Best Plate Carriers 2021 [Top Picks + Buying Guide]

Our Best Plate Carrier guide aims to provide you with all the information that you will need to know about plate carriers. 

We then go on to review our top 10 picks. These include the best budget plate carriers, concealable plate carriers and both lightweight and tactical vests.

In our buying guide we review our top plate carriers of 2021. We regularly update this section, to give you the latest plate carriers with the top of the range designs.


Top 10 Best Plate Carriers of 2021

We also aim to review a whole variety of different plate carriers as they all have a different purpose. For the most part we have reviewed plate carriers that are the standard sizing (M to XL). We have also reviewed our favorite XL plate carrier for those who need a carrier to suit their larger frame.


The USA Classic Plate Carrier is a top quality carrier made by Premier Body Armor. It has been designed to provide a lightweight, yet practical carrier option that is comfortable.

The size ballistic plates that it is compatible with includes:

  • 6X6
  • 6X8
  • 7X8
  • 8X10

The Carrier is priced at just over $100 (ON SALE) and is a one-size fits most that is available in a variety of colors. 

It's side and shoulder straps are fully adjustable and the padded shoulders allow for optimal comfort - great for long periods of use. 

The design is low profile which is handy, and the plate carrier is lightweight. 

It is also decked in MOLLE webbing so you can attach whatever you need to your plate carrier. Another good feature is the heavy duty drag handle. 

Don't wait to get your hands on the 100% USA made plate carrier that is compatible with a whole range of ballistic plates.


The Bulletsafe Uniform Front Carrier is a sleek, professional looking plate carrier that comes at a really affordable price.

It is a discreet looking vest complete with buttons and pockets for a more professional look than a regular plate carrier.

All you need to do it swap your ballistic panels in and out.

This vest is compatible with the Bulletsafe Bulletproof Vest panels and works well in conjunction with it. 

You can check out the Bulletsafe Bulletproof Vest here:

The Bulletsafe Uniform Plate Carrier is specifically designed for Bulletsafe Panels and you can buy the bundle for a very affordable price now!

Don't wait to get your hands on the Uniform Front Carrier now! 


This Tactical Plate Carrier from Bulletsafe has everything you need for your tactical needs. With MOLLE all over your tactical vest you can carry and attach everything you could possibly need on your vest.




1. Spartan Armor Systems Lightweight Sentry Plate Carrier

This is the perfect plate carrier if you are looking for a lightweight vest. The Spartan Armor Systems Carrier has been constructed with a high performance fit allowing the wearer to have a full range of motion and flexibility. 

It weighs only 2lbs!  If you are after a minimal carrier, designed for fast response combat situations this is a great choice.

It can fit any front and back plates of up to 10.25x13.25 inches. To add and remove the armor plates simply pull down the flaps for easy insertion.

On this plate carrier there is no cummerbund and does not carry side plates.

The sentry plate carrier comes equipped with front and rear heavy duty hook and loop MOLLE webbing to attach any of your tactical gear. It is also equipped with Velcro loops for tactical hydration and velcro panels for adding badges or ID.

The lightweight sentry plate carrier is available for order in 4 colors: black, olive, brown and camo. It is available in sizes M to XXL and can accommodate waists from 30 to 40 inches. The adjustable side and shoulder straps allow you to find the best fit for you. Whilst removable shoulder pads feature for added comfort.

Overall, we really liked the Lightweight Sentry Plate Carrier from Spartan Armor Systems and think that it is a great choice for an everyday plate carrier. It is lightweight and easy to wear and can be deployed in quick response situations.

2. Warrior Assault Systems DCS Base Special Forces Plate Carrier

This plate carrier is an absolute best! It is a lightweight, top of the range, high quality plate carrier that has exceptional load carrying ability.

The Warrior Assault Systems Carrier is great for law enforcement officers, use in high threat active shooter scenarios or counter terrorism. It is the ideal plate carrier that offers great protection, utility and practicality, and a full range of movement.

It is designed to fit 10x12” panels in the front and rear of the carrier. The carrier can also fit 6x6 and 6x8 side plates in the cummerbund. 

The sides of the carrier are removable, and the DCS plate carrier comes with a mesh lining for ventilation and cooling whilst you are wearing it.

You can choose your vest in the following colors: black, camo, green and tan. This plate carrier comes in 1 size, but it is fully adjustable for all heights and weights. We personally had no issue with fitting this plate carrier to all the members of our team.

In conclusion, this is a great Dynamic Combat System plate carrier that is comfortable, durable and extremely practical. We definitely agree that this ticks all the boxes for a top of the range plate carrier!


3. Spartan DL Plate Carrier

This plate carrier is the choice for you if you are looking for a minimalistic carrier that is easily concealed. The extremely thin carrier can hardly be seen under a shirt. The Spartan DL carrier is a personal favorite of ours if you are looking for a discreet look.

The DL plate carrier can be chosen to fit any 10x12 inch or 11x14 inch plates.

It also comes with a mag pouch that can fit 2 AR or pistol mags on each side of the carrier.

It is made from a nylon/PU material mix with nylon webbing.  The 4” adjustable cummerbund and 2” shoulder adjustment ensure maximum comfort and fit.

This plate carrier has velcro on both the front and rear of the carrier for adding ID, blood type etc.

If you are looking for a discreet, concealable plate carrier then this is your choice!

4. Shellback Tactical Banshee Elite 2.0 Plate Carrier

The Banshee Elite Plate Carrier is one of the latest, most advanced plate carriers that has been designed by customers wants. It was created with all the features that they want to see it a plate carrier.

This is one of the ultimate plate carriers and offers unparalleled practicality and utility, comfort and a sleek design. The plates are loaded from the bottom of the vest and can fit plates of up to 10x12 inches.

This plate carrier is made from 500D Cordura and is fitted with PALS web attachment all over the front, back and shoulders of the vest. The cummerbund has 6 integrated pockets as well as PALS webbing on the interior and exterior. It also has a separate main pocket than can fit a hydration bladder of up to 2 litres.

Further features include 2 loops for identifies, integrated admin and kangaroo pouch, wire, and hydration and antenna hose guides. The vertical straps allow you to add a chest rig via QASM buckles (purchased separately) if needed.

It has a fully adjustable front and back for a comfortable fit, and is fitted with 3D mesh and shoulder pads for added comfort and padding. It can easily be worn over any soft armor or uniform, and is a low profile and lightweight carrier. The Banshee Elite weighs only 3lbs 2 oz.

We love the versatility of the Banshee Elite 2.0 plate carrier. It is a great top-of-the-range plate carrier carrier that is fitted with all the bells and whistles. This really is a contender for the ultimate carrier and comes at a great price under $300!

5. Condor MOPC Carrier

Condor is one of the leading plate carrier brands on the market, that has a reputation of producing top quality gear at the best price. This plate carrier can fit the universal plate size of 10x12 inch size in both level IIIA soft armor and IV composite plates.

This carrier is less than $100 and can fit front, rear and side plates. The front and rear plates can be up to 10.25x13.25 inches and the side plates of up to 6x8 inches. The plates are easily fitted and removed through pull down flaps, and the cummerbund is detachable for if you want side armor or not.

The armor compartments all have hook and look panels and have a front map compartment with snap, hook and loop closure. 

Condor have also include mesh to ensure maximal comfort and airflow whilst wearing it.

If you are after a basic plate carrier on a budget, then this is one of our favorite picks!

6. GFIRE Plate Carrier

The GFIRE plate carrier is a plate carrier that has an emergency drag handle, removable shoulder pads with hook and loop guides. It also has plenty of heavyweight webbing for any of your tactical attachments.

This carrier has a front map pocket that has a snap, hook and loop closure which has easy access for maps and other tools. The MOLLE design means that you can carry all the gear you will need.

The front pocket can fit a plate of up to 12” by 11”. The cummerbund will also fit plates of up to 5.7x6.8 inches.

For a quality fit, the shoulder straps are fully adjustable and the padded mesh allows for a comfortable feel reducing digging or chafing. It also comes with adjustable waist straps to fit any size waist of up to 54 inches. The carrier will fit anyone from sizes M up to XL.

For under $100, this plate carrier is a great purchase and is a high quality and durable product that will last you for years. It comes with a 2 year product warranty and a really helpful customer service team that stands behind its quality products.

This is a really hot product and one of Amazon’s bestsellers so don’t wait to get your hands on it now!

7. Condor EXO XL Carrier

The Condor EXO XL carrier is one of the top plate carriers that are intended for those who wear an XXL shirt and are looking for a bigger plate carrier.

The Condor is designed for optimal protection, and is made to fit soft plates and armor to provide you with the protection you need in dangerous situations.

It has a padded interior and around the shoulders to give you full comfort so you are able to perform at your peak.

The EXO fits plates of sizes 10x12 inches, however its cummerbund will not fit side plates.

Other features of the EXO plate carrier include: the emergency drag handle, shoulder pads with hook and loop guides and heavyweight webbing for attachments. There is also a front map pocket, back pocket and adjustable shoulder straps for a secure fit.

Whilst there are a number of XL plate carriers, this is a great choice for optimal protection made by one of the most trusted manufacturers in the game!

8. Leonidas Plate Carrier

The Leonidas Plate Carrier is a great quality, American made plate carrier that has a variety of great features including a removable cummerbund. If you are looking for a tough, durable plate carrier this is the one for you.

The plate carrier is made from 500 denier material and has a front top zip admin pouch as well as a lower front kangaroo pouch secured with velcro.

It has PALS web attachments that cover the front, back and shoulders for all your modular attachment needs.

The cummerbund can fit a 5x15 inch soft armor panel inside on either side of the carrier, and can be removed through easy release buckles.

It also has front and back velcro areas for adding your identifiers. The airflow regions in the vest work to promote airflow and cooling whilst you are wearing it.

The Leonidas plate carrier is a reliable and really comfortable plate carrier that has been tried, tested and loved by so many of its users!

9. Sentinel Plate Carrier

The Sentinel Plate Carrier is a feature packet plate carrier vest that has garnered a big following for its versatility, quality and comfort. 

This plate carrier is made from 1000 denier material. It's a strong and reliable carrier that withstands wear and tear to give you years of use.

The carrier fits 10x12” plates front and rear plates and has a removable cummerbund which can fit 6x6 and 6x8 side panels. Plates can be easily loaded through the bottom of the carrier.

Other important features on this plate carrier include the emergency drag handle and the anti slip shoulder padding for a reliable and comfortable fit. It has velcro on the front to the size of 8x4 inches and on the rear at 8x4 inches. It also has a velcro loop on each size.

The sentinel plate carrier is fit with a ventilation system of padded mesh separators for enhanced breathability and airflow. You can fully adjust the carrier and is advisable to be worn by chest sizes of 38 to 48 inches.

The Sentinel Plate Carrier is a popular choice on the market for its comfort and practicality that offers its users a wide range of use.

10. Wolf Bite Helix Plate Carrier

Wolf Bite Helix

On sale now, the Wolf Bite Helix Plate Carrier is one of the best value carriers on the market. Its tried and tested design proves this through its Mil-sec fabric and reinforced construction.

The carrier has premium shoulder padding for the optimal comfort as well as a reinforced drag handle. The cummerbund is fitted with PALS webbing for attaching side armor panels. The cummerbund is made to fit soft armor of 15x6 inches.

It is made from 500D Cordura fabric and is fully USA made and Berry compliant!

Other tactical features include PALS webbing on the front and rear of the carrier for MOLLE compatible attachments and velcro loops for attaching identifiers.

The shoulder pads are able to be removed to reduce the visibility of your carrier and are easily fit over the top of uniforms or concealable body armor. It is also very lightweight at only 2lbs 3oz!

The Wolf Bite Helix is a sensational plate carrier. It offers a low profile look whilst simultaneously having all the features you will need such as extensive PALS webbing on the front, rear and cummerbund. 

Get your hands on this plate carrier as the sale won’t last! 


Looking for a the best plate carrier that you can use during your hobbies from shooting out in the wild, hunting, at the range or anything but don’t know where to start? There are many factors that you should familiarize yourself with before purchasing your plate carrier vest.

Weight, protection, comfort and manoeuvrability, adjustability, practicality and carrying capabilities are just a few of the features to keep in mind before purchasing. Finding an American made plate carrier is also on many peoples requirement list.

Whether you are a seasoned owner of plate carrier vests or looking to purchase your first carrier, finding a plate carrier that fits all your specifications can be tricky and arduous.

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What is a Plate Carrier?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a plate carrier is, it is a tactical garment piece. It fits knife proof and bulletproof plates among other tactical gear.

Its main purpose is that it has pockets to hold bulletproof plates. A regular carrier, such as a chest rig, will not have pockets large enough to store ballistic plates.

When we are discussing plate carriers, we are talking about the carrier on its own without ballistic (bulletproof) plates. If you are looking to purchase a plate to go with your carrier, you can check out our guide here. 

They are very popular if you are in the military or emergency services and are viewed as a vital piece of equipment for self-defense. In volatile and tense political times, plate carrier vests are becoming more popular amongst normal civilians looking to protect their homes and families. 

Whatever purpose you are looking for this vest to fulfil, it is a great investment to make. Owning one will ensure you will be fully prepared in a life threatening situation. 

What Should My Plate Carrier be Able to Do?

As stated in the name, the primary purpose is to carry plates, whether these plates are bulletproof grade or stab proof or both. Certain plate carriers only have front and back pockets to store your ballistic plates in, whilst others have side pockets too.

Take note of which you want your plate carrier to have as the more panels your carrier has, the heavier it is going to be.

The next purpose is for it to carry any weapons or firearms that you as well as the extra magazines.

And the final main purpose is that they have enough storage and pockets to carry any medical gear or equipment that is necessary in a combat situation. If you will be wearing your carrier for extended periods of time, you will want to have one with a hydration bladder to give you readily access to fluids.

What are the Components of a Plate Carrier?

A plate carrier consists of 3 main parts: the carrier vest itself, a cummerbund and the armor plates (usually sold separately).

The Carrier Vest

This is what our guide is based on. It is the vest which stores everything and has pockets and compartments. They will also have MOLLE webbing that allows you to have easy access to all your gear. 

If you don’t know MOLLE stands for modular lightweight load carrying equipment. This allows you to attach equipment such as radios, medical supplies and other gear. Having MOLLE is a great feature for the plate carrier as many of your gear is compatible with it.

Cummerbund

This is essentially the belt on the plate carrier. It’s purpose is to be securely fastened around your stomach. The elastic material allows for a gripped fit so it is held in place at all times. You don’t want your plate carrier to be moving around whilst you are on the move, so it is a vital feature. 

The cummerbund also has MOLLE webbing for tactical gear storage.

Common Materials 

The most commonly used material that plate carriers are made from is 500D Cordura.

Why Should You Purchase a Plate Carrier in 2021?

Plate carriers are popular for a variety of purposes, not only for being worn in combat, but also for many everyday uses. Here are just a few of the more common users of plates carriers.

Your Profession - Military, Armed Forces, Law Enforcement

Certain professions require the use of plate carriers on a daily basis.

Professions that work with plate carriers on a daily basis are those in armed forces - who are always looking for the upperhand in protection means. Having a plate carrier on them in combat protects from bullets, shrapnel and allows them to carry all their tactical gear on them simultaneously. 

Law enforcement workers will also use plate carriers. It gives them necessary protection and allows them to be hands-free through storing all their gear on their person. 

Exercising 

Another great and common use for plate carriers is that they can be used for exercising. Your plate carrier can be loaded up with extra weights to give you a great resistance workout whether you are walking, running or doing cross fit. Exercising with a tactical vest on can maximize the impact of your workout and accelerate your fitness journey.

Preppers

Many people are becoming more and more aware of preparing for impending doom. The world could potentially be thrown into chaos at any moment in the future, so prepping is very popular.

Any doomsday situation such as nuclear war, chemical ware, large financial meltdown, government overthrow, seismic natural disasters, cyber warfare and an artificial intelligence takeover are all examples of events that have the potential to occur in the future.

Plate carriers are a great item to have and purchase for yourself and your whole family if you are preparing for this. It is certainly a smart investment as no one really knows what the future holds.

Hobbies

Another use for a plate carrier can be hobbies and recreation.

Hobbies such as paintballing and airsoft, whilst fun, can cause some pretty nasty injuries getting hit in the chest area.

On average, a paintball shot can hit you at around 300 feet per second, which will undoubtedly give you some nasty bruising. Being shot at this speed especially at a close range, you will want to have a plate carrier on you. 

You can just fit your plate carrier with a couple of airsoft plates in the front and rear and you’ll be protected. These airsoft plates are very lightweight so you won’t have to worry about them weighing you down.

Factors You Should Familiarize Yourself with Before Purchase

When you are wearing your plate carrier, more often or not you will be doing strenuous movements such as running or in combat. You will want to make sure your carrier is fit for all of this.

Fit of your Plate Carrier

Getting a plate carrier that fits you is the most important factor when purchasing one. You will need the carrier to fit well so that it doesn’t move around whilst you are wearing it. 

Also check the product description for materials and features. Breathability and ventilation are important features as they are sweat wicking and will help to regulate your temperature. This helps especially if you will be wearing your vest for long periods of time.

Here are some quick sizing tips on how to best ensure your plate carrier fits.

Get out a tape measure and measure around your chest. One of the most important things to consider is what you intend on wearing underneath your carrier. Wear your intended garments whilst taking your measurements is important to give you a true reading and indication of which is the best size to purchase.

Check out this video on how best to fit your plate carrier.

Price

Most plate carriers are under the $300 range, but you can find any from $50 up to $500.

It is common for plate carriers to be on the low price end of the market. Our guide reviews some of the best budget plate carriers. However if it is within your means, we recommend looking towards the higher quality products. 

You may have to spare an extra cost, however you will get what you pay for. The carrier will have more pockets and storage, this is made from top quality materials that will extend the life of your vest.

Especially if you are going to be using your carrier on a daily basis, we recommend purchasing a high quality one.

Weight

Weight is definitely an important consideration you should make, and will help you choose the right plate carrier for your purpose. If you are looking for one to wear for hobby activities such as paintballing, we would recommend getting a lightweight carrier.

For a home defense vest you could go either way. Either purchase a heavy one that is robust and durable or get a lightweight carrier that you can be agile in. Or why not get one of each?!

For exercising, you probably want to get a heavy one to increase the benefits of working out with heavy weights.

If you purchase a plate carrier that has front, back and side panels it can easily weigh upwards of 30lbs.

The plates that you choose to insert into your carrier is what will account for the significant weight difference. If you are looking for the ultimate IV grade protection to insert hard armor steel plates it’ll be much heavier than the soft armor insert.

Functionality

We mentioned this above buying a fully functional plate carrier is not complete with having MOLLE capabilities. This is the system that allows you to quickly attach and remove your gear without having to sift through the inside of a backpack. It gives immediate access to anything you may need. 

Pretty much all top quality plate carriers have MOLLE and in our product review section we specify whether each carrier has it or not.

It is imperative that your plate carrier can fit your plates if you already own plates.

Also whether you are looking for a concealed plate carrier is an important consideration as some can be more bulky than others.

FAQ’S

Are Plate Carriers Legal in the US?

Plate carriers are legal for use and purchase in all 50 states. In the state of Connecticut you can only purchase the plate carrier in person. However for the remaining 49 states you are able to purchase it both online and in person.

Convicted felons are unable to purchase these. If you are convicted of a crime whilst wearing one, your punishment will be more severe on the premise that wearing one indicates a level of premeditation. 

How Protective Are Plate Carriers?

This all comes down to the type of plate that is inserted. Steel plates offer the highest level of protection, followed by ceramic and then soft plates.

Soft plates are the most popular choice as they are light and have sufficient protection in the form of kevlar made plates. These are what is known as level IIIA (NIJ rated) protection. The coverage is not as high as that of steel, but is compromised for a greater comfort and lighter wear. It still offers protection from handgun rounds.

Will I be Protected from Multiple Shots?

Another commonly asked question is whether you’ll be protected from multiple shots. Again this is specific to the different plate inserts. If your plate takes more than 1 shot in the same spot, there is potential that it will penetrate the armor and be life threatening. You are more likely to be protected against multiple shots in different plates in the armor.

There are obviously certain unfortunate events that can occur such as bullet splashing which happens with steel vests when the bullet shatters as it strikes the vest. This can cause fragments to strike other parts of your body.  


Conclusion

Finding the right plate carrier for you is no simple task giving the sheer amount of carriers on the market. 

Our 10 picks above are what we consider the best plate carriers on the market in 2021 across aspects of functionality, design and durability. Our picks also highlight the top quality products.

If you are going to go with one, we would definitely recommend the Spartan Armor Systems Lightweight Sentry Plate Carrier for its all around performance in holding ballistic plates and having MOLLE webbing.

You'll notice that there are extreme budget choices available on the market, however these ones won't last. If we can leave you with one piece of lasting advice, it would be to invest in a quality carrier and it will give you years of reliable use.