Are plain old pants just not getting the job done for you? Maybe you often find yourself in the thick of it, requiring tactical gear for a far-out mission, but you’re consistently wearing restrictive blue jeans or crude work pants. If you’re shredding the gnar in the backcountry or just going to the grocery store but want a little extra performance, good-quality tactical pants can answer your apparel prayers.
Lightweight, water-resistant, and easy to clean, tac pants typically provide plenty of pockets for your must-have kit, tough belt loops that won’t break under the strain of your EDC or survival knife, and superlative mobility. They’re available in many different styles and weights and at a variety of price points, so there’s no excuse to default to jeans when you can have the functionality and practicality of tactical pants instead.
Determining the best tactical pants for your outings should involve a process of evaluating the options based on your lifestyle. Do you need lightweight hikers for suburban trail outings? Or durable pants that can stand up to backcountry abrasion or international adventures? We cover it all, with our list of the best tactical pants.
For guesswork-free shopping, click HERE and jump to our Tactical Pants Comparison Table.
The 5.11 APEX Pant is a durable, feature-packed pant that looks casual enough for everyday wear. While the brand considers it a cargo pant (it has 10 total pockets, including twin back yoke magazine pockets and a handcuff key pocket inside the rear waist), it mostly looks like a nice pair of pants you could wear every day, even to nicer events. In testing, we loved the gusseted crotch (a must-have in our opinion) that allows great freedom of movement. The articulated knees and flexible polyester/cotton fabric with mechanical stretch enhance the mobility of these pants. Add in genuine YKK zippers and Teflon treatment to resist stains and water, and you’re looking at an incredibly nice pair of pants at a crazy reasonable price. Oh, and our favorite feature? The pockets are cut wide at the bottom and reinforced so your knife clips perfectly in place and won’t damage the pocket corner. Genius!
- 10 colors
- 28 – 44 inch waist sizes
- Polyester & cotton blend
- Teflon-treated fabric repels stains
- Flex-tac mechanical stretch
- Fully gusseted crotch, comfort waistband
- 10 total pockets
- Brand: 5.11
- Model: 74434
- Weight: 1.1 Pounds
CQR tactical pants pretty much shoot straight down the middle — cargo pockets, rip-stop fabric that combines cotton and polyester, and 35 color choices characterize the pants. They also come in a huge size range: from 28″ to 46″. Whether you’re a professional, or just a weekend warrior who needs a pair of tactical pants, CQR doesn’t care what you look like.
It does, however, care about what its cargo pants look like on you. You can fully disappear in woodland camo or stand out in a crowd in bright red. Hunting and digital camo designs are also available, as well as a broad palette of earth and dark tones. No matter what color tactical boots, tactical shirt, tactical watch, tactical jacket, tactical neck gaiter, tactical baseball cap, or tactical underwear you prefer, you should be able to match your ensemble with a pair of CQR tactical pants.
Not only that, they resist fading, shrinking, and wrinkling so you should look sharp regardless of the situation. Just don’t get caught by law enforcement in CQR tac pants — they might get jealous, and a jealous person with a taser and a capacity for state-sanctioned violence is liable to get flippant with both.
- 35 colors
- Large size variety
- Military and Law Enforcement performance design
- Duratex fabric
- 8 multipurpose cargo pockets
- Fade, shrink, and wrinkle-resistant
- High-strength metal alloy button and zipper
- Brand: CQR
- Weight: 3.2 Ounces
Every good tactical operator loves 5.11. The brand’s Stryke pant looks like another installment that supports its reputation. 12 pockets, including an extra-deep cargo pocket on each side, combined with reinforced knees and a gusseted crotch for versatile function.
5.11 builds the tactical pants with its proprietary Flex-Tac fabric. It’s treated with Teflon to repel spills, stains, mud, rain, and any other liquid you might…encounter. The mechanical stretch allows the fabric to be flexible and stretchable without the inclusion of spandex. The polyester’s elasticity, combined with a criss-cross patterned processing technique, gives the fabric a stretchy feel without compromising durability. The elasticized waistband features extra-wide belt loops for more durability.
Bartacked seams and stress points help hold it all together when you have to assume the most intense positions. YKK zippers and Prym snaps finish out the pant as shipped. If you do your best work on your knees, you’re in luck: an interior pocket inside each reinforced knee accepts a knee pad. Everyone knows that’s critical under some circumstances, but only those who have used the best tactical pants truly know how to come out of such situations on top.
- 13 colors
- Wide range of sizes
- Flex-Tac mechanical stretch
- Rip-stop fabric
- Dirt, stain, and soil-resistant
- Self-adjusting tunnel waistband
- 12 tactical pockets
- Brand: 5.11
- Model: 74369_055_42_36
- Weight: 2 Pounds
Anyone who wants to cosplay as a cop (for non-bedroom reasons) will love LA Police Gear men’s tactical pants. Much like the other options, the broad size range means there’s something for every police officer or cop aspirant, regardless of current profession or vocation. These sizes start at 28W x 30L and go all the way up 50W unhemmed to provide a versatile choice no matter what you look like.
Ever notice that an AR-15 magazine is about the same size as a smartphone? Whether that’s a sign of the illuminati or just a happy accident, LA Police Gear tactical pants have plenty of pockets to hold either one. Narrow vertical pockets hold telescoping batons, pocket knives, or even pens (yes, pens, those things that represent the enduring freedom of self-expression and the peaceful transmission of knowledge).
- 9 colors
- Broad size range
- Front slip pocket for smartphone or magazine
- Large cargo pockets
- Articulated knees and gusset crotch
- Elastic waistband
- Rip-stop fabric
- Brand: LA Police Gear
- Weight: 2.25 Pounds
I once read a review of Tru-Spec 24-7 tactical pants that said “there’s nothing groundbreaking about the design of Tru-Spec Men’s 24-7 Tactical Pants and that’s just fine because Tru-Spec isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; they’re trying to create walking pants that are comfortable and functional and will stand up to the rigors of your chosen profession or activity.”
Upon closer inspection, that appears to check out. 65/35 polyester/cotton, the typical cargo pockets/wide belt loop design, and an adjustable slider waistband that eliminates elastic crimped material pretty much round out the pants.
In Tru-Spec 24-7 tac pants, you’ll blend completely in with the crowd, no matter what rally you’re protesting or which instrument of state enforcement you represent. There’s even a cargo pocket for your cell phone, which should help with evidence in those pesky situations when law enforcement body cams happen to be inexplicably off.
- 11 colors
- Broad range of sizes
- Comfort fit slider waistband
- 2 cargo pockets with hook and loop closure
- Reinforced knee
- Dual internal magazine compartments
- Suitable for EMTs, police, firefighters, and military
- Brand: TRU-SPEC
- Model: 3800-P
- Weight: 1.45 Pounds
What are the best tactical pants to wear with non-tactical shoes, like topsiders, square-toed dress shoes, or crocs? In our book, that would be the 5.11 men’s Fast TAC. Some of the only tactical pants out there that aren’t also tactical cargo pants, the straight legs should translate well when you’re pretending to be John Wick on an office day.
At just 4.7 ounces, the Fast TAC is one of the lightest tactical pants available. The water-resistant finish should facilitate additional comfort. If you’re in harsh conditions, these amazing tactical pants should help you accomplish just about anything by keeping you mobile — not saturated and weighed down.
And their slacks-like look helps them work as everyday casual wear. If you like to go to work wearing pants that could help you spring into action in an instant without making you look like a law enforcement officer, the 5.11 men’s Fast TAC may be for you.
- 5 colors
- 28 – 54 inch waist sizes
- Water-resistant finish
- Reinforced front utility pocket edges
- 5 total pockets
- Flexible self-adjusting waistband
- Brand: 5.11
- Model: 5-74461-P
- Weight: 2 Pounds
The 5.11 Men’s TacLite Pro Pants are ready for the street, ready for the rescue helicopter, ready for the patrol car and ready for anything else your intense, tactical life holds in store. They come in black only. The crotch is gusseted to help keep it from splitting embarrassingly when you’re leaping the fence in pursuit of the inevitably more agile perp.
5.11 set the bar with its Stryke tactical pants and they raise it just a bit further with their TacLite Pro. They’re covered with generously sized pockets ready to accept whatever tactical gear you need to bring along (guns, magazines, ammunition, “non-lethal” ammunition, tactical knives, karambit knives, butterfly knives, automatic knives, telescoping batons, pepper spray, tear gas, tasers, zip ties, piano wire, copies of The Constitution, riding crops, cats o’ nine tails, ball gags — wait, what?).
They also feature a dedicated cell phone pocket, just above the main pocket at your left thigh. The fabric is ripstop poly-cotton for durability, and it’s treated with an HT Teflon finish to repel stains from any and all liquid. Is that encrusted blood, or last Monday’s Frappuccino? With the 5.11 TacLite Pro, you’ll never find yourself asking the difficult questions — the stains will just slough off.
- 3 colors
- 28 – 42 inch waist sizes
- 65% polyester, 35% cotton
- Teflon-treated fabric
- Moisture- and stain-resistant
- Fully gusseted construction
- 8 total pockets
- Brand: 5.11
- Model: 74273
- Weight: 15.2 Ounces
Under Armour leverages years of athletic wear construction to deliver a tactical pant. The Storm has ripstop fabric and a stretch-engineered waistband, plus pockets where you need them. Storm is Under Armour’s proprietary water-repellent technology, engineered to increase waterproof properties without sacrificing breathability or mobility. The brand uses an unspecified DWR coating to pull off the effect, but its reputation is that it works.
100% polyester construction rounds out the no-frills Under Armour Storm, which comes in seven muted colors. Durable and slightly stretchy, you really can’t go wrong with these pants.
- 7 colors
- 33 – 44 inches waist size
- Durable ripstop fabric
- Water-repellent tech
- Adjustable stretchy waist
- Reinforced knees & crotch
- Cargo pockets
- Brand: Under Armour
- Model: 1265491
- Weight: 10.58 Ounces
You can’t choose a pair of pants that represents the concept of American work any more elementally than Dickies. Are you a train engineer? A coal miner? An assembly line worker at a factory that builds Abrams tanks? If you are, you’re unequivocally wearing Dickies.
Now, the brand makes some of the only canvas tactical pants we’ve seen this side of WWII. Dickies canvas tactical pants have arrived for all your hardcore canvas needs — if you want to prepare for the elements like Ernest Hemingway or John Muir, you must wear canvas pants.
Dickies makes it happen, with its characteristic double-thick knees and heavy construction. A double-reinforced seat helps see you through any lulls in the action. That’s pretty much it. The best tactical clothing? We’re not sure about that. But if you’re into traditional fabrics and brand legend, Dickies throws down some of the best tactical pants out there.
- 4 colors
- 30 – 48 inches waist size
- 100% cotton
- Breathable and comfortable fabric
- Reinforced knees
- Teflon-treated, repels liquid
- Belt closure and L-shaped front pocket
- Brand: Dickies
- Weight: 2.35 Pounds
Propper tactical pants combine DWR ripstop construction, 9 pockets and a hip-mounted D ring for a middle-of-the-road entry. The Teflon fabric protector keeps them from getting dirty and staying that way, and plenty of sizes plus an elastic waistband helps them fit anybody.
Colors include “Ranger” and “Sherriff Brown” (which is a color, not a person). The marketing shows expressionless men with beards and sunglasses, but no uniform insignia, carrying submachine guns. Pretty clear what basket Propper’s putting its eggs in.
The rear pockets are extra large to accommodate your wallet, bulging with cash and void of identification or interest-bearing credit cards. The important metal D ring helps secure the keys to your tactical vehicle and tactical home, where you keep your tactical gear and multiple tactical safes where it’s all tactically secured. The Propper lightweight tactical pant is straightforward — designed to perform for you and your lifestyle in the clutch.
- A wide variety of colors
- 28 – 56 inches waist size
- Stain-resistant fabric
- Extra-large belt loops
- Reinforced knees and seat
- 10 total pockets
- Comfortable elastic waistband
- Brand: Propper
- Model: F5243
- Weight: 1.65 Pounds
Helikon-Tex UTP tactical pants get the job done with a familiar polycotton ripstop blend and a suite of intentionally-placed pockets. As per usual, gun magazines and cell phones (the two most popular items in the United States?) are the storage priorities.
Wide back pockets fit your everyday items like your wallet and field notebook, while smaller ones accommodate your folding knife, tactical pen or mags. Inner, low-profile pockets fit mags or batons. Other internal pockets accept extra padding, including knee pads. And if you’re just not carrying enough loaded magazines as is, load up two front pockets with either your smartphone or AR-style mags.
The best tactical pants for mowing down any and every target in your path? We’ll set ’em up and you knock ’em down. We figure, in a pinch, you could fill pretty much any of the Helikon-Tex UTP’s 12 pockets and several internal pockets with magazines.
- A wide variety of colors
- 30 – 42 inches waist
- Rugged ripstop blend
- Stretchable waist
- 12 low-profile pockets
- Reinforced knee stitching
- Brand: Helikon-Tex
- Weight: 1.3 Pounds
From a previous GearHungry staffer, who loved the Tru-Spec Cotton 24-7 pants better than perhaps anyone else ever has — like family: “These are the cousin, or more like big brother, to the lighter version of the 24-7 reviewed above. These are the police tactical pants that really made Tru-Spec’s reputation and it’s easy to see why. They’re incredibly comfortable, easy to maneuver in, dry fast and have plenty of storage room for your EDC or tactical carry.
“Tru-Spec made their name outfitting those who put themselves on the line for others and their 24-7 cotton tactical pants are what really won people over. These tactical pants feature hook and loop closures on the main cargo pockets, reinforced knees with a slot in which you can slide knee pads (not included), offset belt loops to accommodate your sidearm and robust stitching throughout. There isn’t a loose thread or dropped stitch anywhere.”
We can’t be sure whether a real test ever occurred. But I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to judge whether or not they’d “win people over” or whether they might indeed be the sibling of another tactical pant. Let’s finish with the obvious: these pants are 100% cotton. If you get wet while you’re wearing them, you’ll be extremely uncomfortable. The brand mentions “tactical missions” in their utility suite; all we can say is, those missions better be taking place in a climate-controlled area.
- 5 colors
- 28 – 54 waist size
- 100% cotton
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Adjustable slider waistband
- 2-inch belt loops
- Brand: Tru-Spec
- Model: 3800
- Weight: 1.7 Pounds
Blackhawk Men’s Pursuit tactical pants position themselves as some of the best tac pants for people who can’t get enough assault rifles, with three AR magazine compartments inside each cargo pocket.
Imagine how impressed your friends will be when they find out you’re packing 180 rounds in your pockets — without sagging! We all know there’s nothing like the exhilaration of squeezing off .223 round after .223 round into anything and everything in your immediate vicinity, at the gun range or elsewhere. Why not make it easy to carry all the ammo you need to maximize your fun with the Blackhawk?
- 5 colors
- 28 – 52 waist size
- Teflon shield repels water
- Gusseted crotch
- 8 multi-purpose pockets
- Reinforced knees with pockets
- Elastic waistband
- Brand: BLACKHAWK
- Model: TP01
- Weight: 1.15 Pounds
Tactical Pants Buying Guide
Tactical Pants Comparison Table
Why Trust Us
GearHungry’s team of outdoor professionals, adventure seekers, thrill hounds, and general nomads is always out to find the best tactical gear for any mission or lark. So why not widen the umbrella to cover the best tactical pants? To my knowledge, everyone on our team has a favorite pair of trusty pants they use for everything, from mountain biking to rock climbing to backcountry hiking. Most of us know from experience, it should be a pair of tactical pants. I myself used to be known to wear second-hand jeans on various adventures, and while they’re cheap, well, you get what you pay for. I also found out that by and large, they don’t accept knee pads; and guess where I do my best work?
Who This Is For
Manufacturers make tactical gear and tactical pants for everybody, across a wide variety of interests and applications. So that’s how we fashioned this guide. If you wear pants, you can find a pair of tactical pants to suit you. The best tactical pants can go from the backyard to the bush and everywhere in between. A lot of them are ripstop, Teflon-coated, and some of them even fit and hang like regular pants so you can still look middle-class-fancy in the office or the HOA meeting. If you don’t wear tactical pants, do you even wear pants? Survey of one in my home office says: absolutely not.
How We Picked
Good-quality tactical pants all include certain similar features: usually a polycotton blend, some kind of DWR coating, and ripstop construction. It’s pretty simple; at some point, you want pants that won’t give out in the clutch (or the crotch). So, we scoured trusted brands for their best designs and included a few less-known options to present the most tactical pants we could across a variety of price points, utilities, and size options. That’s the other thing: tactical pants should be on the U.N.’s list of universal human rights — for everyone, not just the privileged few.
How We Tested
Our AllGear testers wear out pants as fast as our lifestyles will accommodate it. When we’re not at the keyboard, we’re out hiking, climbing, paddling, camping, hunting and exploring. Testing tactical pants is part of our day job; our testers wear them on trail and in the office, in relatively equal parts.
Features To Look For In Tactical Pants
Material — Ripstop, polycarbon blends with DWR coatings are the industry standard. You need a lightweight fabric that will move with you and keep the elements more or less at bay.
Size — Most tactical pants come in an encouragingly wide range of sizes. That’s because a buyer segment that ranges from law enforcement to hikers challenging for FKT’s on the world’s longest trails is bound to display a range of body types. Most of the pants on our list come in anywhere from a 28″ waist to a 50″.
Waterproofness — No doubt, the best tac pants should keep water out. Waterproof performance exists along a spectrum and is rarely perfect, especially in garments that offer any degree of comfort. Most manufacturers decline to give their tactical pants a rating on the standard mm/24 hour scale, which involves submerging a fabric under a certain amount of water and measuring how long the water takes to permeate it. That being said, almost every tactical pant employs some form of waterproof coating.
Construction — Ripstop and bartacked seams and stress points make a lot of sense for quality tactical pants. You could also look for hidden pockets that accept, for instance, knee pads. Articulated knees can be another nice feature, especially if you spend a lot of time, er, “crouching.” Belt loops should be solid, especially if you’ve constantly got tools etc. hanging off your belt.
And let’s not forget the ever-critical gusseted crotch. Between that and a reinforced seat, you shouldn’t have any problem sitting on anything that’s not a chair or going full-send over myriad obstacles.
Tactical Pants FAQ
Q: What are tactical pants used for?
A: Anything and everything! Hiking, climbing, falling, downhill mountain biking, scrambling through brush, obstacle courses, adventure running, The Amazing Race, mountaineering, skiing (sort of), construction, tree climbing, tree work, landscaping, trail building, snowmobiling, bow hunting, fly fishing, offroad racing, onewheeling, bushcraft, martial arts practice in the woods, ax throwing, knife throwing, the gun range and finally military or law enforcement. (Or, alternatively, counter-insurgent activities against military or law enforcement.)
The possibilities are nearly endless! Any application that might get you dirty or wet for long periods of time where you may need to carry specific items in your pockets can demand the best tactical pants. Many are built to be extremely durable. And with a Teflon coating nearly standard across the industry, you’re usually somewhat protected from the wet. Unless, of course, you do it yourself. But that’s your business.
Q: Do I really need tactical pants?
A: Perhaps your question requires a bit of soul-searching. How tactical do you feel? When you wake up in the morning, stretch and look out the window at the paradisical suburban idyll that is your life, and take that first sip of coffee, is your first thought often ‘if only my life were more tactical. Am I tactical enough?’ When you’re sitting at your place of work, lackadaisically entertaining lunch plans at Pappadeaux, leafing through open tabs on your monitor without actually looking at the content they display, absent-mindedly clicking your company-monogrammed pen over and over and over again as a passive nervous tic, do you wish ‘I wish I were wearing the most durable pants I could possibly find? In fact, I wish I had the lightest pair of pants ever, with a crotch gusset, extra-large belt loops, cargo storage, and knee pads?’ When you’re in the shower late at night, washing the keyboard funk from your fingers and the odd patina that office clothing somehow deposits onto your skin, without being perceptibly dirty or even perceptibly existing (beyond the fact that it makes a shape of color on your body), do you think ‘I wish I were wearing waterproof pants in here, with double stitching so they wouldn’t wear out over multiple wet and dry cycles, and knife pockets just in case?’
Well, do you? How tactical are you? Put another way, to what degree are you, in essence, a composite of your tactics?
Consider all this and more when determining exactly what makes a solid pair of tactical pants right, or wrong, for you.
Q: What is ripstop?
A: Rudimentarily: a weaving pattern that utilizes reinforced cross hatches to mitigate rips in the fabric. If you think about it, it’s pretty straightforward. The more heavy the reinforcement, the less it’s prone to rip. The idea is that rips will happen; the reinforced threads serve as boundaries, stopping the whole sheet from separating.
Q: Why do tactical pants have an adjustable waist?
A: Have you ever spent days or weeks in the backcountry? If you have, you know that outings like that can reshape your body, typically due to a change in your normal diet. Other factors that make adjustable waists useful for tactical pants include the multiple body positions and activities you’ll likely undertake while you’re wearing them. And if they get wet, cinching them will be helpful as they get heavier. Finally, they should last a long time! Which means that they, and you, could likely shapeshift over the course of their life cycle.
Q: Are tactical pants good for hiking?
A: Sure thing. Usually, they’re lightweight, durable, and to some extent waterproof. Maybe shy away from varieties with deep cargo pockets; you don’t want to jangle around too much in that area while you’re hiking. However, features like double stitching and articulated knees can help a lot. And everybody loves a gusseted crotch (unless, of course, you like to swing free; but if that’s the case, I guess there’s nothing stopping you from modifying your own crotch [so to speak]).
Also, steer clear of cargo pants on the trail to avoid looking like a narc. It’s nature, man. Nobody needs on-duty cops out there. By the same token, cops don’t need to be on duty out there — everybody deserves a break from the hustle. For hiking, look for the best stretch tactical pants, like the Under Armour Storm.
- Tactical Pants – Wikipedia