Buyer’s Guide for the Best Plate Carriers of 2019
Guest Writer: Joshua Frederick
There are a ton of plate carriers out there. When you’re looking to buy a new one, the sheer amount of options can be overwhelming. And that’s a real problem because plate carriers aren’t something you can afford to gamble on. Buying the right carrier versus the wrong one could mean the difference between going home and… well, not. Lucky for you, RE Factor Tactical has your back. We’ve got a system for analyzing the best plate carriers on the market, built on several principles, which we will go into detail at the end. So, keep reading to learn more, starting with our top 5 plate carrier picks.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Plate Carriers
Aside from looking damn good, the RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster plate carrier system is designed to be everything you need. Why? Because it’s the most versatile system you’ll find. The whole point of the Advanced Slickster is to provide comfort and quality regardless of what you do (or don’t) attach to the system. Feel free to load the Advanced Slickster with every piece of equipment you can find and you’ll still have high ease-of-access and freedom of movement.
Being able to strip this system down to the bones is one of its major advantages. However, with everything cleaned away, it isn’t the most low-profile system on the market. This has a lot to do with how many attachments you can fit onto it. So, it’s one of those strengths-as-a-weakness situations. But, hey, if every system was totally perfect, we wouldn’t be giving you the Top 5.
- Ferro Concepts’ tested Slickster base
- PTT Loops on Front of Vest (Ease of Access)
- Integrated Kangaroo Pocket for Magazines/Essential Equipment
- Elastic comms wires
- 2x Integrated Radio Pouches– Capable of fitting up to a PRC-152 Radio
- 4 x 6” Zipped Admin Pocket– Can hold a Passport or similarly-sized item
- Elastic cummerbund with 4 x magazine carriers
- Extra elastic retainers to cummerbund for magazine retention
- MOLLE laser-cut back panel
- Can be stripped down to low-profile version
What conversation about plate carriers can be had without mentioning Ferro Concepts’ Slickster? The Slickster is comfortable, light, and breathable. It’s surprisingly adaptable as well, which is great for a low-pro system, but…
The lightweight, stripped-down, extra low-profile nature of the Slickster can be a little too barebones. It’s great to be able to take the system all the way down to the bare necessities but doing so will leave a lot to be desired. Everything is a trade-off with plate carrier systems, and the Slickster is a perfect example of this. You’ll gain a lot of freedom of movement, sure, but you’ll lose some much-needed equipment in the process.
- Tested Slickster base
- Lightweight (402g)
- Carry Elastic Cummerbund (CEC) – Adjustable with hook and loop, front and rear
- Mesh-lined plate bags to maximize comfort and breathability
- Includes shoulder strap adjustment tool
- Loop Velcro patches on chest and back
- Laser-cut slots on the chest to attach ADAPT flaps and most chest rigs
The Pico’s biggest advantage is its removable parts, once again proving that versatility is essential in plate carriers. You’ll never run out of options when assigning spots to your equipment and accessories, as the whole system leaves plenty of room for imagination. It’s considered one of the top-of-the-line systems by military and police across the board, which is probably no surprise, because…
It. Is. Expensive. They say you get what you pay for. Well, we hope so. The TYR Tactical Pico comes with a host of different options and loadouts, which is great, but it’s going to run you a pretty penny. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you can grab the RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster and a bunch of additional gear for the price of just this one system.
- PALS Webbing for MOLLE Attachment
- Removable back panel
- Hydration/Communication Tabs for Routing
- Removable MOLLE Kangaroo Front Flap
- TYR’s Patented Ballistic Vein
$595.95 – $749.95 (depending on armor variations)
Crye Precision’s JPC has become synonymous with light, fast, and low-profile. There are several non-standard elements on this system that make it unique, like the MOLLE/AirLite cummerbund and the lack of retention on the front magazine pouch. If you aren’t looking for a plate system that you can really load up, the JPC is an excellent option.
The interesting quirks of the JPC are also its downfall. One of the major complaints about this system is its ‘minimalist’ design. Like we said above, you can’t really load this system up to the brim, and that’s due to the non-standard nature of the JPC. Additionally, comfort is a major factor. The shoulder straps are meant to be slip-proof, but they’re not very comfortable. Don’t expect to love wearing this system for long periods of time.
- Integrated Triple Mag Pouch
- Low-profile cummerbund attachment
- Built-in admin pouch in the chest
- Padded ventilation on interior panels
- Quick-attach side loops for additional coverage
- Anti-slip shoulder pads
- Groin protection attachment
Versatility and comfort are at the heart of the Velocity Systems SCARAB unit. Velocity designed the entire SCARAB family to be easily-adjustable, lightweight, and low-profile. In theory, you should be able to jump right into the SCARAB and start slinging brass pretty much anywhere. There are several different SCARAB platforms so you can pick what will work best for you.
While well-intentioned, Velocity’s SCARAB platforms suffer from one fatal flaw: they’re so versatile that SCARAB users tend to replace the standard attachments with better ones. Strangely, the SCARAB’s default pouches don’t fit the system nearly as well as others, meaning you’ll be spending money making this system more comfortable. For a plate carrier built to be comfy, that seems like a big drawback to us.
- Swivel shoulder straps with D-ring attachments
- Front flat Kangaroo pouch and removable front flap
- Admin pouch with two additional rows of MOLLE webbing on front
- Integrated SwiftClip buckles for rapid don/doff of auxiliary chest-worn equipment
- Loop panel and drag handle on the upper rear
- Three different cummerbund options
- Quarter flap setup (optional)
System for Analyzing the best Plate Carriers on the Market
Like we said, we have a system. We don’t just look up the top rated on Amazon, we actually dive deep, so that you can get the best plate carrier available. Again, having the right carrier can be the difference in coming home and not, so we take this stuff seriously. RE Factor Tactical takes into account the purpose, duration, equipment and accessories, ease of access, environment and of course quality.
The most important thing to consider when buying a new plate carrier is the MISSION. How do you plan to use your plate carrier? What kind of environment do you expect to use it in? Do you need it to be high-vis or low-vis? Are you going to need it to be versatile, with interchangeable parts, or will it be mostly the same every time you put it on?
Military personnel typically need to wear their plate carriers for long periods of time (patrols, guard duty, etc.). They should be looking for low-weight systems–probably with hydration attachment capabilities as well. Law enforcement and security officers likely need their plate carriers for shorter periods of time. They can afford heavier carriers that have a little more stopping power. Consider how long you’ll be wearing your carrier to narrow down what type you need.
Equipment and Accessories
Attachments, additional equipment, and extra accessories are going to affect the way the plate carrier sits, how heavy it is, and its profile. Typically, adding equipment to your plate carrier is going to totally transform how you wear it and how it feels. Take a while to think about what you might be adding onto your system. Also, consider systems that are versatile. The best plate carriers on the market can be loaded up with tons of gear or stripped down to the bare necessities. Versatility is a must.
Going along with versatility, the best plate carrier systems are going to provide ease-of-access to any attached equipment. The last thing you need is to get hung up because you can’t draw the next magazine or whip out a tourniquet. When lives are on the line, every second counts. You’ll want to look for systems that do a good job balancing protection with freedom of movement.
What sort of environment you’ll be operating in. This will play a bigger factor in your plate carrier’s effectiveness. Temperature might demand a more breathable plate carrier, or with hydration attachment options. If you’re in hostile territory, you might need higher stopping power.
You need to be able to rely on your plate carrier. You don’t want to worry about cheap shoulder straps rubbing your shoulders raw or non-flexible materials that make a pain out of plate insertion. Strong stitching ensures your plate won’t fall apart on you. And well-built, sturdy pouches will keep your gear where you need it to be.
How we Rank Plate Carriers
RE Factor Tactical considers all the above factors in ranking the Top 5 Best Plate Carriers for 2019. We scour the industry and our personal experience to ensure we’re talking about only the finest, only the best. Like we said before: if you need a plate carrier, then lives are probably on the line. And when lives are on the line, you can’t settle for anything but the absolute best.
So why should you choose one carrier over another? Why not just buy a whole bunch? Again, consider why you need a plate carrier. You want a system that’s comfortable and familiar to you. The best plate carrier systems feel like a trusted partner, there to protect you and provide you with needed support in even the worst conditions. You could go buy a hundred different carriers, but all your piles of systems won’t do squat when you’re under fire and it’s time to reload.