LAST UPDATED: November 19, 2019
Best Tactical Vests: Protect Your Body and Have Your Gear Organized
The best tactical vests are fashionable, provide protection, and organize your tools
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON November 19, 2019
Initially, tactical vests were primarily protective gear for military and law enforcement personnel. Things have changed, and now survivalists, hunters, private security details, and outdoor enthusiasts find them essential for protection and a means to store accessories, tools, and ammunition. They range from simple rigs to hold a flashlight and other tools to extremely advanced SWAT professional-grade protective gear, which makes choosing the right vest challenging. That’s why we have researched the top tactical vests on the market to make it easier for you to choose the right one.
The Condor Elite Tactical Vest stands out as a piece of protective gear with the highest number of storage pockets. It features six M4 mag pockets, two internal pockets, and two more utility pockets. This means that besides protection, the vest also provides sufficient space to store small items.
This vest features a sufficient amount of storage space. Padded shoulders enhance comfort. It comes with a pistol belt to secure your firearm. Durable with lots of support.
The vest won’t fit larger people, as it is quite small. Some users also complained of broken snaps when unfastening the vest.
The vest features adjustable Velcro straps for a perfect fit. It comes with multiple pouches to organize your tools, tags, and licenses. Reinforced rescue pull handles offer maximum strength during combat situations.
Some users claim that the sizing may not be perfect. It is not ideal for people with larger body frames.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Tactical Vests
- Protection. Some tactical vests have additional space for carrying armor plates that can protect the chest area from gunfire. This is crucial for military and law enforcement personnel in their line of duty.
- Prepare for training sessions. During shooting practice or combat training, you will be exposed to a simulation of the real environment to better prepare you for the task ahead. Therefore, you need to wear and carry all the right equipment and that involves wearing a tactical vest.
- Extra carrying space. Tactical vests come with pockets of varying sizes, which could come in handy for carrying extra battery packs, ammunition, a flashlight, rifle magazines, and any other EDC material that you’d rather have on your person so that it’s available at a moment’s notice.
- Enjoy outdoor sports. When playing outdoor games like airsoft or paintball, you need a tactical vest to hold your ammunition so that you can be ready whenever you need to protect yourself from the other team. Also, despite not having real bullets, paintball and airsoft guns can still injure you, so it's safer to wear a protective tactical best.
Types of Tactical Vests
A cross draw vest is the most common and least expensive option available since it has a simple design that’s easy to put on and remove. It’s zippered at the front and comes with multiple pockets already sewn into the vest. They may take on different designs depending on the brand, but most come with detachable tactical belts and pistol holsters.
Plate carriers are the most expensive option and can be fitted with a protective plate at either the front or the back. The plate can be heavy-duty if you are dealing with real bullets or light for a paintball game. In addition, it’s typically designed with MOLLE webbing, which includes rows of heavy-duty nylon stitched on the vest to allow the user to add extra pockets.
Harness Battle Belt
The harness battle belt is designed with MOLLE suspender-like straps to help redistribute the weight of the gear carried on the abdomen to the shoulders. It also allows you to add more pouches to the strap. It leaves the chest area open, and as a result is less prone to overheating as with the other types. Also, it allows the user to gain full mobility of the upper body.
From its headquarters in California, Condor makes some of the best tactical vests, chest rigs, and plate carriers. It has more than 25 years of experience in making stylish tactical gear suitable for first responders, hunters, law enforcement personnel, and the military. Some of its popular tactical vests are the CONDOR Elite Tactical Vest and the Condor Cross Draw Vest.
UTG is a subsidiary brand of Leapers Inc. that was founded in 1992. It’s headquartered in Michigan and focuses on making and distributing high-quality gear and accessories for hunting, shooting, and outdoor enthusiasts. It makes some of the best tactical armor, gun cases, shooting stands, and outdoor accessories. One of its top-rated tactical vests is the UTG 547 Law Enforcement Tactical Vest.
Lancer is dedicated to making some of the best tactical equipment for airsoft games. It has a research and development department located in Los Angeles, Calif. On top of designing airsoft tactical vests, it also makes airsoft guns, gun mounts, and gun bags. One of its best-selling tactical vests is the Lancer Tactical Cross Draw.
Tactical Vest Pricing
- Under $50: The price of a tactical vest is mostly determined by the craftsmanship and number of pouches. Therefore, it goes without saying that the least expensive options have fewer pouches and wouldn’t last through tough military use. Despite that, expect to find a plethora of front-zippered vests and harness battle belts at this price point.
- Over $50: The tactical vests within this range can have up to 20 pouches, and some are large enough to carry a radio. They are also designed with special features to make them more suitable for demanding outdoor activities. This may include rescue drag handles at the neck area, pistol holders on the left side, and special pouches that can only carry rifle magazines.
It’s important to check the quality of the material to ensure that it can serve you for many years even if you crawl around in the dirt quite often. Check the quality of the stitching and reinforcement around the material and edges to ensure that it won’t easily tear, shred, or puncture when exposed to rough outdoor activities. Also, extra padding on the shoulders will help protect your shoulders from chafing in case you need to carry a rifle there.
The sizing for different brands may differ but you can expect to get a small (chest size 34-35), medium (size 38-40), and large (size 42-44). It’s better to always go a size up since you will be wearing the vest over your clothing and go a few more sizes up if you intend to wear a thick breastplate or equipment under the vest.
The best tactical vests provide a way of storing all your extra accessories and gear. You should count all the things you need to carry to get a vest with the right number of pockets. Also, there should be minimal risk of losing them in case you bump into somebody or something. So, prioritize pouches with Velcro or zipper pockets. Ensure that the pockets are well-organized since bulky pockets can be a hindrance to mobility and performance.
- Color: The main types of colors available are black, khaki, tan, coyote, green, and camouflage. The color should suit your operating environment. For outdoor activities, a jungle green or tan design may be a good fit. Black would be best for indoor games.
- Customizability: This is where the MOLLE design comes in. It stands for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment, which is a design that allows for customization of the vest by adding or removing some features to make it more suitable for a specific purpose.
- Comfort: This is key if you want to maintain your speed and mobility in the course of your duties. You want a lightweight vest that fits seamlessly on your existing uniform and gives you enough room to move your shoulders and arms freely.
Best Tactical Vests Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Condor Elite Vest is simple yet well-built tactical gear that’s ideal for outdoor hobbies and tactical training. The overall construction is made up of MOLLE webbing to make it more lightweight for increased mobility. The back is made of breathable mesh for optimal airflow and has mesh loops that you can use to store your hydration bladder. It’s further fitted with two utility pouches, six mag pouches, and two internal pockets for better organization of your accessories.
It’s easy to get in and out of the vest with the help of the zippered front and two quick-release plastic buckles. To help prevent shoulder injury, it has rubberized shoulder pads with a built-in shock stop. What’s more, it comes with a pistol belt, which makes it ideal for private security or law enforcement personnel.
However, the vest is a bit small and may be a tight and uncomfortable fit if you have a large frame and also need to wear extra gear inside. In addition, the buckles may break when adjusting the girth, and you may strain to adjust the buckles on the side. Also, the shoulder pads tend to thin out quickly.
Made from high-density Oxford fabric that’s soft to the touch, the REEHUT Tactical Vest is an affordable option that comes with most of the features that are typical with high-end vests. It has a breathable mesh running throughout the vest for comfortable wear and is zippered at the front. It’s fitted with three gadget pouches, three magazine pouches, a flashlight pouch, and a detachable gun pouch that fits handguns of different sizes.
You can adjust the vest for a snug fit or to allow full freedom of your upper body with the help of the Velcro straps. Also, it has an adjustable, buckled tactical belt that can be customized with more pouches. In addition, a reinforced rescue pull handle at the neck area will come in handy for pulling a teammate out of a risky situation.
Unfortunately, the vest may sit a few inches above the waist on tall people, which would make the belt awkwardly positioned on the navel area. In addition, the buckle is made from poor-quality plastic and may snap easily when handled roughly. Also, it doesn’t come with smaller pockets for holding writing material.
We recommend the Barbarians military airsoft paintball vest for anyone looking forward to customizing their tactical vest with extra pouches and accessories. It comes with a MOLLE back panel with modular webbing that allows you to attach additional gear, and 2D rings so that you can hook a carabiner and hang extra accessories. In addition, it’s made from durable polyester with a breathable nylon mesh design to keep you from sweating excessively.
This vest is waterproof and tear resistant. It comes with 15 pouches including three rifle magazine pouches, three small equipment pouches, a pistol holster, phone pouch, and hydration bag. The pouches are skidproof to keep the contents from slipping, and spaced out enough to allow you quick access to your accessories and ammunition. The Barbarians vest also includes a buckled tactical belt with two pouches.
Despite the plethora of features, there are a few things that are a let down when it comes to the design. For one, the sizes run small and the large size doesn’t offer a snug fit for people with a large frame. Also, it can’t secure paintball pods.
If you’re looking for a rugged and tough tactical vest that can withstand some serious wear and tear, check out the Marmot Tactical Vest. It’s constructed from heavy-duty high-density 600D polyester mesh to be both breathable and waterproof. It features a radio pouch, a detachable right-hand draw holster, three detachable pistol mag/flashlight pouches, two internal zippered document pouches that can also hold your mobile phone or small tablet, a rubber grip shoulder pad, utility pouch, shotgun shell holders, and much more.
A separate detachable and adjustable belt with additional mag and flashlight pouches can expand up to 53 inches or shrink down to 33 inches. Adjustable Velcro straps on the shoulders also allow you to get the fit of the vest just right. We just wish it could cinch down a little smaller for slimmer individuals.
If you’re in the market for something that’s a bit more streamlined, lightweight, and easy to move in, the OneTigris Multicam Tactical Vest is not to be passed up. This ergonomically designed vest is made for function as well as comfort. Constructed from dependable and water-resistant 500D Cordura nylon, this vest is not only lightweight but super tough. For being so streamlined, it features an impressive carrying load. Breathable shoulder padding and a soft cummerbund wick away moisture and allow for cooling airflow.
It features an almost unlimited amount of options for securely mounting tactical pouches thanks to its plentiful and strong Velcro attachments on both sides. The shoulder straps are adjustable between 13-26 inches, and the vest itself can be adjusted to fit waist sizes ranging from between 36-46 inches, making this an excellent option for most people, but again, we wish it cinched down just a little smaller to accommodate slimmer individuals. It’s available in three color patterns: black, coyote brown, or multicam.
- Fit is the most important consideration when shopping for the best tactical vests. It should have a proper length, width at the chest, and waist position while still being comfortable.
- Consider the weight of your vest of choice. While a tactical vest needs to have the required strength, it should be lightweight to allow for swift movement.
- Depending on the number of tools you intend to carry, consider the number of pouches included in the vest. Pouches help keep you organized.
Q: Where can I use a tactical vest?
A: Tactical vests are compulsory for military and security reinforcement personnel. However, they are also popular with paintball players, airsoft players, rescuers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Q: Will a tactical vest keep me warm?
A: In short, no. If you plan to shoot in a colder environment, place the vest over a jacket to stay warm. If you are out in summer conditions, put it on over a light T-shirt.
Q: Can I wash my tactical vest?
A: Like any other piece of clothing, you will need to clean your vest. However, do not machine wash it, as that can cause damage. A wet cloth can help remove most stains.
We chose theCondor Elite Tactical Vest as our top pick for its high quality and storage capacity.
For a cheaper option, consider theREEHUT Tactical Breathable Vest.