In my search for an affordable yet rugged pair of hiking pants, I came across a couple recommendations for the 5.11 Apex pant and decided to give them a try.
5.11 Tactical is a clothing and gear company specializing in products for law enforcement use, but are also popular for civilian use. Their Apex pant wasn’t designed for hiking, but as mentioned a couple sources recommend them as such.
When I received them it was obvious that they were a well constructed, well thought out pair of pants with way more features than I would ever need. The Apex pant have been around long enough to have a lot of reviews, so I’m not going to get into individual features of the pants. I bought them for hiking and will concentrate on their pros and cons in that area.
Type of Use
I’ve worn the Apex on seven hiking trips over three months in the Taiwan mountains. Taiwan boasts a network of hundreds of trails, from easy little hikes that your elderly grandmother could finish to extremely dangerous treks that only the best could hope to complete. My hikes were more toward the latter. Lots of bushwacking, thorns, sharp rocks, and getting down and dirty. Basically everything you’d want to test a pair of hiking pants.
In general, I like these pants very much. They breath well, stretch, and don’t limit my movements in any way. Taiwan is very humid and I sweat a lot when I hike, so my clothes are usually soaked after a couple hours. These pants do get wet (33% cotton) but they dry quick enough (67% polyester).
Having a lot of pockets does come in handy. But I only used the cargo pockets and front pockets. I do a lot of sliding on my butt, so I don’t like carrying anything back there. I never had a problem getting anything into or out of the pockets and the zippers worked like a charm.
I put them through a lot and I’m surprised at how well they held up. Here’s a few examples…
- On my second hiking trip wearing them, I was riding my motorcycle down an old mountain road. You’ll often see moss covering parts of these roads. It’s very slippery and almost guaranteed to take your bike down if you’re not careful. There’s a particular dark moss that’s difficult to see and even more dangerous. I hit a large patch of this dark moss and my front tire started washing out. I tried to save it but my rear tire also lost grip. I quickly jumped from the bike, landed on my right knee, slid a bit, did a roll and came to a stop. I was certain the pants would be ripped. But to my disbelief there were no marks at all.
- Many times I encountered a particularly savage looking thorny plant. Their thorns broke through the material at times but could never rip it.
- On one trail there was a two inch thick sapling that someone had cut diagonally with a machete. I didn’t see it and it stuck me hard on my shin. It left a terrible bruise but couldn’t rip the fabric.
As good as these pants are, they are not indestructible. I managed to rip the fabric on a cargo pocket on a particularly tough overnight hike. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but likely on a fall when I slipped down a large flat boulder that was buried in the side of the mountain. Because of the location, I wasn’t too concerned. But that should have given me a clue about their durability in this type of terrain.
The very next hike the fabric ripped right on the butt. I was bushwacking on the side of a mountain that had a lot of larger boulders scattered about. I stopped to take a rest on one boulder. After a few minutes I tried sliding down the boulder when I heard a loud ripping sound. I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s what it looks like after patching it with Tenacious Tape.
For general hiking on well established trails I would totally recommend these pants. You’ll be happy with them. But for something where bushwacking, sliding around on rocks, and pushing through dense vegetation are needed, these might not be the best choice. In this environment I would expect them to eventually rip. But I can’t fault the Apex pant for their performance; they weren’t designed as hiking pants. Despite that, they are darn tough.