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Best plate carriers

Best Plate Carriers in 2022: Top 5 Tactical Plate Carriers Reviewed

There are so many plate carriers to choose from. How can you decide which one is the right one for you? Plate carriers have many different features, but does any of them match all of your needs for a mission?

Below we have a hard look at five of the best plate carriers in 2022. From this list, you will probably be able to choose one that closely fits your use case.

Some of the variables involved in your mission may be unknown. You’ll have to put on your big boy pants and figure out which plate carrier will match the mission.

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

Table of Contents

Rts

What to Look for When Buying a Plate Carrier?

There are so many considerations you’ll need to take into account when choosing your plate carrier. Things like the quality of material used, comfort, features, design, durability, and more are all things that matter. A lot.

The following are crucial considerations in choosing the best plate carrier for the mission at hand.

  • Material Quality – The quality of material used in the plate carrier is of vital importance. You need something rugged, strong, forgiving, comfortable, and durable to last the length of the mission. It’s a good idea to go with a material that has already been tested and used in the field for years. Strong nylon is the way to go.
  • Durability – Durability is one of those things you need to know before you buy a tactical solution. Go with a great company that has a history of producing durable plate carriers and other gear. Read the reviews before you buy. Ask friends in person and online what they think.
  • Webbing – The type of PALS/MOLLE a plate carrier has can make or break the deal. Do you need a specific type of webbing for your pouches, or will MOLLE cover it? Do you want traditional MOLLE or laser-cut MOLLE? Do you need loop material on top of the webbing or not?
  • Design – You’ll need to choose a plate carrier design that allows you to add other gear you want to use like a battle belt. Some plate carriers can fit small or full-size side plates. Some attach to battle belts to take up some of the load.
  • Cummerbund – A cummerbund can add comfort, storage space, and stability to your rig. A variety of attachments and functionality are offered. Lately, rigidity and comfort are what people in the field are insisting on.
  • Comfort – Will you be on long tactical missions that last days? Weeks? Is it possible that you’ll be out there taking fire for weeks on end? Comfort and safety are going to be prime concerns if the mission is long-term. On short-term missions, you might decide you can put up with some discomfort if you’d rather carry heavier gear.

Quick View of the Best Plate Carriers

#ImageProductScoreBrowse
1Best plate carrier SPARTAN ARMOR SYSTEMS AR550 PLATE CARRIER9.5check price
25.11 TACTEC® Plate Carrier5.11 TACTEC® PLATE CARRIER
9check price
3Best plate carrierFERRO CONCEPTS PLATE CARRIER (FCPC V5)9check price
4LBT 6094 G3 PLATE CARRIERLBT 6094 G3 PLATE CARRIER8.5check price
5Best plate carrierGREY GHOST GEAR SMC PLATE CARRIER8check price

Best Plate Carrier List

Plate carriers can easily be the best gear you own and the most important. Keeping you alive is not an easy job, but all the companies on our list have made it their focus. Spend some time and review each one in detail to see which one matches your use case the closest.

1. Spartan Armor Systems AR550 Plate Carrier Combo

This upgrade from the AR500 system (Level III protection) to this AR550 (Level III+) is solid and this is certainly one of my top picks for the best plate carrier on our list. Spartan Armor Systems (SAS) is a well-respected nine-year-old company located in the USA in Tucson, Arizona with a high profile in the industry.

This Spartan Armor Systems AR550 plate carrier combo has a number of options and features that will wow you. You can get the combo package with the SAS Swimmers Plate carrier, Achilies Carrier or the Leonidas carrier. In this review we will focus on the AR500 and Swimmers plate Carrier Combo.

The AR stands for abrasion resistant. Have a close look and consider choosing this plate carrier as your next major piece of kit.

  • SAS designs their own coated AR550 steel armor plates, some with Advanced Triple Curve (ATC) contour.
  • Webbing for MOLLE on the front, back, and sides of the cummerbund.
  • Hook and loop on front top and back for water bladder.
  • Cummerbund holds 6 x 6″ or 6 x 8″ side plates comfortably.
  • Super strong 860 Denier Poly (polyester) construction.
  • Sizes: adjustable medium to x-large.
  • Colors: black, olive drab green, coyote brown, wolf gray (may not be available).

Durability

This AR550 plate carrier is rugged and can withstand the harshest conditions of battle. The material is layered to provide extra strength and durability even in places other manufacturers neglect. The metal AR550 Level III+ metal plates can stop some higher velocity rounds than level III.

Material Quality

Super strong 860 Denier Poly (polyester) high tenacity thread construction.

Comfort

The AR550 plate carrier Is adjustable with strong hook and loop closures that also attach to the cummerbund in the back and keep it locked solid, not sliding around like other plate carriers.

Design

Very strong construction coupled with smart design. A couple of examples are the swim-cut armor shields and strong hook and loop connections that both add to the smart design of this system.

Webbing

There is PALS webbing everywhere on the outside of the AR550. The sides of the cummerbund and front of the plate carrier have lots of space for attaching your MOLLE kit.

Cummerbund

The cummerbund is thick, strong, and has an exceptionally strong hook and loop closures. Webbing covers the sides of the cummerbund and the addition of side plates of different sizes (up to 6 x 8″) is possible.

Product Evolution

Spartan offered the AR500 steel core body armor with Level III protection for years and it was a great system that saw a lot of action. With the release of the AR550 model, this plate carrier has gained additional protection from faster rounds like the 30.06.

What Sets It Apart from Competitors?

Level III+ protection can stop 30.06 slugs which is quite a bit above Level III. The AR550 plate carrier is a stable and well-designed system that is highly functional and takes comfort into consideration as well.

Best for

The Spartan Armor Systems AR550 Plate Carrier is a no-nonsense, very well-made plate carrier for any mission, including on the battlefield. Established in April 2013, the company has continually put out great gear for nearly a decade. Best for anyone who can’t afford to second-guess their equipment.

Pros

  • Level III+ ballistic protection (Can stop 30.06 rounds).
  • Extra strong and durable with great hook and loop closures.
  • Fits SAS Shooter’s Cut (10 x 12″) and Swimmer’s Cut hard armor plates.
  • Trauma Pads (not included) to mitigate blunt force trauma (for under hard armor).
  • Cummerbund holds 2 sizes of steel side plates.
  • Super strong hook and loop closures and built-in shoulder pads.
  • Sizes under Medium are not available. Probably makes sense from a business standpoint, but smaller guys and girls are going to be disappointed.
  • Webbing isn’t laser cut for snugness in fitting MOLLE attachments.

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
Durability9.5
Material Quality10
Comfort8.5
Design9
Webbing10
Cummerbund9.5
Overall Score9.5
Product Rating Table

2. 5.11 TACTEC® Plate Carrier

5.11 is one of our prime suppliers of tactical gear here at TacticalBrute.com. We have positively reviewed all kit we’ve looked at from them and this TACTEC® Plate Carrier is no different. A very solid offering from a great company.

  • Allows much greater mobility than other systems.
  • Fits 24mm wide medium (12.5″ H x 9.5″ L x 2″ W) and large (13.25″ x 10.25″ x 2.25″) SAPI plates
  • Abrasion Resistant 500D Nylon – tough.
  • Drag handle with leash system to allow more upright posture dragging buddy or bag.
  • Sizes: one size adjustable waist and tension bands cover x-small, small, medium, large, x-large.
  • Colors: black, ranger green, storm, kangaroo, dark navy.

Durability

The entire vest uses 500D nylon. One test showed that a row of laser-cut webbing on the top portion of the plate carrier can hold 70 lb. of kit on it. That’s tough!

This vest holds a lot of weight and can be loaded down if you can handle it. It’s tough and distributes weight efficiently with the yoke and shoulder pad system.

Material Quality

The 5.11 company has a history of using only top-level materials. The 500D nylon is tried and true. The hook and loop used is considerably stronger than what other manufacturers use.

Comfort

Besides the open-air side cummerbund area, this vest distributes weight well with its yoke and shoulder pad system. This increases comfort for heavy loads. On the front of the chest is a 4-pad system with space between which allows airflow.

Design

This plate carrier has some nice features. A single-hand quick release for one or both sides makes it easy to get a pack off fast.

The GrabDrag carrier loop extends on a leash to make it far more comfortable to drag the pack or drag a person in the pack in an emergency.

The plate carrier does accept side armor plates (extra).

Webbing

Incorporates both traditional PALS webbing on the bottom of the vest and laser-cut webbing on the top part of the front and back of the vest. Webbing on the cummerbund is loose and not as functional but is usable for some lightweight pouches.

Cummerbund

The cummerbund reminds me of a net to hold down my backpack on my motorbike. This is a flexible tensioned bungee cord netting on the sides of the cummerbund. This allows your body to move easily in any position. It also allows the free flow of air through the side of the vest.

What Sets it Apart from Competitors?

The 5.11 TACTEC® Plate Carrier system is designed primarily to be flexible, comfortable, and allow more freedom in mobility than traditional plate carrier setups.

You can see this mostly in the cummerbund which is a net-like grid with elastic bands inside. This gives breathability and enhances mobility considerably.

Best for

This 5.11 TACTEC® plate carrier system will be great for you if you need a hard plate carrier in a vest that allows more mobility than you thought was possible.

Pros

  • One of the most mobility-enhancing designs we’ve ever seen in a hard armor plate carrier.
  • Thick pads for shoulder straps.
  • Quick release system – choose one or both sides.
  • Laser-cut webbing on top of vest with potential for Velcro patches or other.
  • Cummerbund webbing is quite loose and will contribute to the kit bouncing around during movement.

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
Durability9.5
Material Quality9.5
Comfort9
Design9
Webbing9.5
Cummerbund9
Overall Score9
Product Rating Table

3. Ferro Concepts Plate Carrier (FCPC v5)

The Ferro Concepts Plate Carrier (FCPC) has been under constant improvement since 2012. They use direct feedback from the special ops community to improve on their plate carrier designs. The FCPC v5 is the latest iteration of their top plate carrier and it has quite a following.

  • Works with all Ferro Concepts plate carrier accessories and components.
  • Side zippers for Ferro Concepts rear panels.
  • Holds different size hard armor plates with Tweave stretch pockets.
  • Sizes: medium – use with plate carriers measuring 10 x 12 x 1″, large – use with hard armor measuring 10.75 x 12.75 x 1″.
  • Colors: black, ranger green, Multicam, coyote brown, wolf gray.

Durability

Ferro Concepts uses 500D Cordura® laser-cut webbing, strong hook and loop, and double layers on wear points. A mini-Cobra quick-release buckle for one shoulder strap is interchangeable with a steel ring for the other side.

Material Quality

The FCPC v5 uses 500D Cordura® material and laminate to replace other weaker materials, saving weight and increasing strength where needed. Double-layer Cordura® material is used in the high wear and tear areas.

Tweave Durastretch® panels were added to increase armor plate fit and retention.

Comfort

This is a lightweight setup that weighs just 15.2 oz for the medium and 15.8 oz. for the large (without cummerbund). The AC3 cummerbund by Ferro Concepts has some stretch to it but is a rigid weight-bearing design.

Shoulder straps rotate to fit better but come with no padding. You’ll need to add some even if running a light setup.

Design

The FCPC v5 was developed with simplicity and functionality foremost in mind. The precision pattern matching on the body and armor shows attention to detail.

Shoulder straps have pivoting attachments providing greater comfort than static straps.

The carrier allows layering of back panels – like adding a panel on top of your water bottle.

Webbing

Laser-cut webbing is present on the front and back panels. Includes some laser-cut vertical slots for attachments.

Cummerbund

There is no cummerbund with this plate carrier. If you add one, it must be 4″ wide or less. There is a Velcro cummerbund attachment under the cummerbund flap.

The Ferro Concepts ADAPT 3″ Assault Cummerbund 3AC is the right belt or you can use one from another manufacturer.

Product Evolution

In the FCPC v4, the shoulder straps were held on with G-hooks. In v5 they use a solid metal ring and a micro Cobra fast-release buckle on the other side.

The Air-Flow cummerbund on the FCPC v4 has no webbing and is not structurally functional. It’s primarily for comfort and to keep the vest from moving too much.

What Sets It Apart from Competitors?

The highly modular system of stackable rear panels (zip-on back panels) is fast and convenient. The 3″ AC cummerbund adds a lot of functionality and most people buy it with the plate carrier.

This is a lightweight hard armor carrier that gives most wearers what they want, a convenient and strong carrier they can customize and rely on for just about any purpose.

Best for

If you need a highly modular system that swaps out panels fast, is comfortable, and is full of laser-cut MOLLE slots, this plate carrier is for you.

Pros

  • Laser-cut webbing throughout.
  • Very customizable. Zip-on back panels that are not proprietary.
  • A stiff cummerbund with some stretch is ideal for most people.
  • Accepts G-hook placards and holds them very securely.
  • On the expensive side, especially after buying the separate cummerbund.
  • For small framed individuals of medium size (5’7″ and 155, for example) the plate carrier sits too low on the chest and no amount of adjustment will raise it high enough. You may need to cut the velcro off the straps and place it higher up, sewing it on securely. Or, you might want to just buy another plate carrier.
  • Cummerbund must be 4″ wide or less to fit the space allowed by the plate carrier.

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
Durability9
Material Quality9
Comfort9
Design9.5
Webbing9
Cummerbund9
Overall Score9
Product Rating Table

4. LBT 6094 G3 Plate Carrier

London Bridge Trading has nothing to do with trading, but they do make some tactical gear that is well thought out, durable, and functional. This LBT 6094 G3 Plate Carrier is version 2 of their lightweight modular plate carrier. This version has been updated with better materials and functionality.

Note – LBT offers 9 tactical plate carriers, a huge selection that most companies cannot compete with.

  • 1000D Nylon construction.
  • Laser-cut webbing.
  • Lightweight mesh cummerbund included (swappable).
  • Sizes: small, medium, large, x-large.
  • Colors: black, ranger green, Multicam, coyote brown.

Durability

Building on the success of their previous 6094 plate carrier, v2 promises to be tougher by using stronger 1000D nylon. This next-generation technology is lighter weight, more abrasion resistant, and weather resistant.

Material Quality

1000D laminate nylon is one of the latest materials being used for plate carriers and a number of other top tactical companies are upgrading their plate carriers to use it.

Comfort

This is a well-padded design that incorporates air flow through the vest and keeps the user cool.

Design

Foam Air-Channel pads are optional and attach with Velcro to the inside of the pocket for the front hard plate.

Webbing

There is laser-cut webbing on the front and back panels. The top of both front and back also have Velcro.

Cummerbund

A rigid mesh system allows attachments. Replaceable with other LBT cummerbunds.

Product Evolution

The previous version of the 6094 plate carrier used 500D Cordura® nylon and was upgraded to 1000D nylon in v2. The new material is stronger and more resistant to snags, abrasion, and weather changes.

The new vest has routing slots through the shoulder pads and a new admin pouch on the front. They added some more webbing slots on the MAP area for comms routing.

They reinforced the carrying handle. They included a rigid mesh cummerbund with slots for MOLLE kit.

What Sets It Apart from Competitors?

This plate carrier is lightweight, breathable, strong, and highly modular. There is quite a bit of aeration with the optional front air-channel pads and hard mesh cummerbund on the sides.

Best for

Law enforcement, range use, tactical teams, survivalist, and air-soft. Soldiers have taken LBT gear onto the battlefield. There is something of a legacy about this company that has been in business since the 1990s.

Pros

  • Filled with laser-cut webbing for MOLLE attachments.
  • 1000D Nylon for weight savings, strength, and durability.
  • Easy to add front panels with a variety of connections.
  • Can add side panels with hard plates.
  • The cummerbund bothers some people as it is too rigid, even for the mesh design.
  • More padding in shoulder straps and on the chest would be nice without having to purchase it separately.

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
Durability8.5
Material Quality8
Comfort9
Design9.5
Webbing8
Cummerbund9
Overall Score8.5
Product Rating Table

5. Grey Ghost Gear SMC Plate Carrier

The Grey Ghost Gear SMC Plate Carrier has great expandability and functionality that many plate carriers cannot match. The vest is one size fits most and can wrap around a huge body all the way down to a small woman’s frame.

  • Fits 10 x 12″ hard plates in front and rear and up to 6 x 8″ side plates in cummerbund (separate pouches needed).
  • Takes modular attachments and panels on front and back.
  • Laser-cut webbing and loop material over most of the front and back.
  • Sizes: One size fits most. Adjustments in shoulder and cummerbund.
  • Colors: black, coyote brown, Multicam, Multicam black, Multicam tropic, ranger green.

Durability

Durable and smart design enhanced by strong nylon construction and ROC buckles. Laser-cut webbing outlasts traditional webbing and frays less.

Material Quality

Laser-cut laminate nylon. Unspecified brand.

Comfort

Thick and comfortable shoulder pads (included) and adjustable shoulder straps above and below the buckle allow a comfortable fit for some people, but not all. The cummerbund is comfortable but less functional than stiffer styles.

Design

The highlight of the Grey Ghost Gear SMC Plate Carrier is the open design. The expansion capability and versatility of adding and removing panels and gear of all kinds is a major plus and strong reason to buy this vest.

Webbing

This plate carrier has a lot of laser-cut webbing all over the front and back as well as in the cummerbund. A bonus is that loop material covers most of the webbing so you can also choose other attachment methods, you are not just stuck with MOLLE.

Cummerbund

Mesh, with webbing for MOLLE attachments. Can add a side plate but the pocket is not large enough to fit it. Can add an additional pouch for a 6 x 6″ or 6 x 8″ side plate using webbing.

What Sets It Apart from Competitors?

No proprietary attachment system, so you can use many third-party accessories. Laser-cut webbing and loop material increase functionality. One size fits all works with women and large men.

Best for

Ideal for nearly any use case because the highly modular functionality allows it to be what you need it to be.

Pros

  • Very easy to remove and put on.
  • Has both laser-cut webbing and loop for a variety of connections.
  • Expansion is a big plus. Common connection points allow easy swapping of entire panels.
  • Hard plates of 1″ or thicker will not fit the front or back pockets.
  • Shoulder strap length adjustment is not ideal.
  • Chest and back pads could be thicker and softer.

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
Durability7
Material Quality8
Comfort7
Design8.5
Webbing8
Cummerbund8
Overall Score8
Product Rating Table

Key Takeaways

The best modern plate carriers are modular and accept a variety of front and or rear panels and other attachments. A great plate carrier must allow both level III and IV hard plates and have side panel options.

Laser-cut webbing and 500D or 1000D nylon Cordura® have become the standard and you shouldn’t accept less. Plate carriers have become more comfortable with better shoulder straps and padding, body padding, and comfortable cummerbunds that have some flex but are rigid enough to support heavier kit.

Vern Lovic

Reviewed by Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic is a veteran of the United States Air Force. He served in the heart of the Pacific (PACAF) on Oahu, Hawaii at Hickam Air Force Base. For the last twenty years, he’s done hard time in Thailand’s jungles teaching visitors and locals how to manage their deadly venomous snake population. Read bio!

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