I've been wearing a pair of 5.11 Tactical Defender Flex (DF) jeans for a little over a year now and since that time, these pants have multiplied in my closet, slowly pushing every other pair of pants out. In my opinion, the DFs are really that good â€“ allow me to explain.
At about the same time I began wearing my first pair of Defender Flex jeans, I accepted a new assignment that returned me to the field in a low-profile capacity. After wearing a uniform every day for the last nine years, I struggled to find pants that would work with all of the equipment that my new assignment required. I could put everything on a belt and hope an oversized would cover it all up and hope all that weight on my hips wouldn't aggravate my back. As I soon discovered, DF line of pants and jeans took care of all of those problems and provided a much cleaner appearance.
I recently talked with 5.11's Global Marketing Director Jan-William Driessen about this new line of pants, gave him my feedback and learned what went into their creation and why.
Driessen, a veteran of the War on Terror with several deployments under his belt as part of the Dutch Special Forces, has done everything from reconnaissance to surgical assistance. With his military background and as an avid cross fitter, he brought his European fashion sensibilities to 5.11 Tactical and was the one who spearheaded the direction of the DF pants away from the "dad cut" and more towards something a little more modern and athletic.
"It had to be something that I was proud of," Driessen told me. "We've always built a functional pant at a great value, but I knew we had to aggressively revamp the line with everything from textile choices to fit and to style. The consumer is very educated and not afraid to let us know what they think on social media, so we want them to know that we respect their input."
The DF pants and jeans are built from the ground up to help us in the everyday-carry (EDC) lifestyle by keeping all of our "tools" accessible. Both the tapered and straight leg cuts offer ample room in the rear and thigh without having the appearance of overly casually cut pants that you find at Costco or Walmart. It's an athletic and functional fit that even my wife appreciates. When I first wore them, she had no clue that these were tactical pants at all, and that is the point.
The pocket layout looks like any other 5-pocket pant with two in front and two in back and the ubiquitous coin pocket on the front right side, but these visible pockets have actually been very subtly redesigned and enlarged to allow the wearer to hold multiple items without printing or being the recipient of uncomfortable binding.
Waist size is true to fit. I wear a 33 waist, but I need a size 34 if I want to carry inside the waistband (IWB) comfortably. I also noted that in the straight cut, I needed a tad extra length on the inseam for the hem to fall where I wanted it.
The material found in both the pants and jeans are flexible and offer a mechanical stretch. The jeans are also bar-tacked in high-wear areas, so that they won't stretch out and tear like most jeans on the market. Both the pants and the jeans are soft to the touch, with a comfortable next-to-skin feel. There's no stiffness and I found the pants to wear great right off the rack.
All of the patterning and material research by the team at 5.11 paid off in spades, and the DF line has taken off, with several sizes sold out at the 5.11 Tactical store closest to my home.
After wearing the DF line for several months, I'm completely sold on them. The yoke pockets that sit above the standard rear pockets are fantastic and I routinely keep an extra pistol magazine and a Surefire EB1 Backup in one pocket and a pair of handcuffs in the other. They are held high enough to be easily accessible while seated or standing but not low enough to dig into my lower back while seated in a car for prolonged periods. I think 5.11 Tactical found the sweet spot.
After a foot pursuit involving a female college track prodigy turned prostitute, I really came to appreciate the flexible material and athletic cut of the jeans as I was able to accelerate and change direction quickly, with no binding at the thigh or crotch to slow me down. They've worn remarkably well, with only minor color fading and no fraying at the stitches. The only exception, is some slight, barely noticeable oil staining from a filthy bolt carrier group on the tan color pants. Other than that, they've resisted stains very well. I'm really hard pressed to find a valid criticism of the line. The straight leg version is really more of a boot cut, so it needs to be ordered a bit long, and the "washed" indigo color of the jeans is bit much for my taste, but that's subjective.
If you carry for a living or as an armed citizen, the 5.11 Defender Flex series warrants a hard look. With a combination value and performance specific to EDC, 5.11 Tactical has hit another home run.