Personal Protection: The Best Plate Carriers

There are two sides of personal protection: stopping the source of the attack and minimizing damage until the threat is stopped. Getting one of the best plate carriers your budget will allow helps you minimize damage until you stop the threat.

If you’ve done a bit of Googling, you probably learned very quickly that there are a ton of plate carriers to choose from. That’s why we’ve got them all sorted out for you.

WHY YOU SHOULD BY THIS

This plate carrier gives you the most capability for the best price, period.

BENEFITS

  • About as minimal as possible without sacrificing utility.
  • No buckles on the shoulder straps to make it easy to shoulder a rifle.
  • Tons of pals webbing for attaching kit.
  • Very lightweight.
  • Fits over soft body armor and uniforms.
  • SPOILER—if you just want a solid plate carrier that’s not terribly expensive, get the Shellback Tactical Patriot Plate Carrier. It’s affordable and versatile, without being too bulky or over designed.

    If you’re looking for other options or more specific features, keep reading. We’ve got all the best plate carriers laid out for you to check out.

    Top Plate Carriers on the Market Today

    The Best Plate Carriers Reviews: Gotta Put Your Body Armor Somewhere

    The overall best plate carrier is up for review first. The other best plate carriers will be donned in order of price.

    The most affordable plate carriers will be loaded up first.

    The most extravagant plate carriers are near the end.

    Read the reviews that are friendly to your budget.

    1. Shellback Tactical Patriot Plate Carrier - Overall Best Plate Carrier

    • Model: Shellback Tactical Patriot Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10 x 12 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    When it comes to plate carriers, I like to take an approach based on Occam’s Razor: the simplest plate carrier that does everything you need is the best plate carrier.

    The Shellback Tactical Patriot Plate Carrier is an incredibly simple and capable plate carrier. It’s also very affordable. That’s why it’s the overall best plate carrier.

    Overall, this plate carrier is impressively simple and minimal. It may not look like it, but this plate carrier is minimal enough that you could use it as a low vis plate carrier, with the right outerwear.

    It’s not quite minimal enough to hide under a t-shirt or something that lightweight. However, there’s definitely no unnecessary bulk on this plate carrier.

    This minimal design has another benefit: this plate carrier is also remarkably lightweight. It weighs just 1.5 poundsIt keeps your kit as lightweight as possible.

    Also, the minimal shoulder straps are very low profile. That way your plate carrier interferes with shouldering your rifle or wearing a pack as little as possible.

    Lastly, there’s PALS webbing on all sidesYou can add gear wherever you need it, in any configuration.

    Overall, if you need an incredible plate carrier that’s not over the top, this plate carrier is your best choice.


    2. BlackHawk Low Vis Plate Carrier - Covert Plate Carrier

    • Model: BlackHawk Low Vis Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10.5 x 13.25 inches
    • Attachment system: None
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    The BlackHawk Low Vis Plate Carrier is a great option if you need a plate carrier that you can hide under most typical clothing. It’s incredibly minimal. But that presents certain limitations.

    First, the good stuff.

    This plate carrier is essentially two plate pouches joined by velcro straps. That makes it infinitely adjustable. And that minimizes buckles and other hardware that show through your concealment garment.

    There are still 2 buckles, though. However, the buckles are on the side, where they’re much less likely to show through clothing. Additionally, the side buckles give you a quick release system for donning and doffing this plate carrier super easy and fast.

    Unfortunately, the super minimal design eliminates any webbing system for attaching gear. So this plate carrier doesn’t double as a chest rig.

    But you’re probably not going to be using your plate carrier to hold much gear if your carrier is concealed.

    Overall, if you need a super affordable and simple plate carrier that’s exceptionally concealable, this Blackhawk model is the plate carrier for you.


    3. Condor Sentry Plate Carrier - Quick Release Plate Carrier

    • Model: Condor Sentry Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10.25 x 13.25 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    There’s a very specific application for quick release plate carriers. However, quick release plate carriers also tend to be relatively minimal. The Condor Sentry Plate Carrier gives you the benefits of a quick release plate carrier. And it can also be used as a minimalist plate carrier.

    This isn’t a perfectly minimalist plate carrier, though.

    That’s because the shoulder straps are a bit padded, with a slightly more robust adjustment mechanism than a truly minimalist plate carrier.

    The shoulder straps are nice if you use hard plates, especially if your hard plates are steel. A little bit of padding goes a long way when you’re wearing steel.

    Additionally, there are some loops for routing comms wires or hydration tubes, if you carry that sort of gear. And there’s PALS webbing on the front and back for adding any other kit you need.

    The side straps are just that: side straps with quick release buckles. The side straps make this plate carrier super fast and easy to get on and off. However, they’re not great for carrying gear.

    But, if a more minimalist design and easy donning and doffing are important to you, this Condor plate carrier will fit the bill.


    4. VISM MOLLE Expert Plate Carrier Vest - Budget Plate Carrier

    • Model: VISM MOLLE Expert Plate Carrier Vest
    • Plate size: Up to 11 x 14 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    The VISM MOLLE Expert Plate Carrier Vest is surprisingly capable, considering the price. However, it shows its price point in some of the design elements.

    We’ll get to those in a second.

    First, this is a vest type plate carrier. That’s a pretty comfortable design that does a great job of keeping your plates from shifting as you move.

    It also has a whole lot of PALS webbing for attaching gear. But that’s where the drama with the vest design comes in.

    Since it’s a vest, many of the PALS webbing surfaces are curved to fit your body like a vest, where a standard plate carrier would have more angular surfaces that are more convenient for attaching gear.

    In short, this plate carrier is more comfortable to wear, but a bit trickier to use for carrying gear.

    Also, I find that vest carriers like this can put pressure on the base of my neck, which is uncomfortable for me. A lot of people don’t mind. But, if you’re sensitive about having stuff near your throat, this plate carrier may be a bit uncomfortable for you.

    However, this NCStar plate carrier is incredibly affordableIf you just need a carrier that will carry your plates and some gear, this is the plate carrier for you.


    5. Condor Gunner Plate Carrier - Value Plate Carrier

    • Model: Condor Gunner Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10.25 x 13.25 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    The Condor Gunner Plate Carrier is a simple and affordable carrier that’s great if you need a super affordable plate carrier that offers a lot of utility for carrying gear.

    In terms of carrying plates, this plate carrier has the standard plate pockets that hold plates up to 10.25 x 13.25 inches. Normal stuff.

    However, there’s a PALS webbing placard on the front for attaching magazine pouches and what not. Additionally, the cummerbund has PALS webbing for attaching the stuff that you don’t need such fast access to.

    There are also routing loops for managing any comms cables or hydration tubes that you have on your kit.

    Lastly, the shoulder straps have padding to help make carrying those heavier plates a bit more comfortable. But the straps have no bucklesThat way it’s comfortable if you have to carry a pack. And the straps won’t get in the way if you need to shoulder a rifle.

    There aren’t any super cush features on this one. But, if you need a super affordable plate carrier that’s great for carrying gear if you need it, this one is the way to go.


    6. Condor Exo Plate Carrier Gen II - Vest Plate Carrier

    • Model: Condor Exo Plate Carrier Gen II
    • Plate size: Up to 11 x 14 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable velcro

    A lot of people like vest type plate carriers because they’re comfortable and they keep your plates very stable. The Condor Exo Plate Carrier Gen II is an excellent option if you want a vest style plate carrier.

    One of the best parts about this plate carrier is that the front is almost as flat as a standard plate carrier. If you have hard plates, it’s just as flat. That makes it easy to attach gear to the front of your plate carrier.

    Additionally, there’s a cummerbund that wraps around the sidesThat way you get usable PALS webbing on your sides, as well.

    Even though the bottom half works like a traditional plate carrier, the upper half works just like a vest.

    The shoulder straps have simple velcro adjustment and a bit of padding that helps minimize the shoulder ache from carrying a bunch of stuff. And there’s a lot of real estate on the upper chest, because the neckline is a bit higher.

    I’m not a huge fan of the neckline, since I don’t like having gear near my throat. But most people don’t care. And the close fit of the vest design keeps this carrier from moving around on your body, which is ideal if you have to run or do a lot of moving around in your carrier.

    If you need an affordable vest-type plate carrier with a lot of utility for carrying gear, this plate carrier will do what you need.


    • Model: Shellback Tactical Stealth Low Vis Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 11 x 12 inches
    • Attachment system: Velcro panels
    • Shoulder strap system: Hypalon with adjustable velcro

    The Shellback Tactical Stealth Low Vis Plate Carrier is the best blend of concealability and utility that you can get. Seriously.

    That’s because it’s super minimal and simple. No, there’s no webbing for attaching gear. But there’s very strategically placed velcro that enables you to add a magazine carrier or utility pouch if you need it.

    Additionally, there are 2 pockets on each side of the cummerbund that work for carrying magazines, tourniquets, radios, or other small pieces of equipment.

    But, if you leave all the pockets empty and the front slick, this plate carrier conceals relatively well under just a shirt. The only thing that shows a little bit is the drag handle.

    I’d prefer a drag handle that lays flat, specifically for the purpose of hiding this plate carrier under a shirt.

    But the drag handle doesn’t really give away the fact that you’re wearing a plate carrier. And the drag handle is super easy to get a hold of in a hurry. So there are ups and downs to the carry handle.

    Lastly, the shoulder straps are Hypalon with adjustable velcro. The velcro is what secures the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps aren’t great for carrying super heavy loads. But the shoulder straps are fine for carrying plates, so long as you don’t add a ton of other gear.

    But adding a lot of gear isn’t what you do with a low profile plate carrier. Overall, this plate carrier is impressively versatile, while still being quite concealable.


    8. 5.11 Tactical Tac Tec Plate Carrier - Versatile Plate Carrier

    • Model: 5.11 Tactical Tac Tec Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10.25 x 13.25 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Padded adjustable velcro

    The 5.11 Tactical Tac Tec Plate Carrier isn’t the most tactical plate carrier when you get it out of the box. But it’s flexible enough that you can make it tactically viable with a few attachments.

    Without any attachments, this plate carrier is excellent for physical fitness training.

    The shoulder straps are thickly padded and angled to align the shoulder straps with the angle of your shoulder muscles. It’s very comfortable and ergonomic for training, which also makes it comfortable for moving around in more severe contexts.

    Additionally, the plate pockets are ventilated. And the cummerbund is skeletonized to ensure that you get plenty of airflow to keep you cool during intense exercise.

    But this carrier is waterproof to keep your plates from getting sweaty, if you can’t stay cool enough to stay dry.

    Then, there’s a one-hand quick releaseA quick pull, and you can get the entire carrier off, if you need to.

    One more thing: this 5.11 plate carrier has PALS webbingThat way you can add any pouches or kit you need to turn this plate carrier into a tactical platform and use this plate carrier for fitness and fighting, if need be.

    It’s not cheap. But it’s a very comfortably designed carrier that makes packing your plates as pleasant as possible.


    • Model: Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10 x 12 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable quick release buckles

    If you need a modular plate carrier that’s capable of carrying as much gear as you’ll ever need, the Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier is easily the best plate carrier for anyone who needs to carry a lot of kit.

    First, this is a super robust plate carrier.

    The shoulder straps are padded and secured with super beefy quick release buckles. And the buckles are covered with sheathes. That way the buckles interfere as little as possible with a backpack or rifle stock.

    The shoulder straps also have webbing for routing comm cables and hydration tubes.

    Then, the front panel has a flat PALS webbing panel that’s perfect for attaching a magazine carrier.

    The cummerbund is super robust, as well. It’s large enough to give you PALS webbing placards on both sides for more magazines, medical, comms, or other gear.

    Lastly, Shellback Tactical sells a lot of nylon accessories to make this plate carrier even more viable as a fighting load carrier. And this carrier keeps your plates and all your gear super stable.

    This is definitely not a concealable plate carrier. But it’s an outstanding option for anyone who needs an overt plate carrier that’s capable of carrying a ton of gear.


    • Model: Shellback Tactical Banshee Rifle Plate Carrier
    • Plate size: Up to 10 x 12 inches
    • Attachment system: PALS webbing
    • Shoulder strap system: Adjustable quick release buckles

    The Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0 Plate Carrier holds more gear than almost any other plate carrier.

    It’s got a placard of PALS webbing on the front for attaching magazine pouches or whatever else you need.

    The cummerbund has 3 pockets on each side for magazines or other gear.

    And there’s an admin pocket on the front for your notes and gummy bears.

    Then, there’s a hydration pouch on the back. That way you don’t need to carry a hydration pack.

    The shoulder straps are adjustable via quick release buckles. The buckles are covered to help keep them out of the way when you shoulder your rifle. And there are a few loops for routing comms wires and your hydration tube.

    The shoulder straps might feel a bit bulky, if you need to wear a ruck over the straps. But, overall, if you need to carry a lot of gear on your plate carrier, this is the carrier to get.


    Kitting Up

    The old Interceptor flak jackets had plate pockets. But they were terribly uncomfortable. And the plates made it almost impossible to close the flak jacket. That’s why we use plate carriers nowadays.

    Plate carriers are more versatile and more comfortable than cramming a ballistic plate into a flak jacket. So skip the flak jacket. And get the best plate carrier you can find.

    Shellback Tactical Patriot

    If you need an affordable and incredibly capable plate carrier, get the Shellback Tactical Patriot Plate Carrier. It’s pretty much the best plate carrier you can get without spending a whole lot more money.