Tactical pants are designed as heavy-duty everyday wear for many professions, including EMTs, FBI and SWAT agents, law enforcement and military officers, and firefighters. They are made to withstand tough environmental conditions and protect the wearer from harmful materials that come their way.
Most tactical pants are manufactured with lightweight materials, such as polyester and poly-cotton ripstop. There are many features and types to choose from, so our list of the Top Ten Tactical Pants is designed to help you narrow things down. Also, read on to our Buyer’s Guide and Frequently Asked Questions sections to learn all you need to know to select the right tactical pant for you.
1. Free Soldier Cargo Pants
The Free Soldier Tactical Pant is made with 50-percent cotton and 50-percent nylon rip-stop fabric. These pants are waterproof and oil-resistant. They also boast double-reinforced fabrics with 3D tailoring in the seat and knee regions, making them great for outdoor work, leisure, hunting, military, and much more.
These pants are MOLLE compatible and allow you to hang tools from the left leg. They feature more than eleven multi-purpose pockets with Velcro, which make them perfect for carrying a variety of items, including a notepad, iPad, wallet, cell phone, and gloves.
2. Tru-Spec 24-7
These poly-cotton tactical pants from Tru-Spec are designed for heavy-duty, 24/7 use. They boast reinforced knees with openings that allow you to insert kneepads if you desire. Each cargo pocket in these pants contains two internal magazine compartments, an external cell phone pocket, and two knife or accessory pockets.
The Tru-Spec 24/7 Tactical Pant comes with a self-adjusting slider waistband without visible elastic gathers on the outside. They feature Teflon coating for stain resistance and durability, as well as a unique pocket design that looks flat from the front but expands to provide extra storage for your gear.
3. 5.11 Stryke
The Tactical Stryke Pant from 5.11 is engineered from 65% polyester and 35% cotton. This material is 5.11’s patented two-way mechanical stretch ripstop fabric. They are lightweight and durable enough to hold up to plenty of running, kneeling, crawling, and hustling around to meet your work demands, whatever they may be.
These tactical pants are treated with Teflon to protect against spills, stains, and soil. They also offer a variety of comfort features, including a self-adjusting tunnel waistband, a fully gusseted crotch, and articulated knees. Finally, these tactical pants include 12 double-deep cargo pockets with YKK zippers and Prym snaps.
4. Propper Revtac
These Revtac pants from Propper weigh just 6.5 ounces when dry and are engineered with a 65% polyester, 35% cotton ripstop blend. They offer a classic fit for comfort on mountain trails, in desert landscapes, and everywhere in between.
Ambidextrous pockets with internal dividers give you plenty of storage that can be easily accessed at a moment’s notice. They also offer a silicone gripper waistband, gusseted crotch, eyelet snaps, two knife pockets, and slim-profile welt pockets on the rear.
5. Columbia Silver Ridge
The Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants are 100% nylon and boast Columbia’s patented Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection. They also offer Omni-Wick technology that pulls moisture away from your body to keep you cool and dry, making them perfect for long, active days in the sun.
These tactical pants come with a one-zip closure security pocket, side pockets with hook and loop closures, and mesh pocket bags for convenience and efficiency. Best of all, these tactical pants feature zip-off legs so they can become tactical shorts on hot days when you want more airflow.
6. Under Armour Medic Pant
With anti-odor technology that prevents the growth of odor-causing microbes, these tactical pants are great for hunters that want to keep their scent down on long, multi-day hunts. They’re made from 65% polyester and 35% cotton ripstop fabric, so they’re ultra-durable and ready for anything the field throws at you.
The Under Armour Medic tactical pants are finished with a durable water repellent (DWR) solution to repel water and remain breathable. They also feature a looser, fuller cut for added comfort. Beware, however, that these pants are likely to melt when exposed to extreme heat or open flames!
7. Vertx Phantom Ops
The Phantom OPS Tactical Pants from Vertx are another durable, poly-cotton (65/35) blend. They boast a mini rip-stop pattern weave that delivers added durability and effective resistance against rips and tears in a variety of environments.
These tactical pants come with articulated, double-reinforced knees to provide extra protection against excessive wear and tear. They also feature slim-line pockets at each hip and dual concealed zipper pockets that are included to enable discreet carry options.
8. Helikon-Tex Outdoor Pant
These outdoor, tactical pants from Helikon-Tex feature a unique, EU patented design engineered with 93% nylon, 7% spandex, and a DuPont Teflon (1) coating. They are lightweight, breathable, and moisture wicking to keep you comfortable on all-day treks and during other outdoor activities.
The Helikon-Tex Outdoor Tactical Pant guarantees comfort with four-way elastic fabric that gives you increased range of motion without putting too much stress on the seams. It also boasts the perfect, patented pocket arrangement for efficient carrying of all your essential tactical equipment.
9. Under Armour Storm Covert
The Under Armour Storm Covert Tactical Pants are manufactured with 100% polyester fabric and a loose, straight leg design to ensure complete comfort. UA Storm technology keeps these pants breathable while repelling water, making them great for hiking and trekking, no matter the weather.
These tactical pants offer a stretch-engineered waistband for superior mobility and offset belt loops that allow proper holster placement. They also feature open front and back hand pockets, as well as Under Armour’s patented anti-odor technology to prevent the growth of odor-causing microbes.
10. Jack Wolfskin Activate XT
The Activate XT tactical pants from Jack Wolfskin are softshell trousers designed specifically for hiking and trekking. They are breathable, versatile, stretchy, and resistant to wind and water. They make the perfect tactical pant for fast and light day hikes, backcountry trekking, or active everyday wear.
These tactical pants are 100% PFC-free (2) and offer Wolfskin’s Flex Shield two-way stretch fabric, which ensures superior freedom of movement. They also feature two hand pockets, one leg pocket, and one back pocket, as well as an elastic waistband and adjustable ankles.
Many of the original tactical pants were actually worn by mountain climbers (3). Today, they are worn by a wide contingent of outdoor enthusiasts and they come in a variety of styles, including some that are reinforced with bar-tacks, gussets, and even Teflon.
Sorting through the many options at your fingertips can be a daunting task. To help you make the right decision for you, this Buyer’s Guide will focus on some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing tactical pants.
One of the factors to consider when comparing tactical pants is what they’re made from. The major differences between fabrics are weight and durability. Sure, some are more wrinkle-resistant than others, but having wrinkled pants in the field is probably the least of your concerns.
The tactical pants above are engineered from poly-cotton ripstop, poly-cotton canvas, and polyester, for the most part. When comparing these types, polyester will generally be the most lightweight but doesn’t always hold up to the elements when it’s not combined with a more durable material.
Between poly-cotton ripstop and poly-cotton canvas, the former tends to be lighter by about two ounces, on average. Both are durable, synthetic fabric blends that are resistant to fading, shrinking, wrinkling, and wind. Typically, poly-cotton canvas tends to dry quicker than poly-cotton ripstop.
The environment (or environments) where you’ll primarily be wearing your tactical pants is another important consideration. For example, many tactical pants are available in fabric types that are designed for specific climates.
Hotter climates tend to warrant lighter weight tactical pants that weigh in somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 ounces. They’ll breathe better, wick moisture better, and keep you cool and comfortable on the hottest of days.
Colder climates require thicker, heavier fabrics. Many original weight tactical pants are manufactured from 100% cotton or a thick poly-cotton blend. These pants tend to weigh between 8 and 8.5 ounces and will help you keep warm in when temperatures drop.
Your activity level will basically dictate how much stress and strain you put on a pair of tactical pants. There’s a large difference between pants that can handle light day hikes and those designed specifically for military field duty.
Generally, if you’re more active you’ll need tactical pants with an athletic construction. The best pants for this are made with some form of ripstop fabric, which offers a special weave that prevents tears. Some other features to look for include a gusseted crotch (diamond-gusset or elongated-gusset designs are best), bar tacks, specialized stitches, and reinforced areas. These features will guarantee freedom of movement while extending the lifetime of your pants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know that the British military is largely credited with the first iteration of the cargo pant in 1938? (4) If not, that’s alright! We’ve designed this Frequently Asked Questions section to make sure you have as much information as possible at your disposal when choosing your next pair of tactical pants.
Are cargo pants and tactical pants the same?
Although cargo pants and tactical pants are both designed with a loose, comfortable fit and lots of pockets, they are not the same. The most important difference is that most cargo pants are made from cotton (or a similar fabric) and tactical pants are made with more durable materials such as ripstop cotton and polyester.
What’s the difference between jeans and tactical pants?
There can be many differences between your favorite pair of jeans and a great pair of tactical pants. The major difference, however, is that jeans are not water-resistant in the slightest. Most jeans also restrict your movement more than tactical pants. Finally, many quality tactical pants offer extra padding in the knee and buttocks areas, which makes a large difference when you spend a lot of time with those areas in contact with the hard ground.
What size are the belt loops on most tactical pants?
While this can vary from brand to brand, most belt loops are between 1.75 and 2.5 inches wide, on average. They are designed to fit a large majority of duty belts, which are typically 1.5 inches wide.
Can you explain what ‘ripstop’ is?
Sure! Ripstop is a type of fabric weave that is widely regarded for its durability. Ripstop fabrics tend to be lightweight, and the checkerboard weave pattern helps to prevent tears and abrasions.
Is it possible to make tactical pants waterproof?
Unfortunately, tactical pants are inherently engineered using water-absorbing fabrics, so they can never be 100% waterproof. They can, however, be water-resistant. By applying a water-repellent coating, many manufacturers prevent the absorption of water on the surface of the pants, which keeps them relatively dry and comfortable as long as they aren’t fully submerged.
Are there different types of pockets in tactical pants?
Yes. There are generally two types of pockets in tactical pants. There are deep cargo pockets that are meant to carry tools and kits. Then, there are smaller pockets meant to carry items like hunting knives, flashlights, and cell phones.
Do I need to adjust for the elastic waistband in some tactical pants when choosing the size?
The short answer is no. The waist measurement of tactical pants does not account for the extra space available when the elastic is stretched all the way. The purpose of these expandable waistbands is to offer more flexibility for holster placement and firearm concealment.
Tactical pants offer the durability of jeans and the range of motion of athletic wear. They are the perfect lower-body garment for a wide variety of outdoor activities, and once you find out just how useful they are, you’ll never go back. We hope you’ve found the information in this article useful and we wish you the best of luck finding the tactical pants that fit your needs.