In the interest of balanced coverage, some thoughts on the current way of carrying your fighting load out.  If indeed body armor is worn, then you have a whole list of options to chose from.  We've gone through many configs in the past 10-15 years.  What I prefer, and again my AO is hot and muggy for a good portion of the year, is a Crye JPC style plate carrier, with a skeletonized cummerbund, and no side armor.  So I am balancing between coverage and light weight/mobility.  

This is an individual requirement based on:  Likely threat level in your AO, Environmental factors, how much weight you can function with, and your pocket book.  In my case, for an active shooter event, or violent home invasion,  I think having something up to M855, is probably GTG.  So a level "3+" plate, which will stop green tip is sufficient for me.   As previously mentioned I live in a hot and muggy environment, for a good part of the year.  So I run without side coverage for increased ventilation.  Yes, I know I may get more than I bargained for, but that's the risk you take.   I run a hybrid ceramic/polymer plate, which is 4 lbs  per plate.  You pay more but the weight savings is huge.  So I have 8 lbs of plates, plus 3 mags, radio and PTT, and bleeder kit, for an all-up weight of around 15 lbs.    Any more than this and you get into decreased mobility issues.  You will spend around 4-500 bucks for a set of plates like these (basically civvy SAPI's) which is a good balance between price and capability.

Since I don't run side armor, I like the skeletonized design, with my small FRS radio tucked into the "other strong" side.  And a small bleeder kit "strong" side.  Both tucked inside the cummerbund, so equipment, in my case, bleeder kit, doesn't impede pistol draw stroke.  PTT "other strong" side but tucked in away from alt. shoulder pocket.  High enough so it doesn't impede mag draw stroke.

I like a 3-mag panel, or micro chest rig, which clips into SR buckles on top, and Velcro's in on the main body.

I also like First Spear "Tubes" closure system, which is easily adaptable to most rigs.

I may also run an optional back panel, which zips in, with a 3L bladder.

So for me, this is a good system, for when body armor is worn.  Ideally, I'm trying to keep this below 15 lbs, which I have found to be a practical limit for myself.  This is something you may have to discover for yourself.  I am a big believer in mobility being a big factor in keeping extra holes out of your bod, so instead of turtling up with all the armor you can find, and perhaps being a bit slower than you might, I believe in finding a balance between pro and speed of maneuver.  Obviously this is a very personal choice.

This is worn in conjunction with a "battle" belt, which consists of pistol kit, and IFAK .  Usually no suspenders; just friction fit to the hips.  I use a light weight, 3" Molle belt, similar to Crye's.             

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine where a person claims all the benefits of the body politic, without any of the responsibilities, and then claims a halo for their dishonesty." Heinlein

Original Post

Yeah this was a big upgrade for me as well.  I used to run L 3+ multi-hit steel, which was 7.5 lbs per plate.  Just too damn heavy for any significant mobility, IMHO.   The price is so tempting to make a go of it, but practically twice the weight desired.  

I think just about anyone who does any significant training in them will soon realize they are a NoGo.  I believe anyone who is serious about this shit will save up and get some decent plates.  I know I bang on the drum about belt kit, sans BA, but truth be known, most folks are in some kind of urban, suburban area.  And, you are probably within 24 hrs of re-supply, probably a lot less.  So you don't need to be carrying your house on your back, and can afford the added weight of BA.  Not to mention the added likelihood of contact, and probably the shorter duration of wear.  It all adds up to body armor now being quite practical, if not required.      

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine where a person claims all the benefits of the body politic, without any of the responsibilities, and then claims a halo for their dishonesty." Heinlein

PCs have come a long way since this.


Maybe we can discuss some of the advancements over the last 15 years or so.  Good and bad.  Im supposed to be working right now so ill post later.

"A pirate is not the sort of a man who generally cares to pay his bills...and after a time the work of endeavoring to collect debts from pirates was given up."

          -Frank R. Stockton


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I like the JPC and will likely own one some day soon. I also like the FS tubes and have a FS AAC for cop work. I’m in a vehicle with A/C so I don’t mind the solid cummerbund on it that can hold armor. If I know I’m gonna be knocking on doors in the wee hours of the morning I like the extra coverage. Add to it being able to get on and off quick it’s a good package. 2 rifle mags, 1 pistol mag, PTT and radio, TQ, breaching pouch on back and a DARC strap  and this setup suits me, though lighter plates are in the list of wants. Belt holds the rest

Now for military work, that’s a different beast. I got to hump this thing everywhere, even when it doesn’t make sense and could actually be a liability. Thus I strip every ounce I can off it. I currently have a APC with Crye skeletal cummerbund with FS tubes sewn on and one of my shoulder straps modded to use the tubes (thank you Diz). 3 mag pouch on front, TQ on either side of the triple mag PTT and Crye JPC radio pouches under the cummerbund to hold either radio or extra mag. On the back the DARC strap and a Tyr zip on panel with breaching tool pouch, issue IFAK, and NVG/ spare eye pro lenses pouch. The kangaroo pouch and built in admin sleeve on the front hold pens and cheat sheets. The rest goes on a micro belt. This set up works for me. Light, good ventilation with the option of adding soft armor if the need is there and is easy on and off. This has been the best set up I’ve ever run. The only problem is after two years of training in this my brigade decided that right before deployment everyone will wear only  issued gear set up per brigade SOP. We don’t listen to their gear setup SOP but are stuck with the IOTV...even though other battalions (POGs) in our brigade are running COTS plate carriers like we used to...I’m still fighting this fight.

Yeah man I hope you eventually win out on that one.  Fuckin' pogues.

But anyways, maybe you could esplain to those that don't know how the DARC strap works.  I think that is brilliant but little known outside some circles.  I retro-fitted my kit with it.    

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine where a person claims all the benefits of the body politic, without any of the responsibilities, and then claims a halo for their dishonesty." Heinlein

So let me preface this by saying none of this was my idea, this was developed by the cool kids at DARC, thus the name. The strap is meant to allow you to more easily drag a causality in a CQB environment. It costs about $20 tops to set up. You will need about 9 foot of 1 inch tubular and 1 climbing rated carabiner, non locking works fine for this. Take the webbing and fold it in half, then tie a overhand knot at the middle making a small loop with 2 tails. You take the tails and run one up each of the outside columns on the back of your PC. Once they are routed all the way up put on you PC and helmet and have a buddy hand you the to tails. Hold your hands with the tails in them one on top of the other on top of you helmet and have said buddy mark that length. Take the carrier off and at the marked point tie a water knot connecting the two tails. Next step is hooking your carabiner to the loop at the bottom then when you put the PC back on you clip the carabiner into your belt. If you have gear on the back of your belt or it’s just uncomfortable you can wrap paracord around the back of your belt making a loop (I use 3 wraps around my belt) to clip into. As far as storing the excess strap up top, tape, rubber bands, one wrap Velcro, etc. I personally just route the excess back through the MOLLE  and when needed just pull and it “deploys”.

So cool design right? Now here’s where all that shines. Because it is hooked to your belt, your torso stays off the ground. This creates less friction and makes it easier to pull a fully kitted up 250 lbs dude with 60 pounds of kit. Also that extra length up top from where you placed the webbing on top of your helmet to measure the length, well when in use this does 2 things, 1 it gives stand-off so the guy dragging you has leg room to pull and 2 it cradles your head helping to keep your neck and spine stable. All in all a simple idea that freaking works, “DARC drag queen” approved.

For work I found one of the KDH carriers and modified it with a Mayflower cummerbund adapter.  It's not a perfect solution but makes it more bearable that the garbage issued side plate carriers it comes with.  If I get forced to wear the 8lbs of issued side plates I use the SKD PID side plate pouches.  They hold the plates pretty securely but take up a lot of space on the outside of the cummerbund.  I found an extra cummerbund front flap from Eagle for cheap, chopped off the front piece so it was just exposed Velcro on the front.  bought a placard adapter buckles from downrange gear.  Now Ive got the issued POS set up in a way that works and is fairly comfortable.  I just run 3 mags on a placard on the front, a nods pouch, maybe a camelback then the rest of my shit on a belt.  I need to put some miles on it and try it out at the range but I think it will work for me and not get to much attention from uniform Nazis if I ever get back to the line.

There are some new slick PCs out that that look pretty interesting.  I really want to get my hands on one of the spiritus systems rigs.  

I think it would be pretty handy for classes and as a contingency type PC.

"A pirate is not the sort of a man who generally cares to pay his bills...and after a time the work of endeavoring to collect debts from pirates was given up."

          -Frank R. Stockton

Been thinking about this while on my way to BFE.  I've used PCs from DBT, LBT, KDH, Eagle and Shellback, would really like to try out some Crye and spiritus in the near future.

When it comes to suspension, they all did it the same.  There basically is none.  The vest just hangs on your shoulders with varying levels of padding ranging from none to maybe 1/2” of foam.  I havent run across any PCs that have used a internal cummerbund, though that type of constructuon seems to have gone the way of the dodo.  There are at least two companies that have at least attempted to address the suspension/load bearing issue.  I believe LBT tried it first and either Crye or TAG have a newer system.  The LBT method is pretty primitive and basically joins a battle belt and PC with a large plastic sheet.  Ive never had hands on this so maybe someone that has can address its pros and cons.  To me it looks like it would help spread the load but would negatively effect your ability to twist and lean.  The Crye option uses two rods or stays the form an X between the belt and carrier.  This looks like a better developed option but again, havent had hands on.  Maybe someone else here has.  So are any other companies designing PCs that take some of the load off your shoulders?

QR options.  There are a lot out there right now.  I would think for overwater ops they would be a must and are probably required by some agencies.  For most GP Army guys, I don't really believe its a necessity, using a mature, well thought out plan on setting up your gear and practicing quickly removing your vest should be enough in the extremely rare event you fall into a deep irrigation ditch or stream.  Maybe I'm all fucked up with that.  What are the pros/cons of the various QR systems out there right now?  We've come a long way from the RAV.  I know the FS QR tubes look really promising.  Not a PC but I was issued the 2nd gen IOTV a few years back, I felt like one of the big improvements to that vest was the QR system.  Easy to use and also easy to set it back up, no wires to reroute, just clip the QR buckles back together.


Speaking of overwater/maritime ops.  First Spear, TAG and I believe S&S all offer PCs with built in manually activated flotation devices.  Who else is making products like this?  Any experience with them? Pros/cons? Improvements needed?

I was going to mention some things about internal retention methods  of plates but Ive got an appointment in a few minutes.

"A pirate is not the sort of a man who generally cares to pay his bills...and after a time the work of endeavoring to collect debts from pirates was given up."

          -Frank R. Stockton

Hmmm, yeah there has been some work on internal stuff; I've seen the Crye system and it's nice but now you're talking added weight and complexity, not to mention heat.   Ultimately I think the answer is work out the shoulder geometry and lighten up the plates.

QR is an individual thing.  Some guys  wear it all day, per SOP, some guys use it as required.  Not only quick but silent.  I like the FS Tubes for this reason.

Emergency QR is another story.  For water ops (fresh or salt), you may want some kind of flotation system, along with QR.  Only the usual suspects as I've seen.

Experience with them.  Yeah old school legacy stuff, like UDT vests,  flight deck bladders sewn into water ops jackets.  Nice to have but  hot and heavy to carry. Newer gen stuff is way nicer but expensive.   CO2 pop for falling into deep water; oral inflate for most occasions, crossing deep creeks and such.   Could easily rig up your own system with surplus aircrew stuff, which is where the designs come from.       

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine where a person claims all the benefits of the body politic, without any of the responsibilities, and then claims a halo for their dishonesty." Heinlein

I only wore an issued Eagle SPC, and I think the current USMC unit isn’t a significant departure from that basic design. The SPC had shoulder strap padding that was held on with crappy velcro, and it would roll and bunch up.  A number of guys would just leave them off and deal with the bare straps.  I was in a mech unit last and although we did patrol off the vehicles a lot, I never heard too many complaints.

Chris at Down Range Gear made some innovative attachment systems to rig a camelbak pouch to the straps, so it could be removed via a buddy.  Neat retrofit but not a lot of guys bothered to do more than rig it direct to the PALS grid on the back.

Another USMC-vet entity, Ares Armor, built the Combat XII pack and rigged that to interface with a PC via a pair of extended straps that allowed for a user to unclip one end, flip the bag to his front for access, then back again.

I think most Eagle Yotes were jury-rigged to armor by troops via a variety of homecooked means.  AWC had a purpose-built interface kit for its Yote clone that could be purchased as an add-on, but I didn’t buy one with my bag.

I have lost touch with the status of assault packs and their interface with armor, so am curious how that is dealt with.  Have there been any advancements?

And while you are on this let-me-drop-some-science roll Diz, can you crack open a thread about assault packs?  I started one that talked about the distinction between 2nd and 3rd lines a while ago and it had a ton of good discussion, about prescribed load, water capability, etc.  It is old by this point, and I’m interested in your thoughts on assault packs.

Not the 3-day bags people confuse with assault packs, but bonafide assault rigs, like the Yote, Ares Armor pack, and similar, used to carry mission-essential equipment, ammo, and maybe food and water to the objective.

It is better that they do it imperfectly than that you do it perfectly. For it is their war and their country and your time here is limited.


                                                                                                                        —T. E. Lawrence




I'll attach the pdf file from DARC for the CASEVAC / drag strap set-up. 

With the PCs, I see four make that five somewhat distinct end user groups and each has their own concerns. Mil SOF, Mil GPF,  L/E special operations (SWAT etc), L/E uniformed patrol, and decent normal humans. 

PCs had just started to rear their heads when I did my OIF stint. So the Mil perspectives are outside my lane. 

Predominantly I look at them from a L/E patrol perspective - I'm already wearing soft armor so I look to them for when I need rifle rated protection coupled with load carriage (predominantly ammo & med). L/E special operations is likely to go soft & hard armor or just stand alone plates plus load carriage.

Currently I'm using the old BFG p/c with a First Spear tubes cummberbund & 6"x6" side plates for patrol over a IIIA vest, a Paraclete SOHPC with soft armor inserts (front, back, sides) for a tech role I have. I have one set of now 9 y/o plates I swap between the two carriers.

And while I prefer side plates because we do get flanked by BadGuys for any number of reasons, it seems the FirstSpear FirstOn could be a viable patrol P/C in most places. While it doesn't have the ability to carry a bit more, it certainly prevents one from way overloading themselves. 


I'm thinking about a trifecta of lighter but more capable plates (yeah, cost but i'm talking with AT Armor about my next purchase), reasonable load outs for ones role, and carriers that are made with material considerations (weight, wear) might be "a" way.

Participation does not equal Proficiency - Mike Pannone. Re-stated "Participation in one area does not equal Proficiency in another!"


Joined: November 2002


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Hey thanks for DARC pdf.

On assault packs, maybe do separate thread later, but for now, yeah I run the ATS Yote, works pretty good.  I modified mine and my buds to take Crye style zips.  So that's one way to run.  Also I think these "Yib Yab" tabs (that's what the Crotch calls them, dunno why) have a lot of potential as attachment systems.  Gonna try that on my next PC design.  1" loops sewn onto PC, with tabs on the assault pack.  I think this system has a lot of merit cuz it works pretty damn well and saves a lot of weight and fiddle-factor getting shit on and off.

I like the ATS design because the helmet cave zips on and off, and it has molle on the sides for whatever pouches.  So it makes a nice water pack for work outs and such without the "beaver tail", and then makes a nice spot for helmet and NV gear when zipped back on.  I like GI 2-mag pouches on the sides, upside down.  GI 3L bladder inside.  Good place for keys, wallet, phone while training.

When I get around to making one, same basic dims, but no molle on back, detachable shoulder straps w/ tabs for PC attachment, loops n tabs for removable helmet cave, cut down pocket on outside of cave, 1 " loops on sides for hanging pouches w/tabs, internal pouch for 3L bladder, minimize molle, and Velcro.

Basically carry 2 L water, 4 spare mags, extra TQ and battle dressings, extra batts, cleaning/tool kit, windshirt, hat and gloves, power bars/Gu gels, plus helmet, w/ Rhino II (extended), -14, w/J-arm (inside helmet).            

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine where a person claims all the benefits of the body politic, without any of the responsibilities, and then claims a halo for their dishonesty." Heinlein

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