Plate Carrier Sizing and Shopping

Hey Goblin Gang, Nico here. Last year, I wrote about treating a plate carrier as a system, and I mentioned making sure that it fits well. Unfortunately, that’s something you can only really check in person, and believe me, I know how long that can take and how much it can cost if you’re spending your own money. All of that said, you can make a pretty educated guess of how something will fit just by looking at it and going through available information online. Here I’m going to share the things I look for and at when considering a new carrier for fit and comfort.

Depending on your knowledge level, I may go over some things you already know. However, Maid and I started doing this to aggregate and share knowledge from the most basic level on up, so it’s there for everyone else.

Baseline Assumptions

As always, I strongly suggest that you have a purpose in mind when shopping for a carrier. My default purpose is, to use buzzwords, an overt, relatively heavily loaded carrier, and if I don’t specify, I’m talking from that standpoint. I go deeper into it in this article, but the quick version is: don’t think one carrier can do everything, no matter what the marketing says. Have a plan and stick to it. Also, if you want a carrier because you think it looks cool/your favorite R6S Operator wears it/for the LARP, just accept that as your reasoning and don’t try to come up with a practical reason for it. It’s not a bad thing, let’s have some fun with all this, but be honest with yourself and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

If you’ve read any articles out there about fitting a plate carrier, they all basically start the same way. “Fit the plate to your body, and then get the carrier to match”. Unsurprisingly, this is a gross oversimplification. As an adult male, unless you’re ridiculously outsized, you can wear a medium plate. As an adult female, you can probably wear a medium plate anyway. As a civilian, there’s a good chance that the plates you’re considering are 10×12 anyway- and the half inch shorter length makes the 10×12 a better fit for most women. This isn’t to say to completely disregard that advice, but there’s an additional layer, that boils down to:

Fit the plate carrier and plate combination to your body.

Now that seems obvious, and it is, especially if you’re thinking of the whole thing as a total system. In a more granular way:

1. Your body fits in the plate carrier

2. Your plate fits in the plate carrier

With a further caveat that “your body” includes anything you’re wearing under the carrier. This could include a soft vest if you’re a super cool guy or a cop, and winter clothing depending on the season. As you can see, the keystone component here is your plate carrier. With very few exceptions, you can not separately fit the carrier to your body and your plate.

But what does this really mean? In short, depending on the design of your carrier, you can wear significantly different sizes of carrier and plate. For example, I wore an XS IOTV Gen 1, a SM SPCS (KDH Magnum Tac-1), and a MD LBT 6094 and other carriers, as you’ve probably seen from my videos. That’s an appreciable spread of different sizes.

IOTV (Gen 2), SPCS, LBT 6094 Sources: Wikipedia, LBT Website

In the military, you can change out plate sizes relatively painlessly- I hate CIF as much as the next guy, but I appreciate it at least. On the civilian side, a set of plates is a significant expense, and one that you can’t change out quickly or cheaply. While this is changing in the wider market, 10×12 plates are still the most common and cheapest plates available. You also can’t change your body that rapidly. So this gives us a few different situations you may find yourself in while shopping for a plate carrier, from most to least flexible:

1. Active military so you know your plate size for standard issue carriers, and can change plates out effectively at will.

2. Former military so you know your plate size for standard issue carriers, but can no longer change plates out at will.

3. Civilian with enough budget to buy SAPI-sized plates, but have not yet purchased a set.

4. Civilian that has already bought plates, or only enough budget to go with 10×12’s.

For comparison with standard issue plates, I’ll mention what features let you know if you can go up a size. This is particularly helpful if you’re wearing a small vest now, because many civilian-available carriers start at Medium, or so you can use cheaper 10×12 plates. If you can afford SAPI sizes but don’t know your size, see if you can borrow a loaded carrier, or at least try one on. If that’s not an option, consider cutting your own dummies from cosplay foam or buying airsoft plates. They’re not perfect, but they can give you an idea of the size and scale.

SAPI plate sizes diagram

If you already have plates, then I assume you already have a carrier of some form, so as I go through different features, I’ll point out ways they differentiate from one another so you can consider a different one.

What Does Good Fit Mean, Anyway?

I assume you want to be able to do things while wearing your plate carrier. At a bare minimum, this includes wearing it for a certain amount of time without being miserable, moving around in it relatively unimpeded, likely carrying a certain amount of stuff on it while being able to access it, and almost certainly shooting with it.

This is a bit of a rehash from the System article, but these are key questions you should have the answer to before you really start shopping.

  • Most importantly, does this plate carrier put the plates where they need to be to protect my vitals? This means the front plate’s top at the notch in my collarbone, and the rear plate actually high up enough on my back?
  • How much stuff am I going to be putting on this, and how much does that weigh? Additionally, does this carrier have enough space for it, and features that support it (cable pass-throughs, placard/rear panel compatibility)?
  • How long do I expect to wear this? Will it be all day, or just tossing it on for an hour or two at a time, max?
  • How much freedom of movement do I need? Not just walking around, but bending over, sitting, getting up and down from prone or kneeling, and also arm movement, especially across my chest?
  • Can I shoulder a rifle and get a good firing grip on a pistol with this?

Components of Fit

A typical plate carrier has three main components, and each one of them contributes to how it fits and feels when you wear it. All of them are equally important, although one is easier to change these days. They are:

1. Platebags

2. Shoulder Straps and Attachments

3. Cummerbund

Platebags and the shoulder straps are typically integrated, but I approach them as separate parts, or think they have enough different things to consider to separate them for discussion. I’ll also mention things that you can do to make these parts more comfortable.

Ferro Concept’s webpage for the FCPC

When looking at the store page for a plate carrier, there’s a specific way you should approach it. As you can see above, the store page for the FCPC has an awful lot of text there. But to put it bluntly, everything in the red box is just advertising copy. The green box shows you the options available- make sure they have what you want or move on. All the information you need is in the blue boxes. Put another way, look for bulleted lists and pictures.


These are the big bits that the plate actually fits in. Obviously, this makes them the most important component for actually fitting the plate into your carrier. They are generally rectangular in shape, or rectangular with the top corners clipped off. The front and back can be the same shape or differently shaped. The inside may have padding or mesh or velcro, and the outside may have pockets, PALS webbing, velcro and other attachment systems, or be slick. Internally, there is some way to hold the plate in place, and there may be other stuff like cable pass-through management. There could also be provisions for soft armor inserts.

While the external stuff is very important to the Plate Carrier System concept, it is only important to the fit and feel of the carrier as much as it, and the stuff attached to it, add to the bulk and weight. As long as it has the space and features you want and need, this is beyond the scope of this article.

Plate Fit

The first actually important thing, and the most necessary one, is if your plate will fit in your plate carrier. Yes, I know I’m bringing up a lot of obvious things, but I’m approaching this from the ground up so bear with me. For many carriers, this is just “is the carrier the same size as my plate”, and generally speaking, a MD carrier will fit a 10×12. Not always, so look in the bullet points for details there. A typical description (taken from the FCPC page) is:

If you’re using a 10×12 plate, it must be less than 1” thick. This is something to pay attention to, because the RMA1155MC, which is my recommendation for an inexpensive plate, is listed as 1” thick, but there’s some wiggle room there, so it may not fit. As a general rule of thumb, assume that your plate is going to be a little thicker than the listed value to be safe.

A different problem is that some older, or cheaper, carriers have “multi-fit” platebags. For example, the Velocity System LEPC comes in two sizes:

And the Condor MOPC claims to be one-size-fits-all (M-XL). In my experience, what this actually means is that the carrier is sized for the largest plate it fits, but you can mange to fit a smaller one in with some slop- how much is defined by how the plate is held in place, and that’s next. However, even if the plate is held perfectly in place, there will be extra bulk of fabric and padding without any real purpose.

FCPC’s flap and LBT 6094’s plate lifter

There are two general ways that the plate is held in place, which you can see above. On the right is the LBT 6094’s plate lifter strap, and on the left is the FCPC’s flap. Plate lifters are common in oversized carriers, and work by lifting the plate up to the top of the bag, and holding it there. Flaps are common in carriers where the bags more closely fit the plate, with no wiggle room internally. If a carrier is multi-fit and doesn’t have a plate lifter, I’d move on unless you’ve got the plate that actually fits perfectly.


Many plate carriers have some degree of padding on the inside. This is especially important for comfort if you’ll be wearing your carrier for an extended length of time. The simplest form is a thin sheet of foam inside the platebag, like used in the LBT 6094. Others use mesh, sometimes around foam padding as well, to allow some airflow and comfort like the VelSys LEPC. The Crye JPC 2 has a small patch of mesh at the tops of the platebags, where the plate will typically have the most pressure on your collarbone and base of your neck for some targeted comfort.

LEPC, JPC 2, 6094 showing their padding. Personal collection.

A more modern take on padding creates an air channel inside the vest. This channel creates a surprising degree of increased comfort, just by letting your sweat evaporate and actually work. One example is the SKD Pig, which extends its padded shoulder straps to the bottom of the rear platebag. The Haley Thorax uses the channel for some branding while they’re at it. LBT offers inserts for the 6094 G3, Beez has pads for their Aptum, and there are other options available. Perhaps most notable are the Qore Performance IceVents, which use an open mesh to provide both padding and standoff. I haven’t used them myself because they’re pretty expensive, but I hear good things.

SKD Pig Plate Carrier, Haley Thorax, Beez Pads, LBT G3 pad inserts, all from their websites

Soft Armor

While new plate carriers typically don’t have considerations for soft armor, military vests and several older carriers on the market do. Soft armor adds some different considerations to the design of a carrier, including some specifics on how it’s shaped. This is most obvious in military vests like, left to right below, the Army’s IOTV and SPCS, the Marine’s MTV, and the Tyr Tactical line, the first three are or were standard issue, and the last one was submitted for consideration as a standard vest.

Sources: Wikipedia and the Tyr Tactical website

The upshot of this design concept is extra bulk, especially around the waist and shoulders. I’ll get to the shoulders later, but for the platebags, this means that they are larger than a carrier without soft armor. For a simple example, the LBT 6094 is known for being able to fit one size larger SAPI plate into it than it’s officially sized for. Generally speaking, extra bulk is a bad thing, but depending on the rest of the design, it may not be a deal breaker.

Medium ESAPI plate on the 6094’s front soft armor insert


The shape of the platebags themselves is mostly important in how they affect the way the shoulder straps function. But before we shift into that, the three configurations are:

1. Rectangular front and back

2. Rectangular back and clipped front

3. Clipped front and back


I’d argue that the shoulder straps are the thing you’re going to notice first and most when wearing a plate carrier. Everything else is important, but just not as noticeable as the shoulders. I categorize the design of shoulder straps into four different styles, which roughly correspond with the shapes listed above, with the fourth being a kind of wildcard:

1. Straight

2. Trapezoidal

3. Hourglass

4. JPC-style

Over 9000 hours in MS Paint

Straight Straps

Straight straps correspond with rectangular front and back platebags, where the straps are essentially an extension of the outer vertical edge of the carrier. These are particularly common on military-focused vests, and are a consequence of having soft armor covering up over the shoulder. If the design already has something moving up there, might as well slap an extra bit of webbing to connect it there. The most notable exception of a straight-strapped carrier not designed around soft armor is the Spiritus LV119, and its clone the T-Rex Arms AC1.

LV119 source: OP Tactical; AC1 source: TRex Arms

Generally speaking, this is an uncomfortable design, putting the weight further out on your shoulders, and not working well with aftermarket pads- more on those later. In addition, it eliminates or reduces the benefit of the clipped corners on most plates, putting material into your shoulder pocket, making it more difficult to shoulder a rifle. When there’s soft armor there, you at least get some benefit, but without that, it’s a straight negative. This is why I really, really dislike the LV119.

The typical workaround is wearing a smaller plate than you could, clearing your shoulder pocket and bringing the straps onto your trapezius muscle instead of the gap between your traps and deltoids, meaning right on the collarbone and shoulderblade.

If you’re using a plate carrier with straps like this, it means you were issued it, you’ve never used anything else, or you bought into Instagram hype from people in the first two categories. That said, it’s not outright bad, and if you’re comfortable with an issued vest, the LV119 will fit very much like it while being lighter.

Comparatively, you can wear a larger plate in a trapezoidal or hourglass type carrier than with a straight strapped carrier, or keep the same size and get more upper arm mobility and comfort if you keep the same size carrier.

Trapezoidal Straps

Trapezoidal straps correspond with a rectangular back and clipped front platebag, where the straps go from the rear outer corners to the upper, inner corners of the front bag. These are not very common, with the two major examples being the Ferro FCPC and most of the LBT 6094 series. That said, these are probably my favorites, so I’m obviously biased.

FCPC Source: Ferro; 6094 Source: LBT

I find this design to be very comfortable, with the shape giving good stability while leaving your shoulder pockets clear to shoulder a rifle. The straps run over your traps for some natural padding. There’s also the added niche benefit that you can use a rectangular rear plate for some additional protection if you’d like.

It’s an old and classic design, and it keeps on working.

Comparatively, trapezoidal style carriers feel very similar to hourglass style carriers, and the differences really boil down to personal preference. Versus straight-strapped carriers, you can get more protection by stepping up a size, or more comfort with the same size, and honestly, even when I went up a size it’s still more comfortable.

Hourglass Style

Hourglass style corresponds with clipped front and back platebags, and includes two slight variations where both attach to the upper or inner corners on both sides. There’s generally a spectrum between these, but on one end is where the straps go straight across, and on the other end is where the straps come out diagonally and create a sort of partial oval shape. There can also be some variation in specifically where the straps attach to the platebags, but the strap itself typically contacts, either on the edge or somewhere in the middle of the strap, the top corner.

Beez Aptum, Defense Mechanisms MEPCv2, Velocity Systems LEPC; All taken from manufacturers’ websites

All of that to say this is the most common type of strap positioning in most modern carriers currently on the market, especially those focused on the civilian side of things. Despite all the variations, these mostly fit pretty similarly, with only small personal distinctions between them. For example, like I mentioned in my video on it, I found the Beez Aptum’s straps were just a bit wider than the Cannae Vakarian’s but in the end it wasn’t an issue at all. That said, I’ve found that narrower straps that flare out less are typically more comfortable.

As its popularity suggests, this is a decently comfortable strap style that allows for good arm movement and, when properly sized, leaves your shoulder pockets clear while putting the straps on your traps.

If you’ve bought your own plate carrier, there’s a good chance you already have one of these, so this is sort of the default style for most civilian gear owners these days. To contradict myself, the small differences in strap position and angles could be important to you, so you shouldn’t ignore them completely.

Comparatively, hourglass style carriers feel similar to trapezoidal-strapped ones, and the differences between them and among this style are really questions of personal preference. Just like with the trapezoidal carriers, versus straight-strapped carriers, you can get more protection by stepping up a size, or more comfort with the same size. However, the differences may be less dramatic, again depending on the specific implementation of the straps.

JPC Style

JPC style carriers are a combination of the straight-strapped and hourglass style carriers. As the name suggests, the best known example is the Crye JPC, but there are other examples. I define the JPC style as a carrier where the straps extend past the outer edge of the platebags, which means examples can be either rectangular front and rear or clipped front and rear shaped platebags.

Crye JPC 1 and 2, Agilite K19, Shellback Banshee; All taken from manufacturers’ websites

I’ve done a whole video on what I don’t like about the JPC, but to summarize it, the over-width straps at an outwards angle create a series of difficulties. These include material in your shoulder pocket, a strange diagonal adjustment, and forcing a smaller plate than you could otherwise use. All of that said, I don’t think the JPC is actually a bad carrier, it’s just not as plug-and-play as other options out there. Back on topic, of all the JPC-style carriers out there, the JPC ends up being the best of them.

The second most common examples of the JPC-style, at least that I see discussed, are the Aglite K19, and showing my age here, the Shellback Banshee. The K19 is a sort of case study in strange design choices, and an example of why just because a military uses it doesn’t mean it’s good on the American civilian market. Where the JPC gets around putting material in the shoulder pockets by making that section as thin as possible, the Shellback has bulky wrapped straps and PALS slots while the K19 has bulky padding and quick-release buckles. Essentially, when poorly implemented, the JPC style has all the weaknesses of straight-strapped carriers, but with added problems of difficult adjustment.

If you own a JPC style carrier, you have a JPC or you made a mistake.

Comparatively, JPC style carriers are unique in their feel. This is not necessarily a good thing. Sizing, however, is usually pretty close to standard issue carriers. They’re best for if you already know what size you fit perfectly in an issued carrier and are looking for a lighter version of that. Versus an hourglass or trapezoidal carrier, you’ll almost certainly need a smaller size for correct fit and comfort without fighting the design.


At their most basic, plate carrier shoulder straps are just a piece of webbing. These are the bits that most of the weight of your carrier will be sitting on, so some padding can make them feel a whole lot better. Just about every company that makes plate carriers or tactical gear has a shoulder pad option, and in the end it’s up to you. I like the Beez pads, but realistically that’s at least partially because they make them in different sizes including smaller ones so I can adjust tighter. Unless you’re going for the absolute least visible plate carrier arrangement, I will always suggest you get shoulder pads. You should also consider that they can be used to route cables or Camelbak hoses, so they have utility beyond the obvious. Since I mentioned them for platebag pads, Qore also makes shoulder pads that I similarly haven’t used but have heard good things about, but don’t know if they’re worth the pretty high price.

Beez Aptum shoulder pads, from their website. Do you really need more examples?

Quick Release

There are two versions of quick release, Emergency Doffing and Convenience.

Emergency Doffing is when you can pull a handle (or several, depending) to quickly get out of your plate carrier. Using this typically takes some time and effort to rebuild your carrier, and is a sure indicator of development for the military. On the civilian side, it’s of questionable value, especially because it adds to the bulk and weight, as well as the complexity and therefore cost of a carrier. Is it a cool feature? Sure, but chances are you’ll never need it. If you’re in a job that needs it, you need it. Simple as. There are some retrofit kits to make carrier emergency releasable, but I’d suggest sticking with one designed from the ground up for it if you really need it.

IOTV e-doff Cable, retrieved from Worthpoint; JPC E-Doff kit, from Crye Website

Convenience is where there’s a buckle of some form, or the now-popular “tubes”. I’ll discuss this more on cummerbunds where they’re a bigger feature, but while talking about shoulders there’s some considerations for them. Obviously, a convenient quick release allows you to put a plate carrier on without putting it over your head. This can be useful if you have something on your head that will block pushing your head through, such as a helmet, hearing protection, glasses, long hair, or just have a big head and short shoulder straps.

FirstSpear Strandhogg and FCPC shoulder buckle detail, from manufacturer’s websites


Almost four thousand words in and we’re to the last part of the plate carrier system, and it’s the one I think is the least appreciated. The cummerbund is the bit that wraps around your waist and holds the bottom of the platebags in place. Back in the day, you’d buy a vest, it’d come with a cummerbund, and that was it. Now, many carriers are sold modularly, with a separate cummerbund that you can buy from the maker of your carrier or through a third party, and many people replace the cummerbund nearly automatically.

I want to establish immediately that the cummerbund is a structural component of your carrier. It can do a lot of things other than holding the bottom of your plates or acting as additional storage and mounting space. Somewhat counterintuitively, a heavier, stiffer cummerbund that provides additional structure can make the whole system more comfortable. To digress, before you load up your cummerbund, make sure that whatever you do put there isn’t blocking your arm movement and access to anything on your belt.

As I said, some carriers like the LBT 6094 don’t really have options for the cummerbund. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and most carriers with fixed cummerbunds are pretty excellent, if not as modern as other options. It’s difficult to separate other options into clear categories, but here are some.


Elastic cummerbunds have gotten really popular recently, and I hate them. Stripping all the structural capability from a key structural component is like ripping out structural components in your house. There are two valid reasons to go with elastic: price and concealment. Elastic cummerbunds are consistently the cheapest available, so if you’re on a strict budget, it can keep you inside it. Because they’re also the lowest profile, elastic cummerbunds do work for concealed carriers.

From Ferro Store Page

A variation on elastic cummerbunds are ones with mag pouches included. Frankly, these are even worse. After taking away the structural capabilities, you’re now adding extra weight to the non-structural part. In addition, it about doubles the price for a worse option, even if it’s still one of the cheapest options available. I’m sure there’s an argument in their favor, but I can’t think of it.


There are several different variations of MOLLE cummerbunds. The most common choices are 3” or 5” in height, also describable as two or three tracks vertically, and solid or skeletal. Somewhat more exotic versions are laser-cut ones like the Beez Grid and negative Skeletal options.

From Defense Mechanisms’ Store Page

These are the classic cummerbunds, giving storage space along your sides. Five inch cummerbunds are the most similar to military ones, and some have built-in provisions for soft armor inserts and/or side plates. That said, most modern cummerbunds don’t have that, but there may be an option for a MOLLE-attached side plate pouch. Again, if this is something you need, they’re an option, but I think most people in the civilian market won’t need or want those.

Three inch cummerbunds are narrower, obviously, which works well with the how high you want your plates to sit, while still allowing some limited storage.

When I call a cummerbund “soft MOLLE”, I mean that it’s not specifically stiffened to add structure. Despite this, they still provide some degree of structure just from the fact of being made from heavy, durable cloth. This is further strengthened by soft armor-filled cummerbunds, which are aren’t deliberately stiffened, but are still somewhat…


In contrast, specifically structural cummerbunds are deliberately stiffened to provide structure. There are differing degrees of this, such as the JPC 2’s skeletal cummerbund, which has stiffening strips, the Tiger Tailor JPC cummerbund, which is a solid sheet of plastic, or the Ferro Assault cummerbund, made of Tegris. These are rigid and give the most structure, and can make a carrier that much more comfortable to wear.

A reader pointed out that I missed the Axl Equinox cummerbund, which is very similar to the Ferro Assault, just without a name brand material. The Ferro Assault works on velcro-connected carriers, while the Equinox works with pass-through and corset-laced carriers like the JPC, LV119 Overt, and Shaw ARC. If one of these is an option and in your budget, I’d definitely suggest you go for it; the added level of comfort is significant.

Ferro 3″ Assault Cummerbund, from their website


Hybrid cummerbunds are some combination of the above. The most common version of this is a structural or MOLLE cummerbund with a small section of elastic, allowing for some flex while breathing, moving, or putting on over heavier clothing. The Ferro Assault cummerbund is an example again, with a hidden stretch section in the rear attachment point. Most Beez cummerbunds, and the Mission Essential hybrids are also excellent examples.

Defense Mechanisms Hybrid Cummerbunds, from their website

I’ve mentioned before in videos that I love the Ferro Assault cummerbund, and while it’s pricey, it’s a fantastic upgrade if you’ve got a carrier that can mount it. In general, I like hybrid cummerbunds for giving the benefits of their core component, while minimizing the amount of possible stretch from the elastic.


The default attachment for cummerbunds is via velcro on the belly panel of your carrier. To attach or remove it, you lift the front flap or placard if you have it and press on or lift off the flaps. Much like in the shoulders section, there are two versions, and they’re the same, as well as my comments about Emergency Doffing.

Velocity Systems LEPC, showing typical velcro attachment, from their website

However, there’s a lot more to talk about here regarding convenience quick-detach options. I’m going to outright say it, I don’t like almost all convenience options for the cummerbund. That said, they’re popular so I’ll at least address them, even if it’s mostly negatively. There’s three main variants which are tubes, ROC and cobra buckles. Tubes, which slide on from the top, and ROC, which twist and lift, are about equally popular, while Cobra buckles are less popular.

Firstspear Strandhogg with tubes, Beez JPC ROC retrofit kit, Ferro Assault Cobra Buckle retrofit kit, all from their websites

Despite the specific mechanism, they all function about the same. They allow for quicker donning and doffing, with a less complex action required, and make the process quieter. Additionally, they allow for more consistent placement of your cummerbund.

To address each of these:

Donning and doffing with velcro doesn’t really take that long, especially with practice. If you’re taking your carrier on and off so many times that the time savings become important, you probably didn’t need to wear it anyway. If you’re that worried about getting it off quickly, get a proper Emergency Doffing carrier.

I can’t think of a single, reasonable situation where I’d need to put on or take off a plate carrier quietly.

You can be very consistent with velcro placement with a little bit of practice, and the ability to slightly adjust cummerbund placement can compensate for different clothing.

For actual issues, any of these attachment methods take up valuable real estate for mounting gear at the sides of your plate, which is an important extension of your workspace. Tubes are also expensive, adding about fifty dollars to most cummerbunds. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s paying for negatives without benefits from my point of view.

The fourth variant is on the 6094 QRCv2, which has a wedge buckle that fits in the space under the placard. This negates the downside of lost mounting space on the cummerbund, and has the added benefit of just being a better, more modern carrier than the standard 6094. I like it, obviously, but I’ll freely admit it’s $100-150 more expensive than the standard, so up to you if that’s worth it.

LBT 6094QRCv2 showing QD buckle, from LBT Website

Either way, I’ve given you my reasons for not liking tubes on cummerbunds, if you think they’re still a good choice for you and fit your budget, don’t let me stop you.

In Summary

For the quick version of everything above, if you’re looking for your first plate carrier, remember that your carrier has to fit both your body and your plate. Look for a carrier that’s specifically sized to your plate, with trapezoidal- or hourglass- style straps. Get shoulder pads and a cummerbund with at least some structure to it, maybe a hybrid-style with limited elastic stretch. Quick-detach versions fit specific needs, but they’re not necessary upgrades. Overall, make sure every component and the sum total of the system fits your needs and has a focus.

Breaking the Rules

Remember up at the top how I said that with few exceptions, you can’t separately size your carrier to your plate and your body? Here we’re gonna talk about the exceptions. All three (that I’m aware of) come from Crye, and are a very clear progression. They are the CAGE Armor Chassis, the CAGE Plate Carrier, and the AVS Adaptive Vest System, in order of age, modernity, and weight. While I find the history and evolution fascinating, I won’t bore you with it and what you need to know is that the Armor Chassis is an old full soft armor system, the Plate Carrier is a lighter soft armor-considering system, and the AVS is the new and sexy one without soft armor.

CAGE Armor Chassis, CAGE Plate Carrier, AVS Harness with standard platebags, all from Crye

The core of the AVS is a harness and plate bags. The harness fits to your body, and the plate bags fit to your plate. They can be combined within one size up or down, so MD plate bags could fit to a SM, MD, or LG harness. This means it’s very customizable in terms of size and fit, and because the harness isn’t bound by directly fitting the plate, it has probably the best weight distribution of any plate carrier available.

What’s the trade off? Simply put, it’s expensive. The core of the harness and platebags will run you about $600 with the default cummerbund. Some parts, especially the cummerbund part of the harness, are built for compatibility with the relatively expensive Crye accessories. That said, they’re some very high quality accessories with good selection. Even so, in a market where you can get a good plate carrier for under $200 and an excellent one for around $400, $600 isn’t a small step. You could get just the plate bags, which have shoulder straps included, and a cummerbund, but at that point you’ve just overpaid for a pretty mediocre carrier and I’ll mock you for that.

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