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July 23rd, 2009

Words, Images Judith Ecochard

We grew up/live in a town (ok, a really big one, NYC) where residents are effortlessly too cool for school, where trends are set, and the sleek street wear adorning the swarms of humanity that crowd the sidewalks …are mimicked by fashionistas across the globe.

Nevertheless----we got a MAJOR bump up in our “hip” quota after getting Outdoor Retailer educated on a line of clothing, that of all things (LOL)--- is tailored to meet the needs of law enforcement and military agencies around the world:
5.11+ TACTICAL®.

WHAT: We were lucky to get a nice, knowledgeable Division Manager to show us the key separates…and point out the intentionally not so obvious bells and whistles.

First off, we reviewed the new Taclite™ Pro Pant that’s an easy-care, durable and breathable (65% polyester/35% cotton) version of the “authentic” 5.11+ Tactical® Pant.

Frankly, we were bowled over by the details…like an extra Cordura® edged media pocket, (FYI really crafted to hold magazines, NOT the reading kind, and phones), patented rear strap and slash pockets for easy access- that doesn’t rip, Teflon® treated to resist stains, and tailoring pluses like double and triple needle stitching, a diamond gusseted crotch for bustin’ stretchy moves, pre-cut holes at the bottom-good for wearing boots, and YKK® zippers and Prym® snaps…the primo kind used by the very high-end designers we cover in our other life.

At $49.99, we think these trousers (Men’s and Women’s) are a multi-functional no-brainer purchase, as they look good (the cargo pockets lie flat), pack/travel well, and will smartly hold up under the most challenging conditions and athletic endeavors. Size ranges are staggering…not to worry…and color options are the neutrals that’ll blend (Coyote beige, TDU Green, TDU Khaki, Tundra-a grayish brown fusion, Dark Navy, and the urban fav, Black).

We also saw the Taclite TDU Pant, a super strong trouser with self-adjusting waist for comfort, cargo pockets with built-in dividers to organize what one’s hauling around, triple stitching and double-thick seat and knees…
…and the fully loaded (metaphorically speaking) TDU Pant that boasts cargo pockets with a Back-up Belt System™ for all kinds of extra gear (on the legs), triple stitching and 40-plus bar tacks in high stress areas, plus free removable neoprene knee pads.

We probably would be very happy wearing a pair on mega mountain treks/scrambles and Spring snowboarding…as technically performing attire works wherever, when ever.

There are shorts in this grouping too.

Shirts are equally as well done and not “dumbed down.”

New this year are the Taclite Pro Long and Short Sleeve Shirt ($49.99) made from a durable, Teflon® treated, light weight 4-oz 65% polyester/35% cotton ripstop fabric. The fabulous details include a handy pen pocket on the left sleeve, no shoulder seams…they’re rolled forward so its good for carrying backpacks (or holsters), six pockets including 5.11’s patented hidden document pockets that are easily accessed, and neat touches like a hidden button down collar, a cape back with moisture wicking mesh liner, and double reinforced elbows on the long sleeves.

Added Plus: Melamine buttons that are practically indestructible…and matchy-matchy color options.

A Covert Collection of casual lightweight, breathable tops (UPF 40) have a Tommy Bahamas vibe—and fill the need for functional, versatile clothes that can hold one's stash.

And that sport tailoring flourishes that are crucial, given the customer base----like breakaway side vents for easy access to holster or whatever one has attached that’s well concealed due to the generous cut, and patent-pending concealment pockets---in the front with a cool RapiDraw center front snap-that’s perfect for travel documents. We were impressed with the way the fabric- a 70% rayon/30% polyester polynosic fabric with a proprietary weave- drapes on the body. Apparently, the shirts conceal “naturally” over guns or gear…

We’ve spent enough time in pickpocket paradises…so we love the Covert tops. Waiting for the Ladies’ version…

Because like that Beatles' ditty, “…everybody’s got something to hide…”

There’s an extensive line of Undergear too. We got the 411 on the Holster Shirt, a dual layer shirt (outer mesh/inner neoprene with a terry cloth surface) with genius side pockets that we were told…would appeal to the sneak in the beers/flasks to football game types. Ahem.

Realistically, it’s a great workout top (finally, a smart way to carry our iPod and Blackberry)…plus the flat seams prevent chafing and the fabric is moisture wicking, antimicrobial and quick drying with 20% spandex for shape retention and a close fit. ($49.99).

UNBELIEVABLE: AGAIN….the prices. And the actionwear we wear has got to be comfortable, and importantly-highly reliable. SO we respect the MO of this company.

MOST WANTED: This is a real breakthrough. The Light For Life™ ($169.99) is an amazingly lightweight torch that uses no batteries and charges in 90 seconds (eco friendly!). It shines at a bright 90 lumens for 90 minutes per charge (270 lumens peak) and is rated to last for 50,000 charge cycles…meaning it ‘fires’ up once daily for 135 years.

Science wise, this revolutionary flashlight is “powered by FlashPoint® Power Technology, a sophisticated energy management system that merges state-of-the-art ultracapacitors with advanced solid-state programming to efficiently load, and unload, and manage energy.”

What a perfect ‘have’… for every one, everywhere. As Big Apple residents, we’d like to see the FDNY kitted out with these…as we have strong opinions on equipment failures, like they’re not an option.

WHAT ELSE: Talk about an inventory model that should be a subject of a Harvard Business School Case Study—5.11+ Tactical® has a massive inventory on hand, ready to ship NOW. Serendipitously, retailers and consumers are ordering/purchasing on a tight, in season leash- instead of months ahead of time---especially in these economic climes. And 5.11+ Technical® can deliver the goods as needed. And always has- as its core customer base, like the FBI, doesn’t pre-order.

BACKGROUND: Head guy Dan Costa took his former company, Royal Robbins’ 5.11 climbing pants…and morphed them into 5.11+ Tactical® with added details, and over the years, expanded offerings of accessories and attire.
Customer feedback is key…and “5.11’s Subject Matter Experts” include Special Forces/Special Operations Command veterans turned “no-nonsense, battle-proven tactical training” kind of guys.

Seriously impressive and mildly intimidating.

THE NAME: A rating system (Yosemite Decimal System) “grades” the difficulties of rock climbs from 5.0 (easy) up through 5.10 A B C or D (tough, tough, tough-we’re sweatin’ bullets (sic) at 5.8).

And then there’s 5.11…that “ is officially defined as, “After thorough inspection, you conclude this move is obviously impossible; however, occasionally someone actually accomplishes it.”

INFO: To view/shop the collection of attire and accessories—check out 5.11+ online: