Whether you’re going hunting or camping, paintballing, training for combat, getting to work on that project you’ve been putting off or are just in for a rough-and-tumble kind of day, a great pair of tactical pants will help you make sure you’re prepared and ready to handle whatever comes your way.
Like all pants, tactical pants come in all shapes and sizes with all kinds of bells and whistles, depending on your needs. For the most part though, the best tactical pants are designed with the same concerns in mind:
- Durability: The best tactical pants are basically fantastic work pants. They’re meant to survive knicks, rips and grazes and keep your legs safe while you go about your task. If you’re just heading to the range for the afternoon, there are durable tactical pants at a reasonable price point for you. But if you expect to be out hunting all morning and day, there will be more durable, likely more expensive, tactical pants for you.
- Cargo: One key feature to distinguish most tactical pants from good ol’ work pants is the inclusion of additional pockets and loops. Taking a page from military designs, which recognize how much gear a soldier must carry, most tactical pants imagine you’ve got a lot of things to carry too, such as a flashlight, a knife, a gun, ammo magazines, medical supplies, tools and really anything you might need to have on your person to get a job done.
- Weather: Some tactical pants are meant for cold weather, some are meant for colder weather, rainy weather, dry weather, etc . . . That could mean heavier material, waterproof material or material and design to prevent chafing, etc . . . So whatever you expect to face outdoors, there’ll be some great tactical pants out there.
- Comfort and performance: Elastic bands, big belt loops, gusseted crotches, reinforced knees and comfortable-yet-durable materials are all hallmarks of great tactical pants. The end goal is simple: a pair of pants that you won’t notice when wearing them that still allows you to perform your task without any discomfort.
Now that we’ve got you thinking about what you personally need out of your tactical pants, check out some of our picks for the best tactical pants below.
1. CQR Men’s Tactical Pants
For just an overall great pair of tactical pants, the CQR Men’s Tactical Pants will deliver. Drawing from military and law enforcement designs, these pants were meant to help you do work and carry what you need to do it.
You can count on the ripstop fabric to resist knicks and tears, and the fabric, which CQR calls Duratex, is also water- and dirt-repellent.
But it’s really the eight cargo pockets that make these pants great for tactical use, including specialized pockets like one designed specifically to hold an extra magazine.
2. 5.11 Tactical Men’s Taclite Pro Lightweight Performance Pants
For another pair contending for the best tactical pants, we think you should check out the 5.11 Tactical Men’s Taclite Pro Lightweight Performance Pants. They just check a lot of boxes for any half-decent tactical pants.
For one, the pants are made from a triple-stitched lightweight polyester-cotton ripstop fabric and they feature a fully gusseted crotch to make uncomfortable stretching, like when you’re squatting, a thing of the past.
The pants also use a Teflon finish for resistance to dirt and stains, which is always a plus when you’re planning on putting your pants to work.
But of course, the pants would be useless without a bevy of pockets, including a knife pocket, a magazine pocket and two cargo pockets, in addition to the traditional four pockets. There’s even a webbed strap on the right side of the waist for easy clipping and hanging.
Add in YKK zippers, a couple of Cordura-reinforced pockets, big heavy-duty belt loops and a flexible waist and you’ve got a recipe for some of the best tactical pants.
3. Helikon-Tex Men Urban Tactical Pants
For another overall great pair of tactical pants, you can turn to the Helikon-Tex Men Urban Tactical Pants. These pants boast a polyester-cotton-spandex ripstop fabric, YKK zippers, an elastic waistband and more, including internal pockets in the knees for knee pads. Now factor in the total 12 pockets and all their functions and you can start to see why we love these pants. There’s really a pocket or two or a clip of some kind for everything: two front Velcro pockets for magazines or cell phones, two zippered cargo pockets, hip pockets with reinforced edges for knife clips, two wide back pockets and two loops on the waist for carabiners or other rings and attachable items.
The only downsides we found had to do with long-term durability and less-than-stellar stitching, but reviewers praised the layout of pockets, which is really what you’re likely to need in the best tactical pants. Overall, as long as you’re not putting these pants to work every day, you should get plenty of use out of them.
4. Carhartt Men’s Ripstop Cargo Work Pant
BEST FOR LIGHT WORK
Carhartt doesn’t brand its Ripstop Cargo Work Pants as tactical pants, but we’d bet these pants will more than suffice for those days when you don’t need as much gear.
First, a 9.25-ounce cotton ripstop fabric stops rips and tears in their tracks, but Carhartt added in double-front construction and Cordura-lined back and front-ledge pockets for extra durability. The pants also feature two large cargo pockets, a utility loop and additional utility pockets, so you’ll still have decent storage, if not enough to hold the kitchen sink.
For one last feature to note, Carhartt added a gusseted crotch, which can be essential if you except to be crouching, squatting, crawling or any other maneuver that might test the fabric.
Overall, they’re not technically tactical pants, but they’re probably close enough for most guys for most situations and so we recommend them unreservedly.
5. M-Tac Winter Tactical Pants
BEST FOR COLDER WEATHER
If you’re expecting to face colder or even damper weather, the M-Tac Winter Tactical Pants might just be the tactical pants you need.
What really makes these tactical pants great is the inclusion of fleece lining. So while the outer layer helps break and block the wind and keep some water out, the inner layer keeps you cozy courtesy of the fleece.
Alas, these pants don’t have a ton of pockets outside their zipper-lockable cargo pockets, but they at least offer plenty of stretch and thick belt loops so you always attach things to your belt.
One other downside to note is the lack of fleece in the main front two pockets. While M-Tac probably had its reasons, presumably so you could reach in with gloves, we think it’s a silly choice when you’re making winter-suitable pants.
Downsides aside, these M-Tac Winter Tactical Pants have plenty going for them and at a pretty reasonable price point too.
6. IDOGEAR G3 Combat Pants
BEST MILITARY STYLE
For a military-style tactical pant that’s actually praised by former service members, the IDOGEAR G3 Combat Pants will be the pants for you.
They’re made of a cotton-polyester ripstop fabric designed to stretch and move with you, especially around the knees and gusseted crotch. IDOGEAR also added a Teflon coating for extra resistance to dirt, water and stains and included knee pads, which can be removed in favor of built-in knee flaps.
In another cool feature, IDOGEAR made the waist size, knee pad heights and ankle cuff lengths adjustable through Velcro, so you can make some small adjustments for maximum comfort and utility.
Lastly, you can count on the 10 different size pockets to accommodate whatever gear you need on hand, including rear zip pockets, big front thigh pockets and a number of smaller pockets than run down the leg.
The only problem we identified with reviewers has to do with sizing. In short, these pants can run pretty small, so consider sizing up one or two sizes.
But that complaint aside, users raved about the high quality and functionality of these IDOGEAR tactical pants.