Chest Rig vs. Plate Carrier: Which is best for you?

Chest Rig vs. Plate Carrier: Which is best for you?

What should I buy: a chest rig or plate carrier? This is the hot gear topic in the community right now, so we thought we would put together an outline format worksheet to serve as a step-by-step guide to help you think through the variables involved and make the best decision for you and your family. 

We decided to put our Chest Rig or Plate Carrier worksheet in outline format because it is less dense than a full article. This makes it much quicker and easier to use as a checklist. The outline is built off of an acronym we devised to make it easy to remember: MMESI (pronounced "messy) or Mission Medical Environment Sustainment Identification. MMESI represents the totality of my experiences from three phases of my life: a law enforcement officer who spent the majority of time on the job in the deserts, high alpine regions, and US/Mexican border east of San Diego; a private citizen who has lived through both wildfire and hurricane evacuations; Co-Founder/Inventor/CEO of this company where my experiences range from working with our most elite military and law enforcement units in the country to learning how to work drive-thu operations in Phoenix with both Dutch Bros Arizona and multiple Chick-fil-A stores, to testing not only our own prototypes, but also those of our many industry partners.

We hope this Chest Rig vs. Plate Carrier worksheet helps you make the best decision for you and your situation. Let us know what you decided in the comments below, but until then, #StayFrosty®.  


Mission - build a setup that has the highest probability of success for your mission
Photo Credit: NPR
  1. What is your mission?
    1. Military (MIL), Law Enforcement (LE), Private Security Contractor (PSC), Prepared Citizen
      1. MIL/LE/PSC actions are largely defined by higher authorities, command, and spelled out in ROE, SOP, P&P, etc.
      2. Prepared Citizens = more variability
  2. What is your role/responsibility within that mission?
    1. Team-specific role for MIL/LE/PSC
    2. Prepared Citizen: Head of household? Do you have responsibilities chalked within your family or household?
Photo Credit: LL Bean
  1. Plate Carrier: Limited access to advanced medical care places a super-premium on preventing injury, so a plate carrier might be the smarter choice. You'll likely want to also consider the addition of a helmet. If you need a rifle, you probably need a plate carrier and if you need a plate carrier, you probably need a helmet.
  2. If you have easy access to advanced medical/trauma care, you could de-prioritize armor in favor of greater speed/endurance, making chest rigs more viable.
  3. Questions to ask yourself:
    1. What medical skills do you have?
    2. Do you have friends/family who are part of your trusted social circle/groups who have more advanced medical skills? 
    3. Have you mapped out advanced medical capability like surgery centers, Emergency Rooms, Urgent Care, pharmacies, and veterinary hospitals?
    4. Do you have Anti-biotics, IVs, prescription meds, over-the-counter medicines, etc.?
  4. Lesson learned: hospitals and advanced care facilities may not be operational
    1. Professional experience: working California wildfires as an LEO where hospitals were closed, at capacity, without power, and/or evacuated. First line medical facilities do close, even in ROL.  
    2. Personal experience: helping to evacuate my sister and her newborn baby from Texas during Hurricane Harvey where the hospitals were also evacuated and shutdown. This is a real contingency with serious consequences. It is wise to respect it.
Photo Credit: Sixty&Me
  1. Urban vs. Rural
    1. Urban - Plate Carrier
      1. True 360 degree threat environments
      2. Experienced practitioners wear armor 
      3. Shorter distances, can carry more weight
      4. Balance firepower vs. mobility
      5. Remember that urban favors defense
      6. 86% of the US population lives in urban areas according to the US Census Bureau.
    2. Rural - Chest Rig
      1. Longer ranges
      2. Lots of standoff and known attack vectors 
  2. Climate: desert, coastal, jungle, swamp, alpine, woods, arctic, etc.
    1. Climate doesn’t drive plate carrier or chest rig selection, but it does drive what plate carrier or chest rig you choose, what features it has and how you build it out (cooling, heating, ventilation, hydration, etc.).
  3. Terrain
    1. Plate Carrier: lower altitudes, flatter terrain, easier to carry armor
    2. Chest Rig: higher altitudes, greater elevation changes, probably want to drop armor weight
  4. Legal: ROL (Rule Of Law) vs. WROL (Without Rule Of Law), permissive (ROL) vs. non-permissive (WROL) environments. Personally, I think plate carriers win in both ROL and WROL, but for different reasons. ROL favors restraint and defense. WROL places a super premium on injury prevention.
    1. ROL: at what ranges can you articulate a legally justified use of force? At what range can you articulate truthfully that you were “in fear for your life?” Be realistic, be honest, be accurate.
      1. Articulating to a jury that you were absolutely in fear for your life when you pickled off a few rounds from your 20” LaRue OBR with Mk. 262 at 275 yards is going to be a tough sell in downtown Minneapolis. 
      2. When does duty to retreat apply to you and your specific situation?
        1. Does your state have a Castle Law/Doctrine? Do you know the specifics of your specific State’s interpretation of Castle Law?
        2. Do you know the CCW laws of your state and those around you?
    2. WROL: again, all bets are off. Infinitely more variables, but in WROL, avoiding detection is likely the name of the game. If you do make contact though, you’ll want overwhelming odds in your favor and you'll want to minimize injury risk because advanced medical care is likely unavailable.
  5. Social-Political
    1. Plate Carrier: civil unrest that we've seen in the BLM/Antifa Riots of 2020 as one example or natural disasters in the case of Hurricane Katrina.
    2. Chest Rig: not great in civil unrest scenarios, but if we had to repel an invading army, chest rigs would be great for collection efforts.
Photo Credit: DVIDS
    1. Plate Carrier: Home defense, Civil Unrest; Shelter-in-Place or any application of Castle Law/Doctrine; mounted/ops from vehicle; more physically fit; ready access to supplies and/or high probability of resupply, move weight = burn calories
    2. Chest Rigs: If you need to carry a large ruck to be more self-sufficient for long-term sustainment, lower probability of resupply; CRs win; understand your physical fitness level deeply and how far/long you can move in your kit. PT and train in your kit.
    3. Physical Fitness
      1. Diagnostic
        1. Do you do these movements?
        2. Can you do these movements?
        3. Can you do these movements in full kit? 
        4. How often do you do these movements?
      2. Baseline Workouts - start in PT gear, but evolve into doing these in full kit if possible. Modify as needed based on your specific circumstances. 
        1. Timed mile (4 laps around the track, technically 30 ft. short of a mile)
          1. WR: 3:43.13, set by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1999
          2. General rule: aim for a 6:00 mile; scale for age, athletic capabilities, etc.
        2. Timed five mile
          1. WR: 22:05
          2. Aim for 42-48 minutes knowing that 50 minutes is perfectly viable, scale for age
        3. Cross-country, timed eight mile dirt trail run with 20 pound pack
          1. Aim for 90 min or less
          2. This is pretty tough and will require some training. Start easy and progress steadily to avoid injury.
        4. 400m sprint 
          1. WR: 0:43:18 by Michael Johnson in 1999
          2. Aim for 1:10-1:20 or under for a single 400
          3. Aim for sub-1:30 when doing 400 repeats 
        5. RX Fran (overall time, unbroken or no?)
          1. Josh Bridges 2:02 Fran is well known
          2. Advice: aim for unbroken in the 3-5 min range depending on age, scale weight to complete unbroken for maximum cardiovascular benefit

      1. 400m Freestyle pool swim
        1. WR is 3:40:14 by Sun Yang
        2. Aim for anything under 7:00-8:00, scaling for age
      2. 2:00 unbroken max push
        1. Aim for anything over 50-75, scale for age
      3. 2:00 unbroken max strict pull ups
        1. Aim for 15-20 without dismounting from the bar, scale for age and injury status 
  1. Plate Carrier: Higher density = reduced standoff, less time to get positive identification; protection can be a substitute for time/distance
  2. Chest Rig: Low density = greater standoff, so PID less difficult; time and distance are on your side, magnified optics highly probable


  • bill wickham

    proper scaling for age?

  • müslüm ağaç

    thank you very much for this information

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