By Scott Smith
With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to address the fastest growing portion of the outdoor and shooting industry; female shooters and hunters. Clothing manufactures have been taking notice too and have been answering the call to produce clothing that is functional, designed for women (not just small men’s sized clothing) and will look good. For many years women’s shooting and range attire has left a lot to be desired for style and visual appeal.
Starting in 2014ish this started to change, some of the initial attempts were epic fails but over the last couple of years ladies attire has improved in leaps and bounds. This has been due to women shooters such as Julie Golob, Maggie Reese, Lena Miculek Afentul have become a driving forces for shooters while women such as my trusted close friend and field tester Lisa Palermo has become one of those puts “tactical attire” to use in the field. While Julie, Maggie and Lena are well known in the shooting community, Lisa is well known in the field of disaster relief having worked with the Red Cross and FEMA all over the country since Hurricane Katrina. All of these women require clothing that serves multiple purposes; travel, work, casual, be durable, wash/wear well and still allows them to meet the weight restrictions of TSA.
This year while walking the aisles of the 2017 SHOT Show, I noticed loads of women’s clothing. Two companies we decided to look at were Dickies and 5.11 Tactical. There were others but Dickies is an old school supplier of hard use work and duty clothing, while 5.11 is one of the companies that has been actively improving their line to fit the needs of ladies.
One of the things Lisa has pointed out over the last few years is that companies say they are sizing clothing in “women’s sizes” but the cut does not fit women with curves because the rise/zippers are too short and the waist sizes way off or shirts are truly small men’s shirts. As she points more women have hips, butts and breasts than not and they are still active, athletic women. Working women need clothing that address these concerns; Dickies and 5.11 are actively designing clothing to fit ladies of all sizes and body shapes. So let’s take a look at a few items for our mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters that will keep them looking good on the range, in the field, at the mall or traveling.
When we hear the name Dickies, generally we think of mechanic’s wear, medical scrubs not range or first responder attire. Recently Dickies started offering tactical/first responder wear, the $46.99 priced Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pant is one of these offerings. We chose these because of the EMT gear pockets to give Lisa pockets that can secure small items when working.
The initial reaction was not what I was looking for; these pants are too tight for my hips. As Lisa continued to slide them on the expandable waist band expanded and shazzam they fit like a glove. The hidden channel elastic waist also has a “gripper waistband” (rubber like material) inside the back to help keep your shirt tucked. This is important for a professional look dealing with clients in the field or to keep your shirt out of the way of gear on the range.
One of the problems with many women’s pants is access to the pockets, which seem to be more for decoration than to carry things. Lisa said the front slash pockets allowed easy access to a wallet, clip-it knife, and other small items you use regularly. The flaps on the rear pockets kept her cell phone secure through any number of tasks and while climbing over and around debris. The two thigh pockets were large enough to carry sixteen ounce bottles of water, note pads, etc. The left pocket has security straps for EMS scissors which are useful for any type of first responder.
Size (2-16) and inseam of the pants were perfect. The legs and seat were sized so as not to bind, allowing freedom of movement while not looking like a sack. Dickies Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pant while designed for paramedics will serve shooters, outdoors women well. If you prefer a more traditional tactical pant, Dickies offers that too; you can find the Women’s Tactical Stretch Ripstop Pant online.
5.11 Tactical has been leading the way when it comes to ladies clothing. 5.11 is known for their BDU style pants, but they are now introducing lifestyle clothing that has more of a fashion look than a tactical look. Since we spend more time off the range or a field than we do on, we decided to look at this collection.
Lisa is not a fan of most t-shirts because they are too tight, too baggy, the designs are overboard or they just look to manly. Another problem with most tees is they have to be worn either tucked or untucked to look good. This is not the case with t-shirts from 5.11. They fit and lay well worn either way. This year the Women’s Camo Flag Tee was the shirt of choice. This is a 52/48 poly cotton blend shirt in sizes XS-XL is emblazoned with a camo print US flag.
After a couple of washings and trips through the drier, the print shows no signs of cracking or peeling and unlike many T’s the fit has not changed. When dropping down $24.99 for a shirt you don’t want to wear it once and after washing have it no longer fit. What sets the Women’s Camo Flag Tee and other 5.11 T’s apart from others is that they continue to fit and look good after numerous wash cycles. Lisa said this shirt was ideal for sitting through long days of mandatory training and flying. This and other 5.11 tees in her collection are packed in Lisa’s go bag because they are ideal for wear under her uniform shirt or as a primary wear shirt and because the when dried on a hangar they are still soft.
To keep warm when flying, sitting in class or being out when it’s chilly, the Love Fleece is ideal. This full zip, hooded tri-blend sweat shirt is available in charcoal or navy heather in sizes XS-L. It is cut to allow for full range of movement and is long enough to cover over the hips to function as a concealment garment. The sleeves are long enough they can be pulled down over your hands to beat the chill.
Through her travels this sweatshirt has been packed in her carry on, draped over the shoulder strap of a bag and worn though out all types of weather as a primary coat or as a layer. The hood drapes over the collar of a heavier jacket to act as a scarf and breaks the chill when worn as a hood. The fleece it is not bulky in the body area so it is comfortable under a rain coat of winter coat. At $49.99 the Love Fleece is competitively priced, making it an ideal gift for others or yourself.
While the tee and fleece are traveling staples what truly excited Lisa were the Wyldcat Pants. These pants scream fashion not gun, yet they have belt loops that are properly sized for a gun belt and spaced to accommodate holsters. They are sized 0-16 in regular and long inseams. Colors are black, khaki and grenade (a shade of gray). For comfort in all activities they are made from cotton/polyester/elastane stretch sateen with Microsand finish which is stain resistant. These pants fit like a glove, yet they allow for virtually unrestricted movement.
The Wyldcats look good, but they were built for function. In addition to proper belt loops, there are functional patch pockets. These pockets are placed properly so you can securely carry your cell phone, wallet, and other stuff without fear of these items falling out. Concealed just above and at the leading edge of the pocket are AR magazine pockets sewn into the contoured waistband. These pockets not only carry magazines but they will secure your cell phone whether you are sitting, climbing, running, etc.
There are front slash pockets at the hips and an additional slash pocket on each thigh. The front pockets too are deep enough to carry a clip-it knife, money, ID without fear of losing your stuff. The lower slash pockets will readily carry pistol magazines or your cell phone without the bulk of a cargo pocket.
What sets these pants apart from other ladies “tactical pants” are the legs. They are taper cut to tuck into the tops of a fashion ankle boot. When you look closely at the outer seam you will notice a zipper from nearly the knee to the cuff. This allows the pants to become a boot cut pant for freedom of movement if you choose to wear the Wyldcats as a range pant. The added room will allow you to zipper the legs over a riding/western style boot.
As you can see 5.11 Tactical has put a lot of thought into the fit and function of the Wyldcat. These pants are tough, functional and designed for the active modern woman. At $74.99 they are competitively priced with fashion jeans that cannot be go from a meeting to the range or hiking the local trails.
While we only covered and could review a few items, Lisa and I hope this will help the ladies find clothing that will fit the active outdoor shooting lifestyle. Hopefully we will be able to bring more ladies gear to print soon.
These are the Dickies Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pant, showing their overall fit.
Details of the “EMT” right pocket if the Flex Comfort Waist EMT Pants, this pocket will keep gear secure.
The Love Fleece and Wyldcat
This is the large belt loop and concealed AR magazine pockets of the Wyldcat from 5.11 Tactical.
The expandable leg of the Wyldcat.
Wyldcat’s front slash and cell phone pocket.
5.11’s Camo Flag T-Shirt and Wyldcats ready for whatever you want.
You would never know that these clothes are “tactical” Love Fleece, Camo Flag Tee, and Wyldcat pants from 5.11 Tactical.
Scott Smith is a Disabled Veteran serving in the Army and USAF Reserve. He has been a federal police officer, is a charter member of IDPA and is actively involved with USPSA and various three gun competitions. Lisa Palermo is a field case worker for FEMA Disaster Relief who enjoys the travel and when she can shooting.