I have a problem.

Yep, I am a sucker for “tactical” pants.

But the thing is, I am super picky about what works and what doesn’t ... and I’ve been disappointed a lot.

Don’t try to fool me with crappy materials, boxy designs for lowest-common-denominator body styles and features for Fudds.

Give me a pant with new materials, a sophisticated, low-bulk fit and details that surprise me, and I’ll give you my cash.

Back a few years ago, 5.11 made a sharp pivot away from the boxy cut of “uniform”-like tactical apparel and started to incorporate fit and features found in companies making high-end outdoor gear and kit for those at the pointy end of the spear.

The Apex pant was just that — a tactical pant that was designed at the outset for a special operations unit to go “low viz” in dangerous battlefields. New materials, a more athletic fit and features like internally bellowed pockets (so mags wouldn’t print) — and even a hidden handcuff key pocket — pushed the envelope for 5.11 and others who followed.

Fortunately, there are now more to choose from in mid-2019, including the Capital, Bravo and Icon pants.

I’ll include the features of the pants below, but here are my thoughts on the Icon pants after two days of shooting (video and guns) at the Sig Sauer Academy.

Things I Liked

  • Slim Fit
  • Internal Mag Dividers
  • High-end Materials

I’m not sure if you’re with me on this, but I am sick and tired of pants with more fabric than I need. I want something with an athletic, articulated cut and no extra bulk. Thankfully, the Icon pants are slimmed down and tailored (but not Hipster cut).

The 80/20 Poly-Cotton Flex-Tac ripstop is nice and light and stretches with your kung fu moves.

Low-profile thigh pockets with magazine dividers? Yummm...
Low-profile thigh pockets with magazine dividers? Yummm...

Another thing — I’m constantly jamming sh*t into my pockets at the range. You’ll see from the video below that in the absence of a gun belt, I resorted to my Icon’s internal mag dividers for a bit of extra pew fuel. If I’d had to do some cool guy moves, those mags wouldn’t be bouncing around and spilling out all over the deck.

Lastly, the Icons use some cool new materials, including this 80/20 Poly-Cotton Flex Tac ripstop (I’m a sucker for the rip stop) and the stretch panels in the waist are low-drag enough to hide the fact that you may need them after a gluttonous wing-eating session.

Lots of nifty fabrics and stretchy stuff.
Lots of nifty fabrics and stretchy stuff.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Uncomfortable Waistband
  • Hot Fabric
  • Stiff Pocket Flaps

But that flexy waistband also poses some problems.

The stretch fabric feels nice against the skin, but the Flex Tac? Not so much. Maybe with some more washing it’ll get beat down a bit, but I wear t-shirts and don’t tuck in and that waistband was uber annoying during the day.

And Teflon’s cool and all. But it can make the damned pants freaking HOT. I was sweating bullets during the two days of shooting. I mean, when I see ripstop I think lightweight, breathable, summer, The 'Nam...

This could have been a picture of the inside of the pants with that Teflon coating.
This could have been a picture of the inside of the pants with that Teflon coating.

Not so the Icons. Sure, the Teflon coating makes them spill resistant, but heat and chafe? No thanks.

One last thing — and it’s a super quibble — but the flaps on the thigh pockets are way too stiff. Getting things in and out of the pockets took a lot of TLC, and in the end I want a thigh-pocket I don’t have to look at to push and pull gear.

How's that for a mag change from the...pocket...
How's that for a mag change from the...pocket...

Bottom Line

Tiny flaws aside, the Icons are going to stay in my selective stable of range and competition pants for a while. The Apexs are awesome, but lack that athletic cut the Icons give you, so those old pants’ll probably wind up in the backup drawer.

And, thanks to 5.11 for making duds that fit fit dudes for a change! But can you please make some shorts that are less than 11-inch inseams?!😉