Best Plate Carriers (& Setups) That Will Make You Hard To Kill

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 05/11/2024

Tactical Plate Carrier MilitaryToday I’ve got something really important to share…

A Complete Guide To Finding (& Building) An Epic Plate Carrier Setup

Because plate carriers protect your vitals in combat.

But body armor isn’t just for military professionals.

Preppers, survivalists, and concerned citizens worldwide should invest in one.

Why? Because nobody knows what the future holds…

But it could very well include flying projectiles…

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Best Plate Carrier Vests For Sale Today

1.
AR500 Plate Carrier Veritas

The Veritas Plate Carrier from AR500 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 in 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 stitches 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.

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Note: AR500 has one of the best and most comprehensive selections today.

Check out their top plate carriers to help narrow down which setup will work best.

↓ Veritas Plate Carrier

2.
AR500 Armor AR Invictus Plate Carrier

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 1.2 lbs.

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

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

It can carry full 10x12 armor plates for maximum coverage. Has a reinforced drag handle and pontoon capability, plus full MOLLE coverage.

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↓ AR500 Armor AR Invictus Carrier Specs

3.
MayFlower Plate Carrier Vest

The 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 6x6 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.

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↓ Mayflower Assault Carrier (APC)

4.
OneTigris Griffin AFPC Modular Vest

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.

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↓ OneTigris Griffin AFPC Review

5.
Agilite K19 Quick-Release Plate Carriers

The K19 Plate Carrier is one of the most comfortable options on the market.

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

The K19 employs an Egress™ Quick-release system and proprietary Fast-Adjust™ Cummerbund that can be adjusted and fine-tuned in real-time, by the wearer. 

The K19 also doesn't skimp on the shoulder or under-plate padding like many other carriers, so it remains comfortable during prolonged use.

The K19 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 K19 has a unique design in that the shoulder straps. It has a propitiatory "V" shape to center mass, spreading the weight and relieving pressure points.

It's an overall great vest at a fair price!

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↓ Agilite K19 Plate Carrier: New Updated Version + Comparison

6. Budget Recommendation
Condor Sentry Lightweight Plate Carrier

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, it 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 is:

The Condor Sentry is a great budget vest that's perfect for rapid-response situations.

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↓ Sentry Plate Carrier | Condor Outdoor

7.
5.11 Tactical TacTec Plate Carrier 56100

5.11 Tactical brings you the TacTec™ Plate Carrier.

It's designed to be the most lightweight and best-fitting vest you can find.

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

It can accommodate both medium and large ballistic plates.

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

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↓ 5.11 Tactical Inside The TacTec Carrier

Condor Gunner Plate Carrier

The 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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↓ Gunner Plate Carrier | Condor Outdoor

What Is A Plate Carrier?

It’s another name for a Tactical Vest.

One that can carry bullet-resistant body armor plates and tactical gear.

Chest Rig

A Chest Rig – Not Designed To Carry Plates

It’s a “chest rig” that adds bullet-resistant plates.

A regular chest rig can carry lots of gear but doesn’t have a pocket for body armor plates.

That’s why they’re so popular with military personnel around the world.

They’re considered an important self-defense upgrade for life-threatening situations.

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

They’re for anyone who wants to prepare for dangerous combat scenarios.

Body armor allows you to meet three mission-critical goals:

  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 combat.

It’s able to perform these functions because it consists of:

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

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

1. Tactical Vest

The tactical vest is fairly self-explanatory.

It’s a vest that fits over your head with a front and back panel.

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

2. Cummerbund

The cummerbund is a lot like a vest belt.

It helps to keep the bottom of the vest tight against your belly.

It’s a wide tactical belt made from an elastic material for a “snug” fit.

This helps keep the vest in place, even when running or scrambling.

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

3. Body Armor Plates

Finally, there are the plates.

You insert plates into the tactical vest to work as advertised.

Hence, the name “plate carrier.”

Most tactical vest includes large, wide pockets with bullet-resistant plates covering your vitals.

Now let’s talk about why you should own one…

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plate carrier for workouts

5 Reasons To Wear One

In the very broadest sense, it’s for SAFETY and ACCESS.

They protect from small objects flying at insane speeds.

We usually call these small flying objects bullets or shrapnel.

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

↓ Civilians SHOULD Own Plate Carriers

1. Military | Law Enforcement | Combat

If you’re destined to encounter combat, it would be silly NOT to invest in a tactical vest.

You need such a device to add a layer of protection.

Plus, most have MOLLE.

This means you can hang your tactical gear from your chest.

This is better than carrying your gear in a backpack.

With a tactical backpack, you must remove it and open it to access your magazines, radio, etc.

Instead, with a plate carrier, all your critical gear is easy to access in battle.

When it comes to combat – this setup is IDEAL!

  • But what about those not in the military?
  • Someone who doesn’t expect combat tomorrow?
  • Why would a regular Joe citizen decide to invest in one?

There are several additional reasons…

2. Search and Rescue Operations

Most search and rescue teams wear chest rigs.

Why? Because they 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.

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 that even search and rescue team members invest in a plate carrier vs. a chest rig.

Take the “free optionality” (i.e., flexibility) whenever possible.

3. Preparing For A “Worst Case” Scenario

Maybe you’re someone who worries about the future.

You understand peace and calm are the exceptions and not the rule on a historical basis.

You realize our world would be chaotic in a worst-case disaster or war.

A world of mass-scale looting and rioting.

What could spark such a “doomsday” scenario?

Take your pick…

Paranoid? Maybe.

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

Fearful, 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 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.

This type of body armor is a wise investment and can protect 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 is for FUN.

Paintball is one of the fastest-growing sports.

But getting hit in the chest with a paintball (unprotected) can do damage.

It won’t kill you, but you could have tender bruising for weeks.

The average paintball can travel 300 feet per second (fps).

Most paintball playing fields require a maximum of 280 fps for safety purposes.

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

Example Of Airsoft Foam Pad

So, if you play paintball, you’ll want to invest in gear to protect yourself…

That way, you can add soft armor foam plates for protection.

Foam plates are lighter than steel plates.

So they’ll provide protection against flying paintballs without weighing you down.

5. Work Out Gear

They can be used as a workout tool to make a workout more strenuous.

For example:

You can wear one (with plates in it) to increase weight.

This makes pull-ups, pushups, running, and swimming much more challenging.

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

Now, anyone who uses these 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 one.

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

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Best Plate Carrier Vest Features To Look For

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

↓ Top Ten Things You Notice When You Wear A Plate Carrier

Size ( Small vs. Large)

Most 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 your plate carrier fit.

With that said:

If you’re extremely petite (or looking to fit a child) OR extra tall/big – you may need to shop around to your unique size requirement.

Weight

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” 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 discuss plate options later in this article…

But for now, here’s an article on “Ballistic Armor Levels.”

Fabric

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 with fabric abrasiveness of 1000 or more…

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

Stitching

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 bonded 92 or better.

Ideally, the one you choose uses quality thread.

But good luck 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

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 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 method at reinforcement points is 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 generally, the more reinforcement points with bar stitching, the better.

Buckles

ITW buckles are best.

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

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

Webbing

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 of, just folded over and sewn…

Back Mesh

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

This helps to add comfort and breathability.

3D spacer mesh, with its good thickness and 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’s (mil-spec) Velcro is considered high quality.

But in general, make sure you test out the Velcro and elastic as soon as you can.

Make sure the Velcro is extremely sticky and grippy.

And the elastic is stretchy but strong.

Profile Options

The traditional cut and shape are fairly standard.

However, there are some unique exceptions you may want to consider:

  • Concealable
  • Low Profile
  • Minimalistic

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 designs are handy when you don’t want everyone to know you’re 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 (for those interested in low profile).

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

↓ Minimalist Plate Carrier Setup

What About A Plate Carrier Backpack

Most 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 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.

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:

You have a plate carrier backpack IF you can fit steel plates into the backpack.

MOLLE

A MOLLE plate carrier is the exact opposite of a concealable one.

Why? Because a MOLLE is designed to hang a lot of tactical gear on the outside of it.

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

So with MOLLE, you’re not trying to hide the fact you’re wearing a tactical vest.

You’ll use this tactical gear to hold all your stuff right where you can access it FAST.

Color Options

There are four main color options:

  • Brown
  • Olive
  • Black
  • Camouflage

I’ve also come across a Navy-Blue one in my research.

But never anything crazy like orange, pink, purple, red, etc.

Brown and Olive

The most common color is a simple light brown, sandy brown, or olive-drab color.

It’s because brown is a nondescript color.

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 wouldn’t sell well since they would get noticed.

Black

Classic black is also easy to find.

Black is great for concealment at night, but it will not keep you 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.

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 – decent quality at a reasonable price.

Do you have no budget restrictions?

Then you’re looking for the top-of-the-line and willing to pay for it.

plate carrier with other gear

Best Plate Carrier Setups & Accessories 

Professional / Duty Plate Carrier Setups

Watch the following video to learn how to set up your new rig:

↓ Professional | Duty Plate Carrier Setup

Body Armor Plates

Most tactical vests DO NOT come with body armor plates – you typically buy those separately.

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

  • Some lightweight foam plates are ideal for practice and protect you against BBs or paintballs.
  • Or there are heavier bullet-resistant 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 vest.

First off is this Ballistic Level Chart from AR500:

↓ Which Body Armor Plates Should I Buy?

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

↓ Which Body Armor Should You Buy? Plate Carrier Setup

Tough Hook Heavy Duty Hanger | 200 lb. Capacity

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 200 lb load capacity!

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↓ How Tough Is Tough Hooke? Gear Testing

Final Thoughts

You should get your tactical vest first before building the rest of your loadout.

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 plate carriers are a must-own for anyone anticipating the possibility of combat or being shot at someday.

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