The world we live in seems to be crumbling around us these days. I want a pair of jeans that allows me to carry everything I need to deal with unforeseen events, without advertising my preparedness to every passerby. I need to wear these jeans for work and chores. They need to be functional. They need to last. They need to perform. Too tall an order? Nah. I spent the last 45 days wearing the Viktos Operatus XP jeans. For me, finding a set of durable work jeans was like Ahab hunting his white whale. It haunted me. I tried other brands of tactical jeans to no avail. They were made of paper-thin denim that decayed into tissue paper from the constant wear-and-tear of a large man doing ill-advised things in them.
Levi’s or Wranglers are fine, but don’t come with the extras some of us want and need in a do-everything jean. Some heavy-duty jeans, like those by Carhartt, are great if it’s 30 degrees outside. They won’t wear out, but you’ll be sweating balls in them until you dehydrate in anything but winter conditions. What I needed was a bit of a hybrid — something durable enough to survive the stresses placed upon it, yet light enough to wear in the summertime when I should be wearing shorts but can’t.
Above: The Operatus XP jeans are available in blue denim and black denim, aka “Nightfjall” if you prefer.
I also needed real pockets that you can, like, actually put stuff in. Too many jeans out there implement pockets as a design aesthetic rather than a functional feature. Pockets become decorative iPhone holders with gaudy stitching and — Odin help me — pocket flaps. I feel dirty even writing it. People who do stuff need pockets that hold stuff. Ever have a grenade and no place to put it? I know I’m not the only one.
How about belt loops that don’t shear off when I run a rigid nylon inner-belt through them? Durable zipper? Gusseted crotch? Yep. I need the things that make jeans more than a fashion statement. Jeans are a tool for me, just like my knife, my phone, or my pistol. They have to work when called on and make my job easier.
Enter the Operatus. No, it’s not a part of your anatomy or a poorly titled James Bond film. It’s the one jean I’ve found so far that meets or exceeds all of the above requirements. Let’s examine Operatus’ DNA and find out if these jeans might be a good fit for you, too.
Some of us work for a living and can’t afford seven $100 pairs of jeans for every day of the week. Some of us also don’t like doing laundry and end up wearing our pants until they don’t need us inside them to stand up. I end up running my pants to an early death because I’m either too cheap or too busy. So, I need quality, and I need durability.
The Operatus uses a stretch denim blend that I’ve punished lately by wearing them daily without rotating them. I built a shed in them over the summer, which, in retrospect, makes little sense, but I did it. I also installed a lightbar on my wife’s truck wearing them. I thought for sure I’d scuff up the knees as I knelt on the driveway to route the switch wiring through the firewall, but Operatus held up. Viktos’ Attackposture fit also allowed me to squat and contort as needed, whether I was kitted up with rifle and armor running some drills or digging under my wife’s dashboard to figure out where the hell I was routing my wires.
Above: Details include a bidirectional zipper, gusseted crotch, and Viktos’ typical-style accents.
I kept Sharpies and pocket levels in the mag pockets as easily as I did mags. There are four extra pockets like this embedded in the Operatus chassis in addition to the traditional five-pocket jean design. If you’re running extended pistol mags like me, they’ll poke out a bit, but not enough to draw anyone’s attention. Standard mags will sink into the pocket, but that also has merit for concealment and you can just slide your finger up your leg until the bottom of the mag pokes up over the pocket opening for grasping.
You can also run AR mags, or a combination square, in several of these pockets. What I really like about this configuration is it allows me to drop some of the bulky Kydex mag holders, should I choose to. I was running two AR mags, two pistol mags, a flashlight, and a knife all in the pants pockets.
What really appeals to me here is the jeans are multi-purpose. They’re very low-vis and appear as everyday jeans, save for some subtle detailing like the Viktos sword and shield logo. This allows me to go into the big-box store without looking like a gun nerd. When I get home from the store, I can just as easily load my pockets with tools as weapons and ammo. So, whatever my mission profile is for that day: Honey-do or SHTF, Operatus has me covered.
I’ll break down my testdrive into some relevant categories.
I got the 36×36. The waist is fair and true to size with a little breathing room for gaining and losing pounds depending on what I’m doing for PT. The length is perhaps a bit longer than I’m used to, but their site mentions their sizes running a size larger than standard. As mentioned earlier, Viktos is calling the fit of this pant Attackposture.
The design here has the rear of the jean riding higher on your lower back. Plumber’s crack is thus eliminated. Sorry, plumbers. Intent here seems to be preventing the waist from riding down when squatting, kneeling, or otherwise getting your tactical on. For those of us wearing holsters and kit, if the waist doesn’t shift our gear doesn’t shift with it. It’s reminiscent of the fit you get with a Crye Precision combat pant, but in a jean.
Part of this proprietary crotch-tech also comes with a looser overall fit. No skinny jeans here. By design, the freer fit allows for less restriction while doing actual work versus holding up the bar at your favorite watering hole. The gusset is well-placed and tacked with heavy-duty stitching. If there’s one thing that gives me the ass about my ass is when the gusset fails from being weak, thin, or ill-placed. So far, that doesn’t seem to be a problem here.
Finally, the denim has a little stretch to it. I’ve worn tactical jeans before that did the same thing. There apparently seems to be an inverse relationship between stretch and strength. The more flex it has, the thinner it is and sooner it will wear out. I hate that. Fortunately, Viktos seems to choose strength over stretch here, so high-fives are authorized.
Now that it fits, it has to work. I mentioned the pockets. I love the pockets. There are nine of them in these suckers if I’m counting right. Standard five-pocket design, plus four built-in mag pouches. It’s great. I immediately stopped carrying my Kydex pistol mag holder and just rocked my 9mm mags in the provided pockets. Using the AR mag pockets will impede your movements some, but if we’re loading 5.56 into our pants, we’re probably going to be OK with the trade-off.
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Above: The pockets on the Operatus XP aren’t obnoxious, but provide substantial load carriage.
Notably, for those who have trouble employing the old trouser snake while wearing a gun-belt, Operatus features a dual-fly zipper. That’s right, Rangers. When trying to release the Kraken, forget hunting for that zipper way up under your gun belt or front dump pouch. The garage door on these jeans goes down and up. Just reach for the other slider at the bottom of the fly and pull up to hydrate the earth.
Forty-five days and counting. So far, so good. I haven’t noticed any premature wear thus far — and believe me, I’ve been looking. When my last pair of so-called “tactical jeans” started to wear into Kleenex at the seat, I couldn’t friggin’ believe it. Now I have premature pant failure disorder, or PPFD, and am constantly checking them to see if they’ve let me down. Nothing to report yet.
The stitching and hardware are premium; solid riveting throughout and no sign of thread-fray. They look to be as well-constructed as can be for a relatively lightweight pant. Again, if it’s the dead of winter, you can rock those heavy construction pants where the denim is like an inch thick, but if there’s no snow, I’m wearing the Operatus.
Pfft. Whatever. Let’s pretend comfort matters to someone. Not me, of course. Way too hard for that. What I wanted was Viktos to line the inside of my pants with 220-grit sandpaper, but they wouldn’t do it. Oh, OK, guys. You’ll come around. In the meantime, yeah, the jeans are “comfortable.”
The one thing I didn’t like was the angle of the opening of the hip pockets. I found when carrying my pistol in an outside-the-waistband holster and my pocket knife at the same time, the holster prevented me from accessing my knife. Partly, this is on me because I like to carry at the 2:45-ish
position when running OWB holsters. Carrying a full-size Glock 17 with light pretty much occludes access to the right-side hip pocket where I’d normally clip my knife. The geometry forced me to move the knife to the pistol mag pocket on that side, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but I’d rather not do it.
I think the easy fix would be to simply lower the attachment point where the pocket meets the outside seam of the pant. This would allow more clearance to run a pocket knife or light in that go-to position of our jeans while still maintaining its cover as a run-of-the-mill pant.
Easy. Get these. I plan to endurance test these things even more over the coming months. If they hold up to what I throw at them, I’ll be buying several more pairs. If they don’t hold up long-term, I’ll report back and let everyone know what I experienced, and my hunt will go on.
In the meantime, if you’re like me and want to be ready without looking ready, these might just be the jeans you’ve been looking for.
[Editor’s Note: Photos by Georgeonna Ward and Viktos.]
Viktos Operatus XP Jean
Colors: Dark Blue Wash, Blue Denim, Nightfall
MSRP: $99 – $119