like any other pant. That means the seam shows up on the outside even though the pocket is internal. Still, it's pretty hard to notice if you don't already know it's there.
These are the most comfortable pants you can wear outside the house. Period. Absolutely nothing else even comes close. I don't know how much testing went into the design of this fabric before 5.11 figured out that the Apex pant has this excellent temperature regulation where you're never too hot or too cold relative to the rest of your body. The fabric itself is also very soft and smooth, and it gets even better after a few washes. You will notice a little bit of even fading set next to a brand new pair; nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing spotty. It's doesn't get 'pulled out' or pilled and soft like the Stryke pant does, which also keeps it from retaining too much heat
Beyond stretch, great temperature regulation, and softness, the twill fabric is very lightweight when you consider that there's still quite a bit of cotton in there. The extra rear pockets at your 4/5 o'clock positions are absolutely wonderful.
In addition to regular jean-style open top rear pockets, 5.11 added two more slightly above them and closer to your side. You can fit a wallet in these pockets and not actually sit on it, keeping your regular and cargo pockets free for quick-access items. Your lower back will thank you. They can also hold AR-15 magazines, if you're so inclined to do so.
You'll notice strange seams in all sorts of places you might not have them on your other pants. Although crotch gussets are becoming standard in tactical pants, 5.11 went one step further and articulated the knees, as well. That extra little bit of fitting really helps these move with your body instead of against it. In fact, it's rare for the hem to get caught on my mid-height boot heel pull-on tab even after I sit down. I only noticed this after I started wearing other pants that--while normal--would constantly get caught on the tab.
How durable can something this comfortable be? The answer might surprise you. The Flex-Tac twill fabric holds up really well, even without rip stop technology built in. I'm usually wearing Apex pants when I'm outdoors (which is extremely often), so mine get a better beating than most. Every once in a while, I'll notice a small hole. This could be from a campfire ember, branch, rough rock face, or cactus thorn. But they never seem to travel, which makes me wonder if I ever needed the Stryke pant's rip stop tech in the first place. The regular non-rip stop twill seems to work just as well, and doesn't seem to snag very easily on things that don't have a sharp point. Think protruding screw heads. In the 3 years I've been wearing them, I haven't killed a pair yet.
Inside the side cargo pockets, 5.11 included internal pockets perfect for most standard capacity 30-round AR-15 magazines. You probably won't be able to use them for that if you've added large base plates, capacity extensions, or other accessories that significantly increase any size dimension of the magazine, but there's all sorts of other uses for this like tourniquets, Narcan, or just keeping your EDC stuff organized and out of sight.
In the waistband, there's internal sewing to retain flex cuffs. I have never used them for this, and I can't imagine it would be very comfortable to do. Given the right situation, maybe there's an application. But again, it's not the most covert pant in outward appearance. Given the mission, Kevlar thread might be perfect for this spot in case your handcuff key pocket is discovered.
In addition to quiet cargo pocket zippers, the fabric brushing against itself and the environment is fairly quiet compared to many full-cotton, poly/cotton, and full-poly garments on there. Apex is a great choice for operations where noise discipline is paramount.
The DWR finish is neat when you first get them, but it does eventually wash out. You can always easily reapply it at home if that's something that is important to you.
As with any garment, how you wash it is about half of what determines longevity. If you always wash and dry on high heat with abrasive detergents, fabric softeners, and physical motion, they won't last as nearly long as a gentle hand wash and hang drying. I don't have time to hand wash and hang dry almost anything, so I personally own 8 or 9 pairs of these pants so that no single pair gets hit by my abrasive washing combo more than once or twice every week or two.
It's also important that you buy the proper size. Even in law enforcement, a lot of people prefer to wear tighter pants. The more strain you put on seams and other stress points on the garment, the shorter its lifespan will be. It's only fabric.
The Apex pant is available in a men's 28-44 waist, so it's not optimal for large department uniform specs where there are men and women of all sizes and only one pant allowed in its class. It is a terrific option for SWAT, snipers, casual wear, and the outdoors.
5.11 does have a bevvy of available colors, though not as wide as in the Stryke pant. Apex pants are available in Ranger Green, Dark Navy, Black, TDU Green, Khaki, Volcanic, Battle Brown, Storm, Tundra, and Burnt. The new Ranger Green color will very closely match the rest of your gear, whether it's Haley Strategic, Armor Express, Arc'teryx, or any others.
Want to get a pair? Order them right here.
Have you found an even better pant? Let us know!