Ready for Anything: How 5.11 Is Bringing Tactical Functionality to Fitness Apparel

Black man wearing weight vest running up hill at sunset
TacTec® Trainer Weight Vest: an effective but grueling addition to runs.Courtesy Image

This article was produced in partnership with 5.11 Tactical

Byron Rodgers spent four years as a squad leader in the United States Marine Corps, completing two tours of duty in Iraq. Now he works in executive protection, serving as a bodyguard for high-net-worth clients around the world. Rodgers has never had much margin for error in his job. After all, in his work, he has a lot more on the line than a paycheck.

So, Rodgers has put a premium on clothing and gear that lets him react quickly to whatever might come. Being prepared for anything is an essential component of his work. And so is the purpose-built gear from 5.11 Tactical, the Irvine, California-based company that has long supplied a range of gear and apparel for service members, first responders, front-line warriors, as well as outdoor enthusiasts.

The company’s products have become a mainstay for Rodgers, who demands reliability. He needs to—spending his career in jobs where the slightest trip up can have unthinkable consequences.

When Rodgers isn’t in those situations, he’s preparing for them. As he returned to the civilian world after his military service, he found that 5.11 was just as critical to not only his training, but his everyday life. A pocket on 5.11 jeans that once held a weapon magazine turned out to be a perfect place to put a phone or a wallet. A weight pack once filled with sand became a mobile gym. That pack is part of the company’s PT-R (Physical Training-Ready) Fitness Collection, which serves Rodgers in a few ways.

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“I get the tactical durability along with the civilian look, which is what I need to blend in in public,” says Rodgers. “That’s what caused me to choose their workout apparel.”

Even more importantly, he knows he can trust it.

“I know this is for us, by us,” he says. “5.11 has never let us down.”

With the PT-R fitness line, the company has pointed its tactical reliability and multi-functionality at a broader market—not just toward security professionals and others like Rodgers, but anyone who wants to be ready for life’s unpredictable moments.

“It just outperforms everything,” Rodgers says.

The company’s hallmark—”Always Be Ready”—applies to a lot of situations. To hear 5.11 tell it, the fitness line is about “a lifestyle of feeling prepared,” and effective training is an essential part of that preparedness.

It could mean doing work like Rodgers, being as fit as possible to take care of your kids, or maxing out in the weight room.

Whatever it might be, the ultimate goal of the PT-R line is to help a person be ready for life’s challenges. In the company’s thinking, if a person can clear their own hurdles where they are, they can do more for the people around them. The fitness line is about providing that toolkit: Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Help yourself so you can help the world.

The line has worked wonders for Matt Dawson, a decorated mountain climber who’s summited Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Denali, among many more. He recently rowed 3,100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 51 days. Dawson wore two pairs of the line’s Havoc Shorts as he made his way across. He’s found more relaxing uses for the line, too. The duds have become a uniform of sorts.

“As I’m sitting here at my home office working, I’m wearing 5.11 running pants and a 5.11 T-shirt.”

Both are components of the PT-R fitness line. You can see flourishes of the company’s “Always Be Ready” ethos scattered throughout the collection—thoughtful features that make 5.11’s offerings ideal for just about any element of personal fitness and preparedness.

“Nearly everything in that product line, I can integrate into some portion of what I do, because it’s just so well done,” Dawson says. “I know it’s gonna last, so I try to utilize it every chance I get.”

Those chances abound for anyone with a passion for fitness, even if they aren’t climbing 20,000-some feet above sea level or powering through waves in the middle of the Atlantic.

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PT-R Weight Kit

The PT-R Weight Kit stands out for its customizability. Think of it like a mobile weight room that allows the user to choose not just how much weight (via bags of sand) they’re lifting, but how they’re lifting it. It can function like a bar, free weight, or simply a giant bag to haul around to simulate high-intensity military training. The kit comes in 50- and 100-pound varieties and, quite literally, facilitates weight training for people of all skill levels trying to get different kinds of workouts in. It comes with eight non-slip handles that are easy enough on the hands and ensure the kit stays in place throughout a session.

[$145; 511tactical.com]

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TacTec® Trainer Weight Vest

The line’s TacTec® Trainer Weight Vest naturally has tactical features throughout, like a compartment meant to hold a hydration pack and internal retaining straps that keep it as snug as the wearer needs. When you wear it, you can see why it’s a popular choice of servicemembers at work. But it works just as well as a fitness piece for anyone who craves a test, with breathable mesh to provide comfort and plate holders to provide, well, discomfort. It’s easy to add weight to the vest and create an incredibly grueling, sculpting workout or run.

[$130; 511tactical.com]

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PT-R Condition Knit Joggers

The collection’s various workout shorts and PT-R Condition Knit Joggers have extra zippered pockets for wallets, keys, phones, or cash, just slightly offset from the main pockets on each hip. We tested each on long runs and found they eliminated one of the more frustrating parts of any workout: keys either falling out of a pocket, jingling around a lot, or jabbing into the thigh. These zippered compartments complement rather than replace a standard pocket, making the shorts and joggers ideal for casual use—just with some thoughtful, tactical detailing. The fabrics also proved effective at keeping the lower body cool on a hot, humid day.

[$65; 511tactical.com]

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A/T Trainer

An unsung hero of the line is its A/T Trainer. It’s essentially a running shoe, gym shoe, and hiking boot rolled into one. Its supportive soles give it the forgiving feel of a top-of-market running shoe, while its flexible but firm outer shell keeps the foot in place like a training shoe for a weight room, and its hardened toe and grippy bottom make it suitable for rough terrain.

[$130; 511tactical.com]

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PT Ankle Sock

Even 5.11’s ankle socks have a unique place. Compression zones and high-performing polyester make it a good workout layer for any fitness routine. Plus, 5.11’s branding is on the toe, rather than the ankle, so you could even get away with it as part of a more formal outfit.

[$20; 511tactical.com]

Get it

It all traces back to the same idea—that we don’t know what the next minute will bring, so all we can do is be ready for whatever comes next. 5.11 designed the line with a high threshold of performance and durability, but also with what comes across as a maniacal desire to put as many functions as possible into a collection of high-performing fitness gear. If it works at extreme altitude or in the middle of an ocean, it’ll provide a strong foundation for everything else.

“I’ve taken that stuff out and beat the crap out of it in every way you can imagine—all kinds of different scenarios,” Dawson says. “The lines on the stuff, the shape of it, the attention to detail, the quality…It’s just exactly what I would expect, and it carried over.”

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