The best tactical pants worth wearing

Leg-holders optimized for your next mission.

Best Overall

5.11 Taclite Pro Ripstop Pant

5.11 Taclite Pro

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Best Value

Wrangler Outdoor Zip Cargo Pant

Wrangler Outdoor Zip Cargo Pant

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Editor’s Choice

Vertx Cutback Technical Pant

Vertx Cutback Technical Pant

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Shopping for a pair of tactical pants can feel overwhelming because of the variety of brands and features available. With countless options, it’s hard to narrow your choice to the right pair. That’s why I put together this guide of the best tactical pants for 2022.

As a firearms instructor, I wear tactical pants designed for my needs like running, gunning, and teaching. When I buy a pair, I look for features I know I need based on my experience as well as those of other informed buyers like other instructors, shooters, hunters, and more.

Using that collective knowledge, I reviewed numerous options and examined things like materials, pockets, waterproofing, fitment, durability, and price to help you make the most informed decision you can before buying a pair of tactical pants.

Best Overall

5.11 Taclite Pro Ripstop Pant

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Best Value

Wrangler Outdoor Zip Cargo Pant

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Editor’s Choice

Vertx Cutback Technical Pant

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Best Tactical Cargo Pants for Women

Vertx Fusion Lt Stretch

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Best Covert Tactical Pants

prAna Stretch Zion II Pant

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Most Durable Tactical Pants

Duluth Trading Co. Fire Hose Relaxed Fit

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Why you should trust us

I have years of experience ruining tactical pants, from my early year’s backpacking as an Eagle Scout to patrolling battlefields in Afghanistan to teaching firearms courses through my business, Libertas Instruction. In that time, I’ve learned a thing or two about gear and developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve also built up a network of friends and colleagues who I rely on when I don’t know something. Their feedback helped me make sure all the right options were presented and the bad ones went unmentioned. 

Types of tactical pants

The variety of options available to those looking for tactical pants is nearly limitless. They have different qualities, material blends, technologies, pocket layouts, and utility features. These options can be overwhelming to end-users, and some things are more important for different jobs. 

Duty

These are the pants most folks think of when considering tactical pants. If it would look at home in a warzone or on a SWAT team, it is sure to come with lots of features, some more important than others. These are excellent when no subtlety is necessary, such as in the field, or on the range, and storage plus durability are most important. 

Covert

Simply put, there are times when advertising your toolset or abilities is less advantageous. These are the times you want your pants to look fairly normal and go unnoticed. This usually means fewer pockets, more average colors, and less storage space. Maximizing their usability while remaining subtle about intentions can give you an edge up in today’s world. 

Specialized

Some tactical pants don’t fit neatly into either of the above categories, such as EMS pants with specific pockets for things like trauma shears, or hiking pants, which minimize excess material while maximizing comfort and heat regulation. These pants tend to focus on one specific job and do it to perfection. 

Key features of tactical pants

Pockets

The pockets on a pair of tactical pants either have an intended purpose or a highly developed sense of purpose. They can be specifically designed for something like a cell phone, handcuff key, pocket knife, trauma shears, and other tools, or employ organizational compartments like flaps or slots. The pockets on tactical pants are what make them tactical or assign them a specialty. The main difference between tactical pockets and cargo pockets is function. 

Materials

With tactical pants, apparel makers use fabrics that strike the right balance of durability and mobility. Tactical pants need to be tough enough to endure everyday wear and activities like running, squatting, climbing, and jumping. 

While they’re available in a variety of fabrics, they typically come in a polyester or nylon and cotton blend that’s been treated to resist tear and water. The synthetic fabric holds up and retains shape better than cotton, but the cotton gives the fabric more breathability. However, you may prefer (or require) 100 percent cotton blends if you have an allergy or want something much more breathable. 

Mobility

The final key feature in tactical pants is mobility. Apparel makers increase the mobility in their pants using two key methods. First, they’ll employ a variety of design features like a gusseted crotch, which expands the area of the crotch, to make the pants naturally more mobile. Second, they will also add an elastic fabric like spandex into the fabric or mechanically stretch it to give it that elastic feel. 

Pricing considerations for tactical pants

For this article, we listed three different price ranges for tactical pants. They include:

Budget

For under $50, you can find something functional even though you’ll probably give up some qualities. Like the Wrangler Outdoor Zip, they’re a great inexpensive option even if the pockets aren’t the most useful.

Mid-range

Most tactical pants fall in the $50 to $100v range. Sure, tens of dollars more than a regular pair of pants, but you get so much more. 

Premium

At more than $100, you’re usually buying something highly specialized like fire retardant or 100 percent waterproof pants. 

FAQs on tactical pants

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. What pants do U.S. special operations forces wear?

A: This is a tough question to answer because there are special operator units in every branch of the military. In general, military special operators will wear their battle dress uniforms, some other issued uniform, or whatever their mission requires.  

Q. Are 5.11 pants good?

A: Yes. 5.11 Tactical is one of the most popular tactical apparel makers today. Overall, they make excellent pants and good-quality gear. Of course, you should always research gear items before you buy to make sure they’re adequate for your needs. 

Q. What are the best combat trousers?

A: The best combat trousers are the ones that fit your body and are equipped with the features and materials best suited for your needs. If you need a specific answer, scroll up to the top of this list. 

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Joel Mason did six years in the Iowa Army National Guard as an infantryman, with one tour in Afghanistan. Now he does firearms courses through his business, Libertas Instruction, as a USCCA Certified Instructor.

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Joel Mason

Contributing Writer

Joel Mason did six years in the Iowa Army National Guard as an infantryman with one tour in Afghanistan. Now he teaches firearms courses through his business, Libertas Instruction, as a USCCA Certified Instructor.