Body armor and plate carriers are pieces of equipment that can be difficult to wear for prolonged periods of time. Body armor is bulky, heavy, and uncomfortable in many scenarios. While new manufacturing developments are working to make them lighter and easier to wear, ballistic protection can often be very restrictive when it comes to movement.
Military personnel, law enforcement officers, security officers -- these are all occupations where bullet resistant systems or other protective tactical gear may need to be worn for extended periods of time. Anyone having to carry heavy gear like armor panels or soft armor can become exhausted after any length of time resulting in lower performance and higher risk of injury. In this article we will discuss the different aspects that make wearing a bulletproof vest uncomfortable, as well as how you can alleviate these issues with a few simple adjustments!
What Makes Body Armor Uncomfortable?
To understand what makes body armor or a plate carrier uncomfortable, we have to first know what they're made of and how they work. Body armor is an array of soft or hard materials designed to absorb the impact from a bullet or other projectiles. Plate carriers are made up of thick straps with pockets that can be filled with rigid plates that provide protection against rifle rounds, just like body armor does. In order to provide proper protection, these vests need to be snugly secured to the body to allow for movement such as running, and can weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds for the armor plates inserted into the vest.
Because of how tightly these vests need to be worn and the period of time they may need to worn for, wearing body armor can quickly become an uncomfortable experience. Body armor and plate carriers can be bulky, restrictive to movement, restrict the trunk of the body so breathing is more difficult, and can cause chafing around waist or armpits if they are not properly secured. Body armor in particular also has an added element of heat that makes it even less comfortable to wear while exerting yourself and sweating.
Adjust Your Current Loadout
Now that we have an understanding of the discomfort a body armor or plate carrier can cause, let's take a look at how to lessen these effects. Body armor and plate carriers are designed to protect lives first and then for comfort and other features after. Before even looking into investing in a new plate carrier system or adding things to your loadout, here are some things to consider to adjust your current system which can bring instant results.
Evaluate Your Protection Needs
Ballistic armor is heavy, and the more protection you add the heavier those plates get. Before loading in your standard plates into your plate carrier, evaluate if you need the level of protection you're planning on bringing. Level IIIA plates are usually soft panels and only weight anywhere between 2 to 4 pounds while Level III plates are made of steel and can weigh up to 5 times as much.
By significantly reducing the weight, naturally your plate carrier will become easier to move in and wear for extended periods of time. Along the same line, also take the time to evaluate any other equipment you're bringing and if you will actually need to use it where you'll be. In a situation that could potentially result in the difference between life and death, every ounce matters.
Properly Fit and Wear Your Vest
There are many different sizes and styles of bulletproof vests and plate carriers. Depending on how long you'll be wearing your protection, making sure you have the right style and size of plate carrier will make a large difference in your comfort level.
Body armor that is too loose can become restricting and bulky because it will be shifting around as you move, causing discomfort. Body armor that is too tight or the wrong size won't allow for proper movement like bending at the waist to pick things up off of the ground, not allowing your lungs to expand while breathing, or rubbing against other areas on your body causing discomfort.
Wear Comfortable Clothing Under Your Armor
Because body armor and plate carriers consist of harder materials and abrasion can result in discomfort, what you wear under your gear can make a big difference in your comfort levels, especially over long periods of wear. Soft, breathable materials naturally make for the best option to be worn with armor to prevent heat becoming an issue over time as well.
Re-Evaluate Your Loadout
If you've already taken care of all the basic steps to make your existing body armor loadout as comfortable as possible and you're still finding that especially long periods of wearing either soft body armor or hard armor can result in discomfort or stress. Here are some items you can either add to your loadout or replace your loadout with a vest or carrier that is more comfortable and breathable.
Besides protecting you from blunt force trauma, trauma pads can also serve to maintain a level of comfort as opposed to hard armor making direct contact with your back and chest. The difference in comfort trauma pads can make is very clear, especially when forced to maintain an uncomfortable position for an extended period of time or having to do any sudden vigorous action such as running.
Do note that although the level of overall comfort can be increased with trauma pads, this can increase the bulk of your carrier so if whatever you're doing requires more flexibility, having trauma pads with your gear could prove to be a problem.
Do check out the Spartan Armor Systems Trauma Pad
Manufactured using an extremely light micro-cellular urethane foam padding, the Spartan Armor Systems Trauma Pad decreases back face deformation and dissipates impact energy, reducing transmitted force.
While there is still debate on whether a trauma pad is necessary or not to wear with armor plates, one can't deny that they dramatically increase comfort and ergonomics while wearing body armor. Wearing steel or ceramic plates over a long period of time tend to be uncomfortable especially when you are constantly on the move. With trauma pads, not only do you have a soft barrier between you and your armor, it can also reduce blunt force trauma which can prove to be fatal especially in close combat situations.
Vest and carrier manufacturers in recent years have begun recognizing the importance of comfort and flexibility in their gear offerings. From reevaluating how vests are secured on the body to the types of materials used in manufacturing, bulletproof vests and plate carriers have progressively begun to use more form fitting materials and become more breathable.
Do check out the 221B Tactical Maxx-Dri Vest 4.0 - Body Armor Ventilation
The Maxx-Dri Vest 4.0 - Body Armor Ventilation from 221B Tactical is the pinnacle of body armor ventilation and comfort and a favorite among cops and security guards thanks to its maximum function, strength, and durability. This vest, which has a new dual-chambered design for better air flow and ventilation, will keep you cool and dry even in the most extreme temperatures and movements.
You will never have to worry about your Maxx-Dri 4.0 vest shifting under your body armor thanks to its Velcro side closures and Stay-Put grip technology. Whether you are wearing an external plate carrier or a concealable bulletproof vest, it will create a layer of air between you and your body armor. Invented by a Police Officer who understands the needs of our law enforcement and first responders community, the Maxx-Dri Vest 4.0 is the perfect accessory for your body armor while on the job.
Lightweight Armor Plates
Just like how manufacturers are working on making it easier to wear body armor, plate manufacturers are researching new ways and materials to make armor plates that can still protect at the same level or even better without adding extra weight. Polyethylene, ceramic, aramid, all of these materials are common in body armor manufacturing but usually can result in a very heavy panel as the end result.
New developments in hard plates have seen incredible decreases in weight while still being able to protect against the same NIJ level bullets. Safety has always been the priority for these manufacturers and now that they've recognized the importance of weight in the safety of people like law enforcement officers or service members, they can be prepared for any situation knowing they have the proper level of protection needed.
Do check out the DFNDR Armor Lightweight Level III Bulletproof Armor Plate
The DFNDR ARMOR Lightweight Level III Bulletproof Armor Plate is one of the lightest plates on the market while still being able to protect against rifle shots, weighing only 2.9 lbs per plate (size 10 x 12) and having been tested to the NIJ 0101.04 Protocol. Made with an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber bound with a resin matrix, this armor plate is engineered with the highest grade material to make it a rigid hard stand alone armor system.
Whether you are operating on the field or training for the next deployment, you want to make sure your plate carrier set-up does not give you a heavy load and can provide you enough mobility and comfort. This Level III plate is also equipped with trauma reduction technology that reduces the energy of a ballistic impact to the body.
COMFORT = SAFETY
When it comes to purchasing body armor and plate carriers, ensuring your comfort whilst wearing it is an integral part of the process that is unfortunately overlooked most of the time.
Danger strikes at the most unexpected times. What would happen if an active shooter suddenly decides to attack at the end of your work day? If a group of rowdy individuals riot in a civil demonstration? Would you like to see yourself struggling to breath in your body armor or unable to carry the weight and ultimately not being able to move as much as you'd want to? When you are comfortable in your body armor, you become more focused in doing your job, handling a tactical situation, planning your next strategy for survivability and so much more.
With tons of options and the rapid increase in technology in the body armor market today, comfort should no longer be compromised in exchange for the price, material, and even the number of accessories or attachments you'd like to add to your loadout.
Safety is always our top priority. Don't hesitate to reach out to our team here at Bulletproof Zone so we can help you find the best options to make your body armor comfortable and wearable for as long as you need it.