Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in our ongoing “Christmas” buyer’s guide. While the items we’re highlighting are not exactly stocking stuffers, we’re only featuring products in the $150 range or less that we think represent exceptional value. Stay tuned for more great gifts ideas targeted at your favorite gunslinger.
It’s true that On Target’s staff are not universally recognized as fashion plates.
However, as part of our Christmas series, we thought we move beyond the comfort zone of guns, ammo and gear and segue into the tactical apparel world.
Tactical clothing for LE personnel and competitors is a must.
If the list of clothing manufacturers on the Shot Show Exhibitors list is any indication, sales are hot. And for good reason. Tactical pants are becoming chic. OK, maybe not tres chic but at least, they are becoming more stylish.
Given that tactical apparel is an outgrowth of military-designed clothing, our sense is that manufacturers marketing to the civilian arena by necessity have to adjust to slightly different sensibilities.
It has work in the field first and by definition it will be sturdy, masculine and practical.
Some of the designers, such as Vertx and Kitanica have taken it to the next step by designing pants that are both sturdy and stylish—an item you can comfortably and not self-consciously wear outside the range.
What struck me about Vertx was that their pants were comparatively sleek compared to what’s out there. That doesn’t mean you’re going to confuse them with your favorite pair of cotton khakis much less dress slacks. The material is much more substantial. It really has to be tough. It’s going to be a lot looser fitting too.
If it’s truly tactical, it has to be. One still needs to be able squat, run, kneel, etc. And the material needs to be tough.
Vertx Product Manager Ginger Rholfs told me that Vertx, a brand created by Fechheimer, a 170 year old Cincinnati based uniform manufacturer (and owned by Berkshire Hathaway) is focused on practicality and durability. She intimated, perhaps a bit modestly, that style was further down on the list.
Made in Indonesia, Vertx tactical pants are offered in several different styles (for both men and women).
Most of Vertx products are offered in six colors—law enforcement black, khaki, desert tan, olive drab green, navy and MultiCam. We looked at three samples of their wear– their Original Tactical Pants and the Phantom LT Men’s Tactical Pants (both long and short).
The “Original” consists of a 9-ounce, 98 percent cotton and 2 percent Lycra fabric mix. The blend provides both a comfortable stretch but doesn’t give it that (God forbid) “synthetic” look. Everybody loves cotton, right? The fabric mix also plays a substantial part in the level of suppleness that the pant offers over a pure cotton piece. The internal stretch waistband accounts for less bunching and stretches about one inch on either side. There are six belt loops that can fit a 2-inch wide belt.
Designers at Vertx decided to tone down the look and make it a bit more civilian looking for a very interesting reason. Looking too tactical may not be in the interests of someone who is trying to blend in to the crowd.
With typical tactical pants you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who the operator is. The Vertx design, while hardly covert, is certainly less obvious. It appears to have two pockets, but actually has nine, which makes the garment’s wearer less obvious to potential bad guys. Most tactical pants have Velcro whereas Vertx does not, thus offering an extra stratum of stealth. The hidden pockets can also provide discreet carry and keep objects from falling out. Also, the two rear back pockets are “patch pockets” like you’d find on jeans rather than tactical pants (which may have flaps or no rear pocket).
The Phantom Lightweight comes in a shorts version too.
The right hand front pocket sports a hidden zipper compartment that looks like a seam. It’s really a quality piece of work.
If you’re expecting a sort of light cotton fabric, be disabused of that notion. This is really sturdy stuff. Fresh out of the box it reminded me of canvas but after a washes it softened up.
Here’s the pocket data:
- Two very robust front pockets (1 foot long, 7 inches wide) made from 100% woven cotton.
- Two rear patch pockets (11 inches long, 5.75 inches wide).
- One hidden zippered pocket on the right side (6 inches long, 4.5 inches wide).
- Two cargo pockets (8.5 inches long, 6.5 inches wide) with flaps sewn down on each side (no Velcro, no magnets).
- Cell phone pocket (3.75 inches long, 3.25 inches wide) is located inside each cargo pocket.
The Phantom Lightweight version of the Tactical Pants came out in 2011, three years after the release of the “Original”. This model has the same fit and features of the original pant but in a 6.5 oz (much lighter) polyester/cotton mini ripstop fabric. We looked at both the full on pants and shorts. Given our climate, this blend (65% Poly / 35% Cotton) may be the better way for Hawaii residents to go, unless you absolutely have to have a higher percentage of cotton. on Amazon. (The pants are $20 more in MultiCam because of fabric costs).
Both the originals and the Phantom Lightweights have a proprietary “Intelli-Dry technology” allowing for moisture wicking on the inside and moisture repelling on the outside. The instructions on the label direct you to wash in warm water and then machine dry (or hang). Why do I bring this up? Continue with the article and you’ll find out. 98 percent cotton and 2 percent Lycra fabric mix 98 percent cotton and 2 percent Lycra fabric mix
Price: $43.95 – $61.39 on Amazon for Phantom Lightweight
In conclusion, you might characterize Vertx offerings as tactical pants with the untactical look. You’re paying slightly more than on average but you’re getting some very fine tailoring. The waist fit me perfectly and it offers some elasticity, with two stretchy segments on either side of my hip.
I also liked that there were no flaps on the rear and no gratuitous pockets stitched here and there screaming “shoot me—I’m a law enforcement officer”. The waist pockets are well tailored and made to carry a clip on knife.. Despite the civilian appearance there’s plenty of concealed pocket space—you’re not going to run out of room stashing your stuff.
Both versions of Vertx pants we looked at would blend in at any event here in Honolulu and I suspect elsewhere on the Mainland. The shorts, which came in the Phantom Lightweight line, were especially suitable for Hawaii.
I wore the shorts to an event recently and happened to run into none other than Governor Abercrombie, who was wearing a funky pair of draub olive army surplus shorts.
While I appreciated the Governor’s informality, he would have looked better with a pair of shorts from Vertx!
Photos courtesy of On Target staff.
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