A company constantly pushing forward and giving its customers more, 5.11 Tactical has built a cult-like following. Give these four apparel items a go if you want incredible gear that meets many needs.
by Jace Bauserman
I’m an apparel geek. Come out with a fancy-to-do base layer, outer layer, or mid-layer, and there’s a good chance you’ll get my business.
I can’t help it; I’m always searching for the next best pant, quarter-zip, puffy, etc. As an outdoorsman, I spend hundreds of days each year in outdoor-style clothing. Having comfortable, athletic, and durable clothing is a must.
Of course, it’s a bonus if I come across clothing that doubles as day wear — something I can wear to the range, do chores around the house in, and use for hunting.
I’ve been a fan of 5.11 Tactical since the company’s inception. I love their mission, their gear, and their desire to inspire. I’ve used 5.11’s luggage, range bags, and boots, and I’ve always been satisfied. When the company shipped me some new-for-2023 duds to wear on a recent Cornhusker State turkey hunt, I was excited to give them a go.
Better Base Layers
Those who spend a lot of time outdoors tend to look past base layers and move right to mid-layers and outer layers, but for me, I start with the base layer and build out from there.
For a Colorado native, the only months where base layers are obsolete are June, July, and August. I need a top-tier base layer that wicks away moisture, promises all-day comfort, and provides excellent thermal regulation.
Let’s start with the bottoms. A multi-use base layer that can be worn on a chilly morning at the range, when hitting the gym, or on the hunt, the Tropos Baselayer Tight is constructed from a 100-percent polyester graphene blend mesh jersey designed with anti-odor control and the ability to boost thermal regulation.
My mid-May Nebraska turkey hunt was chilly — most mornings were in the 30s. I love the form-fitting feel of the tights, and the elastic waistband keeps the tights in place and prevents them from slipping down on the body even when crawling. The waistband doesn’t cut into the waist and kill circulation — a common problem with lesser base layers.
On day two of the hunt, I glassed a bird over a mile away, and the stalk consisted of running, sliding down slippery slopes (it had rained), and crawling through grass covered in dew. The flatlock seams prevent chafing, and these tights move well with the body. I have also used them on frosty morning runs, and I love the stretchable side pocket, which holds a cellphone perfectly.
Typically, by mid-morning, I shuck the tights, roll them up, and toss them in my turkey vest, but since the hunt, I’ve used them on a three-mile run and a recent fishing trip.
I paired the Tropos Baselayer Tights with the Tropos Long Sleeve Baselayer, and while this top was a tad baggier than I’d like, it worked remarkably well on the hunt, and since then, I have used it in the boat, on the range, and while doing chores around the house.
The top’s build mirrors those of the pants and side of the comfort and thermal regulation it provides; I also applaud the thumbhole slots 5.11 put in the sleeves.
I’m not too fond of things sliding up or down with any base layer — top or bottom. I want an athletic fit, and when I placed my thumbs through the thumbholes, the sleeves didn’t ride up, and because I don’t like to wear gloves, the loops provided extra hand insulation.
After three days of hiking and tearing up the Nebraska countryside, neither garment stunk, which is a credit to the anti-odor fabric.
I’m not a fan of baggy cargo pants, and though 5.11 slugged its all-new Meridian Pant as cargo, they fit more like comfortable, lightweight, and airy work jeans. I love them.
Like the base layers, the Meridian Pant comes in a litany of color options, and the Sage Green proved perfect for the green hills of northern Nebraska. I love solids for hunting, and the neutral color is fantastic for a trip to Walmart, the range, or fixing up the horse barn. I wear mine all the time, and the pants have proved to be tough as nails.
The comfort stretch waistband makes the Meridian’s a cloud around the waist, and I like the straight-fit, non-stretching design that hugs the legs not too tight but not too loose. These lightweight pants wear like a dream, and the front hand pockets with knife reinforcement are spacious and set at the right angle and height.
Other pockets include front cargo pockets with hook/loop closure and back yoke utility drop pockets. I do think the front cargo pockets are tad deep, but the right and left cargo pockets have a cloth liner, which makes gear organization possible. My favorite feature is the built-in Zip-secured side vents that boost ventilation.
Knee articulation boosts movement, and when you kneel or crouch flat on your feet with your knees out in front, it doesn’t feel like your knees will rip through the fabric. The back webbing is also a great addition to the belt loop; it provides additional support and helps keep the pants up.
The body of the pant is 72 percent cotton, 25 percent nylon, and three percent elastane poplin. These leg coverers don’t feel like 72 percent cotton, I promise. During the hunt, I soaked them twice, and they dried quickly, and for most of the hunt, I had to wear a pair of 100 percent cotton camo pants, which were pure garbage. These pants felt nothing like the pure cotton makes.
The Meridian Pant makes excellent work, range, and hunt pants, and I plan on adding more of them to my collection.
Give Me My 1/4 Zip
My wife threatens — all the time — to toss a bunch of my 1/4-zip shirts. Like I mentioned earlier, I have a bit of an apparel issue. I argue that I wear 1/4-zips more than most of my other clothing items, and 5.11’s Stratos 1/4 Zip is a winner.
The Ranger Green color semi-matches the Sage Green Meridian Pants, and the garment can be worn over a base layer, standalone, and under an outer layer.
On day one of the hunt, I wore the garment under a cotton button-up camo shirt to keep the chill off, and during the afternoon, after removing the Tropos Long Sleeve Baselayer, I wore it around camp.
The 1/4-zip feels excellent against the skin, promotes comfort, and provides functional stretch. I cheer the 91 percent polyester make, and the garment’s easy on/off nature makes it appealing for hunting, shooting, jogging, etc.
The zip front closure features a chin guard, and the Raglan sleeves hug the arms. Like the base layers, the Stratos prevents stink, has a durable build, and wicks moisture away from the skin.
This 1/4-zip has become a go-to in my collection, and most days, unless I wear it to the gym or take it on an early-morning jog, it’s my wear-around-the-house and to-town top.
5.11 Tactical is an excellent company with great gear at prices that don’t drop the jaw. Most items, like those mentioned in this article, are of the crossover type, meaning you’ll find multiple uses for them.