9 Best Tactical Plate Carrier Vests On The Market Today

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: November 13, 2019

Tactical Plate Carrier MilitaryLet me guess – you’re looking for a new tactical plate carrier vest, good news, you’ve come to the right place.

Because we’ve scoured the internet to find the best advice, information, reviews, and videos about plate carriers.

From basic to the advanced –

I’m going to share everything I’ve learned about Tactical Plate Carriers, specifically:

**Note: If you just want our top recommendations, feel free to SKIP AHEAD HERE.

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A plate carrier is another name for a Tactical Vest that can carry bullet-resistant body armor plates and tactical gear.

Chest Rig

Just A Chest Rig – Not Designed To Carry Plates

It’s basically a “chest rig” that’s designed to add bullet-resistant body armor plates. A regular chest rig can carry all sorts of gear but doesn’t have pockets for body armor plates.

That’s why plate carriers are popular with military personnel around the world. They’re considered an important self-defense upgrade for life-threatening security situations.

And they’re worn by anyone who’s serious about home and family security.

Basically, they’re for anyone who wants to be fully prepared for dangerous combat scenarios.

A tactical plate carrier gives you the ability to do three mission-critical things:

  1. Stop Holes (with body armor plates)
  2. Plug Holes (carrying medical gear such as individual first aid kits)
  3. Make Holes (carry extra mags for your firearms)

As you can tell, all three of these functions are essential in any combat situation. It’s able to perform these functions because it consists of three main components:

  1. A Tactical Vest
  2. A Cummerbund
  3. Body Armor Plates

Let’s take a moment to discuss each of these components in more detail…

1. Tactical Vest

The tactical vest component of a plate carrier is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a vest that fits over your head with a front panel and back panel.

These panels have pockets and/or MOLLE webbing to provide a way to store gear for easy access.

2. Cummerbund

A plate carrier’s cummerbund is a lot like a belt for a vest. It helps to keep the bottom of the vest tight against your belly. It’s a wide tactical belt made out of an elastic material that allows for a perfect “snug” fit of the plate carrier vest.

This helps keep the vest in place at all times – even when running or scrambling.

Some cummerbunds also have velcro or MOLLE webbing attached for even more tactical gear storage options.

3. Body Armor Plates

Finally, there are the actual plates. For the tactical vest to work as advertised, you must insert plates into it. Hence, the name “plate carrier”.

A plate carrier tactical vest includes large, wide pockets designed to hold bullet-resistant plates covering your vital organs.

Now that we’re all on the same page on WHAT a plate carrier is – let’s talk about why you should own one…

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plate carrier for workouts


In the very broadest sense – this is an easy one to answer – SAFETY and QUICK ACCESS.

Plate carriers provide protection from small objects that fly at insane speeds. We usually call these small flying objects bullets or shrapnel.

That’s why they are popular for military personnel who expect to see combat.

1. Military or Combat

If you’re destined to encounter a combat situation it would be silly NOT to invest in a plate carrier. You need such a device to add a layer of protection.

Plus, most plate carriers have MOLLE. This means you can hang a bunch of your tactical gear from your chest.

This is better than carrying your tactical gear in a backpack.

With a tactical backpack, you have to take it off and open it up to access your extra magazines, radio, etc.

Instead, with a plate carrier, all your critical gear is easy to access in the heat of battle. When it comes to combat situations – this setup is IDEAL!

But what about those who are not in the military and don’t expect combat tomorrow? Why would a regular joe citizen decide to invest in one?

There are several additional reasons to consider…

2. Search and Rescue Operations

Most search and rescue teams wear chest rigs and not plate carriers. Why? Because search and rescue teams must carry a lot of tactical gear. But are less worried about getting shot.

They don’t expect a rescue to turn into a combat situation.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. And with a plate carrier, you HAVE THE OPTION to carry plates or not.

I love optionality – with a plate carrier I can take or leave the plates at home, depending on the situation. But with a chest rig – I don’t have the option of adding plates should the situation call for it.

That’s why I suggest even search and rescue team members should invest in a plate carrier vs just a chest rig.

Take the “free optionality” (i.e. flexibility) when you can get it.

3. Preparing For A “Worst Case” Scenario

Maybe your someone who worries about the future. You understand peace and calm are the exceptions and not the rule on a long-term historical basis.

You realize in a worst-case type disaster or war – our world could be thrown into absolute chaos. A world of mass-scale looting and rioting.

What could spark such a “doomsday” scenario? Take your pick…

Paranoid? Maybe. But none of these scenarios must be on a massive scale to create localized havoc and chaos.

Scared, hungry, thirsty humans can be very dangerous…

If you live in the US, you may not feel an immediate threat but that’s being complacent.

No one knows what the future brings but I do know this one fact…

As a species – we now have the technological ability to destroy ourselves. To wipe ourselves off the map. You couldn’t say that 100 years ago.

That’s why I believe preparing is not about paranoia – it’s all about being resilient to life’s uncertain future. It’s seeing the real risk of widespread war and chaos mounting.

So, that’s why I believe in stocking up on the tools, supplies, and gear necessary to protect myself and my family. Plate carriers are a wise investment and can provide protection for ALL concerned citizens.

Regardless of whether you plan to bug out or stay put.

4. Hobby – Sport (i.e. Paintball)

The other reason you may want to invest in a plate carrier is for FUN.

Paintball is becoming one of the fastest-growing sports. But getting hit in the chest with a paintball (unprotected) can do serious damage.

Sure, it won’t kill you but you could end up with tender bruising for weeks.

The average paintball marker can shoot 300 feet per second (fps), or slightly below this. Most paintball playing fields require a maximum of 280 fps for safety purposes.

With those sorts of projectile speeds – you’ll want something to protect yourself.

Example Of Airsoft Foam Pad

So, if you play paintball often – or even occasionally – you’ll want to invest in a tactical plate carrier. That way, you can add air soft foam plates to it for protection.

Foam plates are lighter than steel plates. So they’ll provide some protection against flying paintballs without weighing you down.

5. Work Out Gear

Plate carriers are a tool you can use to make a workout more strenuous.

For example, you can wear one (with plates in it) to increase your body weight. This makes pull-ups, pushups, running, and even swimming much more challenging.

So they are a simple way to take your training to the next level.

Now, anyone who uses a plate carrier for workouts usually leaves the tactical gear off. Otherwise, the gear attached to the outside would flop around and make working out a pain in the ass.

Ok, those are the main reasons to own a plate carrier. Maybe you’re only interested in one of these “reasons”. Or maybe they all sort of apply to you.

Either way, once you’re convinced, it’s time to figure out which one is BEST FOR YOU. Because not all plate carriers are created equal.

So, let’s discuss some of the key features to look for…

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Soldier at the railroad tracks


If you want to skip reading this section – you can get almost everything you need to know from this excellent video:

Size ( Small Plate Carriers vs Large Plate Carriers)

Most plate carriers fall into the category of “one size fits most”. They use adjustable straps and an elastic waistband called a cummerbund.

This allows you to customize them to fit you perfectly.

With that said, if you’re extremely petite (or you’re looking to fit a child) OR you’re extra tall/big – you may need to shop around for a unique one to cater to your unique size requirement.


Of course, with any gear or backpack, the weight comes into play.

The heavier an item is to carry, the more daunting it becomes (especially over long periods).

So, assuming a similar quality – lighter is better.

But here’s the deal – the real “weight” in a plate carrier is not in the vest itself – it’s in the plates.

Foam plates for practice or sport (paintball) are extremely lightweight. But these foam plates are NOT bullet resistant.

For that type of protection, you’ll need steel or ceramic plates which (as you can guess) are heavier.

We’ll go into more about plate options later in this article…but for now, here’s an article that goes into “Ballistic Armor Levels”.


One of the best and most affordable fabric options is 500D Cordura Nylon. 500D is the abrasive resistance nature of the fabric. The higher the number the “stronger”.

500 is solid and usually enough for most missions. But you can find some plate carriers with fabric abrasivenesses of 1000 or more…

But watch out for any fabrics with poly mixes – they have lower melting points vs Cordura Nylon.


Stitching quality is critical and comes down to three main things to look out for:

  1. The type of thread used
  2. The threading techniques used
  3. The locations of reinforcement

1. Type Of Thread Used

Solid types of thread are a bonded 92 or better.

Ideally, your plate carrier uses a quality thread. But good lucking finding out what was used. Rarely do you see the “type of thread” advertised in marketing.

So if this is something you must know – you’ll likely need to contact the manufacturer and ask.

2. Threading Techniques

And single sticking is fine throughout as long as it uses bar tack on high-stress points.

But at reinforcement locations there are two stitching options:

  • Bar Tack Sticking
  • Single Stitching Build-Up

A bar tack stitch uses a specialized machine to create a very tough and dense series of threads. Bar tack stitching is the most effective way to prevent rips and tears at high-stress points.

The alternative methods at reinforcement points are called a single stitch build-up. It’s cheaper to use (because it uses the same sewing machine) but it’s not as effective.

It’s essentially running the sewing machine over the same place several times. But it cannot get nearly the same level of thread density as a bar tack stitch.

3. Reinforce Locations

The shoulder attachment points MUST be reinforced. But in general, the more reinforcement points with bar stitching, the better.


ITW buckles are best. However, there are a lot of knock-offs that are not as good.

Look for reinforcement pillars on the inside of the buckle – this helps to keep a buckle working for years, even under abuse conditions.


Look for mil-spec webbing and watch out for fake webbing.

You can tell fake webbing when it looks like the same fabric the vest is made out of just folded over and sewn…

Back Mesh

The best plate carriers have a mesh buffer and padding between the plate and your body.

This helps to add comfort as well as breathability. 3d spacer mesh – good thickness and good depth – provides more breathability. However, “mesh-looking fabrics” provide little to no real padding or sweat relief.

Also, a pontoon system is nice. This is where the outsides of the back foam are slightly thicker, which creates an air channel in the middle of your back.

Velcro & Elastic

Gerald Schwartz (mil-spec) velcro is considered high quality. But in general, just make sure you test out the velcro and elastic as soon as you get a chance.

Make sure the velcro is extremely sticky and grippy. And the elastic is stretchy but strong.

Plate Carrier Profile Options

The traditional cut and shape of most plate carriers are a fairly standard design. However, there are some unique exceptions you may want to consider:

  • Concealable Plate Carrier
  • Low Profile Plate Carrier
  • Minimalistic Plate Carrier

There are carriers specifically designed to be highly concealable. Hence the name “concealable plate carrier”.

This is a low-profile tactical vest that is thinner than a regular one.

These minimalistic plate carriers come in handy in situations where you don’t want everyone to know your wearing one.

For example, let’s say you’re heading to a business meeting with the mafia …You might want to wear one but you don’t want them to know!

Here’s The Ferro Concepts Slickster Minimalist Plate Carrier (for those who are interested in low profile).

You can easily throw a concealable plate carrier like this under your sport coat – just in case!

What About A Plate Carrier Backpack

Most plate carrier vests have a pouch for plates in both the front and back but maybe you don’t want full coverage…

Or maybe you’re just looking to cover your backside (or give your kid something they can take to school with them for protection from an active shooter).

In these situations consider getting a plate carrier backpack.

It’s one way to add a level of protection without wearing a full-fledged plate carrier.

Honestly, any backpack with a slip pocket can add a bullet-resistant plate.

So, don’t get too hung up on the naming convention.

The bottom line is:

If you can fit a steel plate carrier into a backpack you’ve got yourself a plate carrier backpack.


A MOLLE plate carrier is the exact opposite of a concealable plate carrier. Why? Because a MOLLE plate carrier is designed to hang a lot of tactical gear on the outside of it.

You want to load it up with extra magazines, radios, compasses, food, water, etc.

So with MOLLE, you’re not trying to hide the fact you’re wearing a plate carrier. You’re going to use this piece of tactical gear to hold all your stuff right where you can access it FAST.

Color Options

There are four main color options with plate carriers:

  • Brown
  • Olive
  • Black
  • Camouflage

I’ve also come across a Navy-Blue plate carrier in my research. But never anything crazy like orange, pink, purple, red, etc.

Brown and Olive Plate Carriers

The most common color for a plate carrier is a simple light brown, sandy brown or olive drab color. It’s because brown is a nondescript color.

Meaning you won’t stick out like a sore thumb in a combat situation with a boring sandy brown color.

It’s all about situational awareness.

Maroon, orange, and purple plate carriers wouldn’t sell very well since they would get noticed in a bad way.

Black Plate Carrier

Classic black plate carriers are also easy to find. Black is great for concealment at night but it’s not going to keep you very hidden during the day…

Camouflage Carrier

There are also a lot of camo color options. These are ideal for staying concealed in forested terrain.

MultiCam is a specific camouflage pattern developed by Crye Precision. Lots of people like this MultiCam plate carrier pattern. It works well in all sorts of environments.

Highly Adjustable

Shoulder straps should allow for a wide range of adjustment and the cummerbund as well.

Any other adjustments should be considered extra not necessary.

Includes A Dedicated Water Bladder Pouch

Having a dedicated water bladder pouch is a nice option to have. Often these setups include hydration tube clips to bring water from the pouch to your mouth.

Allowing you to take a sip during combat without stopping or losing concentration.

Price – Cheap Plate Carrier

As with any tactical gear, price is a factor. But like most things in life – you get what you pay for.

Sure, you should always look at the cheap plate carriers. But NEVER settle for an inferior product. And don’t be afraid to return anything subpar or poorly constructed.

Are you on a bit of a budget? Then you’re looking for value – a decent quality at a decent price.

Do you have no budget restrictions? Then you’re looking for the top of the line and are willing to pay up for it.

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plate carrier with other gear


1. AR500 Plate Carrier Veritas

AR500 Plate Carrier Veritas - Fully Loaded PackageThe Veritas Plate Carrier is a modular plate carrier fueled by years of feedback and evaluation.

Accepting 10” x 12” body armor plates, it features a minimalistic profile without sacrificing real estate.

It uses durable 3D mesh lines both the inner plate pockets with inlaid soft loop Velcro pontoon attachment points.

It has removable mesh padded shoulder pads that are included, each featuring tri-loop guides and attachment points.

The low-profile emergency drag handle traverses through the entire back half of the plate carrier for increased strength.

Broad 2” side buckles secure the adjustable straps and are user-removable for increased comfort when running a Veritas™ cummerbund.

Each row of webbing and all high-stress points are Bar-Tack stitch reinforced for durability. 

The entire construction is a genuine 500D Cordura nylon for the perfect balance of durability and weight reduction.

It uses impact-resistant buckles to reduce failure points in these critical areas where many carriers fail.

Note: AR500 also has a fully loaded package (which includes plates) – AR500 Armor® Veritas Fully Loaded Package – Carrier, Curved Plates, Pads & Pouches

2. AR500 Armor AR Invictus Plate Carrier

AR500 Plate Carrier Invictus

The Invictus carrier by AR500 is designed to be the lowest profile and lightest carrier possible.

The ultralight construction results in a jumpable plate carrier that weighs in at 1.2lbs.

This provides extreme mobility without sacrificing comfort or the ability to be fully loaded out.

While The Invictus Carrier maintains an extremely low profile, it doesn’t skimp on features.

It can carry full 10×12 armor plates for maximum coverage. Has a reinforced drag handle and pontoon capability, plus, full MOLLE coverage.

3. MayFlower Plate Carrier

Mayflower Plate CarrierThe Mayflower Assault Plate Carrier by Velocity Systems is a great all-around armor system.

The Mayflower APC can carry ESAPI/SAPI and Swimmer-cut armor plates.

The cummerbund accommodates standard 6×6 inch side plates, or pouches that attach via hook and loop.

The kangaroo pouch up front accepts 3 M4 mags, and the APC features standard PALS webbing for pouch customization.

If you’ve already got a favorite rig, any standard ITW buckles will mount to it.

4. OneTigris Griffin AFPC Modular Plate Carrier (Marketed For Airsoft)

The OneTigris Griffin AFPC Plate Carrier is a popular choice for airsoft, however, IT CAN carry standard plates.

The OneTigris Griffin uses 500D Cordura Nylon and UTX Buckles.

It has a detachable Front Design with a removable front MOLLE flap with chest rig compatibility.

It’s highly breathable with detachable mesh padding for good airflow.

5. Agilite Tactical K5 Plate Carrier

Agilite K5 Plate CarrierThe K5 Plate Carrier is one of the most comfortable Plate Carrier on the market.

It’s lightweight, durable, and combat-proven.

The K5 doesn’t skimp on the shoulder or under-plate padding like many plate carriers so it remains comfortable during prolonged use.

The K5 comes with the Agilite Stretch cummerbund as standard which keeps your vest nice and tight. That way, it won’t bounce when you run.

But when you need to drop to your knees, the carrier doesn’t squash your torso.

The K5 has a unique design in that the shoulder straps. It has a propitiatory “V” shape to center mass which spreads the weight and relieves pressure points.

It’s an overall great plate carrier at a fair price!

6. Condor Plate Carrier Review (Condor Sentry Plate Carrier)

Condor Plate Carrier - Sentry

The Condor Sentry Plate Carrier is designed to have a more comfortable performance.

It fits standard plates and has a beefy emergency drag handle.

Plus, the Condor Sentry Carrier includes a quick cinch adjustment system for the front.

It also has hook and loop adjustments on the shoulders.

This carrier also has tons of MOLLE on both the front and back.

The bottom line: the Condor Sentry is a great budget vest that’s perfect for rapid response situations.

7. 5.11 Plate Carrier Review (5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier)

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

5.11 Tactical brings you the TacTec™ Plate Carrier.

It’s designed to be the most lightweight and best-fitting plate carrier you can find.

The 5.11 TacTec is constructed to ensure high performance while remaining lightweight and mobile.

It can accommodate both medium or large ballistic plates.

And the back yoke shoulder pads help distribute the weight evenly.

8. Condor Plate Carrier Review (Gunner Plate Carrier)

Condor Plate Carrier - GunnerThe Condor Gunner Lightweight Plate Carrier has a minimalist design.

Smaller in size, but just as tough.

The Gunner features a more comfortable fit while still holding standard plates.

It includes MOLLE attachments on the cummerbund for even more utility.

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Professional / Duty Plate Carrier Setup:

Watch the following video to learn how to best setup your new plate carrier:

Body Armor Plates

Most plate carriers DO NOT come with body armor plates – you typically buy those separately.

The good news is, the selection of body armor plates is vast.

  • There are lightweight foam plates that are ideal for practice and can protect you against BBs or paintballs.
  • Or there are heavier bullet-resistance steel plates to slow down and hopefully stop a real bullet from penetration.
  • And everything in between.

Plate choice is a massive topic, beyond the scope of this article – however, here are some suggested places to research the RIGHT ones to pair with your new tactical plate carrier vest.

First off is this Ballistic Level Chart from AR500 (see below):

What body armor should you run? Flat, Curved, Curved Buildup, and Square…

Tough Tactical Hook

If you own a plate carrier, you MUST get one of these tough tactical hooks.

Why? Because it’s a patented grip handle. Making it ideal for easy transportation of heavy gear.

It has an I-beam construction and uses an impact-resistant resin. Making this “clothes hanger” nearly indestructible.

It has an incredible 150lb load capacity!


Of all the tactical gear you could invest in, you should get your tactical plate carrier vest first.

Why? Because you can build your gear around your vest. Instead of trying to make all your gear fit on your vest after the fact.

This helps to keep everything organized and efficient. It also helps to keep weight down.

The bottom line is:

Tactical pate carriers are a must-own piece of gear for anyone who anticipates the possibility of combat or being shot at someday.

“Just In Case” Jack

P.s. Do you know where the closest nuclear bunker is from your home?

There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

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