Plate carriers are necessary for most military get-ups. What is not necessary is spending an arm and a leg to get one that will work for your needs. We reviewed the latest plate carrier products on the market in order to determine the best plate carriers for the money. Fortunately, there are plenty of options in that regard.
We have analyzed each plate carrier for durability, utility in terms of practicality and features available, ease of use and accessibility, and consumer opinions. In doing so, we compiled a review list of the top-rated plate carriers on the market to help you narrow down your options and find the best rig for you.
With the internet opening up product options, it can be difficult to get a handle on the market. It does not have to be. Continue reading to find the plate carrier most suited to you.
Best Plate Carriers
1. Condor Recon Chest Rig Coyote, Brown, 30″ – 60″View at Amazon
First in the list of reviews is the best budget plate carrier, the Condor Recon Chest Rig. Sold at an incredibly reasonable price, this plate carrier is designed with padded, cross-back shoulder straps and three kangaroo-style magazine pouches.
Additionally, there are pistol pouches with removable flaps in order to carry knives, multi-tools, or other accessories. The product as a whole is designed for rapid accessibility so that you are not fumbling out in the field when it matters.
Consumers give an overwhelming thumbs up to this budget-friendly plate carrier. For one, the price seems to satisfy everyone, with low cost being one of the most cited features of the rig.
Additionally, the size adjustability has sold many on the effectiveness and usefulness of this plate carrier by Condor. Also noted as a positive by consumers is the additional mesh pocket space behind the central rig and shoulder straps.
The Condor Recon Chest Rig is easily one of the most budget-friendly rigs on the market. Its adjustable sizing makes it great for those people who are smaller or larger and have trouble properly fitting into their plate carrier. This specific plate carrier by Condor is also noted as being comfortable, which is a massive plus when you are out in the field or on active duty.
- High-quality material construction
- Adjustable sizing fits most
- Swivel push release buckles
- Kangaroo-style pouches for ease of access when reloading
- Minimal modification possible
2. Hydro Harness Integration Kit (Coyote Brown)View at Amazon
The next best plate carrier setup comes via the Condor Hydro Harness. Another Condor product, this plate carrier is also very budget-friendly. The Hydro Harness is designed more like a backpack than the previously reviewed Recon Chest Rig, which has cross-shoulder straps. This Condor product is also specifically designed to carry a hydration bladder, hence the name.
Many people use the Hydro Harness in conjunction with the Recon Chest Rig, or some other chest rig (can only guarantee fit with specific Condor models), which is why it is made with male buckle attachments.
Created with a secure passage for hydration tubes, the Hydro Harness holds the bladder on the back and via these tubes transports hydration over the right shoulder of the harness.
Just as with the Condor Recon Chest Rig, consumers are highly satisfied with this Hydro Harness. Again the price is noted as being outstanding and hard to beat. Additionally, those who already use a Condor chest rig claim that the fit of the Hydro Harness along with the chest rig is seamless and simple.
One such consumer notes that when in conjunction with a Condor chest rig, the Hydro Harness conveniently becomes the load-bearing vest.
The Condor Hydro Harness is a fantastic addition to a Condor chest rig. Not only does it allow for hydration, but the Hydro Harness also bears some of a load of chest rigs when attached to one another, creating convenience and overall maneuverability with a chest rig.
- Compatible with multiple models of Condor chest rigs
- MOLLE webbing
- Secure passage for the hydration tubes ensures the feasibility of hydration
- One size fits most
- Bladder not included
- Likely incompatible with non-Condor chest rigs
3. Tactical Vest Military Chest Rig Airsoft Swat Vest for Men(Camouflage)View at Amazon
At the third spot, we have the next best affordable plate carrier in the vAv YAKEDA Tactical Rapid Assault Chest Rig Vest. This model from vAv YAKEDA can be seen as an upgraded form of the Recon Chest Rig by Condor reviewed at number one.
Unlike the Recon Chest Rig, the Tactical Rapid Assault Rig has no cross-back shoulder straps, instead designed with normal backpack style, over-the-shoulder straps. Additionally, this chest rig has multiple magazine pouches allowing for the carrying of up to nine magazines.
Consumers are pretty blown away by the quality of the Tactical Rapid Assault Chest Rig Vest. Some users even go as far as to say the vest is a “must buy.”
Others note that the removability of all the pouches is a great feature, allowing for a good bit of user modification. As for the price, many say there are not many deals that can beat it with the quality of craftsmanship provided.
In conclusion, the vAv YAKEDA Tactical Rapid Assault Chest Rig Vest is the best chest rig for those looking for heavy modification. With the high number of pouches and rows of MOLLE, there are many variations of ways in which one can get the most out of this vest. So if you love quality over brand names, this vest should be in consideration.
- Integrates with YAKEDA bags, packs, and duffel
- Heavily modifiable and loadable with extra pouches
- Fully adjustable sizing to fit most adults
- Durable but lightweight material construction
- It May not integrate well with non-vAv YAKEDA equipment
4. Helikon-Tex Range Line, Training Mini Rig Melange Black/GreyView at Amazon
In the fourth spot is the best low-profile plate carrier on the market. The Helikon-Tex Range Line Training Mini Rig is different from the previously reviewed chest rigs because it is designed with two main zipper pockets in the central area of the rig, one of which hangs lower than the rest of the Training Mini Rig.
This chest rig also has a different shoulder strap setup, with the shoulder straps designed as an H-strap harness. While there are more cargo pockets on this Training Mini Rig, the flap pouches are less central to the rig, possibly altering the functionality of the rig.
Consumers love this Training Mini Rig from the Helikon-Tex Range Line. The materials are claimed to be high quality, durable, and authentic.
Many consumers find it highly comfortable while in use as well. Additionally, consumers applaud the high capacity of this rig system, finding that it fits plenty of gear and magazines/rounds for excursions.
In conclusion, the Helikon-Tex Range Line Training Mini Rig can be more than just a training rig. For those non-military readers, this rig system is a fantastic option for hunters or other outdoor activity enthusiasts. The space offered by this chest rig is second to none according to consumers and the durability of it leaves nothing wanting.
- Height-adjustable pouch flaps allow for customization
- Large cargo pockets offer convenient space
- Included magazines
- High-strength Cordura construction material
5. ArcEnCiel Tactical Molle Vest, Coyote BrownView at Amazon
The next product in review is yet another inexpensive plate carrier, the ArcEnCiel Tactical MOLLE Vest. This is one of the more unique plate carriers under review thus far due to its fit.
This Tactical MOLLE Vest is more akin to a regular vest in that it does not have straps but rather is designed as a velcro system where the portions that go over your shoulders and around your waist velcro to the back piece. This design allows for fewer mishaps with straps and more focus on keeping your supplies and equipment stable and in place.
For the most part, consumers are in agreement about this chest rig being of great value for a more than affordable price. Its adjustable size also satisfies consumers who are larger and tend to have to triple-check the ability for a rig to fit them.
Many consumers are surprised at the high-quality design, claiming it is more durable than they had been prepared for.
In conclusion, there is not much to dislike, if at all, about this ArcEnCiel Tactical MOLLE Vest. It is designed to fit comfortably and sturdily and is made from highly durable material that is sure to hold in whatever action it is you are involved in.
With a high number of pouches and being fully modifiable, this plate carrier is great for any experience-level user.
- Completely modifiable (all pouches can be removed)
- Large MOLLE space on the back
- High-quality material construction
- Size adjustable up to 50-inch chest
6. Condor Modular Chest Set BlackView at Amazon
At the sixth spot is another Condor product which is one of the more comfortable plate carrier models available on the market. The Condor Outdoor Modular Chest Set is designed similarly to the vAv YAKEDA in that its straps are over the shoulder, and h-straps hook to the front center of the chest rig.
This model’s magazine pouches are built into the chest rig, allowing for less modification but heavily sturdy and reliable pouches. This chest set is also unique in that it acts as a chest rig and hydration bladder simultaneously. Although, like its cousin product, this plate carrier does not come with a hydration bladder.
Consumers are generally on the same page about this Condor offering, it is a good rig and certainly gets the job done. It is claimed to have sufficient space for your needs and also wears very comfortably. One aspect, in particular, that is not the greatest is the hydration carrier because there is no tube management system, which might require some modification for easier use.
Condor offers another fantastic plate carrie product with the Modular Chest Set. It is one of the most durable options on the market yet it remains one of, if not the most, comfortable chest rig systems available.
With removable and adjustable features throughout, the Condor Modular Chest Set is great for hunters, military men/women, and other outdoorsmen looking for sufficient yet modifiable space for equipment.
- Size adjustable, waist adjustable, chest plate adjustable, and removable
- Includes hydration carrier, though the bladder is not included
- Heavy duty material construction
- Non-removable magazine pouches
7. BLACKHAWK S.T.R.I.K.E. Elite Vest – BlackView at Amazon
Coming in at the eighth spot in the reviews is one of the most expensive plate carrier options on the market. The BLACKHAWK! S.T.R.I.K.E. Elite Vest is similar in form to the 5.11 Tactical vest discussed just previously at the seventh spot in that it goes on like a normal vest and zips up in the front middle section.
Also, similar to the 5.11 Tactical vest, this model has no exterior pockets or pouches but rather has many rows of MOLLE webbing allowing you to customize your setup.
Consumers are typically enamored with this vest with a few exceptions. Some customers note that while the vest is size adjustable, it really is not one size fits all. One gripe with the product is the lack of varied size options as the conditions for a comfortable, snug fit are somewhat restricted.
Other than that, consumers applaud the high modifiability of the vest and claim that the material is heavily durable. Others say it serves as a great load-bearing vest.
In conclusion, this S.T.R.I.K.E. Elite Vest from BLACKHAWK! is best suited for more experienced users and those who need varying setups on their vests for various different applications. Given its price, the vest really should be avoided by beginners, who may need much more or even less than is included in this product package.
- Fully customizable thanks to extensive MOLLE webbing
- Heavy-duty materials construction
- Adjustable in size
- No exterior pockets or pouches included
Tips on Choosing the Best Plate Carriers
The following is a list of tips on choosing the best plate carriers:
Look for High-Quality First and Foremost
Whatever the reason is for your needing a plate carrier, quality should always remain a top priority.
While we have reviewed quite a few options that are both affordable and well-made, finding a budget plate carrier should never take precedence.
Look into the brands further before making a purchasing decision if you are not totally convinced of an item’s quality. Typically, American-made plate carrier models are among the best available.
Plate Carriers do not Have to be Overly Expensive
While more expensive plate carriers are generally going to be of higher quality, that does not mean you have to buy the most expensive thing you can find. As we have covered in the reviews, there are plenty of cheap plate carrier models that fill most of the feature boxes.
Check Product Reviews
While product reviews can be hard to gauge, they are generally a good place to start to understand consumer reception to the product.
Most reviews are left by either highly satisfied consumers or highly disappointed consumers; so depending on how the product is reviewed, you can find out whether it is viable or not.
Determine Plate Carrier Compatibility
Many of the plate carriers reviewed here are customizable and able to be modified and combined with other equipment. This means that you can add on pockets, pouches, additional rigs, etc. While many, if not all, of the products, reviewed come equipped with MOLLE webbing, it does not mean that chest rigs and vests by different brands will be compatible.
Most pouches and pockets will be able to be used but it cannot be guaranteed. So if you already have some equipment by a particular brand that you are satisfied with, it may be wise to search for a plate carrier from the same brand.
Compare and Contrast Features
There are many forms of plate carriers and while some differ, many are quite similar in function. You can best figure out which product is for you by creating a comparison list between model options you find attractive.
This will allow you to easily determine whether or not a certain product has enough magazine pouches as well as enough MOLLE webbing for your desires, etc.
Seeing specific features and facing them against another product of interest’s features is key to tangibly finding which item is most suited for you.
Factors to Consider When Buying Plate Carrier Vest
The following is a list of factors to consider when buying the best plate carrier vest:
The MOLLE webbing on plate carrier vests is essential to the vest’s overall efficiency and usability. Some brands and models of vests approach this aspect of the vest better than their competitors.
Modification and customization can be majorly helpful when setting up a vest for optimal use and that is why MOLLE webbing is one of the first things you should consider when buying a plate carrier vest. Also, if you expect to want some control over your vest setup, be wary of vests that do not allow you to move or separate magazine pouches.
As was touched upon in the tips section, the price is something to consider when deciding which plate carrier vest is most ideal for you and the uses you intend for it.
While going super cheap can be a mistake, so can overpaying for a vest.
There’s a sweet middle ground when it comes to these vests and you want to be sure you are playing in it when shopping for a new plate carrier.
Many of the vests reviewed fall into this middle ground of relatively cheap, budget-friendly, high-quality, high-efficiency use. So do not cheap out but do not break the bank either (unless of course, you want to).
The next thing to consider is what you intend to use the plate carrier for. While most people in the market for a plate carrier are military personnel, some are not and there are certainly other uses for plate carriers.
However, if you are military or serving active duty, make sure the options you are considering are military-approved plate carriers. If you are not military, you should still consider your intended use of a plate carrier.
By knowing exactly what you need the vest for and how you may need the vest you will be able to narrow down your search to a select few options from good plate carrier brands.
A final factor to seriously consider is the strap style on the vest. We have reviewed models with quite a few strap variations. First, there are the cross-back (x-type shape) straps.
Next, there are the h-straps, somewhat similar to normal backpack straps but with a conjoining horizontal piece.
Finally, there were the full vest styles that either zip up or velcro together.
Depending on your use, you may not need a full torso plate carrier and that will invariably eliminate zip-up vest models.
However, any further distinction is a personal preference in terms of comfort and whether or not you plan to combine your plate carrier with other vests or rigs, thus making the straps a potential attachment point.
Plate Carrier Vest FAQ
Is it necessary to get a modifiable plate carrier vest?
No, it is not a necessity that you get a modifiable plate carrier vest. Some vests come with everything certain individuals may need from their vests.
However, there are many reasons to consider buying a highly modifiable plate carrier vest as we have discussed. So is it necessary? No. Would it be recommended and likely helpful? Absolutely. For this reason, it is suggested you go with the best MOLLE plate carrier.
I am military personnel, do I need a particular plate carrier?
The answer here is both yes and no. Yes because whichever options you choose between, they must be military-approved plate carriers.
The answer is also no because there are multiple models and options that are military-approved. So while you are restricted to what is approved, you are not restricted to choosing from one vest option.
Do most plate carrier vests come with plates and included pouches, pockets, etc.?
No, most plate carrier vests do not come with actual plates. However, many options do come equipped with included pouches, pockets, etc. In fact, these are what make and break many of the available options.
Typically, the items that come with included pouches, pockets, etc. are the ones that have a bit less MOLLE webbing to utilize.
On the other hand, many of the vests that come as vest pieces only have extensive MOLLE webbing and plenty of areas to modify and make just as you see fit.
So again, the positive or negative in particular objects coming with pouches, pockets, etc. included rather than not is dependent upon how you intend to use the vest.
Many of the plate carrier options are one size fits all. Should I be buying a one size fits all product or searching for a particular size?
There is no definite answer here. A good measure to go off of would be whether or not you have had trouble getting previously used plate carriers or similar equipment to fit.
Many people are able to fit into the one size fits all, or one size fits all options. However, there are other folks who find it difficult to fit into these models with the rest of their gear. The best advice would be to read carefully each product description when shopping in order to avoid ordering something too small.
In conclusion, the best plate carrier for the price is not necessarily the best plate carrier at the lowest price. The best option will be in accordance with the various ways in which you intend to use your plate carrier vest while remaining budget-friendly.
That is what we have demonstrated here with these reviews, that quality plate carriers are ripe for the taking at affordable prices. Again, no one should be looking too cheap out, but spending too much can be painful in hindsight.
We have provided some thorough product descriptions for ten of the best plate carriers we could find in the hopes that you could avoid unnecessary grunt work.
With so many reasonably priced, well-constructed, and heavy-duty options available, we are sure you can find the exact plate carrier for your needs. So now that you know, it is time to determine which option works for you!