17 Best Plate Carrier Vests in 2024 and Where to Buy Inserts

This site contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Full Disclosure Here.

In this article, we’ll review plate carrier vests from the bottom of the budget barrel all the way up to Mil-Spec vests ready for combat.

From weight to breathability to downright tacticool factor, we’ll cover it all! I have used a number of them, so I can tell you which ones are good and what features you should look for in a vest.

Marines Wearing Plate Carriers

I’ll also show you where to buy real plates (and the best type) to put inside the vest to make it as “bulletproof” as possible. For those of you looking for a plate carrier for fitness training, I recommend checking out my favorite weighted vests here.

Quick Summary: Our Top Picks For Plate Carriers in 2024
TacTec Plate Carrier by 5.11
  • Vest weight: 2.5lbs
  • Compatible plate size: Medium (12.5″ x 9.5″ x 2″) and Large (13.25 x 10.25 x 2.25 SAPI plates.
  • Modularity options: No modularity options
Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E.
  • Vest Weight: Approximately 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg).
  • Compatible Plate Size: Designed to accommodate standard large (L) and extra-large (XL) armor plates. Typically fits plates ranging from 10.5" x 13.25" to 11" x 14".
  • Material Construction: The Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. L/XL Lightweight Plate Carrier Harness is constructed using high-quality and durable materials to ensure comfort and functionality.
LBT Modular Plate Carrier LBT-6094A
  • Vest Weight: 3.13lbs
  • Compatible Plate Size: Medium size 10”x12”
  • Modularity Options: Hooks for shoulder and neck armor attachments, webbing attachments for extra magazine storage, radio storage, etc, removable side panels, and removable shoulder pads.
Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig
  • Vest Weight: The Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig weighs approximately 1.5 to 2 pounds (0.68 to 0.91 kilograms)
  • Compatible Plate Size: The Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig is designed to accommodate standard-sized ballistic plates. It can typically hold plates that are 10 inches by 12 inches (25.4 cm by 30.48 cm)
  • Modularity Options: The Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig offers a range of modularity options, allowing users to customize their loadout based on their specific mission or preferences.
Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier (MOPC)
  • Vest Weight: Lightweight and Ergonomic Design.
  • Compatible Plate Size: Fits Standard Medium and Large Plates.
  • Modularity Options: Versatile Attachments for Custom Loadouts.
Best Plate Carrier Review and Buying Guide

Soft Body Armor vs Plates

I’ll go more in detail and cover the pros and cons of each type of body armor below. To give you a brief summary, soft body armor is effective at stopping smaller caliber rounds like 9mm, but it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as plates. If concealment isn’t a factor for you, I recommend a vest that allows you to insert hard plates.

Here is a good video I found on YouTube about plate carrier setup and has some information you may find valuable. I recommend skipping straight to 1:50 in the video.

  1. Level of Protection

Level of protection is an important consideration. Different vests and plates have different rating levels that let you know what type of rounds they can effectively stop (more on this below). Before we cover that, here are the types of vests out there to choose from.

Plate carriers are designed to carry inserts made to stop real ballistic rounds. The plates inside the vest cover and protect the vital organs of the upper body. Some vests allow you to insert side and back plates, which might be a little overkill for civilian use, but hey if you don’t mind carrying a little extra weight go for it. They typically have MOLLE attachments and pockets to carry other military-style gear.

Marines Wearing Plate Carriers

Soft bulletproof vests are nice because they are concealable and much lighter than plate carriers. That said, soft vests do have some major downsides. While they can effectively stop smaller rounds like 9mm or shotgun pellets, they’re ineffective against higher caliber firearms.

Multi-functional vests are tactical and are great for attaching accessories like magazine pouches and other gear. They are typically lightweight, but typically don’t have any areas to insert hard or soft plates. As far as protection goes, they aren’t much better than just wearing a regular vest or shirt.

  1. Ratings and Certifications

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is part of the Department of Justice has been setting body armor standards for a long time. Here is a link to the National Institute of Justice website with armor standards. These allow you to know what type of rounds the armor you’re looking at can realistically stop. Here are the levels.

Handgun Calibers

  • Level IIA: Effective against 9mm to .40 ammunition fired from short barrel handguns. Not effective against rifles
  • Level II: Effective against 9mm and .357 magnum ammunition from short barrel handguns. Not effective against rifles.
  • Level IIIA: Effective against .357 and .44 magnum ammunition from long barrel handguns. Not effective against rifles

Rifle Calibers

  • Level III: Effective against 7.62 FMJ core ammunition.
  • Level IV: Effective against .30cal steel for armor piercing rounds.
  1. The Different Types of Plates

SAPI Plates (Small Arms Protective Inserts) are used by all branches of the US military and are what we used in the Marines. Kevlar vests are great, but as mentioned above for rounds larger than 9mm they’re largely ineffective. SAPI plates were specifically designed to stop higher caliber rounds than standard Kevlar vests. SAPI plates are basically ceramic plates (described below) covered in a tough composite material (to trap fragments).

There are actually different types, but they’re typically made of boron carbide or silicon carbide ceramic. The level of protection is great, but they’re quite a bit heavier than soft plates. In the Marines, we had to wear these plates in the front, back, and sizes of our vest. The major downside of SAPI and ceramic plates is they are only designed to stop one impact in the same spot. This is because they shatter when hit to absorb the kinetic energy from the round.

Estimated Plate Weights:

  • Extra small plate: About 2.8 pounds
  • Small plate: About 3.5 pounds
  • Medium plate: 4.0 pounds
  • Large plate: 4.6 pounds
  • Extra Large Plate: 5.3 pounds
USMC Machine Gunner Squad in Flak Jackets

Ceramic Plates are a common type of plate you can find for sale. They were first used on a large scale during Operation Desert Storm. They were a breakthrough in body armor technology and were much lighter than other types of armor at the time. That said, they’re still pretty heavy and bulky.

With ceramic plates, you have to weigh the benefits of increased protection with the cons that come with a heavy vest. You see this a lot in the military; guys will remove their side or back plates to drop weight and increase their mobility. Also keep in mind that because they are designed to shatter when struck by a bullet, they are only effective at stopping one round in the same area. With ceramic plates, you also need to be careful to not drop them and remember to service them if they take a hard impact.

Polyethylene Plates are another type of plate you can buy. They’re significantly lighter than ceramic plates. These plates often involve woven shield materials that actually take advantage of the natural spin of a bullet to absorb the impact. The heat of the bullet actually melts the polyethylene and helps stop the round.

Steel Plates are an old type of plate that I don’t recommend because of the weight. Steel has been used for centuries, and if it’s thick enough it can account stop ballistic rounds. It was originally made to stop rounds from musket rifles but is still effective against modern firearms.

  1. Weight and Heat Considerations

Weight is another important factor, especially if you’re planning on wearing the vest for long periods of time. If you’re looking for a vest to workout in you might actually want one that is heavy.

If you’re looking for a vest for home defense or sports like paintball/airsoft you probably want to look for one that is lightweight. I’ll list the weight for each vest below, so you can compare.

If you’re wearing a heavy vest and moving around a lot, you’re going to sweat a lot. In the Marines, after hikes, our cammies would be totally soaked under our plate carriers. If you plan on wearing the plate carrier for a long time, I recommend attaching a hydration bladder to the back, so you can stay hydrated and prevent overheating.

  1. Functionally and Attachments

You want to make sure you get a plate carrier that has MOLLE attachments and places where you can attach ammo pouches or other gear you want to have on you. Certain vests have lots of places for attachments and accessories, while others are more minimalist.

MOLLE (pronounced like Molly) is an acronym that stands for  “Modular Lightweight Loadbearing Equipment”. At the very basic level, it’s essentially a ladder of tightly woven and durable denier nylon that is far superior to other velcro systems. Having a MOLLE system integrated into your plate carrier allows you to quickly and easily attach pouches, accessories, patches, holsters, and many other pieces of gear. Using MOLLE is typically better than stuffing things into your backpack or your pockets because you can customize where the items go and you’ll always have quick access to what you need the most when it counts. Most high-quality plate carriers will be riddled with MOLLE and basically, all military issued vests encompass MOLLE in one way or another.

Here Are the Best Plate Carriers


1. 5.11 Tactical TacTec Plate Carrier (Best Value)

TacTec Plate Carrier with Rogue Plates

Shop or Read Reviews

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: 5.11 took their time and interviewed the highest level operators in the world and asked for their feedback while designing. That effort did not go unnoticed and the attention to detail and unique features of this plate carrier set it apart in many different ways.

So what’s so great about it? Well, for starters, it’s the most comfortable and cool plate carrier I’ve ever worn. 5.11 incorporated padded yoke-style shoulder straps, the same style that makes 5.11 backpacks so comfortable. This technology distributes the weight of the plate carrier very well and eliminates common plate carrier pressure points.

Related Article: 15 Best Long Range Rifles (Ranked by a Marine Sniper)

5.11 also allowed the shoulder straps to have a little play, which allows them to move with the body, but not so much that they feel loose. The mesh/skeletonized cummerbund system is elastic and has some flex to it. The mesh system makes it very breathable and still allows for molle attachments and even side SAPIs. The plate carrier is tapered at the top to give operators more freedom to move, while still allowing it to hold medium and large plates. 

You get a laser cut molle/velcro panel on the upper half of both sides of the plate carrier and there is plenty of space to put your ID and morale patches, along with a front compartment to hold maps and other gear. The entire vest can be taken off in seconds with the specially designed one-handed quick-release system.

Tactiholics actually did an awesome review on this plate carrier that is very in-depth if you want to check out the video below.

Here is a cool video by 5.11 that explains why this vest is so popular in the Crossfit community. Rogue Fitness actually makes non-ballistic plates that are cheaper than buying front and back ballistic plates if you’re planning on using this plate carrier for fitness training. You can find the contoured plates here and the non-contoured plates here.


  • 5.11 Tactical’s excellent reputation
  • Comfortable, adjustable fit
  • Simple, user-friendly design that’s easy for newcomers to use
  • Modular and customizable design makes this plate carrier vest very versatile


  • Higher price point
  • MOLLE area isn’t as large as some competitors, limiting load capacity


2. Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E.

Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E.

Buy on Sportsmans

My Review: Blackhawk is probably best known for their holsters, but they also make all sorts of different tactical gear designed for military personnel, law enforcement, and regular tactical enthusiasts. 

One such piece of equipment is the S.T.R.I.K.E. plate carrier vest. This plate carrier vest has gotten a lot of attention for its practical, rugged, comfortable, and modular design. 

Most plate carrier vests have MOLLE webbing, but the S.T.R.I.K.E. might have more than most, providing ample room on both the front and back panels for you to attach whatever MOLLE-compatible gear you want with you for your ideal custom loadout. 

Another thing that the S.T.R.I.K.E. plate carrier does better than most is striking a balance (get it?) between durability and comfort.

Popular Post: 17 Best Tactical Pants (Ranked by a Marine)

It uses high-quality materials and reinforced stitching to ensure that the vest can stand up to just about anything you’re likely to encounter. At the same time, the shoulder straps are adjustable and well-padded, so you can’t find the perfect fit and know that they won’t dig into your shoulders. The side straps are also adjustable, further helping you achieve a secure fit.


  • Abundant MOLLE webbing for modularity 
  • Strong construction and reinforced stitching
  • Adjustable side and shoulder straps
  • Designed to accommodate standard plates


  • Can quickly become bulky with too much gear
  • Not particularly breathable


3. LBT Modular Plate Carrier LBT-6094A

London Bridge Trading Company (LBT) Modular Plate Carrier LBT 6094A

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: First and foremost, LBT carries several versions of this plate carrier that host subtle differences mostly surrounding sizing.  The “A” variant is compatible with plates up to Swimmer SAPI plates, the “B” variant is compatible with large SAPI plates, while the “C” variant is compatible with XL SAPI plates. We just really like the 6094A, so that’s what we’ve chosen, however, another model may suit your specific use case better.

Like many modular plate carrier systems, these consist of the same great 500D Cordura construction that has proven time and time again to be reliable, durable, and rather lightweight. Every chance LBT had to reinforce a seam or strap was taken with high-quality Bar-Tacks and Type E Mil-Spec threaded stitching. 

Popular Article: 23 Best AR-15 Scopes (Ranked by a Marine)

These vests, no matter which model you choose, are extremely high quality and are some of the most durable lightweight vests on the market. Of course, the price reflects this, as I’m sure they don’t have many repeat customers and not because they aren’t good but because they are so good most people only need to buy one.

Aside from the phenomenal quality you receive here, you can expect some pretty standard modularity attributes such as a plethora of web attachment points littered over the entire vest, adjustable padded shoulder straps with removable padded wraps, adjustable and removable side panels, wire/hose guides, adjustable spine plate pouch, anchored drag handle, and interior hooks for shoulder and collar armor.


  • Durable and well-made
  • Modular and customizable
  • Comfortable fit
  • Versatile design
  • Professional grade


  • Higher price point
  • Customization can be a complex process

I’ll post a video below where a Navy SEAL goes over his setup with this vest. I think you’ll find it useful.


4. Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig

Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The vests that we’ve talked about so far have all been pretty heavy-duty, so now let’s switch gears to a more minimalist, lightweight design. 

The design is very unobtrusive, making it easy to move around in and adding minimal weight to your loadout from the vest itself. In fact, while this particular vest can be used with an armor plate, it’s also designed to comfortably fit over other body armor. All of this combines to make the Voodoo Tactical Tactical Chest Rig popular among all kinds of tactical enthusiasts, from airsoft players to law enforcement professionals. 

Related Article: 30 Best Combat Knives (Ranked by a Marine)

And despite the minimalist size, this chest rig can still hold a lot. It has pockets for seven 30-round rifle magazines, four closed-top pistol magazine pouches, and a pouch for your IFAK. On top of that, there are several zippered gear pockets and plenty of MOLLE attachment points for securing additional gear. To help you bear the weight of all that, there’s ample padding along the shoulder straps.

With that said, with so much storage available, it’s easy to load up the Tactical Chest Rig until it’s quite bulky, nullifying the point of the minimalist design.


  • Lightweight and streamlined
  • Abundant MOLLE webbing for modularity 
  • Adjustable side and shoulder straps, plus plenty of padding
  • Minimalist profile
  • Affordable price point


  • No back panel
  • Not very breathable


5. Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier (MOPC)

Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier

Buy on Optics Planets

My Review: The Condor Modular Operator Plate Carrier is another affordable option that’s great for beginners but it provides a lot more coverage than the Voodoo vest.

In addition to the full front and back panels, the Condor MOPC has an adjustable, removable cumberbund that can accept plates of its own. Despite this coverage, quick-release buckles on the sides and shoulders make it easy to put on and take off the vest as necessary. 

And speaking of putting on and taking off, this vest is absolutely covered in MOLLE attachment loops, plus a velcro panel across the chest. It doesn’t come with any storage of its own, but it can hold pretty much anything you could reasonably want it to. 

Popular Article: 21 Best Red Dot Sights for the Money

Obviously, with so much protection and gear storage, the Condor MOPC can be quite weighty, especially once you’ve added armor plates and the rest of your gear. Fortunately, the vest has removable, anti-slip shoulder pads to provide comfort and stability. The shoulder straps are adjustable, helping you achieve a comfortable, secure fit. 


  • Affordable price point
  • Breathable 3D mesh liner
  • Tons of protection
  • Emergency drag handle
  • Very versatile


  • More basic features
  • Can quickly become heavy and bulky
  • Doesn’t come with armor plates


6. Vism 2963 Series Expert Plate Carrier

Vism 2963 Series Expert Plate Carrier

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The Vism 2963 Series Expert Plate Carrier features extensive MOLLE webbing across the front, back, and side panels, including on the adjustable cummerbund, giving you plenty of space to attach a wide array of MOLLE accessories. 

The cummerbund is length-adjustable and can be extended up to 51 inches in length. The side pockets are specifically designed to accommodate 6×8-inch side armor panels or plates, so you get protection on all sides. Velcro panels on the cummerbund’s ends securely attach to velcro strips on the front panel, ensuring that the cummerbund stays in place.

The shoulder straps are also adjustable and are equipped with large heavy-duty quick-connect buckles and velcro fasteners for convenient customization. They come with two padded shoulder covers, complete with MOLLE webbing, velcro fasteners, and loops for routing communications cables. 

The Vism 2963 Series Expert Plate Carrier also includes two Soft Ballistic Panels for the front and back panels of the carrier. Crafted from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), these lightweight ballistic panels offer robust protection without adding unnecessary weight. These panels are capable of stopping rounds such as 9mm and .44 Mag up to 1,400 FPS. The flexible soft panel design enhances conformity to body shape, while STR’s Cut design facilitates greater arm movement and overall comfort.


  • Budget-friendly price tag
  • Modular design
  • Adjustable straps and plenty of padding
  • Secure, stable fit
  • Great for first-time plate carrier vest wearers


  • Not as durable as higher-end options


7. Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0

Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0 is one of the best plate carriers out there as its purpose-built for combat by people who have seen combat. It’s constructed of the finest 500D Cordura nylon which is one of the lightest but most durable types of nylon available. 

The entire thing is built to be tough as nails but they’ve gone and tried to keep your body temps as low as possible by adding ventilation and 3D mesh to keep the air flowing. The shoulders and basically any point of contact with the body is padded for long-duration usage and the vest has plenty of built-in storage for just about every gadget you’d ever need in the field.

Related Article: 30 Best Fixed Blade Knives (What The Military Uses)

This plate carrier is capable of utilizing both soft and hard body armor all the way up to level 4 ESAPI 10×12 plates. The vest comes with a hook and loop lay flat drag handle and all the necessary guides for hydration hoses, antennas, comms wires, etc. To boot, you’ll get a lifetime warranty from Shellback!


  • Durable and well-made
  • Comfortable, adjustable fit
  • Quick-release system
  • Professional appearance


  • Higher price point
  • May be bulky with a larger load-out
  • On the heavier side


8. AR5 Armor Veritas Lite Plate Carrier (Great Budget Option)

AR500 Armor Veritas Modular Plate Carrier

Shop or Read Reviews

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The Veritas is a great modular plate carrier offered by an extremely well-respected brand, AR5 Armor. You may know of them from their large selection of armor plates and as such, it’s only fitting they offer you a way to carry those slabs of armor.

The AR5 Armor Veritas, coming in at only 1 pound and 14 ounces for the base layer, is one of the lighter modular systems on the market that isn’t priced sky high and as it’s made of 500D Cordura, you won’t be weighed down and will have plenty of weight capacity left to add-on necessary attachments and extensions. 

Furthermore, the webbing including what lines the inner plate pouches is 3D printed and is Bar-Tack reinforced for durability and ensuring the plates do not shift around. The Veritas is equipped with a low-profile drag handle that is anchored into the entire rear platform for ultra-strength and reliability.

Popular Article: 15 Best Range Bags (Ranked by a Marine)

These guys don’t do the proprietary thing and they allow compatibility with most chest rig mounts, rear load-bearing systems, and extensions on the market today. This means that if you already have gear from another company, it’s likely it’ll work in tandem with the Veritas modular vest platform.


  • Lightweight, minimalist design
  • Highly modular
  • Durable and ruggedly built
  • Affordable price point


  • Doesn’t come with armor inserts
  • Not the most comfortable
  • Limited carrying capacity

AR500 Made an awesome video overview of this plate carrier that I think you’ll find useful if you’re looking for a budget-friendly plate carrier.


9. Condor Exo Plate Carrier

Condor MOPC Plate Carrier

Shop or Read Reviews

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The Condor Exo is a very popular plate carrier that for the money is almost impossible to beat. Although it comes with no attachments, at around $60 this vest is an absolute steal.

This vest is suitable for civilian applications and most people won’t ever need to upgrade to a higher-end vest or become displeased with it down the road. Sure, there are higher-end vests that I would opt for if I were actually heading into a war zone, but for most people, this vest will do the trick.

I like the wide shoulder straps, it’s a very comfortable and well-made made vest. It’s a simple rig made by one of the most reputable companies in the industry. Of all the carriers on this list, this one is the most like the KHD Defense plate carrier used by Marines.

Related Article: 32 Best Military Watches (Ranked by a Marine)

It utilizes the PAL system, so you won’t have to worry about buying a MOLLE attachment that won’t fit on the vest.


  • Affordable price point
  • Comfortable fit
  • Durable
  • Great entry-level option
  • Professional appearance


  • No quick-release feature
  • Doesn’t come with pouches or accessories


10. HRT RAC Plate Carrier


Shop or Read Reviews

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: This is an excellent option for staying cool and comfortable and is probably one of the most comfortable vest options, especially for hot climate operations. The shoulder pads are also some of the best in terms of comfort and the entire vest is designed around an airflow channel. 

Like many vests, the HRT RAC comes with a ton of modification opportunities including a Duraflex buckle platform for extensions and additions of modular pouches and equipment storage.

Consisting of 500D Cordura, this is one of the lighter vests on the market today and was purpose-built to be more of a lightweight platform to use in hot climates. Of course, this is still a solid choice if you don’t need the cooling effects.


  • Innovative, laser-cut design
  • Comfortable, adjustable fit
  • Durable but lightweight
  • Quick-release system


  • Doesn’t come with armor plates
  • Lower load capacity
  • Higher price point


11. LBT Modular Plate Carrier

LBT Modular Plate Carrier

Buy on Optics Planets

My Review: The LBT (London Bridge Trading) Modular Plate Carrier is a high-end option that is basically the best a plate carrier can be, combining both cutting-edge design and exceptional functionality. It’s probably more than civilians need, but it’s ideal for law enforcement, military members, and other tactical professionals.

At the heart of the LBT Modular Plate Carrier lies its adaptability. It’s absolutely covered in MOLLE attachment points across the front, rear, and side of the vest, plus a velcro panel on the chest. It also seamlessly accommodates front, back, and side plates. 

Comfort and mobility are also cornerstones of the LBT Modular Plate Carrier’s design philosophy. The concealable rear adjustment, elegantly integrated into the cummerbund-style side panels, is elastic, ensuring comfort and unrestricted movement. The padded shoulder straps and supplemental wrap-around pads improve the ergonomics of this plate carrier vest even more. 

Attention to detail is apparent in the carrier’s wire, antenna, and hydration hose guides. The spine plate sleeve, reinforced drag handle, and centered front pouch enhance the carrier’s utility, offering seamless access to maps, magazines, and utility gear. Interior side radio pouches cater to seamless communication integration. Inside, interior velcro attachment points cater to the integration of shoulder or collar soft armor. 


  • Rugged, durable construction
  • Extensive MOLLE webbing
  • Professional-grade
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and cummerbund system, plus padding for comfort
  • LBT’s excellent reputation in the tactical gear world


  • High-end price point
  • Quickly becomes bulky with larger load-outs
  • Heavier than competitors


12. HighCom Armor RAK-ACAP Series Rifle Armor Kit Plate Carrier

HighCom Armor RAK-ACAP Series Rifle Armor

Buy on Optics Planets

My Review: The HighCom Armor RAK-ACAP Series Rifle Armor Kit Plate Carrier is a testament to top-tier plate carrier performance and another great option for tactical professionals.

For one, the attention to detail is exceptional. HighCom used premium 1000D CORDURA nylon to ensure that the vest withstands rigorous use in demanding environments. The front and back plate pockets ensure both safety and mobility for the wearer. 

Along with the padded, adjustable shoulder straps, the cummerbund ensures a secure fit and optimum comfort. There are also additional removable pads for the shoulders.

One of the carrier’s standouts is its drag handle, a critical safety feature that allows for swift extraction during high-pressure situations. Like with other plate carriers, the 360 MOLLE webbing allows the wearer to attach all kinds of accessories, pouches, and gear.

Finally, HighCom proudly manufactures this plate carrier vest in the United States.


  • High-level protection
  • Extensive modularity
  • High-quality materials and construction
  • Professional-grade
  • Comes with armor plates


  • Higher price point, but not that bad considering that plates are included
  • Bulkier than others thanks to rifle-rated protection
  • No side plates


Important Note: The rest of the vests on this list are suitable for training, paintball, airsoft, and other outdoor activities, but I would not recommend them if you’re looking for a vest to trust with your life. Most of these vests are available on Amazon, so for those of you who are just looking for a plate carrier for recreational use, these will work!


13. GLORYFIRE Tactical Vest

Check Price on Amazon

My Review: If you’re looking for a plate carrier vest to put real plates into for personal defense, or a good vest for training, paintball, and/or airsoft this is a good option. It also reminds me of the KHD plate carriers we used in the Marines. 

The vest does not come with hard or soft armor plates, but I’ll show you some good places to buy some at the bottom of the page. Remember that although this vest is made from a very strong anti-tear polyester, it’s not Kevlar, so if you take a real round to the chest without armor plates thinking it’s Kevlar you’ll surely read product descriptions from now on (if you live).

Overall, it is the best plate carrier for the money that you can buy on Amazon. Personally, I would choose the MOPC over this, but both are great options. It is very adjustable, so you can get a tight fit. It also has wide padded shoulder straps that distribute the weight of the vest nicely.


  • Modular and customizable
  • Versatile
  • Comfortable, adjustable fit
  • Affordable price point
  • Lightweight design


  • No quick-release buckles
  • No webbing on shoulder straps
  • Plates not included

Also Read: Best Kydex Holsters [IWB and OWB Carry]


14. vAv Yakeda Tactical CS Adjustable Vest

Check Price on Amazon

My Review: If you’re looking for a minimalist, low profile, and lightweight plate carrier vest this one by YAKEDA is a good choice. The plate pockets are durable and backed with a 3d mesh for comfort and body heat dispersion.

A nice thing about this vest is that it’s very adjustable as far as size. I know a lot of larger guys have a hard time finding a vest that fits right. It also comes with 3 mag pouches that can be removed or replaced.


  • Usable with both soft and hard armor plates
  • 3 point adjustable height using velcro straps
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Comes with removable magazine pouches


  • Cannot hold side plates
  • Plates not included


15. Shellback Tactical SF Plate Carrier

Shellback Tactical SF Plate Carrier

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: The Shellback Tactical SF Plate Carrier is another high-end option that caters to the rigorous demands of tactical professionals. This carrier sets an exemplary standard in tactical gear, uniting innovation with uncompromising functionality.

For example, while plenty of plate carriers have an adjustable cummerbund, this one is set apart by its integrated radio pouch tailored for Police or MBITR radios—secured by a reliable snap closure—and padded comfort flap. Another standout feature is the integrated kangaroo pouch is a standout feature, which accommodatse three .223/5.56 magazines. In addition, the drag handle is absolutely essential for secure extraction during high-pressure tactical situations. 

In addition to the padded comfort flap on the cummerbund, the front and back shoulder areas are also padded. The usage of 3D mesh on this padding ensures that the vest stays breathable, even with extended wear. 

Lastly, the inclusion of a lifetime warranty stands as a testament to the carrier’s quality, durability, and the confidence of its creators in its performance and longevity.


  • Streamlined design
  • Lightweight
  • Padded and adjustable for comfort
  • Excellent value


  • Doesn’t come with armor plates
  • Limited carrying capacity
  • Can become bulky with larger load-outs


16. vAv Yakeda Outdoor Vest

vAv YAKEDA Tactical Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Training Airsoft Vest Adjustable for Adults (US, Alpha, One Size, Regular, Regular, Black CP)

Check Price on Amazon

My Review: vAv Yakeda is known for making high-quality and affordable vests. This vest can hold plates, but they are also known for making good utility vests. Like the others on this list, this vest is highly adjustable to fit a wide range of sizes. The waist is adjustable up to 50 inches.

It is made with thick and durable 900D nylon that isn’t going to tear or rip like a cheap plate carrier vest. Another thing I love about this setup is the price. This might just be the best plate carrier for the money.


  • Holds soft and hard armor plates
  • 3 Magazine pouches, velcro area for patch, two communication pouches, and flashlight/map pouch
  • Good for Paintball and Airsoft


  • Plates not included


17. Chase Tactical Low-Vis Plate Carrier (LVPC)

Chase Tactical Low-Vis Plate Carrier (LVPC)

Buy on Optics Planet

My Review: Last up is the Chase Tactical Low-Vis Plate Carrier (LVPC). This mid-range, low-profile carrier vest gives you great value by combing essential features with a more approachable price point.

For one, the removable cummerbund has been meticulously crafted with a double layer of Mil-Spec Elastic. This ensures a secure fit while also allowing the wearer plenty of mobility. The cummerbund also features two internal pouches on each side, providing discreet storage options that further underscore the carrier’s low-visibility profile.

But speaking of low-profile, if you’re looking for a carrier that will let you carry huge loadouts, this is not the one for you. The Chase Tactical LVPC doesn’t have the extensive MOLLE webbing that other vests do. That’s intentional since it’s supposed to be a discrete option, but it does limit your carrying capacity. 

There is a large velcro panel on the front of the vest. It’s primarily intended for patches and placards, though you could certainly attach a couple of pouches to it. 

The vest’s adjustable shoulder straps help with the discrete profile, while also ensuring a comfortable, secure fit. 

Finally, the Chase Tactical LVPC is made from Mil-Spec IR Treated 500D Cordura for durability and discretion. The carrier’s fabrics are treated at the source to deliver an exceptionally low I.R. signature, minimizing the risk of detection during covert operations.


  • Low-visibility design
  • Plenty of MOLLE webbing
  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Minimalist


  • Doesn’t come with armor inserts
  • Limited carrying capacity


Where to Buy Armor Plate Inserts?

It can be hard to find armor plates, It really just depends on what kind you want, but here are a couple of good places I would recommend buying them from.

As far as overall value, AR500 sells plates on their website here and they’re usually a good bang for your buck.


If you’re looking for the best place to buy SAPI plates I recommend you start with eBay. You can search for plates on eBay here. This is a great place to buy them from and you can often get rock bottom prices.

Gun Broker:

You can search the Gun Broker website. They often have a lot of great plates you can choose from and they have an auction style section that has the potential of netting you some good deals.

Local Gun Shows:

This one is self-explanatory, but an often overlooked option. Gun shows are a great place to find armor and talk to an experienced salesman about the best armor plates for you. You can also negotiate on the price and sometimes get an absolute steal! As always, being able to try on gear before you buy is a huge plus. My personal advice would be to find a gun show and try on a few different pieces to figure out what you like, then shop around online for the best deals.


What Type of Body Armor Does the Military Use?

Marine Infantry and I believe the army both use KDH vests. The KDH company makes a quality plate carrier system that has a cummerbund style main vest with removable side plates (up to 7×8”). The 2-point cutaway system has 360-degree MOLLE attachment points, a quick release system, a drag handle, integrated communication channels, scalable modular components, and other great features. I don’t know if you can buy this vest as a civilian, but you can check out the KDH website here. They have a contact tab on their website with a contact form and phone number. I’m sure they would be more than happy to answer your questions.

Navy Corpsman with US Marine

Are Plate Carriers with Inserts Really that Heavy?

The simple answer is they can be (I have a list of the plate weights at the top of the page). They aren’t that heavy, but if you’re hiking, running, or wearing them for a long time they can get uncomfortable. I had an extra-large vest and I’ll tell you dam these things get heavy after a while. These are commonly used by all military branches and are a good option for personal defense. You can find SAPI plates in different sizes in shapes. As you can see from the weights below a plate carrier vest with inserts can get a bit heavy.

What are Some Attachments You Recommend?

Admin Pouch: Admin pouches are nice to hold things like a small notepad, pens, batteries, and other things you’d like to be able to access quickly.

Dump Pouch: If you’re planning on using this vest for shooting and military-style training a dump pouch is a great attachment. When you’re reloading you’ll be able to retain your magazines during a fast reload instead of letting them lay on the ground. Utilizing a dump pouch will allow you to save a lot of time that would have to be spent going back looking for your mags. You can also fill a dump pouch with other gear you’d like to carry.

What Should I Do If I Get a Vest and It Doesn’t Fit?

Most the vests on this list are they’re very adjustable to accommodate a wide range of sizes, but if you buy the vest on amazon they will usually accept returns. I recommend reading the product pages to see the max and minimum waist sizes, so you don’t have this problem. I’ll do my best to list the size specifications next to each plate carrier.

What are the Downsides to Plate Carriers?

The major downside when it comes to plate carriers or more lightweight tactical vests is the sheer weight and bulkiness. They do get a bit uncomfortable after wearing them for a long time and do restrict the speed of your movements slightly. Overall you have to weigh the pros and cons to decide to find the best plate carrier for your needs. Some are more minimalistic and will be easier to move around in and are better for just training.

What are Some Advantages of Soft Body Armor?

The major advantage of soft body armor is that it’s concealable. Most soft armor can fit discretely undergarments, so no one will even be aware you’re wearing a ballistic vest. It doesn’t offer the same level of protection as plate carriers, but it’s still a heck of a lot better than nothing. On top of that, it’s more flexible and comfortable when wearing for long periods of time.

What Size Magazines Can the Vests Hold?

Most vests easily accommodate the most popular .223 and .556 NATO rounds. If you’re looking to hold a much larger bullet caliber or extended mags you may want to purchase aftermarket magazine pouches that you can attach through the vests MOLLE system.

Do Plate Carriers Increase the Risk of Overheating?

Definitely, you’ll want to make sure you’re crushing water if you’re moving around a lot. Look for a good hydration bladder to attach to the back of the vests. Most quality vests will have MOLLE functionality on the back that will allow you to attach a bladder. Or you can just use the straps on the hydration bladder and put it on over your vest. That’s how I usually had mine set up when I was in the Marines.

How Many Rounds Can Bullet Proof  Vests Stop?

This really depends on the type of armor/plates you’re wearing. I recommend referring to the top of the page and reading about the different types of plates and the protection ratings set by the NIJ. Do note that some plates are actually designed to shatter when shot to absorb the impact of the round. If you’re using the plate carrier for civilian uses like home defense it’s unlikely you’ll be shot in the same place twice, but it’s still an important consideration when choosing a vest.

How to Wash a Plate Carrier?

Plate carriers cannot be put in washing machines. For each specific carrier it’s best to read the manual they will explain exactly how to wash it.

Should I Buy a Camouflage Vest?

Sometimes the camo plate carriers are actually more expensive. In many settings camouflage really won’t even be an advantage so my short answer would be not, but if you’re using the vest for something like paintball or airsoft in a woodland setting it might be a good idea.

Are Plate Carriers with Inserts Really that Heavy?

The simple answer is they can be (I have a list of the plate weights at the top of the page). They aren’t that heavy, but if you’re hiking, running, or wearing them for a long time they can get uncomfortable. I had an extra-large vest and I’ll tell you dam these things get heavy after a while. They’re are commonly used by all military branches and are a good option for personal defense. You can find SAPI plates in different sizes in shapes. As you can see from the weights below a plate carrier vest with inserts can get a bit heavy.

Is a plate carrier better than a vest?

A plate carrier is always better than a vest because thick panels provide a higher level of protection than an ordinary vest.

They even protect you from bullets and heat.

Can civilians wear plate carriers?

The short answer is Yes.
Except for convicted felons, you will be easily able to buy plate carriers online. 

Though there can be exceptions vide state laws and local regulations.

What’s the difference between a bulletproof vest vs plate carrier?

A plate carrier provides more protection as it is heavy and has ballistic panels. While a bulletproof vest is lightweight and tactical.

A plate carrier can’t be concealed. On the other hand, a bulletproof vest is concealable in public.

Does a plate carrier or ballistic vest cover your stomach?

A plate carrier for the most part does not cover the stomach. It is because stomach wounds are not that life-threatening.

Also, leaving the stomach open helps in agility which is crucial in an emergency.


Wikipedia: Plate Carriers and Armor Ratings

Encyclopedia Britannica: Bulletproof Vests

Marine Corps Infantryman


Final Thoughts

That concludes my review of the best plate carrier vests and flak jackets. There are a lot out there, you just need to find one that meets your preferences/needs.

If you feel that there is a great vest that should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments!

Also, let me know about your experiences with plate carriers in the comments as I really enjoy hearing about other people’s experience with tactical gear!

Let me know if you have any questions, it’s always good to read comments and I’ll respond as fast as I can.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the other pages on our website!

Oh and if you want to help us out and stay up to date on the latest tactical gear, like our Facebook page! Thanks, Gents!

Semper Fi,

Corporal Wabo

28 thoughts on “17 Best Plate Carrier Vests in 2024 and Where to Buy Inserts”

  1. Thank you for all the info and effort here.
    Im small frame 5’8 140, 29” waist . Haven’t bought one yet for cause I’m particular on the fit that it’s not sloppy/loose. Any recommendations ?

  2. Hey Robert, running in a plate carrier that doesn’t fit properly really sucks so I get why you’re looking for one that will fit you properly. What is your price range? I’ll find a couple options I think would be best for you.

  3. Great info! Im a medic with a bigger build and im looking for something with good mobility but that can hold a lot of pouches and supplies in my divers triangle. The shellback looked perfect except that price. ill keep looking tho! thanks again for all the advice!

  4. Awesome article. I did basic in 1987 and the old “Nam” style vest was all we had. We weren’t even issued one but got try them out. Great way to enter and experience the suck zone. No wonder the guys ditched them.
    This article is well done, Marine. Takes into account a lot of things people might not consider. Thanks for writing it.

  5. Do you have an opinion on AR500’s products? Does their “3D Mesh” earn the dollar? or is it a nice to have?

  6. Would love your thoughts on the 5.11 TacTec plate carrier!! Seems like a good design from the quick release, padding, and apparent mobility. Let me know please

  7. Hi there, I decided to take the plunge on body armor, level 4 stuff all around. Infidel had a deal going and I bought the Condor carrier, first aid with a pouch, 6 mag pouches, and smoke with pouch. The Carrier could have a little more padding on the shoulder straps. It is hot here, so all I usually wear is a t-shirt. It might be better in a heavier coat or jacket. Overall, I’m pleased with the carrier, there are plenty of molle loops all around, I’m just trying to get used to the weight and where to put my junk ha! I did put the mag pouch on and filled it up with loaded mags, it’s not so bad, but after about 2 hours, I’m ready to take it off. Thanks for making this review.

  8. Hi Larry, thanks for taking the time to comment. Good choice on the Condor Plate Carrier. For the money, it’s hard to beat! I agree that the shoulder straps can be a little uncomfortable, but that’s something you’ll get used to after wearing a plate carrier for a while. It sounds like you have a pretty solid setup now!

  9. Hi David, I recently got my hands on a TacTec and I think it’s a great plate carrier. I’ve been running and working out in it a lot and I can’t believe how comfortable it is. If you end up getting it, there is about zero chance you’ll regret it. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  10. Hi Gus, I just added the 5.11 TacTec plate carrier to the list. It wasn’t on there before because I was still waiting to get my hands on one. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  11. Hi Samuel, I haven’t tried any of their plate carriers, but their armor plates are pretty good for the money. The only downside it often takes weeks or even months to actually get them after you place an order.

  12. Have you had a chance to check out BDS Tactical V ops plate carrier? looking at adding one to my vehicle kit and am on the fence about buying one.

    Semper Fi

  13. Yeah, airsoft vests can accept real plates and run with them with no problem. In my country, our police and military forces do it all the time.
    Our GRUMEC (Brazilian navy combat diver SOF) Is known to use several Chinese replica vests, from Emerson JPC to other brands and models (Including one that I don`t know) And CIRAS.

    My army actually issued some replica CIRAS to its paratrooper battalion during Rio de Janeiro Olympic games, with ballistic hard plates and soft armor. They`ll do fine, not like a lot of people say that they will crumble within a day… Some held up till now and are still in service, and they are pretty much inexpensive to replace, compared to the original ones.

  14. First off, thank you for your service. Law enforcement here. We are issued level IIIA soft armor vests with a single 6×6 III+ plate in front. Better than nothing, but I’ve been looking for something to keep in my cruiser for emergencies.

    I’ve got a cart full of AR500 plates (IV 10×12 front, III+ 6×6 sides and 10×12 back) ready to order, but was looking at various carriers. I’m not necessarily needing anything to fit perfectly against my torso, etc, as this would most likely be getting thrown on in a hurry over my existing vest/uniform/etc. Also, the faster it can be donned, the better. I’m not concerned with how quickly it can be taken back off. Example scenario: heading to a standoff-type call, stop momentarily prior to arrival just long enough to grab it out of the trunk and throw it on. Not planned to wear for long periods of time on a daily basis.

    In this sense, bulky is not an issue for me. I’m just trying to figure out what would best fit what I am needing it for. Again, I would either need side plate pouches or have the ability to have them added via MOLLE webbing. External mag/utility pouches are not necessary to come included with the carrier, as I have plenty of them already that could be added.

    Would PREFER to keep it as inexpensive as possible, but I don’t want something that will fall apart on me. Any input you can give as to what would best fit my needs would be appreciated.

  15. What do you think about the RE Factor/Ferro Concepts Advanced Slickster plate carrier? Garand Thumb gives it a positive review on YouTube, though he acknowledges a potential issue with the back plate coming loose from the shoulder straps, particularly under heavy load.

  16. I’m currently using the 5.11 TacTec plate carrier. Just because I’m no longer in the Marine Corps, I don’t want to become complacent. I’m using the 5.11 plate carrier for fitness and endurance training. It’s way more comfortable than the old Vietnam era flak jackets we used when I went through MCRD San Diego back in 2001. When I got to my unit, we were issued the Interceptor flak jackets and used those when I was in OIF III (2005). I got medically retired in 2007 and bought a surplus Interceptor vest a few years later to continue to stay fit the best I could. The difference between the 5.11 plate carrier and the older generation flak jackets we used in the Corps is like a night and day difference.

  17. First off, thanks to you and military/LEO/ems/etc who read this for their service. Second, thanks for the comparison of a good spread of carriers.
    I was wondering if you’d possibly had the chance to try the HTR HRAC? I just picked one up (still need to pick up a few placard variants) but have no experience comparing it to anything other than a few slicks and the Condor MOPC which is my main carrier for load. I intend to use the HRAC more for mobility. My main comparison of curiosity would be with the 5.11 TacTec. Thanks, Semper Fi.

  18. Any good intel on the Blue Force plate carriers, or the Hoplite stuff?
    In my day, too, we were just issued the FLAK vests, and size was determined the same way our BDU jacket and field jacket size was.
    Brave Rifles! Scouts out!

  19. I am struggling to find a vest for xsmall ESAPI plates. I am on the smaller side 115 lbs& 63in. Any recommendations for a plate carrier for a smaller individual?

  20. I’m looking for one for my wife who’s 5’0 and 120 pounds. I think extra small would be good for her, but can’t find any that size. I’d like to keep it under $150, but if there’s a much better option at a higher price point, then I’ll consider that. I’m going for kind of a minimalist design. Thanks!

  21. Gentlemen: I don’t Know What Your Budgets Are and All of Your Criteria (Level 4, 3++, Multicurved, Etc). But with A Extra Small Ceramic Blend (i.e. Defender and HighCom) or The Mixes of Silica Carbide (UARM, Shot Stop); You Should have no problem getting Extra Small Plates. I just spent 6 months juggling Weight VS Price and Honestly for an Extra Large – Large, Rock Bottom from A Friend that is a Distributor for One of The Above Mentioned Companies is $1,500 per Plate in The Following Configuration.
    Their Large SAPI is 10.25 X 13.5, Multcurved, (if Anybody Needs a Tutorial on That “Relatively New” Aspect of Plates, I will leave that for another time but I Must Medically Have Them from a Kartusha Kiss back in 2008).
    The weight per plate is About 5 pounds. Extra Small/Small (8.7 X9.7) is 3.7 Pounds. But. . . . . You will pay $990.00 USD per Plate. Being Young and in Shape is A Concept Only Remembered.
    Getting Old (That is Any Of Us Kissing or Have Kissed 40) Is A Lovely Reminder of “Why Didn’t I Go To Law School instead of OCS.
    Hope This Helped and This Entire Forum is Well Done . . . Missing a Few Plate Carriers and Some Excellent Custom Shops Within The Store Front.
    But Thank you Marine, Well Done and I owe You a Jameson’s.

Leave a Comment