Gear Up: How To Choose the Best Tactical Pants

best tactical pants

Here at The Bug Out Bag Guide, we asked our readers what areas of survival preparedness they were most interested in learning more about and overwhelmingly the answer was tactical clothing for bug-out and get-home scenarios. To provide you with the most complete and comprehensive resource on tactical survival clothing, we’re writing a series of articles starting with this one on the best tactical pants to pack for your survival plans.

Believe it or not, the clothing you choose for your bug-out or get-home bag can have a substantial impact on your chances for survival. The right clothing can improve your performance, especially in harsh conditions, and provide an advantage that can greatly improve your odds for survival.

The whole point of having a bug-out or get-home bag prepared and ready to go is that you never know when you will need it. What if you find yourself bugging-out in a suit and tie, or in the middle of the night? Trekking through dangerous wilderness or navigating panic-stricken streets would be next to impossible without the right tactical gear to protect you from the elements.

In this article, you will learn the various advantages that tactical pants have over average streetwear and how to choose the best tactical pants for your situation, along with our top picks.

Tactical Pants For MenFeaturesIdeal ForRipstopWater ResistantWaist
5.11 Tactical #74273 Men's TacLite Pro Pant
Breathable fabric is teflon treated for spill resistance
D-ring for quick access to keys or tools
Bartacking protects high stress areas from tearing
Hot, humid climatesYesYesAction waistband
TRU-SPEC Men's Lightweight 24-7 Pant
Reinforced knee with built-in knee pad pocket
Magazine compartments in cargo pockets for extra ammo
An economical choice that performs well
Moderate to hot weather
Concealed carry
YesYesAdjustable
Propper Men's Lightweight Tactical Pant
Ripstop material is strong but flexible to allow for movement
Belt loops are positioned to allow for side holsters
Nine pockets for storing gear
Includes matching belt
Hot, humid climatesYesYesAdjustable
Blackhawk Men's Lightweight Tactical Pant
Elastic webbing in cargo pockets holds flashlights, knives, magazines upright for quick access
Silicon shirt keeper waist band keeps shirt tucked in while on the move
Added protection from double layering in seat and knees
Warmer climates
Concealed carry
YesYesAdjustable
Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Convertible Pant
Zip-off legs to quickly convert to shorts
Lightweight fabric with Omni-Wick evaporation to keep you dry
Zippered cargo pocket secures your gear
Hot, humid climatesYesNoAdjustable
5.11 Tactical #74290 Covert Cargo Pants
Low profile design for a more inconspicuous look
Comfortable peached cotton canvas moves silently
Double deep hip pockets with secondary storage for pistol magazines or gear
Cooler climates
Gray man
NoNoSelf-adjusting
Blackhawk Men's I.T.S. HPFU Pants
Athletic cut for increased mobility
Knee patches protect against abrasion
Blousing ties on ankles to fit snuggly inside boots
Tournequets integrated into thighs for emergency first aid
Cooler climates
Combat
NoYesAdjustable
Under Armour Men's UA Storm Tactical Duty Pants
30+ UPF rating for protection from harmful UV rays
Large dual cargo pockets provide plenty of room for gear
Quick drying, breathable, and anti-microbe lining prevents odor and moisture build up
Hidden document pocket for personal ID
All weather, including snowYesYesAdjustable
Vertx Men's Original Tactical Pants
Zippered cargo pockets offer a low profile appearance
Articulated knee design prevents riding up when seated or crouching
Cotton/lycra stretch fabric provides a comfortable fit
Warm to cold climates
Gray Man
NoYesSide stretch
Click the images to view size and color options on Amazon.
Tactical Pants For WomenFeaturesIdeal ForRipstopWater ResistantWaist
5.11 Tactical Women's TacLite Pro Pant
Breathable fabric is teflon treated for spill resistance
D-ring for quick access to keys or tools
Bartacking protects high stress areas from tearing
Hot, humid climatesYesYesAction waistband
TRU-SPEC Women's Lightweight 24-7 Pant
Reinforced knee with built-in knee pad pocket
Magazine compartments in cargo pockets for extra ammo
An economical choice that performs well
Moderate to hot weather
Concealed carry
YesYesAdjustable
Propper Women's Tactical Pant
Durable canvas fabric is Teflon treated to repel liquids
Belt loops are positioned to allow for side holsters
Nine pockets for storing gear
Includes matching belt
Cooler climatesYesYesAction stretch
Blackhawk Women's Lightweight Tactical Pant
Elastic webbing in cargo pockets holds flashlights, knives, magazines upright for quick access
Added protection from double layering in seat and knees
Warmer climates
Concealed carry
YesYesAdjustable
Columbia Women's Silver Ridge Convertible Pant
Roll up legs to quickly convert to shorts
Lightweight fabric with Omni-Wick evaporation to keep you dry
Zippered cargo pocket secures your gear
Hot, humid climatesYesNoAdjustable
Vertx Women's Original Tactical Pants
Zippered cargo pockets offer a low profile appearance
Articulated knee design prevents riding up when seated or crouching
Cotton/lycra stretch fabric provides a comfortable fit
Warm to cold climates
Concealed carry
NoYesSide stretch
Under Armour Women's UA Tactical Patrol Pant
Ripstop polyester blend with wicking action keeps you dry
Comfortable low waist has hidden elastic to stay put even when pockets are loaded
May run small, consider ordering a size up
Warm to cold climatesYesYesSide stretch
Click the images to view color and size options on Amazon.

All About Tactical Pants – Why You Need Them, What To Look For

Tactical pants, or tactical trousers, were originally developed as practical work attire for woodsmen and were quickly adopted by both military and police forces as the clothing proved very useful in combat situations.

Tactical pants offer many advantages over jeans or typical street clothes including a better fit and easier movement. Well-made tactical pants will have plenty of easily-accessible storage areas, be made of high-performance fabric, and have reinforced seams.

Additionally, you can find some tactical pants that offer pockets for inserting knee pads as well as ankle drawstrings for cinching into your boots to keep out dust, water and insects.

best tactical pants
Tapered or cinched ankles make it easier to tuck into socks and boots for warmth or protection against insects.

For our pick of the best tactical pant with reinforced knee and built-in knee pocket pad, check out TRU-SPEC Men’s Lightweight 24-7 Pant, or Blackhawk Men’s I.T.S. HPFU Pants for excellent blousing ankle ties that fit snuggly inside boots.

The ‘must-have’ features for ideal tactical pants varies by person and situation and are highly dependent on the climate in which they will be used and your particular survival plan. No matter your individual needs, there are several areas in which you will need your tactical pants to perform: weather resistance and protection; durability; ease of movement; and strategic cargo storage and accessibility (layout of the pants).

Weather Resistance and Protection

For many people, protection from water or harsh storms is a major priority in choosing tactical pants; how your pants will perform in wet conditions is highly dependent on the type of fabric they are made from, how that fabric is treated, and how the seams come together.

For most scenarios, water resistance will suffice, but for more treacherous survival plans, consider fabric treated with Teflon, which seals out water and causes it to bead and roll off; however, Teflon does not necessarily provide protection against complete submersion. If your survival plan takes you through a body of water, your best bet is to choose a quick-drying material that won’t weigh you down. For our top Teflon choice, check out the Men’s TacLite Pro Pant.

When choosing the best tactical pants for your survival plan, keep in mind the types of activities you are most likely to be performing. Lightweight tactical pants are excellent for providing protection from scraping your skin while scrambling over rocks or through thorny bushes; they also act as a great defense against mosquitoes and ticks.

best tactical pants
Rugged terrain calls for durable clothing to protect against injuries.

For an excellent convertible tactical pant (zip-off legs quickly convert to shorts), check out Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant. In terms of temperature control, those in high-temperature climates may be tempted to reach for a lighter-fabric tactical pant, but remember that even in warm areas, nights can reach uncomfortable levels of cold. For those in dual-temperature climates, layering may be the best option.

UnderArmour Men’s UA Storm Tactical Duty Pants offer protection from harmful UV rays as well as ample storage, quick-drying and breathable material, and hidden pockets for IDs and documents. For strictly colder climates, a heavier fabric, such as Gortex (less breathable but very insulating), is your best choice. Consider layering thermals underneath or wearing slim, tactical snow pants that will allow you sufficient movement.

Durability

There are a variety of options to choose from when selecting the most durable material for tactical pants, including cotton, canvas and synthetic fabrics.

Cotton is a great choice as it is comfortable and durable; however, it also retains moisture and is generally heavier than other options. There are cotton blends available that offer wicking and therefore decrease weight. Additionally, cotton materials take to weatherproofing through silicone treatments better than purely synthetic materials. To learn more about weatherproofing your bug-out gear, CLICK HERE.

If you foresee your gear getting a lot of wear, canvas is an excellent choice (canvas is the same material used for sails and firehoses, so it can withstand substantial wear). However, it is a heavier fabric and offers little in the way of freedom of movement.

Synthetic fabric, such as lycra or spandex, is typically lightweight, provides for excellent flexibility, and most blends wick moisture well.

Ease of Movement

To allow for more movement, look for flexible fabric with some stretch to it as well as features such as pleats and gusseting in the knees. For a strong tactical pant that also allows for flexible movement, check out Propper Men’s Lightweight Tactical Pant.

best tactical pants
Street clothes can restrict motion and slow you down on your path to survival.

Strategic Cargo Storage and Accessibility

As any well-prepared survivalist knows, there are certain items that must be accessible quickly in a survival scenario such as a self-defense weapon, flashlight, knife, and multitool. To ensure the best access to your most-needed tools, look for tactical pants that have deep pockets and velcro or zipper closures.

survival weapons

Some will have inlaid pockets while others external cargo pockets; what’s most important is that there is room for all your most important gear and that it will be accessible on demand. Squared off pockets function well for clipping a knife, flashlight or pen; elastic webbing is great for holding gear in place; and sectioned off pockets will keep your gear nicely organized.

For our pick of the best tactical pants for elastic webbing cargo capacity, check out Blackhawk Men’s Lightweight Tactical Pant, as well as Vertex Men’s Original Tactical Pants for zippered cargo pockets that also offer a low profile appearance.

Additional Considerations for the Best Tactical Pants

When deciding on the best tactical pants for your survival plans, three additional areas warrant consideration: durability; portability (weight/storing); and color (Gray Man friendly vs. camo).

Longevity

The durability of your tactical pants is an especially important consideration when preparing for an INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) scenario. This particular scenario may require investment in higher quality tactical pants that are built to withstand longer wear. Conversely, when prepping for your get-home bag, tactical pants that will simply see you through the night are sufficient.

Portability

It is important to think about how portable your tactical pants are in terms of both their weight and storage capabilities. If your tactical pants will be stored in your car, weight and bulk are less of a factor, but in terms of your bug-out bag, a lightweight and compactable fabric is most desirable.

Color

Generally, your choices will be between regular-colored clothing and camo. Each has its own advantages depending on the locale and situation in which they will be used.

If your survival plan requires navigating a populated area, digital camo is not the most ideal choice. The reasoning follows the Gray Man principle: in a disaster scenario, the last thing you want to do is stand out as the prepared person amongst throngs of unprepared and chaotic citizens; by carrying gear that doesn’t look like survival gear, you will camouflage the fact that you are equipped and greatly increase your chances of survival.

best tactical pants
Sometimes blending into the crowd is your best bet to get out safely.

For an inconspicuous look, check out 5.11 Tactical #74290 Covert Cargo Pants.

Conversely, a wilderness survival situation would benefit from camouflage patterns or subtle earth tones as you would be able to blend in with natural surroundings.

best tactical pants
In other situations, blending in to the landscape is extremely beneficial.

Conclusion

When choosing the best tactical pants, the most important consideration is how well the pants will function in relation to your survival plan. Always remember to keep in mind the various elements you will face and the protection your pants can provide (water resistant, heat resistant, etc.), how much and what type of activities they can withstand, how easy it is to maneuver in them, and how much easily-accessible storage space they offer.

Additional considerations include the storability of the pants (how easy are they to pack/carry), whether a Gray Man or camo look is preferred, and how long will you need the pants to perform for. If you follow these tips you’ll be sure to find the best tactical pants for your specific survival needs.

Your Thoughts

Do you own a pair of awesome tactical pants that we should have included? What are their best features? Are you interested in more articles about tactical clothing? Tell us in the Comments section below, thanks!

6 comments on “Gear Up: How To Choose the Best Tactical Pants

  1. I have a pair of 5.11 Covert Cargo Pants and I can attest to them being great tactical pants that can handle a lot of EDC/GHS gear and take a beating of it day after day. I would also recommend the Fire Hose pants series from Duluth Trading. http://www.duluthtrading.com/store/mens/workwear/fire-hose/work-clothes/fh-pants.aspx pricey, but worth every penny. I have the Fire Hose Work Pants and they hold up just as well as my 5.11’s and they actually lasted longer than my 5.11’s before showing any wear and tear.

  2. At long last somebody has assembled and published this story!

    In the 18+ months since I started paying attention to the concept of preparedness, I have read over and over what NOT to wear (especially blue jeans or other cotton-content fabrics) because you can freeze to death in winter because they hold so much water for so long. Fair enough…but when I posted comments/ requests for recommendations about specifically what TO wear, they went unanswered.

    Thank you very much. Looking forward to scrutinizing this article and gleaning suggestions and ideas that I can employ for my own use and for my family.

  3. I have one requirement for all my gear. It will not be made in China. I prefer US made gear, but since that’s difficult now a days, that is not absolute. I have yet to find much that is made in China that’s even worth the shipping charges, let alone the product. Older US military surplus (when military gear was required to be US made (unlike obummers military today) has always served me well. I don’t fall for the “military spec” crap, it’s usually not. Yes, I know US is more expensive, but ‘you get what you pay for, and I will always pay more because it’s worth it.

    1. Hey Marty,
      Thanks for sharing your opinion and experience with buying gear. Made in USA is always better if you can find what you need, I agree.

      Thanks,
      Chris

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