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When all the gyms started closing and requiring masks, I went looking for an alternative. My day job is teaching at a national training site, which allowed for some very outside the “box gym” options. The team started gathering functional equipment to build our workout space. We had a 1 mile strip of road to run/ruck, a couple of tractor tires, a conex that we added a pull-up bar, a couple of portable mats, a plyo box, an exterior staircase on one of the training venues and a large parking area to create circuits. One of the guys would occasionally bring in his bumper plates and barbells and another guy donated a set of 40# dumbbells. I donated some workout bands and tubular nylon for some resistance training. Then I saw 5.11’s Tactec Plate carrier and PT-R weight kit sandbag. While I was ordering up those, I added some work out clothes. While the weather held, we stayed fit outside and could workout pretty conveniently between teaching. 

5.11 work out clothing
Recon Charge Shirt, Epos PT-R 8″ Short and Motion 7″ PT-R Short

The Recon Charge Short Sleeve Shirt is a moisture wicking, anti-odor, regular fit shirt made for rigorous activity. The body of the shirt is a 60/40 cotton/polyester split, with Vent-Tac™ mesh back body and the back and front of the sleeves providing for ultimate comfort and wicking. The stitching is a flatlock seam to avoid any irritation during movement or while wearing a plate carrier. There are two reflective heat transfer logos, a  5.11[+] on the wearer’s right shoulder and a [+] on the back of the neck. This shirt was perfect for use under the TacTec Plate Carrier and worked well for moisture wicking during the hotter days. It would usually dry out after a workout in the time it took to cool down and eat a quick meal before going back in to teach. The body of the shirt held up against the Velcro of the plate carrier, rubbing against the PT-R Sandbag and our tractor tires. I grabbed two different pairs of shorts, the Epos PT-R 8” and the Motion PT-R 7” Short. The Epos PT-R 8” shorts in Ranger Green are made with 100% polyester jersey with Enduro-Flex™ properties for wicking and anti-odor. Both pairs of shorts have an elastic waist and internal drawcord. Each of them have two front pockets and the Motion PT-Rs have a zipper secured rear pocket for sensitive items like your phone or keys. These have become my favorite workout shorts, they are very comfortable and don’t look like basketball shorts. I grew up on Ranger Panties for PT shorts and these are like the adult version of them with the pockets for my HANDS and cell phone when I’m not working out. Both pairs of shorts have been comfortable for lifting and functional fitness activities without snags or worn spots. 

close up of Logo
Close-up of 5.11 Logo on Recon Charge Shirt
Tungsten Plate Carrier
TacTec Plate Carrier in Tungsten

I was able to get my hands on one of the Exclusive Tungsten colored TacTec Plate Carriers to use as a weight vest for running and functional workouts. When it showed up, I really wanted to hate it. It had an elastic cummerbund and padded mesh on shoulders and inside of both panels. I was sure the cummerbund wouldn’t hold the carrier in place and the mesh would rub me raw while running. Thankfully, I was proven wrong and turned out to be a really comfortable carrier for training. The mesh didn’t rub because the elastic cummerbund was able to hold the plates in place while still allowing for me to breathe while running. The mesh did provide a little breathability during the hotter days. The padded shoulders were nice, especially when I added the new 8.75lb Weight Vest Plates or the TacTec Weight Plate Sandbags. There is a smaller weight vest plate that comes in orange and weighs 5.75lbs each. Both vest plates are contoured for a comfortable fit and lashing points for other types of weight vest carriers. They have multiple grab handles for stand alone weight workouts.  They rode very comfortably in the TacTec Plate Carrier, measuring 12.5″H x 9.5″W and a 9.5mm thickness; it will fit in many other carriers including the TacTec Trainer Weight Vest that has a stretch cummerbund with top zipper pockets. The Plate Sandbags will securely hold up to approximately 10lbs of sand each. At this weight they are very full and pretty thick, I would recommend somewhere around 6-8lbs of sand. There are two chambers so they will flex with your body and keeps the sand from settling at the bottom. They are secured with a roll up Velcro closure and has Velcro adjustments on the side when you have less sand in them to keep it evenly distributed. These were good for when I was on the road to cut down on weight while traveling, filling them when I got to the next training site. The TacTec Plate Carrier has internal adjustable retention straps to hold any plate in place during movement. The entire panel is covered in laser cut molle with the upper half in velcro for any morale or identifying patches and an admin pouch in the front panel. The carriers come in the usual colors to include: a light gray, dark navy and MultiCam.

parts of the PT-R kit
The components of the PT-R Kit, two 50# internal liners and the exterior multi-handle main bag
how it loads
Loading the 50# liner bags in the main bag

The Physical Training – Ready (PT-R) Weight Kit comes in 100lb and 50lb kits. I ordered the 100lb kit. There are two internal liners that function similar to kettlebells with handles and fit snugly inside the main outer bag. They hold 50lbs each with roll top openings and handles that cover the wrap around webbing. The main outer bag opens on one end to receive the liner bags, one on top of the other, then zips closed with a handle that Velcros over the flap. The bag has 7 reinforced non-slip grab handles for a wide range of carries. Every stitch is reinforced to handle the weight and makes for a durable sandbag for outdoor workouts. This has turned out to be a pretty handy piece of kit to hit the weighted movements and functional carries. This is another piece of equipment suited for travel, dump the sand, through the liners in the outer bag, roll it up and through it in the pelican for use at the next training site. I have been really pleased with the heavy duty construction and durability. This bag has been in high rotation and still looks good.

Final Thoughts: 5.11’s functional fitness gear is made for hard use with its high quality materials and reinforced stitching. The clothing and the plate carrier are just as comfortable as they are durable and I will continue to get frequent use of them. The weight plates and sandbags are great additions to our gym kit at the offsite training location. 

By the numbers:

Comfort – 5/5 The shorts are some of the most comfortable workout shorts I have owned. The TacTec Plate Carrier provides a comfortable ride with the mesh lining and elastic cummerbund. 

Durability – 5/5 The Carrier and sandbags are all made of heavy Cordura and reinforced with stitching or webbing to create very durable products.

Functionality – 4/5 The PT-R Kit was made with multi-function workouts in mind. Being able to utilize the sandbag liners as their own set of kettlebell type weights and the varying handles on the main bag allow for multiple carries and movements. The TacTec Plate Carrier is a little bulky in its design but does allow for a large variety of plates to include the thick sandbag plates.

Weight – 4/5 The Carrier and sandbag are fairly heavy due to the Cordura materials and webbing, but that adds to their strength and durability.

Value – 4/5 The Weight Vest Plates come in much cheaper then most of the competitors. The Recon Charge Shirt and PT-R Shorts are a little more than I have paid in the past but are on par with other top brands. Still more than I like to pay for workout clothes, I’m a function over fashion kind of guy. The PT-R Kit sandbag comes cheaper than their big name competition and has more function with the dual use liners.

Overall rating – 4.4/5 Overall the weight gear is a good value that will last for many years. The TacTec Plate Carrier and workout clothing is a little pricey but you are getting what you pay for. 


I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience with the product.


*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site

By Brook Bowen

Brook Bowen has more than 21 years as a federal law enforcement officer and has been instructing for the last 18 years. He has developed and delivered firearms and tactical courses to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, foreign law enforcement and military units. He has 13 years of combined operational experience serving in special operations units in both the military and federal law enforcement. Brook currently instructs federal law enforcement officers at a national training center in multiple disciplines. In addition, Brook owns Two Bravo Training Solutions, a firearms and tactics training and consulting company.

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