A tactical plate carrier can offer protection of all of your vital organs without limiting your mobility or function. With a similar structure to bulletproof vests, plate carriers defend your body, including protection against bullets, in dangerous situations. Plate carriers are frequently used by military personnel and law enforcement.
Plate carriers are versatile, allowing users to swap between plates depending on their needs. This versatility has increased the popularity of plate carriers in the fitness industry. Whether you’re looking professionally or for personal use, tactical plate carriers can be used for a range of protection and fitness needs.
What Is A Plate Carrier & Why Should I Use One?
A tactical plate carrier is essentially a vest that holds ballistic plates to create body armor or a ‘bulletproof vest.’ Tactical plate carriers can hold different plates that vary in weight and protection and offer other items’ capacity.
Plate carriers are usually issued to military personnel, law enforcement, and other individuals whose jobs include risk where a plate carrier would be helpful. For personal use, a plate carrier may be used to add resistance to workouts as it allows for the addition of weights to your body while you train without restricting your mobility.
The different types of plate carriers
The different types can vary depending on their weight and bulkiness regarding plate carriers. The best plate carrier for one situation may be entirely wrong for another, which is why it is best to know the different types you can get.
The least bulky plate carrier you can get is referred to as a ‘slick’ plate carrier. These carriers are lightweight and are designed to look like you’re not protected when you are. They can usually be fitted under clothes.
This plate carrier isn’t the best option if you’re looking to carry lots of gear with you, but it is the smallest and lightest weight style.
The’ minimalist’ plate carrier comes one step up from a ‘slick’ plate carrier. It is another lightweight plate carrier, but it comes with some options for carrying gear. When worn without any other tactical gear, this option is as light and compact as the previous option, giving you the best of both worlds when it comes to a lightweight design.
The ‘medium’ level of plate carriers is the most-used kind. It can offer space for a decent amount of gear and attachments and is suited to most needs. It provides a good level of protection, and bulk is kept to a minimum.
This kind of plate carrier can hold lots of gear, but there is no way of hiding that you’re wearing it. The ‘heavy’ plate carrier option is the bulkiest style of plate carrier on the market and offers the most capacity. This style is most favored by special military ops and law enforcement tactical units due to its high protection level and ability to carry lots of extra gear.
How To Choose The Best Tactical Plate Carrier
The best plate carrier for your needs may vary in material, protection level, and capacity for attachments. Each different variation can offer benefits, so your choice is down to personal preference.
Materials for plate carriers are usually one of a few types, including kevlar, steel, polyethylene (PE), and ceramic. Each has its pros and cons and is suited to different activities.
- Kevlar – Kevlar is a well-known material choice in body armour circles. It is a synthetic fabric with high tensile strength and an outstanding balance between protection and weight. With tightly bound fibres, Kevlar is efficient in stopping low-medium velocity bullets, knives, and other blunt weapons. It is lightweight, non-corrosive, and rust-free.
- Steel – The weight of steel is its main drawback, but it can offer high levels of protection to the wearer. Like Kevlar, steel can stop bullets and the blunt trauma that comes with impact, where blunt trauma is still an issue. Steel can also handle multiple bullets in the same place and coated steel (coated in Paxcon usually) can stop fragments from breaking off upon impact.
- Polyethylene (PE) – This material offers a middle ground between Kevlar and steel. It is just as hard as steel but with the lightweight of Kevlar. It can take multiple hits without shattering too. As the bullet hits, the material melts the bullet. It then cools and traps the bullet. The main drawback of PE is the expense.
- Ceramic – This is probably the least popular material option for plate carriers. It is lighter than steel and cheaper than PE but it cannot take bullets in the same spot and shatter on impact.
When it comes to protection level, there are a few considerations. Firstly, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) defines the plate carrier’s level of protection. The NIJ levels of protection are sorted by the type of bullet and the bullet velocity that the plate carrier can withstand.
Level IIIA plate carriers will resist most bullets, and this level of protection is recommended for law enforcement and civilians. Level IV is generally saved for military personnel and is the highest level of security that a plate carrier can offer.
Another decision to make is choosing a plate carrier with side plates. Side plates can add bulk to your plate carrier, so you should consider whether they are needed. Your firing position will be essential in determining whether side plates are necessary for your protection.
Capacity for Attachments
A final consideration to make when choosing the best plate carrier for your needs is whether you’re going to need to carry a load or add any attachments to the carrier. With each type of plate carrier comes a different capacity for tenderness. Your decision will be based solely on what you’re going to need when wearing your plate carrier and whether your chosen style can fit these attachments.
4 Top-Rated Plate Carrier Brands
Plate carriers come in so many varieties that it can be challenging to choose the best. The carrier for your needs, we have rounded up four of the top-rated plate carrier brands in Canada to help make your decision a little easier.
These brands can offer you a diverse range of high-quality plate carriers suitable for various uses. We have included a few of our favorite product options from each brand in the summaries below.
5.11 Tactical Plate Carriers
5.11 Tactical is a relatively well-known brand in the tactical gear industry. Starting as a climbing gear company, 5.11 Tactical moved to tactical gear in 2003 to become the brand we know today. 5.11 Tactical can offer you durable and high-quality tactical gear for all your needs.
With product options that include purpose-built gear, gear for both men and women, and gear for a range of settings with professional, outdoor, and training grounds, there is a vast diversity in the products on offer with this brand.
When it comes to plate carriers, 5.11 Tactical has quite the variety on offer in a range of sizes and colors and with a small offering of attachments too. We particularly like the Tactec Plate Carrier priced at $343.53, which comes in a ‘one size fits all’ option. This plate carrier can accommodate medium or large ballistic plates and includes shoulder pads to increase comfort and distribute weight evenly around the body.
5.11 Tactical also offers a plate carrier explicitly designed for those using their carrier for fitness. The Crossfit 2018 Edition Tactec Plate Carrier uses the same design as the Tactec Plate Carrier we mentioned before but is customized for athletes to allow greater movement freedom. This product is priced at $367.20 and is perfect for fitness users overwhelmed by all choices!
Blackhawk Plate Carriers
The Blackhawk brand was founded by a former Navy Seal meaning the gear this brand offers has been developed by someone who knows their stuff. The brand promises to put the needs of men and women in uniform first and is committed to providing reliable products. With lots of experience in the industry, Blackhawk is a trusted supplier of tactical gear and offers a wide range of products.
Blackhawk’s plate carrier options vary in weight and style, serving different needs in different settings. Their S.T.R.I.K.E Cutaway Carrier, costing $217.55, is constructed and made of cool and comfortable fabric that stimulates positive airflow. It is designed to accommodate level IIIA plates, offering the wearer a high level of protection.
Another excellent plate carrier from the Blackhawk brand is the Low Vis Plate Carrier (32HP12), a lightweight carrier designed to be worn under clothes. This carrier is an excellent example of a ‘slick’ plate carrier with little space for attachments.
Voodoo Tactical plate carriers
The Voodoo Tactical brand can offer everything from apparel and packs to tactical gear and optics. It is considered a reasonably priced brand that offers good quality supplies to its customers.
The Voodoo Tactical plate carrier range spans light to heavyweight body armor options and can provide suitable plate carriers for professional settings and personal use.
We would highlight plate carrier products in the Voodoo offering: the X-Light Gen II Plate Carrier described as their “most versatile plate carrier yet”. The offering space for both front and side plates and a mesh padded interior for reduced weight. And the ICE VAAT Plate Carrier Vest With Lattice Weave, which was designed and is worn by members of ICE, holds armor plates and has a patented lattice weave system to allow for mounting of universal pouches.
As a heavyweight option, Voodoo offers their Heavy Armour Carrier, which features inside pockets, can accommodate both hard and soft armor, and gives wrap-around, side coverage when using soft armor. It is a perfect example of a great ‘heavy’ plate carrier style.
NcSTAR plate carriers
NcSTAR is a tactical gear company that was founded in 1997. The brand promises superior quality at affordable prices and can offer a range of innovative and forward-thinking designs. The brand gets good press in tactical gear circles and is popular among enthusiasts.
NcSTAR offers a diverse range of plate carriers, including discreet styles and carriers with additional attachments. We love their Plate Carrier with External Pockets, which will set you back $87.03 and is perfect for carrying loads. The pockets on this design are plated, too, and it comes with a breathable mesh interior. You can add both level IIIA and IV plates to this carrier.
We’re also impressed by NcSTAR’s discreet plate options, the Discreet Plate Carrier which costs $41.63 and can act as a soft body armor option. It does come with external pockets, meaning that, unlike some discreet plate carrier options, you can carry other gear.
Plate carriers are a form of tactical gear designed to protect the body’s most vital organs in combat situations. They’re usually issued to those in jobs where danger is imminent, like those who work in law enforcement and military personnel.
There are a few different types of carriers, and the best plate carrier depends on the situation of use. Plate carriers also vary in material, protection level, and capacity for attachments. The style you choose depends wholly on why you’re using it.
We’ve summarized a few of the best plate carrier brands available in Canada and highlighted a few of our favorite products that they offer. Each brand can provide a wide variety of styles, and, as such, you should be able to find the style to match your needs with any of these fantastic plate carrier brands.
Author’s bio: Mahbub Murshed is a Content Creator at PSP Corp, a leading Canadian Tactical gear company based in Quebec. My articles focus on tactical gear, prepping, and survival. During my free time, I enjoy playing table tennis, hovering in neighborhoods, and watching Netflix films.