By Scott Smith & Lisa Palermo
When I approached Lisa in January with the idea of looking at women’s pants for Christmas she looked at me like I was nuts. However I knew she was on the road and would be able to give clothing a long test while out with FEMA.
This idea was born while walking the aisles of the 2017 SHOT Show―I noticed loads of women’s clothing. Three companies were decided upon; First Tactical, Dickies and 5.11 Tactical. There were others but Dickies is an old school supplier of hard use work and duty clothing, while 5.11 is one of the companies that has been actively improving their line to fit the needs of ladies.
One of the things Lisa has pointed out over the last few years is that companies say they are sizing clothing in “women’s sizes” but the cut does not fit women with curves because the rise/zippers are too short and the waist sizes way off or shirts are truly small men’s shirts. As she points out, more women have hips, butts and breasts than not and they are still active, athletic women. Working women need clothing that addresses these concerns; Dickies and 5.11 are actively designing clothing to fit women of all sizes and body shapes. So let’s take a look at a few items for our mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters (or even ourselves!) that will keep them looking good on the range, in the field, at the mall or traveling.
When we hear the name Dickies, generally we think of mechanic’s wear or medical scrubs, not range or first responder attire. Recently Dickies started offering tactical/first responder wear, the $46.99 priced Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pant is one of these offerings. We chose these because of the EMT gear pockets to give Lisa pockets that can secure small items when working.
The initial reaction was not what I was looking for; these pants are too tight for my hips. As Lisa continued to slide them on the expandable waist band expanded and shazzam! they fit like a glove. The hidden channel elastic waist also has a “gripper waistband” (rubber-like material) inside the back to help keep your shirt tucked.
This is important for a professional look dealing with clients in the field or to keep your shirt out of the way of gear on the range.
One of the problems with many women’s pants is access to the pockets, which seem to be more for decoration than to carry things. Lisa said the front slash pockets allowed easy access to a wallet, clip-it knife, and other small items you use regularly. The flaps on the rear pockets kept her cell phone secure through any number of tasks and while climbing over and around debris. The two thigh pockets were large enough to carry sixteen ounce bottles of water, note pads, etc. The left pocket has security straps for EMS scissors which are useful for any type of first responder.
Size (2-16) and inseam of the pants were perfect. The legs and seat were sized so as not to bind, allowing freedom of movement while not looking like a sack. Dickies Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pant while designed for paramedics will serve shooters and outdoors women well. If you prefer a more traditional tactical pant, Dickies offers that too; you can find the Women’s Tactical Stretch Ripstop Pant online. First Tactical is quickly developing a following with armed professionals, shooters, outdoors people and first responders.
The reason for this is First Tactical builds clothing built with the consumer in mind. Another reason for this success is Dan Costa who has the uncanny knack of adding that certain indefinable quality to products.
The Tactix Tactical Pant is pretty much the “Cadillac” of the line. According to Lisa, the reason is simple; fit. At first they waist seems a bit snug and as if it will not fit an athletic woman who is curvy, but suddenly the pants are over the hips and fit like a soft second skin. This second skin is not binding, tight or too short in the waist thanks to the diamond gusted crotch that runs from knee to knee. Her comment on the Tactix was; “perfect.”
I told her perfect does not give folks much information, so we need details. After the right proportions from waist to hip and rise, the feel is ideal. The material is 52% polyester, 48% cotton blend, 7 oz 2-way mechanical stretch, double rip-stop fabric. This means while the pants are close fitting; you have freedom of movement, no binding, no chafing. She says this is really important when out hiking from house to house doing disaster relief with FEMA. The fabric is Teflon treated so it is stain resistant, she has not said a word while down in Texas after Harvey so the treatment must be working.
Other features that are important are the triple stitched seams, YKK zippers and Prym snaps. These ensure the pants stay closed and that the seams do not come apart when climbing over partial walls, hills and when you get snagged on a nail or whatever. Unlike designer “tactical pants,” Tactix rear pockets are set up above your butt and are deep enough to actually secure your entire cell phone unless it’s one of these mini-tablet types. The thigh pockets have flaps with hook and loop closures and are large enough to carry a pair of thirty round AR magazines. I was told they work well to carry a lot of stuff. Above each thigh pocket is a mini-slash pocket. It is in a good location to carry a clip-it knife, pistol magazine, small ID wallet/cash or a small flashlight. Again Lisa tells me they are ideal “stuff” pockets for pens; paper clips etc. that she needs to feed FEMA’s paper war.
First Tactical’s Tactix Tactical Pant run $69.95 and can be had in black, khaki, and midnight navy. Size wise you can get them from 2-20 in regular or tall length. The regular fits 5’4” Lisa like they were tailored for length, breaking at the hem. After numerous wash/dry cycles they still fit well and her midnight navy is still near LAPD blue.5.11 Tactical has been leading the way when it comes to women’s clothing. 5.11 is known for their BDU style pants, but they are now introducing lifestyle clothing that has more of a fashion look than a tactical look. Since we spend more time off the range or a field than we do on, we decided to look at this collection.
Lisa is not a fan of most t-shirts because they are too tight, too baggy, the designs are overboard or they just look too manly. Another problem with most tees is they have to be worn either tucked or untucked to look good. This is not the case with t-shirts from 5.11. They fit and lay well, worn either way. This year the Women’s Camo Flag Tee was the shirt of choice. This is a 52/48 poly cotton blend shirt in sizes XS-XL emblazoned with a camo print US flag.
After a couple of washings and trips through the drier, the print shows no signs of cracking or peeling and unlike many tees the fit has not changed. When dropping down $24.99 for a shirt you don’t want to wear it once and after washing have it no longer fit. What sets the Women’s Camo Flag Tee and other 5.11 tees apart from others is that they continue to fit and look good after numerous wash cycles. Lisa said this shirt was ideal for sitting through long days of mandatory training and flying. This and other 5.11 tees in her collection are packed in Lisa’s go bag because they are ideal for wear under her uniform shirt or as a primary wear shirt and because the when dried on a hanger they are still soft.
While the tee and fleece are traveling staples, what truly excited Lisa were the Wyldcat Pants. These pants scream fashion not gun, yet they have belt loops that are properly sized for a gun belt and spaced to accommodate holsters. They are sized 0-16 in regular and long inseams. Colors are black, khaki and grenade (a shade of gray). For comfort in all activities they are made from cotton/polyester/elastane stretch sateen with Microsand finish which is stain resistant. These pants fit like a glove, yet they allow for virtually unrestricted movement.
The Wyldcats look good, but they were built for function. In addition to proper belt loops, there are functional patch pockets. These pockets are placed properly so you can securely carry your cell phone, wallet, and other stuff without fear of these items falling out.
Concealed just above and at the leading edge of the pocket are AR magazine pockets sewn into the contoured waistband. These pockets not only carry magazines but they will secure your cell phone whether you are sitting, climbing, running, etc.
There are front slash pockets at the hips and an additional slash pocket on each thigh. The front pockets are deep enough to carry a clip-it knife, money, ID without fear of losing your stuff. The lower slash pockets will readily carry pistol magazines or your cell phone without the bulk of a cargo pocket.
What sets these pants apart from other women’s “tactical pants” are the legs. They are taper cut to tuck into the tops of a fashion ankle boot. When you look closely at the outer seam you will notice a zipper from nearly the knee to the cuff. This allows the pants to become a boot cut pant for freedom of movement if you choose to wear the Wyldcats as a range pant. The added room will allow you to zipper the legs over a riding/western style boot.
As you can see 5.11 Tactical has put a lot of thought into the fit and function of the Wyldcat. These pants are tough, functional and designed for the active modern woman. At $74.99 they are competitively priced with fashion jeans that cannot go from a meeting to the range or hiking the local trails.
We did want to cover one piece of hunting/field gear, from one of the companies leading that market: L.L. Bean. The Women’s Technical Hunting Pack is built to fit a woman. It is not just a small man’s pack, which we have seen many times. This pack is built with a woman’s proportions and size taken into consideration. It is built for a torso length of 14”-20”, which believe it or not is average across the female back.
The Technical Hunting Pack features a large dual zipper main pouch with a liner and hanger for a hydration bladder; it will hold a 100-oz unit. On the outside corners are single elastic closure pouches for calls, scent, etc;.―things you need easy access to. This main pocket will hold a light raincoat and long sleeve shirt with room to spare. The back of the main pouch has raised contours for airflow and to reduce the weight of the pack.
Built-on to the main pocket is another dual zipper pouch. This pocket has a mesh zipper pocket, a bungee pocket, one hook-and- loop closure pocket and two elastic pockets. This pocket would be a good place to stow your gear you do not want shifting or rattling. There is a cloth lined pocket on this section of the pack to carry glasses, a small optic, camera, etc. At the bottom you will see a hi-viz orange slash pocket that stores a panel to keep you visible when walking in the woods.
To secure larger items there are two tie-down straps on each side and the bottom of the pack. You should be able to carry scent lock type coat and pants with ease in these straps.
What sets the L.L. Bean Women’s Technical Hunting Pack apart from others is the shoulder straps. These straps are contoured and tapered to fit the curves and torso of a woman. Not just two padded straps that go from top to bottom of the pack. Even the chest strap has three attachment points for comfort and fit around your bust line. Unlike most men’s packs the waist band is not padded, you should find the 1-½” belt comfortable and supportive.
At $89.00 L.L.Bean’s Women’s Technical Hunting Pack is a good deal. From being built to fit a woman to the highly water resistant nylon this pack is built to carry your gear for years to come.
While we only covered a few items for this holiday season, Lisa and I hope this will help you find pants that will fit your shooting, casual and outdoor needs. We wish you all the best for the New Year, Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukah.