The Vanguard Combat Trousers were introduced by Direct Action Gear circa mid 2019 as the company’s entry to the tactical trouser market. Made overall from a 39% Cotton and 60% Nylon Cordura NYCO blend, the Vanguard offers the wearer a wide degree of flexibility while sacrificing none of its durability.
Starting at the waist, the Vanguard has six 2.25” wide belt loops (two in the front, two on the sides, and two at the rear yolk). The waistline is secured by a hook-and-loop tab, with a YKK zipper at the fly. The use of a hook-and-loop tab over push-through button eliminates any pinch or pressure created from the button when wearing a riggers or gun belt. Furthermore, the gusset and other panels include a four-way Elastine stretch material that allow for extreme flexibility and maintain comfort when performing more dynamic movements.
The Vanguard has an adjustable fit with hook-and-loop tabs at the knee and ankle that allow the user to modify the amount of material when needed. The trouser uses a traditional two pocket layout at the front of waist (reinforced to accommodate clip-on items, such as pocket knives, and a mesh bottom for ventilation), with none at the rear (considering rear pockets are inaccessible when sitting in a vehicle).
The front of each thigh includes a zipper-secured accessory pocket, with internal organizer, that uses a YKK shuttle and is ideal for notebooks or other immediate-need necessities. Directly behind the front thigh pocket is a cargo pocket that uses hook-and-loop panels on the outside and inside of the pocket to utilize it as an impromptu dump pouch.
The knees are reinforced with 500D Cordura nylon panels and include bottom-up access for the inclusion of Direct Action neoprene pads (sold separately).
Lastly, at the calf there is a small, second set of accessory pockets that are similarly secured via hook-and-loop flap.
The Vanguard Combat Trousers are available in Multicam (featured), Adaptive Green, and Black. Their sizing runs from a Small to a 3XL (with variance between a Regular or Long inseam length).
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Average (3/5): At a MSRP of $199 USD (keep in mind Direct Action also offers sales overseas in the Euro) the cost of the Vanguard is very well priced considering its features, volume of reinforced stitching, and quality of material. In comparison, other market alternatives that run similar designs in tactical trousers are Crye with its G3 ($273) and G4 ($279) Combat Pant, Massif’s Hellman Combat Pant ($349), the Special Operations Pant ($139.70) by The Requirements Group, or the 24-7 Tru-Spec Xpedition ($123.95) trousers. So, while $199 may seem (and feel) like a lot of money to invest into a single pair of tactical pants, other vendors (who cater to defense contracts) are obviously more expensive whereas civilian branded attire is less. In addition, a lot of the cost is dictated by where the manufacturing of the trousers is done, in this case the Vanguard is produced overseas. It is left to the consumer to determine if that cost is appropriate for its moderate (or average) cost within the current market.
- Comfort – Excellent (5/5): The main emphasis of the Vanguard, per the manufacturer, was the comfort of the wearer, and to that point Direct Action did an excellent job in designing a very comfortable pair of tactical trousers. The Vanguard’s inner waistline held a lining of nylon and closed-cell padding that hugged the waist. It also had the added benefit of padding a riggers belt or gun belt if worn. The four-way stretch panels in the rear, yolk, and gusset gave a great deal of flexibility in more dynamic movements that included; shooting from the knee, bending over barricades, and entry/exit of a vehicle. The use of neoprene knee padding (sold separately), slid into the knee panels, did mitigate some impact to the joint; however, larger rocks were still less than comfortable to come down on. It should be noted that sizing between European and US sizing is different, and consumers should choose the appropriate fit for their needs based on Direct Action’s sizing chart. The Vanguard Combat Trousers run true-to-fit so the size you order will be the dimensions you receive. It would be a recommendation to Direct Action that in the future it consider adding a waistline slider panel on both sides to maximize on the waistline’s comfort (although that may not be possible in its current design).
- Durability – Good (4/5): Direct Action invested a lot of effort into making the Vanguard as durable as possible. This included extensive bartack and double line stitching at all key stress points, as well as all joining lines between the four-way stretch material and the Cordura NYCO material. During rifle drills and physical stressors, this reinforced material handled the various dynamics movements well and neither pulled nor separated during evaluation. It should be noted there has been issues with four-way stretch materials in other brands, with it separating from other fabrics due to poor stitching, however at no point was this encountered with the Vanguard during its 30-day evaluation. Other notable aspects of the Vanguard’s durability were its reinforced Cordura panels to the pocket and knees, both of which held a good level of abrasion resistance. The adjustment tabs at the knees held X-type stitching, and it would have been nice had the ankle tabs held that added reinforced stitching as well.
- Functionality – Good (4/5): From a functional aspect, the Vanguard performed very well as a tactical trouser; maintaining a comfortable fit while giving the utility need for the field, in a vehicle, or on the range. The pockets provided readily available access with their hook-and-loop enclosures, while the YKK zippers at the fly and thigh pockets slid smoothly and was crisp in opening/closing. The reinforced areas of the front pockets ensured pocket knives or other clip items didn’t fray or tear at the stitching or material over time. The reinforced knee panels were a nice feature, but despite adding the neoprene padding, didn’t extensively mitigate impact to the knee or soft tissue from debris (i.e. rock or branches). The panels resisted abrasion well (which is to say friction), but to truly protect the knee Direct Action should consider adding polymer or other removable knee pads similar to what Crye or Masstif does for their tactical trousers. Often this feature is what separates tactical trousers in many of today’s modern elite military units, to those for law enforcement or civilian markets. It should be noted that often by including this feature there is a corresponding impact to cost and may explain why Direct Action opted not to include that in the Vanguard so as to keep it as a more marketable alternative.
- Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing in at 1.32 pounds (or 21.12 ounces) the Vanguard was very lightweight and breathable given the amount of material involved, something attributed directly to the choice of Cordura over other traditional materials available. In comparison, the market alternatives noted above came in at a variety of weights to include; the G3/G4 and Hellman Combat Pant (3 pounds each), and the Xpedition (1.7 pounds). These all demonstrate the variance in weight between trousers directly supporting defense contracts (with their strict regulations), or those supporting law enforcement or civilian. While the Vanguard is of a very light weight overall, its features and materials lend itself more to supporting the latter in any environment the mission (or training) takes you. If Direct Action were to add the protective knee pads to improve the Vanguard’s functionality, it would have a corresponding increase to weight but still keep its weight comparable to other tactical trousers.
Overall Rating – Good (20/25)
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
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