We are back together, this time with a short guide on how to choose pants for yourself in our store offer. We start with the basics, so it is suitable also for those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘tactical’. Then we show you the main differences between military and tactical pants and their characteristics and basic purpose. Finally we conclude with a brief presentation of individual products in order to help you make the right decision for the right pair. We are sure regular customers and proud owners of multiple pairs of tactical/military pants will find the post useful as well.

In the Perunika online shop, all pants are devided in following categories:

1. Tactical pants

2. Combat and military pants

3. Denim/jeans pants

4. Outdoor and hiking pants

5. Shorts

What exactly is tactical gear and clothing?

Tactical pants look less tactical and are perfect for covert operations

Tactical pants look less tactical and are perfect for covert operations

The term ‘tactical’ (tactical equipment, tactical clothing) is relatively young, certainly newer than ‘military’ (military equipment, military clothing) and is sometimes used as a synonym and sometimes an explicit distinction. And it causes grey hair. Why? Military gear is something self-evident, something that has always been used by the military and what we got our hands onto was the surplus. In most cases, used, but sufficiently preserved so that we could ‘recycle’ it, and in some cases (with a bit of luck), new.

Surplus became popular in the 80s and early 90s. A lot of producers we know today began their career as surplus dealers. Political systems and military structures changed and were replaced, together with uniforms, camouflage patterns, equipment etc. Armies were professionalized, conscription abolished (in many cases), which filled up warehouses with excess gear and suited up anyone wanting quality gear and clothing with long service life.

Although the military surplus still exists today, it has declined sharply. Resellers turned into manufacturers overnight; some were sewing themselves, some were outsourcing in Asia. A new market was born: one that recognized the need for high-quality equipment with functionality of military gear but purposely intended for the civilians; for everyday use as well as for professional one (security services, private military contractors, police etc.). New type of clothing and gear was developed, dedicated to the civil professional sphere and most importantly, independent of military trends and armed forces. Thus began the era of ‘tactical equipment and tactical clothing’.

Military pants vs tactical pants?

So, how to draw a line between military pants and tactical ones? The truth is, there is no real definition. Their distinction is not a subject of profession but marketing departments. Some will declare jeans as military trousers, others prefer to market classic military uniform as a tactical one. Nowadays textile megacorporations push low-budget pants with a fake camouflage and sell them as military pants. With the rise of third-grade ‘army shops’, the quality dropped significantly, and most of clothes and equipment suddenly have nothing to do with military.

Military pants properties

Military pants are usually heavier built and tougher than others

Military pants are usually heavier built and tougher than others

When talking about a product that the army wouldn’t be ashamed of, we cannot go wrong by saying military pants are just a lower part of the uniform. They are made of robust material, which has to endure demanding terrain, tactical movement, going prone, thorns, branches/bark, as well as urban areas (concrete, glass, steel etc.). This military functionality dictates a military uniform cut:

  • High waist to keep the pants in place. Waist is usually regulated with metal or plastic buckles or Velcro.
  • Wide leg area allows freedom of movement, since the material is not as elastic. Also the second reason is breaking the silhouette which is easier done with a wide cut.
  • Two large cargo pockets on the sides are alpha and omega of any military pant. Smaller extra pockets are usually provided as well.
  • Seat and crotch are reinforced, the knee area as well. Optional inner kneepad pockets make our life easier (and healthier).

The material is usually thicker, more robust, but less elastic. The most commonly used mixture is cotton and polyester (poly-cotton) in different proportions (up to 65% of polyester or up to 65% of cotton) or more recent NYCO (cotton and nylon/polyamide, again in different proportions). The older models were reinforced with different weaving (canvas, twill, etc.) and nowaday almost everything is made of ripstop grid which prevents tearing of the material.

PS: Note that a lot of times producer deliberately replaces the term military pants with combat pants to emphasize the professional purpose of the pants and avoid the negative connotation of cheap army shops.

Tactical pants properties

Both types of pants usually have tactical features like magazine pockets

Both types of pants usually have tactical features like magazine pockets

What the heck are tactical pants then? As we established above, the tactical pants were made for civilian professionals but for tactical purpose. in short, the tactical pants’ cut is based on low profile and civilian look with the same functionality of military pants (pockets, knee pads etc.):

  • Lower waist, usually elastic to compensate it. The cut is ‘classic’ like that of jeans.
  • Leg area is narrower but still allows the freedom of movement. We still ‘mask’ ourselves with tactical gear, but not by breaking the silhouette. We mask by keeping low profile and going undercover. That’s why all tactical pants try to be as civilian-looking as possible.
  • Cargo pockets usually remain but are smaller or sewn on the inside. Several extra and special pockets now have totally different functions. While military cargo pockets were made for everything except magazines (which are carried on gear), in civilian clothing we have to compensate the lack of gear with extra pockets for pistol/rifle magazines, cuffs, multitools, knives etc.
  • Seat and crotch are still reinforced, but less obvious. Optional inner kneepad pockets are always sewn on the inside.

The material is usually less thick, but the composition is the same and equally robust. The same materials (polycotton and NYCO) are used, but usually with a lower surface density (grammage). 100% cotton is almost completely dropped from military and tactical pants. Since the cut is narrower, the material has to be more elastic to allow running, squatting, going prone etc.

Which tactical or military pants should I choose?

Best way to start the nerve-wrecking selection is to ask ourselves a few questions: where will we use the pants, for work, for demanding terrain etc.? When will we wear it, in summer/winter, in bad weather, wind and rain? And lastly, what exactly are we expecting from our pants? Are we looking for high-quality everyday pants without any expectations or are our pants our field office, where we keep neatly organized notes, pens, field equipment, knife, etc.?

The easiest (first) selection is between military and tactical pants. For military, airsoft, mil-sim and everything in this area, military pants are an obvious choice. Helikon-Tex Modern Battle Dress Uniform will definitely not let you down. Ripstop not comfortable enough? Choose MCDU pants with verastrech details. Yes, the MBDU and MCDU models can still be used for everyday commute, but do not expect the same comfort as with tactical pants. You will get a wide cut, high waist and huge cargo pockets. For everything else here are tactical pants.

Tactical pants are also perfect for civilian use when you don't want to look too tactical

Tactical pants are also perfect for civilian use when you don’t want to look too tactical

Looking for low-profile everyday pants with more functionality than your average jeans? We recommend – tactical jeans! Relative novelty which spreads like wild fire. In appearance they look like classic jeans, but are made of elastic material that allows freedom of movement. You can choose between models Helikon-Tex GreymanClawgear Denim, 5. 11 Defender and the newest member M-Tac Cordura Denim and M-Tac Agressor. Pants usually have hidden pockets on the inside of the waist and/or a smaller pocket on the thigh. Helikon-Tex UTP denim pants stand out with 12 pockets and are basically ‘traditional’ tactical pants, just made in denim/jeans.

Helikon-Tex Urban Tactical Pants remain our best-selling model with a record number of pockets. Comfortable for wearing and with high functionality and a lot of options for organizing equipment. The Ripstop model remains the first choice because of its breathability and being lightweight and stretchy. Canvas model is recommended only for winter or for hard abrasion: foresting, riding, motorcycling etc. Less elastic which is compensated with a wider cut.

And for the most demanding, the Clawgear Operator mk. III ATS, and the Raider ATS, which are made from the stretchable, lightweight but robust ATS material developed in-house. Although they are declared as military pants, they are exactly what we talked about above. They are more tactical pants than classic military pants, but in the right pattern they can replace a serious piece of uniform. They also have the option of external plastic knee pads.

Those who would prefer to use tactical pants for hiking, sports, and for outdoor activities, we recommend Helikon-Tex Outdoor Tactical pants. With a number of useful pockets, the same cut as UTP, but made of light, breathable water repellent softshell nylon. Our first choice for hiking and bad weather.

If you are looking for bushcraft pants, the Helikon-tex Pilgrim outdoor pants are made of durable and lightweight duracanvas material, have a raised lumbar area, 8 pockets and are adjustable at the waist and ankles. Knee pads can also be inserted into the dedicated pockets.

If we want more comfortable pants, there is the Helikon-tex Hybrid Outback, which is also made of duracanvas material but has stretch details in verastrech where necessary to ensure comfort. They have two classic front pockets with a reinforced edge for attaching pocket knives or flashlights, two front thigh pockets with a velcro closure and two zipped cargo pockets.

We hope we helped to make an easier choice. Of course you are always welcome to contact us by e-mail info@perunika.org with your questions. And, of course, do not forget the ‘sacred rules’ of tactical and military equipment: “one is none” and don’t satisfy with just one pair.