Editor’s Note: This is part one of a series on “crossover” wear, clothing that can be worn in the wilderness, at home, at work or even on social occasions. Typically crossover pants (such as 5.11 Tactical’s Apex series featured in this article) are better tailored and more expensive than run of the mill tactical clothing. The Apex line, along with other manufacturers of crossover wear I’ve reviewed, have become a favorite of everyone from hikers to secret service personnel.
The town of Modesto, California is probably best known as the epicenter of Gallo Wine and the birthplace of Star Wars producer George Lucas. Olympian swimmer, Mark Spitz and yours truly, Rob Kay, are also products of Modesto. Nowadays it’s also the corporate headquarters of 5.11 Tactical, one of the biggest names in the tactical wear industry.
The company makes shirts, pants, gloves, boots, holsters, knives, slings and packs for law enforcement, military and civilian customers. Founded in 1968 by a mountain climber by the name of Royal Robbins, he named the company “5.11” after the highest rock climbing difficulty level listed on Yosemite National Park’s Yosemite Decimal System, a metric developed by Robbins in the 1950s.
The company prides itself in producing nicely tailored, sturdy clothing that doesn’t necessarily look overtly “tactical”. What I like about Apex is that it takes covert to higher standard. It’s a pant where you could feel comfortable dining in a nice restaurant or at your boss’ cocktail party.
5.11 Tactical calls this the “next-gen cargo pant”. It’s not overtly martial or military-like so you don’t feel as if you’re dressed in a kind of government issued fatigue with 20 pockets bulging out everywhere.
In other words, it transcends “tacticool” (which is what you don’t want to be).
The Apex is designed with the robustness of true tactical wear that can be worn by an undercover cop, a trekker enroute to the summit of Mt. Shasta or an ordinary Joe on a shopping expedition to the mall. As a travel writer, these pants are perfect to for the airplane where I can make use of its numerous pockets to stash my passport, car keys, cell phone, wallet, or what have you.
Design to be tough but civilized
It’s obvious a lot of thought went into the design and construction of the pants. The fabric, called “mechanical stretch canvas”, offers a really comfortable wear, durability, mobility and is Teflon-treated to repel stains. It has seven sturdy but not overly wide, belt loops (that don’t scream “tactical”), gusseted construction, and articulated knees.
Note that it also has a flexible waistband that offers an extra inch or so (for the CCW fans) or Turkey Day dinner.
The pant is available in seven colors including Black, TDU Green, Dark Navy, Battle Brown, Tundra, Khaki and Storm (think light grey).
Although it’s not readily obvious (thank goodness) there are 15 usable pockets on the Apex. This includes eight visible pockets, including the rear pockets which are a sort of two-for-one arrangement. The rear entails a back pocket, and within that is a nearly half-sized pouch which allows you to tuck in a couple of semi-auto magazines or an AR mag.
In addition to the magazine carrying capability of the rear pockets, within each of the two side cargo pockets, are two (count ‘em) more AR sized pouch pockets along the leg. And don’t forget the utility of the full sized cargo pocket itself which is neatly sealed with a YKK zipper.
The Apex also has a couple of cool little covert pockets. There’s one inside the waist band, for flex cuffs, and a second tiny one the rear waist band area. To put the icing on the hem, there’s also a small pocket on the inside of the left leg cuff – possibly for a key or maybe a cyanide pill.
In addition to the long pants, 5.11 makes an Apex version of shorts, with the same pocket configuration and stretchy waist band. Like the long pants it has zip up cargo pockets with a flap that covers the zipper for a really clean look.
There’s nothing not to like about these pants.
If you are so inclined you can carry an extra magazine along with your Sig, a mobile phone and your wallet comfortably without looking like you’re busting out all over. The Apex pants aren’t inexpensive, but they are certainly reasonably priced compared to the competition. (One aspect for sure that keeps the price down is that they are manufactured overseas, whereas Kitanica and some of the really high end crossovers which cost a great deal more, are made in the USA).
MSRP is $80 but I’ve seen them on Amazon advertised for as little as $65. This puts them on the low end of the crossover continuum. I guess you could call them the working man’s crossover.
Whether you carry a Glock or just a pocket knife you’ll dig these pants.