Do you ever notice those contractors with the 700 pound tool belts loaded with every tool on the planet? They’ve got suspenders, suspension systems, and those little proximity sensors from car bumpers so they don’t accidentally back into something. Don’t get me wrong. We’re all for having a lot of tools on-hand. But there comes a certain point of diminishing returns. Eventually, you’re carrying so many tools you’ve lost your mobility, efficiency, and ability to get the job done. For the typical DIY’er or even contractor doing relatively specialized jobs, sometimes all you need is just a few tool essentials. In Europe, it’s not uncommon for tradespeople to not use a tool belt at all. They just have silly looking overalls with lots of pockets. And, they also have some kick-ass pants from Blåkläder (yup, I even found the umlaut button for their name)! Blåkläder sent us a pair of their Bantam Pants with Utility Pockets to review, and we’ve been strutting euro-style and practicality since.
Nice, soft feeling cotton seems tightly woven and still has a durable feel. If you work in hot weather, or just like a non-suffocating pant, you’ll love these. I really dug how lightweight the Bantam material is. These particular pants utilize 8oz cotton, however they also make a 12oz version if you like a little thicker material. For everyday work wear, I like my pants to be light and move with me. The 8oz Bantam pants do just that. Wide belt loops everywhere but the front two loops keep your belt, and your pants, where they should be and riding comfortably. All in all, these are the most comfortable work pants we’ve used.
The Utility Pockets on the Bantam pant really set these pants apart from most any conventional cargo pant. Angled, double stitched corners make it easy to retrieve fasteners or M&M’s, whichever you prefer to store there. The Utility Pockets are located far enough out to flare around your legs when you sit down so you don’t lose all your M&M’s, and far enough in that they’re not hanging off your sides and getting in the way when you walk around. Their semi-frontal placement also makes them supremely accessible to your hands. I did find that the pants are more comfortable with the utility pockets out. When they’re tucked in, you’ve got about five layers of cotton where your pockets are, which makes that area a little bulky. But it is nice to know you can tone down the Euro/Utility vibe by simply tucking in the pockets when needed. Great for unexpected visits to the country club on your lunch break.
On many of the pockets on the Bantam, including the big utility pockets, the cloth is actually folded over at the bottom before it’s sewn. That makes for a stronger pocket since the seam and stitching isn’t directly at the bottom, where it’s subject to the most abuse. The folded-over pocket bottoms also have the added bonus of separating stored items a bit from your leg, increasing overall comfort and possibly reducing leg stabbings. Back pockets on the Bantam pants are roomy enough to park a sandwich in (not recommended). Leg side pockets are thoughtfully engineered and can comfortably store your cell phone, utility knife, pencil, and even a wrench like our favorite Knipex pliers. You can even carry longer items like screwdrivers thanks to small holes and detached pocket corners that help direct the sharp tips of the tools outward more. They also reduce the chance of the screwdriver popping out of the pocket every time you crouch down. A tape measure clip and hammer loop also keep those essentials handy. I also like how the cellphone pocket has a velcro closure making it both secure but quick to access.
On a side note, we couldn’t help but notice the Euro-labeling of the Blåkläder Bantam pant. For one thing, the descriptive label sounds suspiciously like it applies to a certain birth control product. But then right behind that, there’s a “Warning Label” which informs you the pants are not fire resistant. So if you’re doing anything that involves say molten metal, open flames, showers of sparks, or incendiary devices, don’t you dare think these 100% cotton pants will protect you. For all you pyromaniacs / metal workers out there, we have no word yet on a Nomex Version.
We can’t forget about the knee pads! We first discovered the joys of integrated knee pads in pants when we reviewed the Duluth Trading Firehose Cargo Pants. Unlike the Duluth pants that use velcro, the Blåkläder Bantam Pants have an extra pocket of fabric sewn around the knee. You simply insert the knee pads (it takes a little wiggling) and then tuck the bottom of the pads into the little pocket at the bottom. I found the light weight makes them barely noticeable. You can also insert gel pads if you’re into that kind of thing, but I prefer the light foam personally. Plus the foam pads are cheaper. Blåkläder also thoughtfully chose to make the knee pad pockets out of extra-strength Cordura fabric. Good ‘ol cotton would likely wear out pretty fast on the knees, so the Cordura here makes a lot of sense. Once you try work pants like these that have a knee pad option, you may wonder how you and your knees ever survived without them.
Blåkläder offers a lifetime guarantee on seams, so you know they’re serious about the quality of these pants. Just about every seam I could find on the Bantam Utility Pants was double or even triple-stitched. Bar tacks are also located strategically to further fortify the Bantam’s strength to conquer whatever abuse you can throw at it, just no flamethrowers please.
If you’re looking for a comfortable, meticulously engineered, highly utilitarian work pant, look no further than the Blåkläder Bantam Work Pants with Utility Pockets. The only downside – sometimes I forgot which of my front pockets I left my keys in! Blåkläder also makes a number of other work pant variations, including pants with heavier weight cotton more Cordura reinforcement, and pants without the utility pockets. You can find the Blåkläder Bantam Work Pants for about $60 from these online retailers or with the Blåkläder local store finder.