Purchasing the right tactical vest may not be as easy as it seems. You will need to consider its purpose, the level of protection you require, the material of the plates, as well as the vest’s weight, heat buildup and conspicuousness. Read more on Plate Carrier Zone to help you make the right decision.
A proper ventilation system is needed to help you handle the heat. Plate carriers are quite heavy, and get even more so when they are loaded with supplies. This makes wearing them for lengthier periods of time uncomfortable, and heat can build up in no time.
That is why some vests feature a mesh ventilation system that allows the skin to breathe and release heat and moisture rather than keep them in; the mesh material should dry quickly. This type of material is a must on vests with internal pouches where you can keep licenses, maps and other important documents moist-free.
Even though it is mesh, a quality material should feel thick and rather heavy. The ventilation system should be accompanied by at least one hydration carrier; this can be a large mesh pocket somewhere on the vest.
Aside from material, design is also important to keep you safe and sound. Thus, comfort is the number one thing to consider, so look for a plate carrier that keeps you cool (see above) and that can be adjusted to suit various body types and sizes, without being too loose or too tight. Note that not all vests are designed to accept plates, so keep this in mind before you go vest shopping. However, even models that have no slots for plates can be worn over a plate carrier, and here is where an adjustable design makes the difference.
The vest should feature a sniper shoulder guard to protect you from the recoil of your firearm, but it should also be able to carry the load for you. This is best achieved with a mix of pouches, such as:
– several large pouches that can fit one or two rifle magazines each;
– smaller pouches for flashlights;
– a radio/ walkie-talkie pocket;
– shot shell holders with retention elastic or strong Velcro, placed within easy reach to keep ammunition flowing from the vest;
– a heavy duty hands-free back loop for additional tools;
– a sidearm holster;
– large internal pockets positioned either at the back or on each side to hold a plate, maps or a water pouch.