Summer is here and it’s hot. Temperatures in the 90s and 100s have been common recently. It’s so hot that at the time of this writing much of the West is on fire, and this time it’s not due to mostly peaceful protests…as far as we know. Besides shade and water, what do we need in weather like this? Shorts. We need shorts.
5.11 Tactical makes several types of shorts and I recently tested out four of them. I am happy to report that I will not be sending these back. They are all very good and each is optimized in its own way.
The 5.11 Apex is an 11 inch short, and it’s probably my favorite of the group. My favorite long pants are the 5.11 Apex pants and this is that in a shorts version. They are tailored to conform to the hips to make it comfortable to carry some weight on a belt – it is easy to carry concealed in these shorts. With 12 total pockets, you can carry whatever you want. The closure is zippered with twin buttons. Featuring a Teflon® finish, these shorts are made of a 6.4 oz. 67% polyester / 33% cotton Flex-Tac® canvas. The material is durable yet not bulky. The fabric has some stretch to it and the gusseted construction allows tons of movement. There are internal magazine pouches in the YKK zippered front slash cargo pockets. The back pockets accommodate an AR magazine easily and the seven belt loops can take a sturdy carry belt. The knife clip areas on the front pockets are reinforced so you don’t wear those spots out immediately as happens with other shorts. Available in six colors (including Kangaroo!) and even waist sizes 28 to 44. $75 but you can catch them on sale.
The 5.11 Trail shorts are the most athletic of the bunch. These 9.5-inch shorts are designed for hot, muggy environments. The body uses “4.7 oz. 87% polyester/ 13% elastane plain weave with Enduro-Flex™ properties.” What this translates to is shorts that feel lightweight, but they are still substantial. I have worked out (weights, bike, etc.) wearing these shorts and they are good to go. The pockets use a 100% polyester tricot mesh with wicking properties. The closure is a single button and zipper. In spite of being lightweight, concealed carry is easy with these as well. The cargo pockets are zippered and feature a small inside pocket. The front pockets have knife clip reinforcement. There are double back pockets, two zippered and two open. This is a very versatile set of shorts for outdoor activities, vacations, or whatever. Available in four colors and even sizes from 28 to 44. $75
The 5.11 Aramis 10 inch shorts are the most subdued of the bunch, and one of the best values because of the low price. The 98% cotton/ 2% elastane twill body feels like a classic cargo. The contoured waistband makes them comfortable. The closure is a single button and a zipper. The pockets use an 80% polyester/ 20% cotton poplin blend for a more traditional feel. The angled hand pockets have a knife reinforcement area. The running gusset allows an excellent range of movement. Even though there are only six pockets (two front, four back) the Aramis still offers good storage space. As with the other shorts in this review, these are suitable for concealed carry due to the reinforced belt loops. The Aramis is very understated, so you aren’t going to look like Tactical Timmy when you wear them. Five colors and even waist sizes 28 to 44 as well as 31, 33, and 35 are offered. I suggest buying one size larger than what you normally wear due to the high cotton content. $45
Finally, we have the 5.11 Icon shorts. These are 10-inch shorts that are built to carry gear in harsh environments. The Icon shorts are a cut-down version of the 5.11 Icon pants, which I have used in many 3-gun competitions. These would be an excellent choice if you could only bring one pair of shorts on a remote camping or fishing trip. The body uses 6.8 oz. 80% polyester/ 20% cotton Flex-Tac® ripstop with a Teflon™ finish. The panel inside the front pockets is a lightweight stretchy 87% polyester/13% elastane material. The cargo and back pockets have overlapping flaps and Velcro to keep out dirt and debris. The angled hand pockets have 5.11’s N6 knife clip reinforcement, which again is a great feature overlooked by most manufacturers. If you count the twin inside pockets in the cargo pockets the Icon has 12 total pockets. The small, unique slash pockets toward the centerline from the front pockets are deceptively large enough to store an iPhone. The marquis gusset makes them comfortable during movement. 5.11 calls the waistband a “comfort waist” on these shorts as well as the others and it is just that. The closure is a zipper, a button, and a snap. These shorts are easy to wear for long periods of time. Available in five colors and even waist sizes from 28 to 40 as well as 31, 33, and 35. $70
All four of these shorts versions are a hit as far as I’m concerned. They are well thought out and optimized for an application while remaining versatile. With the Icon and Apex in particular I can attest to their durability because they are shortened versions of the long pants of the same name. I have used and abused those long pants and they just keep going. There is no reason to believe these shorts won’t be the same. Noted above is the knife clip reinforcement that 5.11 includes on all of these shorts. It may seem like a small thing until you wear out a pair of pants because some other manufacturer didn’t think their users would all be carrying a knife. Speaking of carrying, 5.11 designed these shorts with concealed carry in mind and it shows. The materials are also a hit. These shorts are all comfortable and they move with you. Gone are the days of the bulky, baggy cargo shorts. Finally, some of these are available in Kangaroo and Ranger Green. How cool is that?
While some might cite cost as a miss, I would disagree given just how long these things will last. I suppose the only real miss is that odd waist sizes are not more available. It’s also puzzling why 5.11 doesn’t offer all colors in all models. But I’m really stretching here to find an actual miss. These are great shorts all.
Bottom line: beat the summer heat and cool off with some cool 5.11 shorts.