Plate carriers are crucial to keeping you safe. In this article, you’ll find out about the best plate carriers and how to choose the right one for you.
Easily accessible pockets included
Flaps are designed to fold into the pouch to accommodate larger items
Contains a lot of storage space even with no MOLLE capability
Pascal Magero is a Civil Engineer by profession and a writer by passion. He combines these skills to come up with the most informative reviews about a wide range of products.
Across all fields, professionals understand the need to dress for success. Today, the modern day warrior, hunter, and the outdoor player come strapped with body armor by way of plate carriers every time they’re in the field. The best plate carriers are crucial in order to perform effectively and, more importantly, to stay safe and alive.
One size doesn't fit all situations.
Plate carriers (or tactical vests) come in different shapes and sizes designed for a variety of uses. For instance, you can find a plate carrier most suited for outdoor games like airsoft, or for more serious and professional activities such as security and law enforcement.
Since this is a very important piece of equipment to anyone who relies on it, we decided to perform a hands-on test of some of the best plate carriers you can buy and the results are in!
As you can see in the chart above, we loved the UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest due to its low price, excellent features, and good quality. However, choosing the best plate carrier for you goes much deeper than this.
There are a lot of variables.
But, mostly, it all depends on how you intend to use it.
If you’re a security agent or in the military, your needs will differ greatly from a paintball or airsoft player. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping. Ensure you know exactly what you want before you start shopping for a plate carrier.
A lot of people think finding a great plate carrier is as easy as clicking on the first thing you see on eBay or Amazon.
There’s much more to these wonderful vests and a thoughtful purchase makes for a happy purchase.
Plate carriers are essential in a lot of situations. For instance, they’re mandatory in any tactical situation where the right gear can mean the difference between life and death. These types of vests have to be able to hold ballistic armor plates. They must also make it easy to reach all ammo and accessories while spreading the weight of all loads uniformly for easy movement.
Most tactical vests are MOLLE compatible, meaning you can attach additional MOLLE accessories such as pouches, radio pockets, holsters, grenade pockets etc.
Apart from tactical situations, it’s smart to wear your plate carrier during target practice or weight training. This is where you get used to its weight and different features. These factors will help in a real situation since the extra weight will make aiming slightly different by putting more pressure on your shoulders and back.
Plate carriers are also popular with hunters and fishermen since they can accommodate more gear, snacks, and water. These vests provide a great advantage when blind hunting or fishing in different spots, since everything you need will be close enough to reach the moment you mark your target.
Fans of paintball or airsoft can also find plate carriers very useful by choosing the correct one for their competitions and matches. These games have become more competitive over the years, and the right equipment certainly makes a difference between the winners and losers.
Plate carriers come in different types, each designed to perform better in some conditions than others. Depending on what you want to achieve with your vest, there are a few things you need to be on the lookout for.
There are two main types of tactical vests: multifunctional vests and plate carriers.
This vest type comes with multiple pockets and accessories to maximize storing capacity. Most feature pockets for rifle and pistol magazines, a medical pouch, a special radio pouch, and space for other accessories.
Most models are also fitted with a detachable pistol holster to allow for easy adjustment. These vests make it easy to carry anything you might need in a tactical situation.
They can also be adjusted both in length and girth to fit different body sizes using multiple straps usually on the sides and shoulders.
These vests do not offer ballistic protection and cannot accommodate rifle plates. The internal pockets and pouches can only store documents or a hydration bladder on the back.
These types of vests are designed to protect you in case of an armed exchange. On their own, the vests do not offer any kind of ballistic protection. However, they can accommodate plates in the back and front, hence their name.
They can also be adjusted to fit over your usual gear using straps. Unlike the multifunctional models, these typically do not include many pockets for your accessories. Nonetheless, most models are MOLLE compatible meaning you can add as many pouches, pockets, holsters, and other accessories as you wish from the MOLLE catalog.
Tactical vests are produced using a wide range of materials, the most common being nylon mesh, PVC, and rubber. The nylon mesh is normally used to provide the structure on which the vest is built on because it’s lightweight and durable. The nylon mesh also helps to keep you cooler since this outfit is meant to be worn over regular gear, whether a T-shirt or a winter jacket.
PVC is placed over the nylon mesh to resist tear and strain since it can take a lot on a lot of weight. This makes it one of the best materials for holding various pockets, pouches, and holsters without tearing.
Even when they’re fully loaded with ammunition.
Some producers include rubber surfaces to lower or control the recoil impact on the shooter and to avoid the vest from sliding against the fabric. You will mostly find these on the shoulders.
A lot of people have different preferences on where they want their gear and accessories to be located based on their strong/weak hand or other factors. Having a highly adjustable vest is a big plus and should be an important factor, especially if you’re left-handed.
According to our tests, the fully adjustable UTG 547 Tactical Vest takes the top spot. It’s fully adjustable in both girth and length and is a great option for anyone with a moderate build. It features four standard adjustable rifle magazine pouches (one on the right and three on the left), with drain holes and strong elastic Velcro closures that hold the magazines solidly in place.
The back is installed with a mesh ventilation system for releasing moisture and heat which actually makes it more comfortable. It also features one cross-draw holster with an adjustable position and an extra hook-and-loop attachable modular double-mag pouch that can be interchanged with the holster for more options.
When you get the UTG 547 out of the box, it will not seem like much.
The stench of the materials fills the air and the vest feels really stiff at first. Like a spine-alignment brace that makes it hard to lean forward and backward.
Not to mention it’s a bit heavy.
After the first wash the stiffness and smell disappear, and it hugs your body more naturally and sturdily.
The vest will fit most sizes but it’s not recommended for really tall and heavily built people. It’s comfortable and cool even after wearing for long hours though it might get a little heavy.
For law enforcers, this vest is awesome as a quick secondary option emergency-response jacket in the field. As for paintballing and airsoft fans, this vest is great.
The Condor Recon Chest Rig is able to fit most adult sizes from small to extra-large and comes with three, built-in Kangaroo mag pouches which can hold six M4 and six pistol magazines. It features padded cross-back shoulder straps with webbing and a D-ring which all look and feel durable even when pressure is applied.
It has an additional mesh pocket on the back and is also installed with a Swivel lockster, push-button release buckle, and one open-top magazine pouch on each side making accessories easy to access.
For its price, however...
You’ll feel like you got a much better deal than what you paid for the Condor Recon. We tested this rig with a 6-foot 2-inch professional weighing 300 pounds and it fits and adjusts well with room to spare, even when wearing winter clothing underneath.
It’s super light, the stitching is awesome, being double where needed such as the pouches and it can comfortably hold six AR-15 thirty-round magazines and six pistol magazines without slouching. There is more room on both sides for attaching MOLLE accessories and the auxiliary pouch behind the rig can hold personal items such as; maps, documents, keys, phones, etc., depending on what you may need to carry in the field.
The YAKEDA Tactical CS Field Vest is an adjustable combat training vest and can fit adults ranging from small to extra-extra-large based on our tests. It has a maximum waist of 53 inches and a minimum of 33 inches.
The vest is built on a tough nylon mesh structure with air ventilation for comfortability. It zips up in front and comes with an additional pistol belt.
The left side has a pistol holster for most standard pistols and three pistol magazine pouches that are adjustable to the height of most standard magazines allowing you to store any mag size. The opposite side is fitted with three ammo pouches, a large shell carrying pouch, and a shooting pad.
The Yakeda CS Field is light and works as the perfect multi-accessory and multipurpose tactical vest. The Yakeda CS is especially recommended for paintballing and airsoft fans due to its lightweight and numerous accessories.
...it’s still a useful addition to your gear if you’re in the security business.
The nylon mesh on which the vest is mounted gives it enough ventilation and its signature lightweight. Overall, the vest looks durable with double stitches and heavy-duty material where needed the most.
The UTG Law Enforcement SWAT vest is another awesome plate carrier that weighs 3.5 pounds when empty and measures 23-inches long. The girth is adjustable with a range of 40-to-54 inches around the torso, making it appropriate for most body sizes.
Do you carry accessories and gear?
It features a thumb break holster, pistol and rifle magazine pouches, elastic loops for shotgun shells, and a radio pocket – all necessary features for anyone intending to clash outside. The tactical vest was designed with law enforcement entry teams and firearm enthusiasts in mind.
On the inside, it’s made of comfortable and light material while it features heavy-duty nylon on the exterior.
This vest is especially easy to adjust both at the waist and shoulders and is surprisingly comfortable. It fits anyone with a moderate build, and all the pouches, pockets, loops, and holsters are easy to access.
One thing we didn't like was...
The only issue we found is the material does not breath well and staying in it too long can be very uncomfortable. It’s also not the best choice for airsoft and paintball players since the zipper mechanism can easily come off when yanked.
The Condor Rapid Assault Chest Rig comes with a lot of adjustability features. It’s able to fit most body sizes when wearing normal gear like a T-shirt or jacket.
It features six AR-15, open-top magazine pouches with a swivel push-button release buckle, all made of high-quality materials that feel strong and durable when exposed to stress.
How it won our vote for one of the best plate carrier...
We liked the padded, cross-back shoulder straps and the D-ring and additional mesh pocket on the back for durability and comfort. This vest is fitted with detaching clips on the shoulder straps that can withstand frequent use and are easy to use.
There is additional space in front of the vest for attaching MOLLE accessories in case you need more.
We do not understand why some reviewers say this vest is only for people weighing 200 pounds or more since we tested it on a 5-foot 7-inch subject weighing 180 pounds, and it fit with more space to strap it even tighter. The waist strap is adjustable for a more comfortable fit after you get a hang of how it works.
The vest is weightless when not loaded. We weighed it in at 1.2 pounds when empty and a respectable 7.2 pounds when all the pouches were loaded with six, 30-round magazines.
All that being said,
The quality of the stitching could be improved and does not match up to the more expensive models, but all the pockets and pouches feel solid.
The Yakeda Army Fans is an adjustable tactical vest that fits adults ranging from small to extra-large in size. The vest can be adjusted to fit the shoulder and waist size.
It’s made of high-density polyester which has good durability and heat resistance making it both light and comfortable. The right side is fitted with three ammo pouches, a shooting pad, and a large shell carrying pouch. The left side features a pistol holster for holding standard pistols and three pistol magazine pouches with an adjustable strap to account for height.
The rear of the vest is lined with double-ply mesh which allows for the addition of a hydration bladder.
It's not for all sizes.
We tried this tactical vest using a 6-foot, 2-inch subject weighing 212 pounds and after a few adjustments, it fits well with a T-shirt on but leaving little room for expansion. In case you’re the same size and would need something that can accommodate a jacket, we do not recommend this particular vest.
The exterior material is strong and sturdy with double stitching, while the inside is both comfortable and well aerated.
The rifle and pistol magazine pouches hold the magazines tightly, and the holster will solidly hold most handguns in place for easy access.
The mesh lining makes the vest breathable and the belt is of very high quality. Unlike in other vests, the black upper right shoulder is in green which matches the rest of the vest providing more camouflage.
The Crye Precision JPC is a lightweight, minimal plate carrier vest made in the USA that feels comfortable to wear thanks to its lightweight. It comes in multiple sizes from small to extra-large making it able to fit most body types.
The vest accepts different plate sizes to match the vest size. For example, a large plate fits a large vest. It’s fitted with multiple magazine pouches depending on the size. They all feature heavily padded shoulder straps and are customizable with MOLLE accessories.
Comfort is key.
Even with plates inside and loaded pouches, the vest is relatively light and comfortable. It’s easy to adjust thanks to the quality straps and it’s high enough to run a belt through without pinching the vest.
It’s finished with nice double-stitching on the parts that count such as the vertical MOLLE adjustments on the back and the magazine pouches. The shoulder straps and the 330 D that holds the plate in place might look a bit weak, but after feeling the professional quality that Crye have put into the material, you’ll change your mind.
The GLORYFIRE Modular Tactical Vest is able to fit medium to extra-large sized individuals thanks to its adjustable shoulder and weight straps. It’s perfect for adding modular attachments on all sides and made of durable material that can withstand frequent and extensive use.
The shoulder pads are anti-slip and fully padded with hook and loop guides. The interior lining is also padded mesh and it has an emergency drag handle.
It accommodates level III soft armor, sternum plates, and will also take 10 x 12 steel plates.
The materials and stitching on this plate carrier are excellent and light, making it comfortable to wear--even when fully loaded--over long periods of time compared to other plate carriers in the same range.
We tested it on a 6-foot, a 260-pound subject with plenty of room to expand it for larger people. That makes it great for any plus size individual who needs to wear a plate carrier.
The Velcro is very rigid and does not open accidentally. It’s a great choice if you’re a fan of paintball or airsoft.
The Condor Modular Chest Set is able to fit individuals from medium to extra-large thanks to the adjustable and removable chest and waist platforms. It’s installed with six built-in M4 magazine pouches and two internal mesh pockets for carrying your gear.
It also features an internal pocket with heavy-duty webbing for modular attachments. The shoulder straps are heavily padded for comfort, and there’s a built-in hydration carrier but does not include a bladder so be sure to find your own.
The Condor Outdoor Modular is a great plate carrier that won’t leave a hole in your pockets.
The sewing is surprisingly nice.
Our tester was 5-foot 9-inches tall and weighing about 190 pounds. He had a moderate build and the vest sat quite well on him with the Velcro fasteners keeping all the straps tucked nice and neat.
One thing we didn't like:
But we did notice the front tended to open on its own, which could be a big problem.
The padded shoulder straps and internal mesh around the waist make it versatile, cool, and comfortable even when running around and wearing it for a considerable amount of time.
The Lancer Tactical CA-307 is a fully-adjustable vest able to fit most body types with no qualms. It features three major panels to provide you with maximum space. The MOLLE panel systems are located on the front, back, and side to accommodate compatible pouches and accessories. The front section is fitted with an integrated with a huge Velcro panel for sticking patches and IDs.
The large rear panel can accommodate a full sized 2.5-liter hydration bladder and is lined with more MOLLE panels for you to take advantage of. The back panel is removable, or you can use it as a stand-alone hydration pack.
Looking for value?
For what you pay, this is one of the best chest rigs available and a good platform to build on by adding additional pouches and pockets.
This vest sits comfortably, being light even when loads are attached. It’s very sturdy thanks to its durable material. The MOLLE webbing is well stitched and does not fall apart. Once you figure out how to attach the pouches properly, they stay in place. The three pouches fit two M4 magazines perfectly and solidly.
However, you will need to buy a hydration bladder, but those are cheap when bought separately.
The Ultimate Arms Gear tactical entry vest is meant for military and law enforcement entry teams but is also perfect for hunters and campers thanks to its many pouches and pockets. We found it to be fully adjustable on both length and girth providing a perfect fit for most body types. Though, if you’re a bit thin or of moderate build then this is especially recommended for you.
The exterior is made from rugged nylon and features a heavy-duty D-ring, radio and flashlight/baton pockets, dual rifle magazine pouches, dual vertical pistol magazine pouches, nine shell holders, and high-quality zipper-snaps to get you well-prepared for any eventuality in the field.
We inspected the stitching right away and found it to be durable. The back pouch works perfectly as a first aid kit, but you can also use it to carry other items.
When it comes to adjustability, the vest fits right even with a ballistics vest underneath and can be easily adjusted to fit without one.
Why didn't it rank higher?
It does not come with MOLLE enhancement features meaning you cannot add any pouches, pockets, or holsters so be sure to keep that in mind.
Other than that, it has everything you need for an outdoor skirmish.
As seen in these extensive reviews, plate carriers have a wide range of uses. In case you’re still undecided, here are some more features you can keep in mind:
The weight of your vest is important since it directly affects mobility and breathability. If you forecast that you’ll need to move quickly at a moment’s notice, a lightweight vest like the Crye Precision is a great fit.
When in a stuffy tactical vest, things can get hot and sweaty quickly. Be on the lookout for plate carriers that have features to dissipate heat efficiently. Especially if you live in a hot environment.
If you’re in law enforcement, camouflage can become a huge factor. There are vests specifically designed to be concealed easily.
Staying safe while shooting is important. Keeping your guns clean and free of any dirt or debris is all part of it. If you’re serious enough about your safey and guns to purchase a plate protector, we highly encourage you to check out the reviews we wrote on these gun cleaning kits as well.
Think you’ve picked out the perfect plate carrier?
The truth is, you wouldn’t go wrong with any of the options in this list. So long as they meet your specific requirements. All that being said, we still wanted to feature the two tactical vests that stood out the most to us.
Just because we think they’re that good.
The heavy duty build and high range of adjustability sold us on this tactical vest. After testing dozens of other vests, our experts just kept circling back around to the UTG 547. They loved the weight, how easy it was to move in, and how simple it was to access accessory pockets. It’s a great vest!
The Yakeda CS Field is offers a real value in a tactical vest. Affordably priced, the vest still works great as a multi-accessory and multipurpose tactical vest. Paintball and airsoft enthusiasts alike will love this vest due to its light weight and plentiful accessories.
By now you should be prepared to make a purchase. After all the testings we put into the plate carriers, we’re confident you’ll find what your looking for. But if you’re still not satisfied, let us know in the comments--we love discovering new products! What do you use your vest for? Have any insider tips on how to get the most out your new plate carrier? We’re handing the microphone over to you!
Check to see if your vest is MOLLE compatible. If yes, you can add a wide range of pockets and accessories. You will not be able to add more pockets in most vests with a cross-draw design.
When buying something online, it can be hard to tell how small or large it is. Read other reviews from real-life users or check up with the customer service to be sure it fits you. Also, check the seller's return policy in advance.
Never machine wash your vest unless the attached instructions clearly approve. To remove most stains, just rub using a wet cloth.
No. Tactical vests are not designed to act as clothing. Most are designed to fit whether worn with a T-shirt in the summers or with a jacket in the winters. Most are also poorly insulated since they are designed not to trap any body heat.
Most vests have standard rifle magazine pockets and you will not be able to close the top if you try putting an extended clip in them. This means you’re at risk losing them in the field. Nonetheless, you can store the extended clips in the interior pouches which are larger. For MOLLE compatible vests, you can add special pouches for extended magazines.