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Plate Carrier Setup

Plate Carrier Setup: The Ultimate Guide With Loadout Ideas

A plate carrier is an important piece of equipment for any soldier, law enforcement officer, or first responder.

In this guide, we will discuss what plate carriers are, what they are used for, and how to set up a plate carrier. We will also provide some loadout ideas to help you get started. Stay safe!

Table of Contents

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What Is a Plate Carrier?

A plate carrier is best described as a vest that holds ballistic plates and allows the user to customize their loadout for a specific mission or threat.

Plate carriers are most commonly used by military personnel, special forces operators, and law enforcement units that face a high threat of gunfire. Plate carriers are also gaining popularity among civilians as an element of home defense as well as airsoft players and tactical shooters.

When paired with the proper Ballistic plates a plate carrier can provide a high level of protection against a variety of threats.

Our top 5 best plate carriers!

DIFFERENT PLATE CARRIERS

What Is The Purpose of a Plate Carrier?

The main purpose of a plate carrier is to protect the wearer’s torso and vital organs from bullets and shrapnel.

A plate carrier typically has two or more plates (steel or ceramic) that cover the front and back of the body. In addition to the plates, a plate carrier also has ballistic panels (usually made of Kevlar) that provide additional protection.

Plate carriers can also be used as load-bearing equipment to help you carry your tactical gear on your body where you can quickly access it and also to distribute the weight of the gear.

Plate carriers usually have MOLLE webbing on the front, back, and sides which allows you to attach MOLLE-compatible pouches and other accessories. This gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of how you set up your plate carrier and what gear you carry on it.

Soldier wearing a plate carrier setup

Plate Carrier Setup Basics

Before starting to set your plate carrier up, there are a few things you need to keep in mind, such as:

What are you going to use it for?

The first thing you need to do is to decide what the purpose of your plate carrier is going to be. Are you using it for law enforcement or military operations? Or are you using it for airsoft or paintball? The type of activity you’ll be participating in will dictate what kind of setup you need.

Each use will require a different setup. For law enforcement and military operations, you will need to consider how much gear you need to carry and how easy it needs to be to access.

For range airsoft or paintball, you won’t need as much gear on the carrier and you should think more about how comfortable the carrier is and how well it allows you to move.

Once you have considered the intended use, you can start thinking about what kind of a plate carrier you will need for your setup.

Choose the right plate carrier

There is no simple answer when it comes to choosing the right plate carrier for your setup. When it comes to plate carriers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The type of plate carrier you choose should be based on your specific needs and preferences.

For example, if you are looking for a plate carrier that can be easily concealed, then you will want to choose a carrier that is low-profile and has minimal MOLLE webbing. On the other hand, if you need a plate carrier that can be quickly donned in the event of an emergency, then you will want to choose a carrier that is easy to put on and take off.

Regardless of your specific needs, there is a plate carrier out there that is perfect for you.

Try to keep it simple and opt for a minimalist plate carrier setup

When it comes to plate carrier setups, less is definitely more. By carrying only the essential items, you can reduce both the weight and the bulk of your gear, making it easier to move and maneuver in a variety of situations.

In addition, a minimalist plate carrier setup is less likely to get caught on obstacles or snag on clothing, which can be a lifesaver in a close-quarters battle. While it may take some time to pare down your gear to the bare essentials, the results will be worth it when you find yourself in a tight spot.

So if you’re looking to streamline your gear, consider ditching the extras and keeping your plate carrier setup simple and minimalist.

How To Set Up a Plate Carrier?

Plate Carrier Setup by Garand Thumb

Proper plate carrier setup is essential for any operator. The plate carrier is the foundation of your kit, and it is important to make sure that everything is in its proper place. So let’s look at how to set up a plate carrier and what you should keep in mind.

Important gear goes on the front of the plate carrier.

The front of the plate carrier is reserved for essential gear that you will need to access quickly and easily. This typically includes magazines, medical supplies, and other mission-critical equipment.

By keeping these items within easy reach, you can make sure that you are always prepared for whatever comes your way. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to develop a plate carrier setup that works best for you and your mission requirements.

Distribute the weight correctly on your plate carrier

When setting up your plate carrier, it is important to distribute the weight correctly in order to maintain balance and stability. Here are two things to consider for setting up your plate carrier:

  • Place the heavier items in the center of the carrier. This will help to maintain balance.
  • Distribute the weight evenly between the left and right sides of the carrier. This will help to ensure that you’re not carrying more weight on one side than the other.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your plate carrier is set up correctly and that you can carry the weight without issue.

Don’t wear bulky pouches on your “sidearm draw side”.

A common mistake people make while setting up their plate carrier is to wear large pouches (or other gear) on the pistol draw side of the plate carrier. This can impede your ability to draw your sidearm quickly and effectively.

Instead, try to keep the larger pouches on the other side of your body or the back of your plate carrier. And when you really have to use pouches on your draw hand side of the carrier then keep those pouches slim and close to your body on the plate carrier.

This will give you the best possible range of motion and allow you to easily draw your sidearm.

In fact, we would recommend keeping the sides of the carrier as clean as possible.

Soldier wearing a plate carrier setup

Keep the shoulder area of the plate carrier clean.

When setting up your plate carrier, it’s important to keep the shoulder area clear of pouches or equipment. This is because having gear in this area can interfere with your shooting. 

Also, having stuff on your shoulders will make it almost impossible to wear a backpack for long periods of time. So if you are planning on carrying a lot of gear, make sure to keep the shoulder area clear.

Additionally, keeping the shoulder area clear will give you more freedom of movement and help you to stay agile in combat situations. So, when setting up your plate carrier, be sure to keep the shoulder area clear for optimal performance.

Keep your pistol and pistol mags off the carrier and on your belt!

In a plate carrier setup, your pistol and pistol magazines should be on your belt, not on your plate carrier. There are a few reasons for this.

First, it’s more comfortable. Having the weight of your gun and magazines on your hips is much more comfortable than having it on your chest.

Second, it’s more efficient. When you need to reload your gun, you can just reach down to your belt and grab a fresh magazine.

Third, It would take up too much valuable space on the plate carrier.

And fourth, if you would take off the plate carrier for any reason you would still have that weapon system ready and at hand, if needed.

Keep it light and minimalist and include only what you will really need

I know, we already talked about the importance of keeping it simple but it really is important.

The whole idea behind a plate carrier setup is to be able to move quickly and efficiently while carrying all the gear you need. If you add too much weight or too many unnecessary items, you will just slow yourself down and the additional gear might start to interfere with accessing your mission-critical gear.

So when setting up your plate carrier, make sure to only include the essentials.

Soldier wearing a plate carrier setup

Plate Carrier Loadout Guide: What To Put On A Plate Carrier?

A plate carrier is a great way to your tactical gear, but it’s important to know what to put on a plate carrier. A proper plate carrier loadout can mean the difference between life and death in a combat or survival situation. Here are some essential items to include in a plate carrier loadout: 

  • Magazine pouches
  • IFAK/ medical kit
  • Admin pouches
  • Knife
  • Mission specific gear

Magazine pouches for plate carrier

Magazine pouches are an essential part of any plate carrier setup. They provide a place to store extra magazines, so you can quickly reload your weapon if necessary.

The amount of magazines/ magazine pouches you should include in your plate carrier will depend on what you will use the carrier for. But in general, should have between 3 and 6 magazines on your plate carrier.

There are a variety of different magazine pouch designs on the market, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. The two most common magazine pouches are open-top and closed-top.

Open-top magazine pouches are easier to access, so they are generally faster to reload from. However, they offer less protection to the magazines, so they may fall out if you run or jump too much.

Closed-top magazine pouches offer more protection to the magazines, so they are less likely to fall out. However, they are more difficult to access, so they may slow down your reloading time.

Some magazine pouches also have additional features, such as loops or straps to keep the magazine in place, or drainage holes to prevent water damage. Choose the features that you think will be most useful for you.

Mag pouches should be placed in front of the carrier to allow for easy access.

IFAK/ medical kit

IFAKs, or individual first-aid kits, are an essential part of any plate carrier setup. A well-stocked IFAK can mean the difference between life and death in a combat situation.

IFAKs should be placed in an easily accessible location on the plate carrier so you could get to it as quickly as possible. Ideally, it should be placed so it could be accessed with both of your hands.

IFAKs should also be plainly marked so that they can be quickly located in an emergency.

The contents of an IFAK will vary depending on the specific needs of the individual, but there are some basic items that every IFAK should include. These items include bandages, gauze, a tourniquet, and pain medication. Additionally, IFAKS should be regularly inspected and replenished so that they are always ready for use.

You can also place an extra tourniquet on the plate carrier, somewhere that it can be easily accessed.

Admin pouches

They provide a convenient place to store tools, maps, and other items that you need quick access to. Admin pouches come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, so you can find one that fits your specific needs

When choosing an admin pouch for your plate carrier, make sure to consider the types of items you will be carrying, and also the size, shape, and type of the admin pouch.

Admin pouches are a great way to keep your plate carrier organized and ensure that you have quick access to the items you need.

Knife

Tactical knife for a plate carrier setup
ESEE Knives 3P Fixed Blade Knife

A knife is a great addition to a plate carrier setup. A knife can be used for self-defense, cutting through webbing, cutting seatbelts, and many more things. A knife is a great tool to have in a plate carrier setup.

For the knife placement on a plate carrier, you should opt for a place where it can be easily accessed and ideally could draw by either hand.

Mission specific gear

Mission-specific gear is any gear that you need for a specific mission or task. This could be anything from night vision goggles to extra ammunition.

The amount and type of mission-specific gear you will need will depend on the specific mission or task you are undertaking.

When packing your plate carrier with mission-specific gear, make sure to consider the weight and size of the items, as well as how easy they are to access. You don’t want to be slowed down by heavy or bulky items that are difficult to get to.

Some common examples of mission-specific gear include night vision goggles, grenades, extra ammunition, binoculars, radios, and so on.

Other accessories

There are many other accessories that can be added to a plate carrier setup. These include things like:

  • Water bladder: A water bladder is a great way to stay hydrated while on the move.
  • GPS: A GPS can be a valuable tool, especially if you are operating in unfamiliar territory.
  • Dump pouch: A dump pouch is a convenient way to store empty magazines or other items that you need to get rid of quickly.
  • Flashlight: A flashlight can be a valuable addition to a plate carrier setup, especially if you are operating in low-light conditions.
  • Extra storage pouches: Extra storage pouches can be useful for carrying items that you need quick access to.
  • Carabiners: Carabiners can be used to attach extra gear to your plate carrier.
  • Zip ties: Zip ties can be used for a variety of purposes, such as attaching gear to your plate carrier or repairing damaged gear.

There are many different types of accessories that can be added to a plate carrier setup. Choose the ones that you think will be most useful for you and your specific needs.

Special forces soldier in a plate carrier setup

Best Plate Carrier Setup Ideas

Now that you know how to set up a plate carrier, here are some ideas for different types of plate carrier setups that you can use.

1. Minimalist plate carrier setup

This type of setup is best for those who are looking for a light and minimalist plate carrier.

This type of setup is ideal for those who don’t need to carry a lot of gear with them. It is also a good choice for those who are looking for a lighter plate carrier setup.

If you choose this type of setup, make sure to only add the essential items that you need. Anything extra will just add weight and bulk.

What to include in a minimalist setup:

  • Magazine pouches (3+ depending on your needs)
  • IFAK
  • Extra tourniquet
  • Small admin pouch to hold maps and other small but needed nick-nacks.
  • Only the most necessary mission-specific gear

2. Home defense plate carrier setup

This type of setup is best for those who are looking for a plate carrier loadout to use for home defense purposes.

A home defense plate carrier setup should be lightweight and include only the essential items that you need. You don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary gear.

What to include in a home defense setup:

  • Magazine pouches for your primary weapon
  • Medical kit
  • Zip ties or handcuffs
  • Pepper spray
  • Phone pouch
  • Flashlight

3. Law enforcement plate carrier setup

This setup is meant for law enforcement officers like police, swat, etc. who need to be able to move quickly and have easy access to their sidearm. Overall it’s pretty similar to a home defense setup.

First, you’ll want to make sure that your plate carrier is comfortable and doesn’t impede your movement in any way. Second, you’ll want to have easy access to your sidearm and other law enforcement equipment.

What to include in a law enforcement setup:

  • Mag pouches for your primary weapon
  • Medical kit or an IFAK
  • A dump pouch
  • Zip ties or handcuffs
  • Flashlight
  • Admin pouch
  • Radio

4. The combat/ military plate carrier setup

This is probably the most common type of plate carrier setup. It is used by militaries and law enforcement agencies all over the world.

Just like all the setups above, a combat setup should be lightweight and allow you to move quickly and easily. You should also have easy access to all of your gear.

That said, this setup is the bulkiest of the four and includes the most gear. This is because you need to be prepared for anything when you are in combat.

What to include in a combat setup:

  • Magazines/ magazine pouches (3+)
  • IFAK
  • A dump pouch
  • Tactical knife
  • Water bladder
  • Admin pouch
  • Radio/ coms
  • And other mission-specific gear and accessories
Soldiers running in plate carrier setups

Don’t Forget To Test Out Your Setup!

Once you have your plate carrier set up the way you want it, make sure to test it out. Go for a run or do some other type of strenuous activity to make sure that everything stays in place and is comfortable.

You don’t want to be in the middle of a mission or a firefight and have your gear falling off or getting in the way.

Test how easily you can access your gear on the plate carrier. Can you quickly and easily grab a magazine or your IFAK? And so on.

Take the time to adjust and add/remove items until you have your perfect plate carrier setup! And remember, there is no one “right” way to set up a plate carrier. It all depends on your specific needs and preferences.

So experiment until you find what works best for you. Just sure that you are happy with your setup before taking it out into the field.

In conclusion

There are many different ways to set up a plate carrier. It all depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Make sure to test out your setup before taking it into the field. And remember, there is no one “right” way to do things. So experiment until you find what works best for you!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

John-Caspar Jaanus

Written by John-Caspar

John-Caspar Jaanus is an Estonian military, tactical gear, and survival expert and author. He has an extensive military background and has been involved with the Estonian defense structure for over 10 years. Read bio!

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