Bulletproof Backpack Buyer's Guide

It's a sad truth that we can no longer take for granted the safety of our loved ones when they walk outside the front door. Mass shootings and school shootings are becoming distressingly common, even in areas not usually known for high crime rates, and there's no way to predict when or where domestic terrorism will happen next or who will instigate it.

In this buyer's guide, we will answer all your frequently asked questions about bulletproof bags, provide some insider tips, and end by sharing with you some of our top picks from our bulletproof and plate carrier backpack collection!

Image of a girl wearing a backpack walking toward a school bus

We here at Bulletproof Zone are proud to present this buyer's guide for bulletproof and plate carrier backpacks. These backpacks are affordable, portable, multi-functional ballistic protection that anyone - even a child - can use on a daily basis in these uncertain times.

Do I need a bulletproof backpack? 

It could be a good idea to invest in a bulletproof or plate carrier backpack if you or someone you care about:

  • spends their day in a school or on a university campus (as a student or staff member)
  • is a member of the armed forces
  • works in law enforcement
  • lives/works in or is travelling to a high-crime area

Anybody in one of these situations could potentially benefit from bulletproof body armor that isn't as pricey, heavy, or conspicuous as a vest (because even a concealablebulletproof vest would be noticed when changing during gym class).

A bulletproof backpack is one of those rare purchases you hope you never need to use, but knowing it's there for worst-case-scenarios can do a lot for you and your loved ones' peace of mind.

Do bulletproof backpacks really work?

If worn and used correctly, bulletproof armor panels like those in a backpack or bulletproof vest give you a 95% chance of survival against the kind of bullets they’re designed to protect you from. 

So yes, they do work. But as a buyer, you need to have informed, realistic expectations about what it means when we say that bullet resistant body armor “works."

What bulletproof armor doesn’t do

Keep in mind that no piece of armor is truly “bulletproof” in the sense that bullets would have no effect on it.

And while there's a lot that bulletproof armor CAN do, we first need to talk about what it doesn't do:

It doesn't make you invincible

Body armor isn’t indestructible, and it doesn’t make its wearer invincible. It doesn’t provide protection against infinite rounds from every single type of ballistic weapon that exists, and - unless it’s rated as multi-threat armor - it doesn’t protect against stabbings. 

It doesn't make guarantees

When dealing with active shooter situations, a lot of variables are at play; anything could happen.

Body armor can't ensure a gunshot will be delivered from just the right distance and angle from one of the "right" kinds of weapons for that particular armor to save your life.

Body armor ISN'T a guarantee of walking away from the scene with no injury at all.

But it DOES make it more likely that you'll suffer minor injuries rather than major ones.

Body armor dissipates most of the energy from the high velocity force propelling the bullet, but with that amount of force hitting the wearer, they will likely be knocked off their feet. Then, depending on weapon caliber, ammunition, and shooting distance, there can be other injuries incurred as well, some of them possibly more severe internal injuries.

Still (and we can't emphasize this enough!), all of this is generally preferable to having a ballistic impact penetrate your body.

What bulletproof armor can do

That isn't to say that bulletproof armor is useless, there are a number of things it excels at.

It resists ballistic impact

By “bulletproof,” what’s really meant is bullet resistant:it resists penetration from a certain range of bullet types.

Think of the inside of body armor as a web made of many layers of incredibly strong material. These layers absorb the force of a ballistic impact and spread it across the entire armor panel. 

The armor uses every fiber in its makeup to resistthat bullet’s impact, doing everything possible to keep it from penetrating its layers and passing through into the wearer’s body.

It gives you better odds

Basically no items sitting around the typical classroom, hotel, or office could resist penetration from a bullet the way a bulletproof armor plate can. Desks, tables, or doors provide cover,but not protection.

So while there's no guarantee all the variables in an active shooter situation will come together perfectly for the body armor to do its job, you still have a better chance of survival with it than without.

It protects possessions

Our physical wellbeing is obviously the most important thing, but another benefit of a bulletproof backpack is that anything inside the bag is better protected from ballistic impact, too: laptop, cellphone, and the like.

Armor panels also provide some blunt impact protection, so any fragile equipment inside the bag has extra protection during everyday accidents like drops or being stepped on.


How much do bulletproof backpacks cost?

A woman and a man inspecting bulletproof backpacks

In general, a bulletproof backpack runs from between $99 to $490. Plate carrier backpacks tend to cost slightly more if they don't include the required plates.

The prices also vary with the quality of the bag itself and the armor's NIJ protection level. While there are some cheaper options, remember the goal is to keep you or your loved one safe. So be sure to select the level of protection you think is appropriate.

Are Bulletproof Backpacks legal?

In the U.S., federal law allows for the purchase and wear of ballistic resistant body armor, including backpacks.

Keep in mind that although bullet resistant body armor is legal federally, different states have different laws.

In most states, it is a crime to wear bulletproof gear if you've been convicted of a felony, and during the commission of a felony it is also a crime to wear body armor.

Can I bring a bulletproof backpack on a plane?

Generally, yes.

The TSA page for body armorstates that you CAN bring body armor on a plane in carry-on or checked bags, but you CANNOT wear it either into the airport or onto the aircraft.

Even though this rule generally allows traveling with body armor, the TSA has the final say on whether bulletproof armor can pass through the checkpoint and make it onto the plane.

So be aware that if requested to, you're legally obligated to remove the body armor from your bag(s) and travel without it.

To avoid delays or inconvenience when traveling, we suggest contacting the airline beforehand to check that you're in the clear with your bulletproof backpack, then check again once you arrive at the airport.

Can civilians own Level 4 body armor?

Yes. As a United States citizen, you're within your rights to purchase and wear body armor, and that includes Level IV hard armor plates.

The majority of bulletproof gear marketed for civilians tends to run from Level II to IIIA, but again, it's possible to purchase Level IV armor even if you're not military or law enforcement.


Types of Bulletproof Backpack Inserts/Armors

Bulletproof ad plate carrier backpacks use either soft body armor panels or hard body armor panels.

The backpack can either be manufactured with these armor panels already inserted inside a special inner pocket, OR you can purchase inserts or armor panels on your own and place them into a conventional backpack, making it bullet resistant.

Soft body armor

Soft armor panels/inserts are designed to be lightweight and resistant to a range of bullets.

Common materials in soft armor

Soft armor is usually made either with some form of a heat-resistant man-made fiber called Aramid orHigh Molecular Weight Polyethylene (HMWPE) 

Kevlar: Developed by DuPont and first used in the 1970s, Kevlar is an Aramid fiber with a high tensile strength-to-weight ratio five times greater than steel. When sheets of cross-woven Kevlar fibers are placed in multiple layers, they are strong enough to resist bullets.

Twaron: Like Kevlar, Twaron is a lightweight, heat-resistant para-Aramid fiber five times stronger than steel. It is used in a variety of products that require extreme durability.

Dyneema: Dyneema is a fiber made with Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE). It is 15 time stronger than steel and is used in a huge range of products ranging from fishing line to medical implants.

Gold Shield and Spectra Shield are two other man-made fibers you'll often see used in plate carrier backpack armor. Both are products of Honeywell. Gold Shield is an Aramid-based fiber, while Spectra Shield is made from HMWPE.

Hard body armor

Hard body armor is significantly heavier than soft armor, but the range of weapons it protects against is much wider.

Common materials in hard armor

Commercial ballistic steel and ceramic are the two materials used to make hard body armor.

Commercial ballistic steel:This type of steel has been specially processed for bullet resistance and shatter reduction. It has different hardness grades, with the plates used in Level III backpacks usually falling in the middle of the hardness spectrum.

Ceramic/Monolithic ceramic:These armor plates are processed with layers of different materials, one of which is Kevlar or Spectra fibers. Ceramic plates work by being harder than the bullet, which causes the bullet to break, slow down, and become trapped in the composite layers of the ceramic. Ceramic plates tend to be quite heavy.

What does NIJ Protection Level mean?

All quality bulletproof armor, whether it's used in vests or backpacks, is tested to National Institute of Justice (NIJ) standards and given a rating that indicates what kind of ballistic impacts it was able to resist when it was tested.

That rating is the armor's NIJ protection level.

Whenever people talk about bulletproof body armor, the protection level is always mentioned because it's such a key piece of the armor's function.

Here are a few ways you'll see an armor protection level written out:

  • NIJ Level IIIA or 3A
  • Level IIIA
  • Type IIIA
  • IIIA

These terms all have the same meaning.

NIJ Protection Levels

[NIJ=National Institute of Justice; LR= Long Rifle; ACP=Automatic Colt Pistol; S&W= Smith and Wesson; FMJ=Full Metal Jacket; AP=Armor Piercing] 

Soft body armor types

Armor Level I:Can stop.22 LR; .380 ACP; light; minimum protection for on-duty police officers; not commonly used currently in favor of higher protection.

Level IIA: Can stop threats up to 9mm; .40 S&W-- soft body armor; very light, so suitable for full-time use.

Level II: Can stop Level II A threats + 9mm; .357 Magnum--soft body armor; heavier and bulkier than Type II A but suitable for full-time use.

Level IIIA: Level I-II threats + most handguns + High Velocity 9mm; .44 Magnum--usually soft but can also be hard armor plates; generally suitable for routine wear.

Hard body armor types

Level III: Level I-III A threats + 7.62mm (FMJ) rifles (U.S. military designation M80)--hard armor plates; suitable only for tactical situations requiring high protection level.

Level IV: Level I-III threats (single shot) + .30 caliber (AP) rifles--hard armor plates; highest protection possible; often ceramic material. Suitable only for tactical situations requiring high protection level.

What protection level should I buy for my bulletproof backpack?

In general, IIIA is a good protection level to aim for. That's usually the highest rating standard for civilian bulletproof backpacks. Level IIIA body armor can stop ammunition fired from short and long-barreled handguns.

When choosing a bulletproof backpack or armor inserts for yourself or a loved one, it may be tempting to think you want the armor that can protect from all types of firearms: handguns, rifles, everything.

But there you run into the problem that has driven developments in protective combat gear since the days of old: The higher the protection level, the heavier the body armor.

Always consider weight

Most bulletproof backpack product descriptions tell you how heavy the bag is with the bulletproof plate inside.

Always pay close attention to the weight!If a plate carrier backpack looks too light, it probably isn't including the weight of the plate insert. Don't buy a bag or an armor plate for a child if it's too heavy for them to wear on a daily basis when they get all their school books and other material in there.

Can a bulletproof backpack stop an AR-15?

In general, yes, it can if it's rated as NIJ Level III or IV.

If the backpack is rated NIJ Level II to IIIA, then no, it's been tested to stop a range of lesser-powered weapons than rifles.

How do I use a bulletproof backpack?

The key to using a bulletproof backpack is to try and make yourself as small a target as you can.

Try to get as much of your body as possible behind the protective armor panel, all the while being extra careful to protect your head and torso.


Three ways to use a ballistic protection backpack in a shooting incident

People under great stress, especially kids, may panic and forget what to do in a live shooter situation, so you might practice and review the drill with them at intervals.


Bulletproof Backpacks Featured Selection

Bulletproof Zone has a variety of durable, affordable, bullet resistant backpacks from top brands in our bags and backpacks collection. Today we're featuring some of our favorites for all types of users.

All the bags in this buyer's guide have NIJ Level IIIA protection and are superstars in terms of weight, functionality, and comfort.


Guard Dog Proshield Scout Backpack

Guard Dog Proshield Scout Backpack in teal

The Guard Dog Proshield Scout is designed for students' everyday use. It's just ounces heavier than a conventional backpack, and it provides Level IIIA protection without sacrificing cool features like multimedia connection and 20 + organizational panels/pockets.


  • Aesthetic: comes in black, pink, or teal
  • Protective: NIJ Level IIIA
  • Comfortable:lightweight at only 1.27 lbs. (580 gr.); enhanced comfort padding 
  • Tech-friendly:includes a media port 
  • Convenient: extensive storage 


Guard Dog Proshield Smart Level IIIA Backpack

Guard Dog Proshield Smart IIIA Backpack in gray


Guard Dog Proshield Smart is the backpack for you if you want the ultimate in practical, tech-optimized NIJ IIIA ballistic protection.


  • Tech-ready:built-in charging bank, phone grip strap, large laptop +tablet holders
  • Convenient:RFID compartment for ID/document protection; easy zippers; extensive storage compartments
  • Comfortable:ergonomic back design; padded adjustable straps
  • Weight:4.6 lbs. (1888gr.)


Guard Dog Proshield II - Multimedia Level IIIA Backpack

Guard Dog Proshield 2 Multimedia IIIA Backpack in black

Guard Dog's Proshield 2 is the perfect protective backpack for a range of civilians. From students to travelers, this bag offers NIJ IIIA protection plus the comfort and convenience you can always expect from Guard Dog ballistic gear.


  • Tech-ready:auxiliary multimedia connection; laptop +tablet pocket
  • Convenient: 20+ organizational panels + pockets
  • Comfortable:enhanced comfort padding - added gel support for shoulder straps and back
  • Weight:3.86 lbs. (1753 grams)


Leatherback Gear Civilian One Level IIIA Backpack

Leatherback Gear Civilian One IIIA  Backpack in Wolf Gray

The Civilian One is a streamlined, multi-functional backpack with a number of great features, including hidden armor panels and a separation zipper that lets you transform the backpack into a full torso ballistic protection device in a matter of seconds.


  • Protective:NIJLevel IIIA; detachable straps transform into tourniquets, drag straps, and/or door stop strap; all safety-related features readily identifiable via red colored tabs and threads
  • Convenient:RFID lined/blocking pocket on back; laptop + tablet storage pockets; internal front organizer pocket for pens, pencils, etc.; easy-access compartments; MOLLE rigging system on exterior of pack + straps
  • Tech-ready: laptop + tablet storage pockets; easy digital cord access pockets in shoulder straps
  • Comfortable: full back cushions
  • Weight: 5 lbs. 2 0z.


SwissGear ScanSmart Plate Carrier Backpack + Level IIIA Armor Plate Package

SwissGear ScanSmart Backpack +Bulletproof IIIA Armor Plate Package in black

The SwissGear ScanSmart Backpack + Armor Plate Package is durable, comfortable, customizable, and designed for convenience while traveling. Made with Scansmart Lay Flat technology, this plate carrier backpack allows laptop-in-case scanning through TSA X-ray machines.

Backpack features:

  • Comfortable and functional: ergonomically contoured, padded shoulder straps with built-in suspension, breathable mesh fabric, sunglasses holder loop and thumb ring adjuster pulls
  • Convenient:side water bottle pockets; side zippered large accessory pockets; front carabiner and web daisy chain
  • Protective: Level NIJ IIIA
  • Tech-ready:highly protective laptop-only compartment with adjustable divider for most portable computers up to 17" in size; padded media pocket with built-in headphone cord port

Bulletproof armor insert features:

  • Protective:made with 24 layers of Twaron; provides ballistic protection from handgun fire and can stop multiple rounds; protects again stabbing/piercing objects
  • Customizable: fits into most children's backpacks and smaller day packs measuring 12"x16."
  • Light: only 24 oz.
  • Guaranteed: 5-year warranty


Leatherback Gear Tactical One Level IIIA Backpack

Leatherback Gear Tactical One IIIA Backpack in Coyote  Tan


This Leatherback Gear Tactical One backpack offers the same benefits as their civilian version but with more space for that extra gear. Just as useful for college students as for military or law enforcement personnel.


  • Protective:NIJ Level IIIA; detachable straps transform into tourniquets, drag straps, and/or door stop strap; all safety-related features readily identifiable via red colored tabs and threads
  • Convenient:RFID lined/blocking pocket on back; laptop + tablet storage pockets; internal front organizer pocket for pens, pencils, etc.; easy-access compartments; MOLLE rigging system on exterior of pack + straps
  • Tech-ready: laptop + tablet storage pockets; easy digital cord access pockets in shoulder straps
  • Comfortable: full back cushions


Military Tactical Plate Carrier Backpack + Level IIIA Bulletproof Armor Plate Package

Military Tactical Backpack and IIIA Bulletproof Armor Plate Package in tan

This plate carrier backpack combo set comes with one Military Tactical 3 Day Assault Backpack and one 12"×18″ TuffyPacks Level IIIA Ballistic Backpack Shield. You can be geared up and ready for anything with this pack: tactical missions, hunting, trekking, or even just daily use.

Backpack features:

  • Functional:hydration-compatible pocket on the back; 3pcs D-ring has MOLLE webbing for attaching additional tactical pouches
  • Durable: made of 600 x 600 Density fabric; water resistant; double-stitched, heavy duty zippers and utility-style cord pulls; side and front load compression system
  • Comfortable:ventilated mesh padded back area & shoulder strap

Bulletproof armor insert features:

  • Protective:made with 24 layers of Twaron; provides ballistic protection from handgun fire and can stop multiple rounds. Also protects again stabbing/piercing objects
  • Customizable: fits into most children's backpacks and smaller day packs measuring 12"x18."
  • Light: only 24 oz.
  • Guaranteed: 5-year warranty


Guard Dog Proshield II Prym 1 Backpack

Guard Dog Proshield II Prym 1 Backpack in camo

The Proshield II Prym blends NIJ IIIA bulletproof safety, an urban chic aesthetic, and tactical functionality for wearers of any age.


  • Tech-ready:auxiliary multimedia connection from inside the backpack to the outside shoulder strap for music and hands-free phone usage; tablet/laptop pocket
  • Comfortable: added gel support in shoulder straps and back
  • Extensive storage:20+ organizational panels and pockets
  • Weight:3.86 lbs. (1753 gr.)


TuffyPacks All-In-One Level IIIA Backpack

TuffyPacks All-in-One IIIA Backpack in black

The Tuffypacks All-in-One truly lives up to the name: everything you could want in a media-ready bag combined with sewn-in Level IIIA ballistic material.


  • High-Quality:ultra-durable, high-quality construction
  • Tech-ready: fully functional media-ready backpack
  • Protective: lab tested for NIJ Level IIIA Ballistic Protection; larger protective surface area sewn directly into the backpack; bag includes lab test documents and a parental guide


Talos Ballistics Level IIIA Cyclone Spinner Backpack

Talos Ballistics IIIA Cyclone Spinner Backpack in black

The Talos Cyclone Spinner takes portability + protection to the next level with multi-directional spinner wheels that allow for 360 * upright rolling.


  • Protective: NIJ IIIA; uses cutting edge DuPont Kevlar technology
  • Convenient: multi-directional spinner wheels; quick change back panel technology for fast access to backpack straps
  • Tech-ready: laptop compartment for up to 15.6-inch laptop
  • Functional: gusseted large front organizer pocket; felt-lined hidden pockets; water bottle pockets


Talos Ballistic Level IIIA Bulletproof Computer Keeper Backpack

Talos Ballistic IIIA Computer Keeper Backpack in black

Both your body and your gear are protected with the Talos Computer Keeper backpack: the perfect functional, low-profile plate carrier backpack for everyday use.


  • Tech-ready: easy-access zippered, padded laptop compartment (fits up to a 17″ laptop)
  • Convenient: insulated side mesh water bottle pocket
  • Protective: NIJ IIIA; uses cutting edge DuPont Kevlar technology
  • Functional: expandable side-zippered gusset for extra packing capacity

Is a bulletproof backpack worth it?

In 2019, 417 mass shootings occurred in the U.S. That's more than one for every day of the year. You never know when or where the next incident will occur, so it makes sense to keep yourself and your loved ones protected. Wearing body armor is no guarantee everything will go your way in a firearm incident, but it certainly offers a better chance of survival than without it. That's why Bulletproof Zone wants you to know about bulletproof and plate carrier backpacks: so that you can have some peace of mind in these troubling times.

If this buyer's guide was helpful to you, the might also want to check out our article on what kind of backpack or armor you should buy.

Or if you've got a question about bulletproof backpacks, leave it in the comments below, and our experts will help find the answer for you!

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