When 5.11 Tactical approached me about doing a review of some of their products, I was pretty fired up. I’ve always loved their bags and packs and couldn’t wait to get my hands on their offerings. So, I was pretty let down when I learned I was actually going to be reviewing their “Taclite Pro Vest” and their “Taclite Pro Pant.”
I mean, these are clothing items made for cops, military personnel, and other serious types. What in the hell was a hipster like me going to do or have to say about actual tactical goods? Especially a friggin’ vest!? I pressed on. Hunter Thompson wore a vest on assignment, why couldn’t I?
My first opportunity to wear the vest came a couple of weeks ago. I was headed to shoot a hot rod event that called for both film and digital photography. Armed with my Leica M8, M3, and a host of lenses, I headed out with my brand spanking new 5.11 vest and a hint of bashfulness. Admittedly, the vest didn’t make me look like some weekend warrior hell bent on my own brand of justice. In fact, it’s kind of subtle. I felt like I blended in pretty well with the other photographers on hand.
Disregarding my style concerns, there is no doubt that this vest is made with quality. It’s 65% polyester and 35% ripstop. In layman’s terms, that means its’ pretty damned breathable and is literally rip proof. Add that to the fact that the stitching is doubled up just about everywhere and all of the hardware (zips, buttons, etc…) is high-end stuff and it’s hard to argue the value here. The Pro Vest retails for just south of $80, but feels more like something in the $150 range. It’s that nicely made.
Even better, this thing is convenient. Typically, I wear a camera bag over my shoulders when I shoot. With this vest on, it wasn’t necessary. I count 17 pockets and I’m pretty sure I put everyone of them to use. Pockets typically used for some cop’s ammo clips became perfect for extra film. Another pocket was great for my backup point and shoot. Yet another was ideal for extra memory cards. I could go on… You get the point. There are lots of pockets and they are excellently and mindfully laid out. Hunter would be proud.
More so, there is also a D-Ring on the left chest as well as a small clip/carabiner type thing on the right chest. Both are handy for hanging things like key rings and sunglasses. I wasn’t convinced I would use them at all initially, but by the end of the day I was all over them.
Your aren’t gonnna catch me wearing a vest to the mall anytime soon, but damn fellas – I am converted on the issue if their usability when on a “mission.” And it’s hard to wrong with 5.11’s offering. More here.
The Taclite Pro Pant features the same make up, materials, and quality as the vest. Obviously, I was much more confident about pulling these off. While these too are designed to be used by some guy that kicks ass for a living, they are much more usable on a daily basis simply because, well… a guy has to wear pants, right?
I’ve worn mine quite a bit over the past couple of months on occasions when I’m not too worried about looking like the style maven that I obviously am. They were most handy when we were doing our office remodel this summer. The traditional cargo pockets were great for holding things like screws and hardware, while the smaller velcro secured pocket on the left leg was seemingly designed to hold my iPhone 3. The small pocket on the right leg was also great for holding a multi-tool.
Of course, these are features that you can kind of/sort of find on cargo pants bought at a store like Old Navy. It’s the details that make the difference. The Pro Pant has a utility strap on the back/right side and it’s perfect for securing a hammer or even for temporarily stuffing a cordless drill to free a hand. The waist line is also pretty unique. It flexes with your body creating comfort, but isn’t so “forgiving” to allow the pants to slip off my skinny ass. More here.
Enough of the words, here are the shots:
So, conclusions… What do I think as a normal guy with a short wardrobe of tactical wear? As expected from 5.11, the quality and value is over the top. Wearability, specifically the vest, is a bit of stretch though for fellas like me. The vest is usable as can be when faced with the appropriate task (like shooting people with a gun… or a camera… whatever the case may be), but there is no way in hell I’m going to wear this thing every day.
The pants are pretty damned golden. A fella can wear these regularly and not look like a bozo doing so. They are comfortable, fit well, and work as they should. I’m sold.