Chest Rigs vs. Plate Carriers thumbnail image

Chest Rigs vs. Plate Carriers

80 Percent Arms   |   Apr 27th 2022

Ever wondered about those operators you see in the movies and how much gear they have on? Chances are, you are seeing them wear a chest rig, plate carrier or both. Our immediate questions include; do you need that much gear? Which one should I buy? Which would be most helpful in a Mad Max-Scenario? Well, let’s take a deeper look into this fellow larperator!

What is a chest rig?

Chest rigs are at their core, load-bearing gear. They usually contain chest and shoulder straps, pouches and Molle webbing (Modular Light-Weight Load-Bearing Equipment) for attaching various items of gear.

They’re highly personalizable, and for good reason. You need to know where your trauma kit is, because let’s face it, if you need a trauma kit, every second matters. Knowing exactly where your extra magazines are in a firefight could be a matter of life and death - you don’t exactly want to be digging around in your old Jansport backpack from high school for a mag. A chest rig makes it convenient to carry your gear on patrol, whatever you may need for that mission, be it zombies or rolling out with your airsoft squad. Plus, it gives you a cool place to put your morale patches that you are always hoarding.

Chest rigs will typically have space for extra magazines, knives, trauma kits, etc. Oftentimes you might see space for a radio or a water bladder on a chest rig. The general concept is to allow you to distribute the weight of, organize and make it more accessible to grab your gear.

A Haley Strategic D3CR Heavy Chest Rig. (Photo Source: Haley Strategic Partners -

What is a Plate Carrier?

Plate carriers are exactly as the name describes, they hold armor plates. Ballistic plates are worn over vital organs to protect against bullets or knives. Plates are identified by their protection ratings. IIA can handle smaller handgun calibers all the way up to IV, which should stop a .30 caliber projectile. Level III plates are what the majority of people choose to purchase, which will stop multiple shots from a .308! Plates come in a variety of materials, from Ceramic to Steel, although, if your wallet is as light as mine seems to be currently, you will probably be opting for steel. The good news is, you don’t have to sacrifice quality to save some money.

We're picky about our plate carriers because we ideally want something that makes carrying around the weight of heavy armor more comfortable and sustainable over long periods of time. Remember, these aren’t made to stop everything from hitting you anywhere, they are simply made to protect your vital organs as best as possible — their varying levels of protection come with a price, both in dollars and pounds (LBs). 

Keep in mind, you are adding a solid 20-30 pounds of gear to yourself when you wear these, depending on the type of armor. If you decide to purchase a plate carrier, make sure you train with it often. These are heavy and can change your shooting ability, as well as wearing you out quickly! Decided a plate carrier is something you need? Check out one of our favorites from Condor here.

A quick-detach style plate carrier.

Why use a chest rig vs a plate carrier?

The uses for these rigs are entirely subjective. In fact, many operators wear both. Ask yourself what your needs will be and go from there. For instance, will you be on patrol? Will this be part of a bugout kit? A chest rig can be very important as part of a bugout kit, because you can have a lot of your necessary gear stored and ready to simply put on and go. Conversely, plate carriers have the potential to save your life. One or both might be absolutely necessary, if push comes to shove.

Can you put a chest rig on a plate carrier?

Absolutely! As we stated above, many operators choose to wear both a chest rig and a plate carrier underneath! Certain plate carriers have plenty of Molle webbing all over them, and this allows you to add attachments, such as a trauma kit, or magazine pouches, etc. For this reason, it may be wise to find a plate carrier that is outfitted with plenty of Molle and build your own one-stop shop. This can, however, become an expensive undertaking! What do you need to, or will potentially use your chest rig or plate carrier for exactly?

Molle Webbing (Photo Source:

Are Chest Rigs worth it?

Chest rigs are an incredibly useful and important piece of kit! Having your gear organized and ready to go at a moment’s notice, as well as being able to comfortably carry it should the need arise, is imperative. Be sure to plan out what you need your kit to carry. An airsoft player really doesn’t need a plate carrier necessarily, but a chest rig, on the other hand, can be incredibly useful to hold magazines etc!

Ask yourself if the investment is worth it to you, to be prepared and then, if you are able to do so, spend time with your new rig. Train with it constantly, so you don’t need to look at it, it has become second nature. Tactical reload practice is something that can be done at home, (Safely, of course), to build muscle memory and fully utilize your chest rig. Remember, unless you train with these things, you will not fully make them worth your while. We know, we know, broken record here, but train, train and then train some more!

Get kitted up and start training today!

So, we went over the basic difference in plate carriers vs chest rigs, and hope that helped make the decision a bit easier. From Prepper to Airsoft player to operator, there is something out there on the market for everyone! One potential option that might work well for you could be neither, but a Tactical vest. We have those in stock right now! Check out this one from Condor. As always, thanks for hanging out with us here at 80% Arms, and we hope you will consider us for your armor, chest rig and plate carrier needs! Until next time, thanks for reading, Godspeed, and have a great day!