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Best Lightweight Plate Carrier: Top 5 Products Reviewed

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If you are looking for the best lightweight plate carrier, you have come to the right place. In this blog post, we will review five of the best products on the market.

We will discuss the pros and cons of each product so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you

So without further ado, Here, is a list of our top five products rated using our in-house criteria.

What to Look For When Buying a Lightweight Plate Carrier?

Not all plate carriers are the same. In fact, the experience you get from one manufacturer can be quite different from the next.

Finding the best plate carrier for you depends on a variety of factors. Here are some things to consider before you make your purchase:

Weight

The first consideration for a lightweight carrier should be weight. You want something that’s light enough to move with you but that provides all the protection and equipment storage you need in tactical situations. The lightest plate carriers usually come in around 7 lbs when fully loaded but they can go all the way up to 30 lbs. Unloaded, most lightweight plate carriers are between just 0.8 and 1.3 lbs.

Size

Next, consider the size of plate carriers. Some contain 10×12 armor plates which are sufficient to cover vital organs for most people. However, you can get modified plate carriers, offering protection to other regions of the torso. Generally speaking, you want plate armor to extend an inch below your vertebra prominens at the back of your neck. (This is the vertebrae that sticks out the most). Plate carriers smaller than this put you at risk of organ damage, particularly if shot from above. 

Webbing.

The quality of the MOLLE webbing on a plate carrier is also important. You need to make sure it can handle the weight of any pouches you attach, without sagging. Also, make sure there is enough webbing on the carrier for all of the pockets and pouches you will need.

Comfort

Comfort is another key consideration when choosing a plate carrier. In the old days, plate carriers hardly came with any padding at all, leading to annoying pressure points. Today, though, most designs offer padding of some sort, particularly over the shoulders and around the back.

Design

Practicality matters, too. Make sure the design of your carrier suits your needs. Does it have quick-release buckles? Do you need a cummerbund or just side-release buckles? What cut is the plate carrier? And so on.

Cummerbund.

On a plate carrier, the cummerbund is the belt that wraps around your waist and holds everything together. This is an important feature, as it helps keep your plate carrier in place, provides additional protection, and MOLLE real estate.

Best Lightweight Plate Carriers

So what are the best lightweight plate carriers on the market? Here are our top picks:

#ImageProductScoreBrowse
1Rothco Lightweight Armor Plate Carrier VestRothco Lightweight Armor Plate Carrier Vest9.5check price
2CONDOR SCORPION OCP VANQUISH PLATE CARRIERCondor Scorpion OCP Vanquish Plate Carrier9.25check price
3High Speed Gear Core Plate CarrierHigh Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier9check price
4AR500 Armor Veritas Lite Modular Plate CarrierAR500 Armor Veritas Lite Modular Plate Carrier8.5check price
5Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist Plate Carrier Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist Plate Carrier 8.5check price

1. Rothco Lightweight Armor Plate Carrier Vest

The main appeal of the Rothco Lightweight Armor Plate Carrier Vest is how light it is. The manufacturer claims a weight of just 1.2 pounds without any additional plates or gear. That’s pretty light for a multi-purpose, multi-role plate carrier in our opinion. 

When using the Rothco Lightweight Armor Plate Carrier, we immediately noticed how easy it was to put on. But the real clincher was the mesh webbing ventilation on the inside, keeping us cool no matter what. 

Rothco achieves featherweight lightness through its choice of materials. Unlike most plate carriers that use nylon, the brand opted for 600 denier polyester. As such, the carrier feels robust, and, thanks to the material, you get a lot more ventilation, making it perfect for summer excursions or tactical operations in warm, humid environments. 

Rothco sells this plate carrier in two sizes: regular and oversized. All colors come with MOLLE compatibility, with three rows of MOLLE loop material at the front, hook and loop closures, and space for three pistol mags at the sides. At the back, you get six rows of MOLLE webbing, more than enough to carry all your kit, making this a great option for engineers or anyone on multi-day expeditions. You have enough storage space to fit just about everything you need. 

For the cummerbund, Rothco opted for a skeletonized design featuring three straps that run from the base of the product up the hips. To the casual observer, this design seems like it’s all about increasing ventilation. But that’s only partially correct. Rothco also designed it to be strong using plastic-reinforced material.

On the comfort side of things, we found the plate carrier incredibly easy to fit. The entire vest is adjustable, making it suitable for a wide array of body shapes. Rothco equips it with adjustable elastic cords that fit on the back side with a hook at the back and a loop at the front. You can also adjust the shoulder straps pretty much however you want to reduce the sensation of weight and help the plate carrier hug closer to your body. Again, we found this pretty easy, though you’ll want to do it unloaded first and then check how it feels when loaded. 

For those who love to carry hydration packs and water bladders, Rothco includes hook and loop fittings on the shoulder straps. This makes it easy to direct your hydration hose where you want it to go and avoid it flailing around uncontrollably. 

Of course, the biggest downside of a lightweight vest like this is the loss of practicality. Like other brands, Rothco wasn’t able to entirely eliminate the disadvantages of a skinnier product. The practicality is almost there but you don’t feel like you are getting the same level of protection as a full-size armored vest. And that’s because you’re not. 

Pros

  • Lightweight at just 1.2 lbs
  • Highly adjustable straps around the waist and shoulder
  • Full MOLLE compatibility with three rows of loop material at the front, and six at the rear
  • May not provide sufficient protection for some users
  • Filling the side pouches with gear makes it wide
  • You will need to place most gear on the back

OUR RATING

We review our products on a 1 to 10 scale. The higher the score the better the product quality is in the performance category.

Performance CategoryRating Score
Weight9.5
Material Quality9.5
Comfort10
Design9.5
Webbing10
Cummerbund8
Overall Score9.5

2. Condor Scorpion OCP Vanquish Plate Carrier

The Condor Scorpion OCP Vanquish Plate Carrier takes a fundamentally different approach from the Rothco. Virtually everything from the design to the level of practicality it offers has been altered. 

This model’s standout feature is the large, highly conspicuous document holder at the front. Featuring a hook and loop fastening system, this neat addition protects documents in the field, making it more of a working vest.

Law enforcement, in particular, stands to benefit. Officers can hold documents close to their bodies instead of carrying them around with them, leaving their hands free for self-protection. 

Material choices are also different. Unlike the Rothco (which is made of polyester), the Condor Scorpion OCP Vanquish Plate Carrier uses durable nylon. It is considerably stronger than polyester, but due to the nature of nylon fibers, it is not as breathable. Hence, if you are prone to overheating, you might want to try a different product.

Fortunately, you do get some mesh padding on the inside to help with air circulation around your body. And the way that it is arranged is rather clever. In total, the Condor Scorpio OCP Vanquish Plate Carrier comes with six mesh sections: two on the shoulders, two on the back, and two on the front. For the front and back, there are helpful air channels between the mesh patches which also help to circulate the air. But be warned: this vest is very much for static operations. It’s not something you want to be running around in all day. 

The vest comes in two helpful sizes. The small is adjustable from 34 to 42 inches around the navel, while the large goes from 44 all the way to 50 inches for those with the largest stomachs. Please be aware that differently-sized vests require different armor plates sizes.

As for practicality, the Condor Scorpion excels. It comes with a capacity for up to six M4 or M16 pistol magazines, a hook back for secure integration into the compatible VAS carrier plate, and space for an additional six double-stack pistol magazines. What’s nice about this model is that the magazine pouches come with flat tops that keep them secure. If you have to change your body position, it shouldn’t matter. 

As for comfort, there are also adjustable shoulder straps so if you have pressure points in that region, you can quickly adjust the lightness on the fly or while loading. And the ultrawide cummerbund keeps you feeling secure the whole time, regardless of your tactical situation. 

Pros

  • Large document pouch at the front for law enforcement or other officials involved in active document transfer
  • Capacity for up to 6 double-stack magazines
  • Minimalist low-profile that can fit under a jacket
  • Strong ballistic nylon construction that might be too hot for some lightweight users
  • Very few MOLLE loops and pouches are available at the front because of the space taken up by the document holder
  • Requires you to carry the majority of your equipment at the rear or at the sides which are often less convenient

OUR RATING

We review our products on a 1 to 10 scale. The higher the score the better the product quality is in the performance category.

Performance CategoryRating Score
Weight9
Material Quality9
Comfort9
Design9
Webbing9.5
Cummerbund10
Overall Score9.25

3. High Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier

The High Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier was designed for range activities, training, and law enforcement. As such, it’s not as generic as a lot of the other plate carriers out there.

In a way, this makes the product easier to review. Instead of trying to be a jack of all trades, the High Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier tells you precisely how you should use it up front, without forcing you to guess. 

The product’s standout feature is how lightweight it is. The model we tested came in at just 0.956 lbs which is exceptionally skinny in our experience. It’s something you can wear all day without getting ridiculously tired.

Then there is the sizing and versatility. Unlike most brands, you get a choice of small, medium, large and extra large. The small takes small SAPI plates of 8 to 10 inches, the medium takes regular SAPI, and the large takes 10 to 12-inch plates. If you go for the extra large, you’ll need large plates to match but that’s not a lot of hassle. Plus, you always get something that fits. 

On the inside, you’ll find interior spacer mesh sections. Like other brands, the High Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier spreads these out in a way that maximizes airflow through them. It’s also soft and bouncy when fully loaded which is incredibly reassuring and makes it suitable to wear all day long. We especially liked the side-release buckle side straps that make it easy to take the carrier off, even if you have had a long day in the field. 

As for practicality, the High Speed didn’t let us down. You get laser-cut MOLLE webbing as standard (6×5 on the front and 6×6 on the rear) for carrying all your gear. You also get large loop panels for ID or unit patches and lashes for comms and body-camera mounts, again making it suitable for law enforcement on long shifts or exercises. 

Unfortunately, you don’t get a cummerbund attachment as standard but you can order one that’s compatible with the rest of the vest at extra cost. It fits using the webbing loops at either side and helps to transfer more of the weight to the hips and shoulders, away from the back. 

What else can we say about the High Speed Gear Core Plate Carrier? Well, for starters, it’s Berry compliant, which means that it’s a great way to support domestic industry (if you’re in the U.S.), and it comes with side-release buckles that make taking it off easier. For most loud-outs, it’s more than sufficient, 

Pros

  • Very light at just 0.956 lbs
  • Comes with plenty of MOLLE accessory space for the most complex loud-outs
  • Easy-to-use quick-release side buckles
  • Available in a range of sizes from S to XL
  • Doesn’t come with a cummerbund as standard
  • Not suitable for all tactical situations

OUR RATING

We review our products on a 1 to 10 scale. The higher the score the better the product quality is in the performance category.

Performance CategoryRating Score
Weight10
Material Quality9.5
Comfort10
Design9
Webbing10
Cummerbund5
Overall Score9

4. AR500 Armor Veritas Lite Modular Plate Carrier

The AR500 Veritas Plate Carrier was a bit of a hit with the general public when it was first released. People loved its hardiness, design, and features. However, there was a significant cadré of customers who wanted a product that took the original’s best features and slimmed them down into a smaller package. 

The good news is that AR500 Armor responded and now we have the Veritas Lite. This modular plate carrier is ideal for anyone looking for full-day load-outs that reduce back strain while offering ample protection at the same time. 

The original AR500 weighed in at a respectable 1.6 lbs and is well-known for being highly capable in the field. The Lite, by contrast, shaves around half a pound off that figure, making setups feel noticeably more maneuverable, even when fully equipped. 

To get down to such low weights, the manufacturer removed a lot of bulk. You don’t get the same amount of 3D mesh or padding as you do on the regular version. And there is less MOLLE webbing on the upper front and rear, which might be an issue for those of you who require this attachment system for all your gear. AR500 replaced the webbing with velcro which is great if you have compatible gear, but sucks if not.

Like old-school plate carriers, the AR500 Veritas Lite only comes in one size. While the Lite is adjustable from medium to XXL, you can’t scale with the carrier, even if you have a bigger torso, putting you at higher risk. AR500 also misses an opportunity to provide more storage for people with larger bodies, which we think is a shame. 

On the plus size, the Lite does include a rather nice 500D Cordura nylon, bar-tacked at all the stress points. With this, you get a lot of extra strength and you do have the option of using the removable shoulder pads, just in case you start to feel a little sore. 

The design, though, is where the AR500 Lite really shines. American-made, you get a host of incredible features, including impact-resistant buckles, side plate pockets for full modularity, and, of course, Hypalon super grippy pull tabs with Velcro ID panels at the front and rear. 

Again, though, if you want a cummerbund, you’ll have to order it separately. AR500 doesn’t include one automatically with the product, so it’s not as cheap as you first hoped. 

Pros

  • Significantly lighter than the original AR500 Veritas Plate Carrier
  • Made of heavy-duty 500D Cordura nylon designed to last
  • Comes with removable shoulder pads for added comfort or lightweight load-outs.
  • Only available in one size
  • Significantly reduced MOLLE webbing compared to the original version
  • Less padding due to reduced weight

OUR RATING

We review our products on a 1 to 10 scale. The higher the score the better the product quality is in the performance category.

Performance CategoryRating Score
Weight8
Material Quality10
Comfort9
Design10
Webbing8
Cummerbund6
Overall Score8.5

5. Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist Plate Carrier 

Last, but certainly not least, we have the Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist Plate Carrier. Like the rest of the plate carriers in this review, it is reasonably light at 1.2 lbs. But that’s not what really makes it stand out. The biggest thing to commend this plate carrier is the fact that it can carry 10 x 12-inch plates, providing optimal ballistic protection in the field. That’s quite an accolade for such a lightweight option. 

The first thing you’ll notice about the Grey Ghost Minimalist Plate Carrier is just how much effort has gone into making it as low-profile as possible. You get six full rows of MOLLE/PALS webbing at the front and back, but it doesn’t feel like it. Everything seems to hug close to the body, making practically any loud-out feel ultra light. 

At the front of the plate carrier, you’ll find a helpful stash pocket. We think this is perfect for storing small items that might not be compatible with standard MOLLE setups like medevac cards, maps, or knives. You also get a bunch of velcro strips at the top with integration with MOLLE webbing for additional functionality, should you need it. 

Comfort is a consideration, too. Grey Ghost Gear gave this plate carrier adjustable shoulder straps with integrated elastic side straps to keep the carrier material flush with your body. In our testing, we found that this feature dramatically reduced rubbing, making it the sort of carrier you want to wear all day. If you need to move suddenly, you can without having to worry about the vest trying to catch up (as long as you make sure you fit all your gear securely). There’s plenty of the brand’s Air Mesh for comfort and breathability, too.

Unfortunately, Grey Ghost Gear only makes the Minimalist Plate Carrier in one size. So if you’re particularly small or large, it might not fit particularly well. 

What about materials? Well, you do get 70D pack cloth for abrasion resistance. However, Grey Ghost Gear is keen to emphasize that the pack is not for extreme exercise or heavy-weight training plates. It’s only for body armor, so don’t try to repurpose it for anything else. 

With that said, the product is made to full Mil-Spec standards meaning that it meets the same temperature, flammability, and physical strength characteristics as other military-grade products. Hence, unless you take it to the extreme, it should be robust enough for most physical activity. 

Unfortunately, Grey Ghost Gear does not include a compatible cummerbund as standard. If you want one of those to accompany your plate carrier, you’ll need to buy one separately. 

So, in summary, the Grey Ghost is a bit of a hybrid. It’s not the lightest, but in exchange, you get space for the biggest plates and massive storage capacity. As such, it’s mainly for individuals who want maximum protection, not just those looking to save weight. 

Pros

  • Massive 10×12-inch armor plates
  • 6 MOLLE/PALS rows
  • ID display areas for law enforcement, border patrols, and military personnel
  • Only made to one size
  • No cummerbund as standard

OUR RATING

We review our products on a 1 to 10 scale. The higher the score the better the product quality is in the performance category.

Performance CategoryRating Score
Weight9.5
Material Quality9
Comfort10
Design8.5
Webbing9
Cummerbund5
Overall Score8.5

In Conclusion

 Here’s a quick summary of this review: 

  • Lightweight plate carriers weigh significantly less than standard products but do not come with fewer features and padding.
  • Most products do not let you wear the biggest plates, though there are some exceptions.
  • Not all lightweight plate carriers come with MOLLE webbing, so you might want to look for one with that feature.

When it comes to finding the best lightweight plate carrier, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. It all depends on your individual circumstances and what you plan to use the carrier for.

However, the five plate carriers we’ve reviewed in this article should cover most people’s needs.

Keep in mind the points we’ve made throughout, and you can find a lightweight plate carrier that meets the highest standards of comfort and protection.

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