What Does 5.11 Mean in 5.11 Tactical?

what does 5.11 mean in 5.11 tactical

If you’ve known about the 5.11 Tactical brand, you must have asked yourself, “what does 5.11 mean in 5.11 tactical?” That figure must mean more than aesthetics to the outdoor apparel brand. Some people think that 5.11 relates to military gear, while others believe it’s somehow linked to rock climbing.

In general, 5.11 pertains to the specific climbing grade in the Yosemite Decimal System. The 5.11 climbing grade is hard for beginners but can be achieved with proper training in due time. Let us explain this further below.

First, How Does The Yosemite Decimal System Work

The 5.11 term originates from the Yosemite Decimal System, a system used to rate the difficulty of climbs, walks, and hikes. This system is divided into five classes:

  • Class 1: This is mainly walking or hiking on trails with a low risk of injuries.
  • Class 2: This encompasses all off-trail hiking in uneven terrains. It requires the use of route-finding skills and hands for balance.
  • Class 3: This includes scrambling on rocks or climbing with the use of rope.
  • Class 4: This may include hard scrambling or climbing on steep terrains.
  • Class 5: This is all about technical climbing, which requires more knowledge of knots and ropework.

Class 5 is further divided into several subclasses to show different difficulty levels. The easy level is graded between 5.0 and 5.7, while the intermediate level is between 5.8 and 5.10.

A 5.11 up to 5.12 is considered hard. Meanwhile, the very elite few can accomplish 5.13-5.15, which is the toughest out there.

5.11 As A Climbing Grade


Dedicated climbers may reach the 5.11 level with plenty of practice. At this particular level, you can find vertical terrains and overhangs with tiny holds. If you can achieve 5.11, then you belong in the top 40% of climbers.

Rocks of this level need more skill and technique. Many people never accomplish this level because it needs more time to practice. It will take about a year for a newbie to climb a 5.11. Of course, your weight, training duration, and strength may change this timeline.

To give you an idea, climbing a 5.11 is similar to running a half marathon. Most average people won’t be able to accomplish a half marathon, especially newbies.

The Origin Of The 5.11 Tactical Pants

The apparel company, 5.11 Tactical, began as a maker of climbing gear in the 1930s. At that period, recreational climbing was the fad all over America. People came to Yosemite to climb for fun, resulting in the rise of customers for new climbing equipment.

This gave Royal Robbins the idea to start a company to sell climbing equipment. One of the original products he made was the famous 5.11 pants, which were heavy-duty enough to withstand rugged terrains.

In the 1930s, 5.10 was the most difficult to climb, making 5.11 almost impossible to do at that time. However, someone was able to achieve the 5.11 climb, making it a fitting name for a pair of pants durable enough to climb the steep rocks in Yosemite.

From Yosemite To The FBI

The first Tactical Pant features the signature slash pocket and tactical strap, which were initially designed for rock climbing. However, the pants caught the attention of an unexpected demographic, the FBI National Academy. The 5.11 tactical pants became a staple among the FBI officers when one agent wore the pair in a 10-week program in the 1990s.

The 5.11 Tactical Company acknowledged the growing demand for this pair of paints, so it created a special product line to provide to the tactical market. This product line is called the 5.11 Tactical series, which consists of eight core products, including a tactical shirt.


So, what does 5.11 mean in 5.11 tactical? It typically refers to a certain rock climbing difficulty level that was described in the Yosemite Decimal System. The 5.11 Tactical Pants have gone beyond their purpose — for only rock climbing. Now, they’re a popular fashion for FBI agents and other law enforcement officers.

What are your thoughts about 5.11 tactical? Let us know in the comments section below. If you like this article, feel free to share it with your friends.