I recently tested 5.11’s Apex tactical pants, a product best described as a fully deployable low-profile garment. I have to admit, this product is my nominee for most innovative clothing product for 2015. They are available in Black, Dark Navy, TDU green, Battle Brown, and Khaki.
It’s no secret that 5.11 Tactical solicits user input during the initial design phase. This differs from other manufacturers who show users their products at the launch phase. The Apex project began with requests from federal law enforcement officers for a discreet use garment for seamless uniform or “low vis” assignment. They created prototypes and sent them to end-users.
When I saw the original design, I noticed that the cargo pockets were flush against the outside of the pant. When loaded, the cargo pockets expanded inwards. I jokingly told their executive staff that I could stuff several 20 round mags in them and no one would know. Tom Davin, CEO of 5.11 Tactical was sitting across from me. His signature smile became deadpan. He told me, “That’s exactly how they were designed.”
A Complex Garment
The Apex pant uses 63 different pieces of fabric. This is not only to accommodate the discreet carry options it offers, some panels keep the fabric close to the body, but allow expansion for freedom of movement. I found that the strategic stretch areas in the pant gave the user a slight tactical advantage.
For example, I compared the ability to draw from a kneeling position with a couple other brands. If you think about it, a non-stretch pant will cause the front of the garment to pull down and sometimes the rear of the garment will ride a bit higher. As the shooter moves, a product with less “give” may cost the shooter a microsecond when acquiring the master grip.
The tremendous mobility comes from athletic stretch panels. The latter part of the garment is made of Flex-Tac Canvas. This is like the original Flex-Tac Ripstop on the 5.11 Stryke pant, with a canvas-like finish. It rivals real canvas when it comes to abrasion and tear resistance.
It first tried my Apex pants for a business meeting. On the way, I hit the drive thru. I promptly spilled a medium-sized coffee down my front. My shirt didn’t survive. The Apex pant wiped off easily. Throughout the test I demonstrated my natural ability that got me into product testing in the first place. I have a reputation for destroying things.
I will not comment on a wearable product until I have sent it through the washing machine a few times. We have one of those high-tech machines that makes alarming noises and dispenses things like soap, bleach and warnings automatically and with extreme prejudice. The Apex pant visited the washing gadget a half dozen times before I reviewed it.
The flex Tac Canvas has some lateral and horizontal “give” to it. The front pockets use the stretch athletic fabric. The pockets are excellent at supporting, but concealing off-duty tools. The pocket profile was good for clipping industrial-sized knives. They also added to the flow through of the air from cuffs to waist.
Any tactical pant designer can create a product that is durable. 5.11 made this one industry specific. You already heard about its ability to carry magazines. Even the back pockets have a separate sub pocket for this purpose. I know it sounds simple, but securing objects like magazines in the back pockets of conventional pants means that the user ends up with sharp edges in the rear when they sit down. This product positions the magazines, cell phones, metal detectors, and yes, even an iPhone 6 Plus.
I like the flexible handcuffs channel on the inside of the waistband. Not only does this place the product discreetly, it prevents them from being used by unauthorized hands.
What’s the benefit of all of 5.11’s research? This garment is amazingly quiet. I hardly use superlatives when I do product reviews. This is definitely one of the most technologically advanced garments in the industry today.