5 Best Pants for Concealed Carry [2023 Guide]
Bryan Hill / August 29 2023
I've been conceal carrying regularly since 2010. For over half that time it was in non-permissive environments.
And most of that time, I carried a CZ 75 SP-01.
That's a full-size gun, but I made it disappear by choosing the right clothes.
I've gone through a lot of trial and error over the years with
Here's what I've found in my quest for the best concealed carry pants, as someone who wears casual, business casual, and formal clothing.
Maybe it will make yours easier.
On this Page:
- What Makes Good Conceal Carry Pants?
- 2 Best EDC Pants
- Best EDC Shorts
- What if I'm Wearing a Suit?
What Makes Good Conceal Carry Pants?
No matter what pants you choose, here are some things I've found all the best ones have in common:
Elastic waistband, so you're comfortable whether you're carrying a pistol inside the waistband or not
4-way stretch fabric, so you can squat, run, etc.
Durable, so the cost per wear is very low even if the price is high
A style that is "you" and that fits your workplace
Enough pockets of the right size and position for your gear:
Pocket pistol holster
1 or 2 extra items (earplugs, tissue, a second flashlight, knife, SWAT-T tourniquet, etc.)
Let's delve into each.
When carrying a pistol inside the waistband (IWB), pants need to be 2" larger than normal.
If you have pants that fit you just right, carry IWB and you'll enter a world of pain.
However, that all changes when your pants have an elastic waistband.
When your waistband can stretch, you can wear pants sized just right for you and be comfortable whether you carry IWB or not.
Would you rather get your needs met by 2 pairs of pants, or just 1?
That's the value of an elastic waistband.
4-way Stretch Fabric
If you wear normal pants, try squatting down so your butt touches your ankles. Can you do it?
Unless your pants are straight out of the 90's, you probably can't.
4-way stretch fabric lets you wear pants that fit you well while also letting you move as though you were in athletic wear.
The downside? Stretch pants hate heat. When you wash them, use the delicate cycle (or cool water only).
Air dry them on a flat surface. Otherwise, the pants can stretch and expand, and you can't undo it.
They'll still stretch and be comfortable, but they won't fit you well.
Durability and Cost per Wear
Imagine you could pick 3 pants:
Pants 1 costs $40, but will wear out in 1 year or less of daily wear.
Pants 2 costs $120, but will last 3 or more years with better design.
Pants 3 costs $300, but will last 6 or more years with the best design.
I can see a case for picking the $120 pants or the $300 pants. Why?
The $40 pants are a waste of money when you think ahead 3 years or longer: You'll pay the same as the $120 pants, but you lose the better features.
And if you get your pants tailored? That's $30-70 per pant.
The more you replace them, the more you pay that cost.
Over 6 years, the $300 pants might cost about the same as the $120.
This is how I've seen things play out in 13 years of wearing pants like this at work, at the gym, and outdoors.
If the stitching breaks down, your local tailor can repair that for cheap.
What matters is the fabric. When it wears out, it's time for new pants.
I found that:
Cotton pants lasted a year or less.
Non-stretch nylon lasted up to 2 years.
Nylon-cotton (NYCO) lasted up to 3 years.
Versastretch lasted 3 years or more.
Tweave® Durastretch lasted 6 years or more.
Fabric drives the price and durability, so check it when you buy.
And buy with the lifetime of the pants in mind, not just the price.
Style that Fits in
There's a range of casual to formal wear:
Smart casual / dressy casual
Semi-formal / Business formal
No matter what your environment calls for, you still need to carry your gear, be comfortable, and look good.
With dress clothes this might seem tough, but 4-way stretch unlocks design that's functional and looks good.
Your local tailor can taper tactical pants so they look like dress pants at a distance.
When you're up close with people, they might see the extra pockets, but you won't look like a mall ninja unless you stuff your pants full of gear.
And what if you have to wear a 3-piece suit? There are solutions that let you look great, feel great, and carry all your gear. More on that below.
Take stock of the gear you need to carry.
You have a few ways to carry it for EDC:
Purse or laptop bag
EDC Organizer (good with a jacket)
Pants or jacket
A purse or laptop bag is off-body carry:
Any gear in there is easy to lose, slow to draw, and if you're the sole target of a robber, they'll want that bag right away.
So it's only good for medical gear or a last resort.
An EDC Organizer stores a few items outside the waistband. You'll need a jacket if you want those items concealed.
A suit needs a jacket, so an EDC Organizer is a great choice there. But if you can't always wear a jacket, don't depend on it or an EDC organizer to carry your gear.
That leaves your pants. You may not carry all of your gear in your pants all the time, but you should be able to in a pinch.
For example, you can clip your flashlight and pepper spray to your gun belt or inside your waistband instead of in a pocket.
It's not ideal, but it frees up pocket space for your wallet, phone, keys, etc.
I don't use back pockets, as they cause issues when sitting or squatting.
So I've found that I need side cargo pockets to carry all my gear.
Those pockets stand out...unless they're designed right and use 4-way stretch.
That brings me to the only 2 pants that have met all of my EDC needs.
2 Best EDC Pants
With all the above in mind, I've found what works best for me are the Arc'teryx LEAF Combat Pant Gen 2
and the Helikon-Tex OTP Outdoor Tactical Pants.
Arc'teryx LEAF Combat Pant Gen 2
The Arc'teryx LEAF Combat Pant Gen 2
has the best material quality, design, and pocket layout.
Dress code: Casual, business casual, business formal (with tailoring and a good blazer in more open-minded cultures)
I have two pairs, and after 6 years of wear, one of them needs a repair on the stitching and the button snap. The fabric is holding up great.
They cost around $300 each.
Consult their size chart to find the right size for you.
If there isn't an exact size match, you'll have to have them tailored.
It's easier to alter pants that are too long than too wide in the hips.
Follow the care instructions exactly or you'll blow out the stretch.
They've been replaced by the LEAF Patrol Pant AR, which has minor changes.
These are my go-to for when I want to look good and a suit isn't the right choice. I often get compliments on them, even when I'm carrying all my gear.
Helikon-Tex OTP Outdoor Tactical Pants
Helikon-Tex OTP Outdoor Tactical Pants
are a close 2nd to the Arc'teryx.
Dress code: Casual, business casual (with tailoring and a good button-up shirt)
They have some advantages:
More colors and precise size options.
Khaki, shadow grey, and navy blue are the most versatile colors. Adaptive green is good with a purple or red tone shirt.
Costs around $120.
They use Versastretch, which isn't as durable as Tweave® Durastretch.
It's easier to damage the stretch if you don't wash them right.
The stretch starts wearing out on its own after a few years.
Not as stylish as the Arc-teryx. More obviously tactical.
Front pocket openings are small for carrying a pocket pistol, but doable.
The front opening is Velcro above the zipper instead of a snap button.
The knee protector pockets inside the pants can catch your toe as you put them on, so point your toe down to prevent that.
If the Arc'teryx pants are out of your budget, give these a try. I wear these in casual settings.
I don't get compliments on them nearly as much as with the Arc'teryx, but they're comfortable and do everything I need them to.
Best EDC Shorts
The Helikon-Tex Outdoor Tactical Shorts are just a short version of their Outdoor Tactical Pants.
All of the pros and cons of the pants apply here.
Pay attention while selecting the color, as it can be Urban style or Outdoor style.
I recommend the Outdoor style, as the pockets and fabric are better.
They cost like $5 more, but you get way more in value.
What if I'm Wearing a Suit?
If detectives, FBI agents, Secret Service agents, and others can make it work, so can you.
Here's what I've found makes it work for me.
Stretch Suits for Mobility
A custom-tailored suit can offer mobility and look great, but it's going to cost thousands.
I've found a suit with stretch fabric does that for much less. Calvin Klein makes wool stretch suits for under $300.
Just make sure it says the fabric is 95-96% Wool with 5-6% Elastine or Spandex.
I got one that matched my measurements, then took it to a tailor for fitting for $50-100.
To most people, this outfit looks like it costs $1000 or more.
EDC in a Suit
I've carried all my gear in a suit. It's awkward - some suit pockets can fit items, but the opening is too small to draw them quickly.
Other pockets are big enough, but buldge. I wouldn't call it printing, but it doesn't look great.
One solution is an EDC Organizer. I've tried the 1791 EDC Easy-Slide with Large Flex and liked it:
It goes on your belt and can hold 2-3 small items, like a flashlight, OC spray, knife, or spare magazine.
Here's what I put on it:
A Streamlight Macrostream
POM OC Spray
A spare single-stack mag or a Leatherman multi-tool
My keys (with a quick detach clip).
I found that carrying it at 9:00 (as a right-handed shooter) worked well:
My suit jacket conceals the EDC Organizer so I don't look like a tacticool guy.
It doesn't get in the way of my front pants pocket.
Putting it further back (like 7:00) makes it awkward and slow to use.
It's quality leather, so there's a break-in period. Items will fit tight at first.
Practice drawing from it to loosen it up and get a feel for how quickly you can use your gear.
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