Tactical vests serve many purposes. Some tactical vests are made to survive tours and save people’s lives, while others are designed to be used in recreational sports such as airsoft and paintball. The 1 thing that remains the same is that they need to be both durable and comfortable to move around in. After all, how can you call something the best tactical vest if it breaks down within a month or is a pain to wear?
When choosing a tactical vest for your needs, you need to consider a couple of things. Firstly, is this going to be used for duty or other recreational sports? Is the material breathable or will it make you hot and uncomfortable? How thick and durable of a material are you looking for? How many MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) slots does it have?
Weight also plays an important role. A vest can be heavy but if it has proper weight distribution it will feel lighter in comparison to a poorly made one. This however applies more to plate carrying vests. Finally camo pattern is important if you’re going to be using it in places where camouflage is essential.
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Tactical Vest Reviews
1. 5.11 VTAC LBE
Without much surprise, we have another 5.11 product that delivers quality. The VTAC LBE is made from stiffened mesh nylon which makes it very strong and adds durability. However, just because it is heavy duty does not mean that it is uncomfortable to wear as the material is also breathable. If you’re concerned whether there are any MOLLE attachment slots anywhere, or you’re the type of person who just wants MOLLE everywhere, then this is your perfect vest as it literally has it everywhere. Just look at the picture, they didn’t spare a single square inch, as it’s all covered with MOLLE attachments.
The vest is also adjustable in its girth and length, which adds more to its customizability. It features 2 pockets that are on the inside, 1 on each of the sides. There is Velcro on the front left which you can either choose to use or ignore as it won’t interfere with you MOLLE attachments. In the front it also features a heavy duty YKK zipper which looks like it should last for quite a while. There is a convenient emergency pull strap on the inside of it as well. Finally there are 4 straps on the bottom which hook on to your belt.
But all those features wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t comfortable to wear. Fortunately, the overall design and breathability makes it pretty comfortable, and since it’s not a plate carrier, you can easily wear this for prolonged periods of time without many issues. Plus it comes in multiple sizes which means you can choose which one will fit you best. This vest is great for both duty and airsoft purposes.
2. UTG 547
The 547 tactical vest made by UTG definitely deserves a spot on the best tactical vest list. It is made from durable synthetic leather and has fully adjustable length and girth. From our testing we managed to get it to a maximum of 55” around the belt and 55-60” around the chest area, which should be plenty for most people. However if you are of a significantly smaller stature, you might want to look into other options as this vest only retails in 1 size as of now.
This vest feels very solid. A little bit too solid in fact, there is a small break in period at first as it can be a little stiff and hard to maneuver around. However, a simple thorough wash will take care of that quickly, so if you want to skip the break in and get straight into it, this would be your best option. Minus the initial stiffness, it also has a mesh ventilation system to keep you cool.
The best itself features 4 rifle mag pouches (1 on the right side and 3 on the left) supporting .223/5.56mm magazines and 3 pistol magazine pockets that are conveniently fastened using Velcro. It also has a back loop system which can help you in carrying any additional gear. There is a useful walkie talkie pocket around the left collar bone. You can see the pouches and pockets in this useful diagram if you prefer.
All of that comes in at around 4.1 lb. and if you want to lighten the load feel free to take out the belt pockets if you are not planning on using them. Overall, this is the best tactical vest for those on a budget.
3. BLACKHAWK! S.T.R.I.K.E. Elite Vest
BLACKHAWK (spelled all caps) was founded in 1990 when a Navy SEAL by the name of Mike Noell was navigating through a minefield had his gear fail on him and tumble to the ground. He vowed that if he survived that day, he would start a company to make high quality gear. And that he did, the S.T.R.I.K.E elite vest is made of heavy duty nylon with plenty of options for customization. It has 24 MOLLE locations dispersed throughout the vest, a number which is comparable to the 5.11 VTAC LBE. There are D-rings on each shoulder which can be used for accessories. Additionally, it has 2 large zippered accessory pockets located on the inside of the front, each one around 8.5” by 10”.
The only issue with this vest is that it only comes in 1 size. Yes that’s fine if you are regularly sized and proportioned person, but for those who have significantly different stature might experience some problems wearing this. Since this vest is barrel shaped, it will fit and look good on anyone who’s somewhat in shape. For example it looks really good on Stallone in Expendables. But if you’ve got a couple of extra pounds or are rotund I would recommend looking elsewhere.
All in all, this is another great LBV/MOLLE vest made by a reputable company. And while it is on the pricier side of things, it has great quality to back that up.
4. Condor Outdoor MOPC
This tactical vest is another great choice for those looking for a plate-carrying vest. It has MOLLE webbing on it everywhere which we found to be pretty useful. The Velcro retention on it was found to be pretty great, and we had no complaints about it. Like other great vests, the Condor also features an emergency drag handle and adjustable shoulder straps. The shoulder straps help with comfort and since we’re on the topic of comfort, we found this vest to be surprisingly comfortable. The padded mesh interior lining actually did its job quite well, and it is pretty comfortable.
The one issue with this is that the materials could have been made of better quality. And while it is a durable, it most likely not withstand MIL-type field thrashing. However, considering its price and how comparable plate carrying vests are double or triple the price, this vest is worth every penny. MOPC supports 10.25” by 13.25” plates on the front and back and 6” by 8” plates on the sides. You can carry up to 3 AR mags, 3 pistol mags and a trauma kit if you desire.
Overall, it offers great bang for your buck and should definitely be considered if you’re looking for something that won’t break your bank.
5. CAMTOA Tactical Vest
Made from high quality nylon, the CAMTOA tactical vest is the last but not the least to make the best tactical vest list. It’s a plate carrier as well, so for those who are looking for tactical vests that are able to support 10” by 12” plates. This is a tactical vest that is perfect for those that are looking for one for airsoft or paintball purposes. You can only expect so much quality for a plate carrying vest at its price (see it here) but it does hold up pretty well.
The vest itself comes in 1 size and fits those who are average to smaller statures. For those who are larger, I’d recommend the 5.11 tactical vest instead.
While this vest features 3 mag pouches, we found out that they are connected as 1 MOLLE attachment which could potentially limit customization. However it does have plenty of MOLLE attachments all over it so you should be able to customize it however you want. With all of those things considered, this is another good vest for those looking for a great value buy.
In the end, the choice remains up to you. Most of the time, you will get what you pay for and even those purchases that are considered a great value will ultimately not be as good as their more expensive counterparts. The 5.11 and the S.T.R.I.K.E for example, cost more but in turn deliver results. But if you’re just getting the vest for airsoft/paintball purposes, or don’t particularly care about durability and want a nice vest, then you should be fine with any of the above choices.