Plate Carrier Design and Engineering: Can Armor Plates Be Exposed to The Elements?
BLUF: Absolutely. Armor plates can and are exposed to the elements all the time by design.
While we’re fortunate enough in the US to be able to buy modern body armor as consumers, we have to recognize that the core technologies, materials, processes, and performance criteria that shape armor development reflect the institutional philosophy of use ingrained in the military and law enforcement agencies the world over. These institutional philosophies are often many years if not decades behind the capabilities of modern technology. Simply put, modern body armor is considered a consumable. Hard armor plates, especially Level III and Level IV, are designed for an expected service life far shorter than most civilians would expect for the cost, typically five years at most for hard plates.
Above: IcePlate EXO® by Qore Performance is the first and only plate carrier in the world with Conductive and Convective thermoregulation, organically integrated into the plate carrier. It also features native plate carrier hydration and leverages a skeletonized design that exposes armor plates for maximum weight savings, drainage, and ventilation.
That service life is negatively impacted by exposure to temperature extremes, UV radiation, and humidity, but it’s also reduced by the stresses of being simply worn at all. Aside from the usual bumps and drops of regular use, even wearing a plate carrier tighter against your body will create micro-fractures that over time will degrade the ballistic protection of the plates. Remember - unlike steel plates designed simply to resist damage, ceramic and composite (usually polyethylene) armor is designed to protect you by breaking apart and transferring the kinetic energy of a ballistic impact away from your body. Like the crumple zone of a vehicle, it breaks so that you don't.
Most plates have at least some features designed to mitigate these effects, such as a UV and moisture-resistant rubberized or fabric exterior, padding surrounding the delicate (usually ceramic) core, and a stiffer metal or polymer backface that resists flexural stresses. These features are important to consider when choosing between plates, and some designs may suit your intended use case and environment better than others.
Above: the Airlite SPC by Crye Precision, perhaps the most trusted name in tactical gear, is a great example of another skeletonized plate carrier design at an affordable price point
Above: the Plate Frame by S&S Precision, one of the most trusted names in ultra-premium fighting systems, features one of the most aggressive skeletonized designs of any plate carrier on the market today and is in use with Special Mission Units
As far as IcePlate EXO® is concerned, our fundamental objective at Qore Performance is to liberate humans from environmental constraints, typically (but not always), by weaponizing thermoregulation. Achieving that objective comes down to managing three things in particular: water, heat, and weight. As it happens, the solutions we employ to mitigate the effect of these three things on the human body also mitigate their effect on your body armor.
#1 - Water. IcePlate EXO® is designed to expel moisture. It is constructed from a hydrophobic textile (IcePlate EXO® laminate) that sheds water like a duck, and its form factor is configured for maximum drainage and breathability. That’s going to keep a soggy plate bag from trapping moisture around your plates.
#2 - Heat. IcePlate EXO® is designed for thermoregulation through integration with IceVents® and IcePlate® via IMS/IMS Pro. IceVents® Pontoons inside IcePlate EXO® maximize ventilation inside your gear, allowing your body’s radiative and evaporative cooling systems, i.e. capillary dilation and perspiration, to function as nature and the good Lord intended. IcePlates worn frozen inside your armor via IMS/IMS Pro will keep body heat, sweat, and salt away from your plates, and even hydration-only IcePlates worn outside your armor will reduce solar heat and UV exposure. All together, that’s less heat, moisture, and salt trapped next to your plates.
#3 - Weight. IcePlate EXO® is designed with materials and ergonomics that better manage the loads your gear places on your body. The biaxially reinforced textile construction of IcePlate EXO® resists sagging and stretching, which keeps your plates and your gear securely in place on your body instead of rattling around like a janitor’s keychain. At the same time, our SizzleStick elastic cummerbund anchoring system allows IcePlate EXO® to move with your body in the right places, instead of hugging your torso tighter than Lizzo’s waistband every time you breathe or bend. Integration of IceVents® and IcePlates® can also help evenly distribute otherwise concentrated stresses and loads on your plates. All of this adds up to less stress imposed on your armor by normal wear and use.
IcePlate EXO® is fundamentally a piece of personal protective equipment, as are your plates. They are designed to protect YOU first and foremost, because unlike your equipment, you are not replaceable.
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