Upgrading Surplus and Issued Plate Carriers and Gear

Upgrading Surplus and Issued Plate Carriers and Gear

In a world where military equipment constantly evolves, many find themselves equipped with surplus or outdated gear. As large military organizations upgrade, equipment like issued plate carriers often get liquidated as surplus or handed down to Law Enforcement or less equipped allied militaries. Consequently, many users are left with equipment that performs sub-optimally compared to contemporary offerings. This article delves into how older carriers and surplus gear, such as pouches, can be revitalized to meet or even surpass the capabilities of modern gear.

Upgrading Surplus Plate Carriers

A prime example is the LBT 6094, as covered previously in our IceAge Insights Technical Review series. The carrier's lack of organic thermoregulation capabilities is a significant drawback, but it's an ideal candidate for upgrades. Enter our latest additions to the IceAge Ecosystem: IMS Versa and CATAMARAN with ICEVENTS® Classic Ventilation Pontoons. IMS Versa allows for the internal mounting of our ICEPLATE® Curve, providing conductive thermoregulation and hydration inside any plate bag with an external MOLLE field. CATAMARAN, using a similar mounting system, enables the use of our ICEVENTS® Classic Plate Carrier Ventilation Pontoons for enhanced convective thermoregulation.

IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) with CATAMARAN installed for plate carrier ventilation and IMS Versa hydration bladder for plate carrier cooling, heating and hydration.
Above: U.S. Army IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) with CATAMARAN installed with ICEVENTS® Classic Ventilation Pontoons for plate carrier ventilation and IMS Versa for plate carrier cooling, heating and hydration.

This combination of IMS Versa and CATAMARAN can breathe new life into various older, heavily insulated plate carriers, significantly improving thermoregulation and comfort. This upgrade is particularly relevant for the MTV (Modular Tactical Vest) USMC Plate Carrier and other models like the U.S. Army issued IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest). As U.S. forces transition to newer models, these older carriers have found their way to Ukrainian volunteers and regular forces. For these users, retrofitting outdated equipment with modern thermoregulation solutions is vital to extend the gear's functionality and life-saving potential.

Ukrainian volunteer wears IOTV plate carrier in ACU camo pattern.
Above: Ukrainian volunteer wears a German-donated Gefechtshelm M92 helmet and an American ACU IOTV plate carrier, saving them from shrapnel.
(Original image from Reddit user u/YellowRecurrence)

Surplus Pouches on Modern Plate Carriers

Conversely, some units may have access to modern plate carriers yet be required to use issued pouches. This scenario presents unique challenges, as integrating older pouch designs with newer carriers can be problematic. The IOTV notably having some non-traditionally spaced MOLLE around the flak collar. 

To a lesser extent, matching patterns to uniform standards or camouflage for local environments can be an important consideration. With the proliferation of MultiCam gear used by the U.S. Army since 2010, military surplus pouches can now readily be purchased at great price points. Coyote equipment has also become widespread due to its adoption by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Weight distribution and comfort are also crucial. Modern carriers are designed for mobility, and surplus pouches can sometimes hinder this. Adding our ICEVENTS® Classic Plate Carrier Shoulder Pads can mitigate the added weight and improve overall comfort. Furthermore, considering Plate Carrier Ventilation is essential, especially when using bulkier pouches. Ventilation systems, such as the aforementioned CATAMARAN and ICEVENTS® Combo, can prevent overheating and ensure the carrier remains comfortable during extended use.

Alternatively, using our ICEPLATE EXO® plate carrier as a base offers considerable weight savings and thermoregulation capability out of the box, and makes for a great platform to build an overt plate carrier from.

Coyote Brown ICEPLATE EXO with USMC military surplus pouches, Spiritus Systems SPUD pouches and Mini MAP rear plate backpack.
Above: Coyote Brown ICEPLATE EXO® with USMC military surplus pouches, Spiritus Systems SPUD pouches and Mini MAP rear plate backpack.



In conclusion, while surplus plate carriers and pouches might seem at a disadvantage compared to their modern counterparts, with the right upgrades, they can still be highly effective. Implementing thermoregulation systems, ensuring compatibility, and focusing on user comfort can transform these older items into reliable, high-performing gear. This approach not only extends the lifespan of existing equipment but also provides a cost-effective solution for various users, from military personnel to law enforcement officers. With innovation and the right accessories, surplus gear can continue to serve effectively on the front lines.

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