One of the biggest challenges I’ve found for people who like to keep moving all day is finding clothes that allow you to do that. I know it’s been a big issue for me over the years, especially with pants. Most pants either look nice, but are stiff, or they look like sweatpants while allowing all the movement you want.
That’s not what people who like to move always want. Many of us want well made clothes that allow for complete freedom of movement while looking good. And we don’t always want to have to use some sort of specialty clothing to do so.
Luckily, we’ve entered a new era in this regard. More companies are taking notice of the desire to be ready to move, no matter what, while still looking good. And I’ve acquired a few pairs of pants that surprised me with their abilities to do just that.
Keep in mind – I’ve worn all these pants extensively and will be reviewing them based on long-term wear. They’re all fantastic, but some are a cut above (pun entirely intended, because that’s how I roll).
Most people look for such things as sporting goods or outdoor stores. However, one of the best places you can go for clothing like this is a tactical clothing store. Tactical clothing stores specialize in clothing for folks with active professions, primarily those in a first responder type role; police, fire, EMT, etc.
Tactical clothing is designed to look professional while allowing as much range of movement as possible. Many of the models you’ll see have extra pockets as well, which I consider a plus but many consider “ugly.” I’ll leave that up to you to decide, just know that I will be reviewing on this point for most of the pants below.
Great Northwest Khakis
So this one’s a little bit tough to review… primarily because I can’t find a link to the brand anywhere online! It seems (from what I’ve read) that Great Northwest is a Fred Meyer brand, which makes sense. Fred Meyer and Kroger merged back in 1998, and I purchased my pair of Great Northwest Khakis at a Kroger a couple years ago.
Still, it’s a little frustrating to not be able to find the brand online anywhere. This review therefore contains a “if you can find them, they’re darned good pants” disclaimer.
Anyway, let’s get to it. These khaki pants were a big surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting them to be as functional as they are. I had bought them simply in a “man, I need a new pair of khakis. Oh, look there’s a pair right here at Kroger” manner.
They look just like a standard set of khaki pants that you’d wear on casual Friday. They’re well-cut, comfortable, warm enough during cold weather, and don’t scream “specialty clothing.”
I realized they were awesome when I was getting up to do some deep squatting here at work. Without thinking about it, really, I dropped down into it, and was sort of stunned when I didn’t have to hike them up or anything to do a solid squat. I was able to do a full squat with no issues.
They’re not overly pocketed like the rest of the models I’m talking about below, but they work really well for just regular wear and being a pair of pants that you can just do stuff in. If pockets and such aren’t something you worry about, they’re just the thing.
Having been in the military, I am a fan of pants with lots of pockets. I found old US Army BDUs to be just about the perfect pants for me. I like to organize my everyday carry stuff into various pockets for easy access.
Well, I’m pleased as punch to find out that my home town has a 5.11 Tactical store. Again, tactical clothing is clothing primarily designed for people in first responder roles or similar professions. Police, fire fighters, EMTs, security officers, etc. all benefit from the looser but well-designed clothes at such places.
Obviously, 5.11 Tactical also has a website, but if you can try them on first you’ll be better off, as with any clothing. The site has a list of its store and dealer locations around the country.
I totally realize that not everyone thinks cargo pants are acceptable for the workplace. I personally don’t have an issue with them, and as my boss has worn some to work on occasion I am in good company. But if you’re not a person who has that luxury, 5.11 Tactical does have models that don’t have cargo pockets but are still made of the same fabrics as the models I’m reviewing below.
TACLITE® PRO PANT
This first pair of pants is still one of my go-to pairs. Since getting these, I have pretty much foresworn wearing jeans in favor of these wonders.
TACLITE® Pro Pants from 5.11 Tactical are made with a fabric that is, not ironically, known as TACLITE®. It is ripstop, functional fabric. It’s very water-resistant, stain-resistant, and stretchy enough to allow you to move well. 5.11 Tactical calls them nearly invulnerable and I’d have to concur. I can wear them for work or play and they really don’t get dirty or wrinkled very easily at all. They come in ten different colors.
Everything is double-stitched and very well put together. Even the button on the fly is stronger than a normal pair of pants and uses a small piece of webbing to attach it to the pants instead of just thread.
The pockets are well designed and placed. The main two slash pockets in front can carry a good deal of stuff without being bulky, and keeps the items out of your way as you move.
They have two large patch cargo pockets with Velcro closures on either side. I use one of them to hold my phone, and if I have it with me I can carry my old Kindle Touch (6.5″ x 4.5″) in the other one without too much issue. If you’re squatting, you can certainly tell it’s there, but mostly you don’t even notice it.
There’s even a little inobtrusive pocket on the front of the right pant leg that is probably meant for a folding knife or flashlight. I use it for holding the earbuds for my phone because they fit nicely in there when coiled up. I think they’d probably hold an AirPods case as well.
The back pockets seem a bit weird at first. They’re cut at a slant, but they’re actually very functional as you grab to get something out of them. They also have a velcro closure on them, but they’re deep enough that things won’t fall out. Frankly, I don’t use those as often, as I have a smaller wallet that I keep in a front pocket. But on the occasion that I throw a receipt or something back there, it’s easy to retrieve and doesn’t get mangled. There’s also a webbing-type strap over the right back pocket that is apparently supposed to be a tool
The pants have an elastic waistbands on each side that allow for more stretch and mobility, and you really can’t see them when you have a belt on (I’m assuming you’re wearing a belt with them). They’re slightly baggy, but not overly so.
They’ve gone through multiple washings without the pockets starting to stick out or anything ugly like that.
They run about $50.00.
ABR™ PRO PANT
These pants are very similar to the above model, but they’re made with a different fabric, something called FlexLite. 5.11 Tactical calls them “durable” and “rip-stop” but not “invulnerable” like the TACLITE® fabric. It’s just as water-resistant, etc. as the TACLITE® pants as well.
The look of the pants is more slim and streamlined, though they do still have patch cargo pockets and such. They’re listed as a “straight fit” as opposed to the “regular fit” of the TACLITE® pants. They also don’t come in nearly as many colors as the TACLITE® model.
The pockets are similarly sized to the previous listing, though some of them are in slightly different places (by an inch or two, usually). The stitching is similarly durable and well-done. Rear pockets have the slanted design like the previous pants, but not quite as dramatically so (much flatter).
These pants do not have an elastic band along the back, but are still very flexible and allow good mobility. They also pass the Mudlife Crisis squat test.
For me, these ones just seem to feel better than the others. Perhaps it’s the cut (“Straight” as opposed to “Regular”), but they just seem to be less baggy than the TACLITE® pants. But despite the slimmer look, they do move just as well as the others.
They’re similarly inexpensive, around $55.00.
I’ve talked about GORUCK a bit in other posts, but along with the rucks and fitness equipment they make and the events they have, they also sell clothes. And much like the rucks and other stuff, this stuff is really well made.
Challenge Pants – Medium Weight
GORUCK clothing is made for a specific use, and that is clothing that is to be worn while rucking. Now, with that being said, one of the ideals of the rucking community is that you should be able to just throw on a ruck and head out for a session whenever you want. So the clothing is designed to be functional and look good.
In this, GORUCK has succeeded. I’ve got a few items from their wardrobe offerings, and each one looks great while also being functional. They’re designed to be usable during the hard-core GORUCK events, so they’re going to protect you pretty well.
The Challenge Pants are an amazing pair of pants. The pair I have are their medium weight model, for cooler weather. You can hardly feel them when they’re on you. And they are even more flexible than the 5.11 Tactical pants above.
Seriously – there’s a tiny bit of adjusting around the nether regions that needs to be done as you drop into a squat in the previous pants. No adjusting at all is needed in the Challenge Pants. They’re comfortable, super lightweight, and resist liquids and stains just like the 5.11 models.
They do not have as many pockets as the 5.11 models, but the pockets they do have are pretty great. There are typical front and back pockets, but they also have some internal cargo pockets that zip open and closed. You almost can’t even see them when they’re closed and nothing is in them. I can also fit that aforementioned Kindle into them without an issue.
And there’s a slight difference that is actually quite interesting. The cargo pockets on the Challenge pants are slightly higher and more forward-oriented than the patch pockets on the 5.11 models.
That slight difference of location makes a huge difference when you’re sitting. Many times you can feel whatever is in your cargo pocket digging into your leg if the chair/couch is more cushioned and you’re settling into it. With the Challenge Pants, that doesn’t happen because they pocket is more on top of your quads.
They “swish” slightly when you’re walking, even after washings, but not enough that people are going to notice much. The knees are articulated to allow extra movement.
They are significantly more expensive, there’s no doubt about that. So these pants run $145 right now. I got them on a holiday sale, and if you sign up for their mailing list they’ll get you notification of when they have sales.
The reasoning: GORUCK is a company that minimalists should love. Their products are meant to be used in multiple places and to pack down light. One of the hashtags they use in many of their gear posts is “#rollbagssuck” – implying that if you’re carrying so much stuff that you need a rolling bag for it, then you need more fitness and less stuff.
So paying more for items that you can use in more situations is their ideal. One of their products is touted as “Built to thrive in NYC, on a raid in Baghdad and at your favorite bar.” And thus far I’ve seen no reason to believe that this wouldn’t be the case.
I have become a huge fan of these pants, and want to get them in more colors. The large, inobtrusive pockets work great. They allow just about complete freedom of movement. They’re warm, but not overly so. And they’re resistant to pretty much anything I’ve thrown at them
They also have a model called “Simple Pants.” They appear to be the same thing as the Challenge Pants, but without the cargo extra pockets. They’re the same fabric and mostly the same cut.
GORUCK guarantees their products for life, too. Their “SCARS Lifetime Guarantee” allows you to send in products that have failed for some reason for repair. I love this for the convenience factor but also the environmental factor. With clothing being the second most polluting industry in the world, keeping the manufacturing of more clothing to a minimum can only help.
So we’ve looked at a lot of products here. You can probably tell that I am pretty excited about the GORUCK pants in particular, even with the price. But that’s the thing: all the models above allow for fantastic movement and functionality. It’s hard to pick one that beats the others because they’re all great in their own way.
It greatly depends on what you’re looking for. If you are in a place where cargo pants aren’t allowed or are discouraged, there are options available. If you want pockets out the hoo-hah, there are those options as well. For pure craftsmanship and look, I will go with the GORUCK Challenge pants, but I will continue to wear the other ones as well.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you know of any other pants that fit the bill and pass the squat test?