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From fabric to function – why tactical pants are not all alike

Features to consider when choosing your perfect fit

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Being uncomfortable or not having the tools you need can make a tough job even tougher. Here’s why the right pants matter.

By FireRescue1 BrandFocus staff

Whether visible or covert, the right tactical pants are so much more than a place to put your keys and wallet. The features you choose can be highly personal and accommodate your need to stash sensitive items and make everyday carry items like knives and magazines readily accessible. There are other factors to consider as well, like comfort, care and durability.

Some manufacturers even offer unhemmed pants, so that their length can be custom-set by the wearer. Custom fitting may also be an option worth considering.

To select the right tactical pants, you need a trusted source like that offers well-known brands such as First Tactical, 5.11 Tactical, Elbeco, Propper, Tru-Spec, and Vertx. Many brands provide tactical pants that are designed for both men and women.

Here are a few top features to consider when choosing a pair – or three – of tactical pants.

Pockets, pockets, pockets

The big advantage of wearing tactical pants is that they have enough pockets to carry your gear. How many pockets you need is up to you. Ever wonder what that narrow pocket was for? Here’s a quick guide.

  • Cargo pockets can be utilized for bulky items.
  • Knife pockets can be long and narrow, often with a reinforced bottom to protect against cutting and excessive wear.
  • Magazine pockets provides easy access to additional ammunition.
  • Media pockets hold smartphones.
  • Slash pockets keep wallets secure and accessible.
  • Hidden pockets can store sensitive items like handcuff or cabinet keys.

For those in the 10 percent of people who are left-handed or ambidextrous, symmetrical pockets are for you.

Material matters

The material your tactical pants are made of affects their ability to resist rips (aka ‘”ripstop”), to stretch and to breathe. Here’s what you need to know about the most common types of fabric used in tactical pants.

  • Cotton: It is comfortable, breathable, and lightweight option, but vulnerable to rips, stains, fading and shrinking.
  • Nylon/cotton mix: A 50/50 nylon/cotton offers similar advantages to 100% cotton, while being more resistant to rips, staining, fading and shrinking. It can also be NIR-compliant, which means it is hard for others to see in near-infrared light. This is particularly important for stealth applications.
  • Poly/Cotton mix: This is typically a 65% polyester/35% cotton mix, which has the benefits of nylon/cotton but is lighter.
  • Poly Cotton Twill: The same as poly/cotton, but a heavier weave for more durability.
  • Teflon coated: A Teflon coating resists stains, soil and moisture while still being breathable and easy to clean.
  • Polyester/spandex mix: This blend combines stretch, durability and comfort.
  • FR (fire resistance) compliance: FR compliance means your pants have a degree of protection against fire hazards.

Knee Pads

Some tactical pants have knee-pad pockets for padded inserts. Knee pads are often essential for first responder work in difficult situations – like searching on hands and knees for a discarded piece of evidence or kneeling to help an accident victim. Being able to remove pads provides you with choice and the ability to replace old pads when they wear out.

Read more tips about what to look for in your perfect tactical pant.