I’m trying to think about how long I’ve had my original pair of Defender Flex jeans. Maybe since 2018? It has to date back to SHOT 2018. That’s four years, at least. I think we can consider this a long-term review by a fair bit. I’m talking about my original pair. I currently have three pairs, each a different color, but today we are talking about my original pair, the OGs. My blue jeans, regular fit, Defender-Flex jeans.
I mix these with my New Balances for total dad style. People talk about being the grey man, and if you mix blue jeans, a t-shirt, and some New Balances, you can’t get any grayer. 5.11 Tactical is often a company associated with cargo pants and uniforms, making them the opposite of low profile. Yet, in recent years they’ve diversified and moved into making clothes for the regular person. Obviously, they have a tactical twist, but it’s not something you see. Their shirts often use patterns to make hiding lumps easier and snap buttons to make drawing easier. The Defender-Flex jeans are no different.
Exploring the Defender-Flex Jeans
Defender-Flex jeans come in various styles: regular fit, slim fit, and straight styles. I’ve always been a regular or loose-fit guy. They now come in medium, light, and dark wash, as well as stone wash. These are just standard medium-wash pants, and with lots of wear over the years, they’ve lightened up a bit.
5.11 Tactical uses a blend of cotton and Lycra T400 Tough Max material, which is a mechanical stretch denim. This allows for a great range of movement and comfort compared to regular jeans. With a standard five-pocket design, the jeans also have two hidden pockets called yoke pockets, that are hidden behind the hips.
These two deep hip pockets are roughly the same size as an AR-15 magazine and allow for hidden storage. The front pockets are deeper than most jean pockets and are reinforced with Nylon 6, which makes them stronger, stretchier, and more accommodating to all your daily carry miscellanea.
Jocking Up With the Defender-Flex Jeans
Unlike guns and holsters, clothing can be comfortable. In fact, it has to be comfortable. My plate carrier might chafe my nips, but I’m not dealing with uncomfortable pants unless it’s Nomex in the presence of fire. Luckily, the Defender-Flex jeans provide that necessary comfort.
They are jeans, so they aren’t the lightest material, but they fit nicely. The waist has a little bit of stretch that is absolutely glorious. The waist opens just right and fits perfectly, especially when you strap on your gat. An inside the waistband holster takes up some space, and the Defender-Flex jeans open up and allow you to squeeze the gun into your pants with ease. That flexibility gives room to wear the holster without having the tight nature of the pants drive it into your body.
The same goes for whatever other gizmos and gadgets you strap on, be it an ammo carrier or mall ninja knife carried IWB. The Defender-Flex jeans allow for that kind of room. Those big yoke pockets are perfectly sized for fitting an AR-15 magazine in. A standard 30-round magazine drops in just far enough for awesome retention and still offers you enough magazine to grip and rip when you need it.
They can be used for carrying AR-15 magazines, but that’s fairly impractical for day-to-day carry. You can drop in some medical gear. A CAT tourniquet fits perfectly in the pockets, and a pocket medical kit squeezes well into the other. Heck, toss in an extendo if you want. It will likely fit if it’s the standard 30-round pistol mag.
Moving and Grooving
That mechanical stretch denim goes a long way, allowing a ton of movement. Popping squats, lunges, climbing, jumping, whatever, it’s all easy with the Defender-Flex. I’ve never felt restricted in these jeans.
Just for testing purposes, I’ve done box jumps in these jeans—and climbed up and over trees, through the woods, and beyond. More importantly, these jeans allow me to manage three kids at public events. I’m bound to be bending over, squatting, wiping boogers, and grabbing kids left and right. Maybe I’m playing basketball, or maybe I’m trying to catch a rowdy four-year-old.
Regardless of what I’m doing, these jeans allow for that kind of movement. A lot of times, when I’m doing the various drills and quals for GunMagWarehouse articles, I’m wearing these jeans. They make it easy to get down and get behind cover, even when it’s at an odd angle. These pants are truly awesome and absurdly comfortable.
The Defender-Flex jeans also offer a lot of support for belt-mounted gear, with a ton of belt loops and two that are reinforced at the rear. This provides a new level of support for wearing a belt-in-belt battle belt system. Your average pants are not meant to deal with the weight of three loaded AR-15 magazines loaded, two spare handgun magazines, a med kit, a knife, and whatever else you want to squeeze onto your belt. The 5.11 Defender-Flex pants take the weight with no issue.
After four years of regular use, the Defender-Flex pants are still holding up. That’s an impressive amount of use for jeans I’ve worn so many times over the years. Years of wear, years of SHOT Show, and years at the range haven’t challenged these pants. They remain tear and hole free, they haven’t frayed or failed, and the pockets haven’t sagged or ripped.
Ultimately the 5.11 Defender-Flex jeans are an impressive set of pants. They deliver an awesome degree of durability, provide plenty of comfort, and are perfectly suited for a variety of tasks. Check ’em out. They aren’t cheap but are worth the investment as far as I’m concerned.