Tactical Vest Ultimate Guide: Top 5 Picks for 2024

Tactical vest is a hallmark of readiness and rugged efficiency, no matter if it's special forces in covert operations, outdoor enthusiasts prepping for an adventure, or shooters at the shooting range.

Our guide explores the significance and versatility of tactical vests and in order to  give you the information needed to pick the right tactical vest for your needs!

tactical vest

What Is a Tactical Vest?

The tactical vest is a type of protective clothing that is used in the military and by law enforcement officers, sometimes even by tactical enthusiasts who are dressed in similar types of clothing for tactical activities like paintball or airsoft.

Tactical vests are primarily designed for protection and functionality. They include multiple pockets and pouches utilized for carrying different tactical gear like ammunition, radios, flashlights, and medical supplies.

In fact, many of these tactical vests come designed with the featured modular system, like MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment), where users can attach various pouches and accessories according to the mission or activity at hand.

tactical vest

Types of Tactical Vests

While all tactical vests serve the fundamental purpose of carrying equipment, the design and functionality differ based on specific needs and scenarios. Let's get into the various types, shedding light on their unique features and uses.

1. Carrier Vests

Carrier vests, also known as plate carrier vests, are designed to hold ballistic plates and provide maximum protection against gunfire and shrapnel. They are often used by military personnel and law enforcement officers in high-risk environments.

Key Features:

  • Ballistic Protection: Capable of holding ceramic, steel, or polyethylene plates.
  • MOLLE Webbing: For attaching pouches and accessories.
  • Adjustability: Straps and buckles for a secure fit.
  • Durability: Constructed from high-strength materials like nylon or Kevlar.

2. Load-Bearing Vests (LBVs)

Load-bearing vests focus on carrying equipment rather than providing ballistic protection. They are commonly used by hikers, hunters, and outdoor adventurers.

Key Features:

  • Multiple Pockets and Pouches: For carrying essential gear.
  • MOLLE Webbing: For customization and attachment of additional pouches.
  • Lightweight Design: Prioritizes mobility and comfort.
  • Adjustability: To accommodate different body sizes and clothing layers.

3. Crossdraw Vests

These vests come equipped with a built-in holster and multiple pouches for magazines and other essentials. They're structured for quick access to weapons and are often used in shooting ranges and tactical training scenarios.

In addition to firearm essentials, the vest's pouches are versatile enough to accommodate other gear, such as various tactical knives, enhancing its utility in diverse scenarios.

Key Features:

  • Integrated Holsters: For carrying sidearms.
  • Ammunition Pouches: For quick access to magazines.
  • MOLLE Webbing: For attaching additional gear.
  • Adjustability: For a customized fit.

4. Tactical MOLLE Vest

Emphasizing modularity, these vests use the MOLLE system to allow users to attach a wide variety of pouches, holsters, and other gear, tailoring the layout to their specific needs.

It’s a versatile pick, suitable for multiple scenarios, from military operations to outdoor adventures.

tactical vest

5. Concealed Carry Vests

Concealed carry vests are designed for covert operations, allowing users to discreetly carry firearms and other equipment without drawing attention.

Key Features:

  • Discreet Design: Blends with civilian clothing.
  • Internal Pockets: For concealed carry of firearms and gear.
  • Lightweight and Comfortable: Suitable for everyday wear.
  • Versatility: Can be used in various non-tactical environments.

6. Tactical Fishing Vests

Tactical fishing vests are designed for anglers, providing numerous pockets and features specifically for fishing gear.

Key Features:

  • Multiple Pockets: For storing fishing tackle and tools.
  • Rod Holders: For hands-free fishing.
  • Adjustability: For a secure and comfortable fit.
  • Breathable Fabric: To keep cool during long fishing trips.

Choosing the right tactical vest is imperative. The right vest can enhance mobility, provide protection, and offer quick access to gear, making tasks more efficient and safer.


For those who use tactical vests as part of their concealed carry strategy, understanding the legal requirements is crucial. Learn more about how to get a concealed carry permit for all states, ensuring you're well-informed and compliant with the law.

Tactical Vest - Top 5 Picks for 2024

In order to help you find a perfect tactical vest for men or women, we've sifted through the vast array and handpicked a few that stand out for their features and overall performance.

Tactical Vest #1 - Tasmanian Tiger Chest Rig MKII M4

The Tasmanian Tiger Chest Rig MKII M4 is a lightweight tactical vest that distinguishes itself with a universal harness design, aiming for adaptability and functionality.

Made of durable CORDURA 700 den, it balances weight at 39oz / 1.1kg, ensuring users don't feel bogged down. The five magazine pouches at the front emphasize utility, ensuring ammunition is always within grasp.

This lightweight tactical vest also comes equipped with two versatile side pockets, perfect for a US 1-liter water bottle, and a fold-out pocket designed explicitly for armor plates.

User comfort is prioritized with adjustable padded straps, while the MOLLE System on essential areas guarantees customization.

best tactical vest

Tactical Vest #2 - Emerson LAVC Assault Tactical Vest MOLLE Quick Release Plate Carrier Body Armor

Craftsmanship meets innovation in the Emerson LAVC Assault Vest. With material options ranging from US Crye Precision Multicam Cordura 500D Nylon Fabric to others, it offers diversity in appearance while maintaining quality.

The vest, while being durable and water-resistant, emphasizes user comfort with its interior air mesh padding, ensuring ventilation and protection.

Usability stands out with features like a quick-release cummerbund, laser-cut MOLLE, and an essential emergency drag handle, all testifying to its design thoughtfulness.

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Tactical Vest #3 - GFIRE Tactical Vest

A fusion of elegance and efficiency, the GFIRE Tactical Vest is a testament to detailed craftsmanship. Composed of high-quality 1000D fabric paired with high-tensile strength thread, it promises durability.

Comfort remains at the forefront with its breathable 3D mesh padding, ensuring a pleasant wearing experience. What adds to its appeal is the MOLLE system, rapid-open connectors, and a distinctive cummerbund design, enhancing both utility and protection.

Moreover, its adjustability from sizes S to XXXL ensures a broad spectrum of users find their perfect fit.

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Tactical Vest #4 - Omega Elite™ Tactical Vest #1

With the insights and recommendations of elite operators, the Omega Elite Tactical Vest #1 exudes confidence in its utility and resilience. Its nylon mesh construction promises durability without compromising breathability.

Features like the adjustable length and girth, heavy-duty YKK® zipper, and reinforced drag handle underline its premium nature. The vest also boasts two sizable internal accessory pockets, diverse mag pouches, and the innovative S.T.R.I.K.E.® webbing, promising versatility in storage and customization.

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Tactical Vest #5 - HUNTVP Military Tactical Vest Outdoor Army MOLLE Combat Assault Plate Carrier

HUNTVP’s offering is not just a military vest but an emblem of style blended with robustness. Made from 600D nylon, it vouches for longevity. Its unique selling points include four detachable pouches, an efficient MOLLE system, and plate accommodations.

Furthermore, safety is amplified with a quick-release cable, ensuring emergency removals are seamless. This military vest stands as a versatile piece, catering to a variety of activities.

best tactical vest

What To Look For When Buying a Tactical Vest

Now, to simplify the process of finding and purchasing the best tactical vest, here are the key elements you should consider before making that all-important decision.

1. Material and Durability

At the core of any tactical vest lies its material. The durability and longevity of a vest predominantly depend on the quality of the fabric used. It's not just about buying a tactical vest; it's about investing in one.

High-quality materials, such as Cordura, Kevlar 1000D nylon, ensure the vest withstands rigorous conditions, making it imperative to prioritize the vest's material.

Also, ensure the stitching is robust and can handle heavy loads without tearing.

2. Purpose and Use

Determine the primary purpose of the vest.

  • Military or Law Enforcement: If you're in the military or law enforcement, you need a vest that can hold ballistic plates for protection against firearms and shrapnel. Look for features like reinforced stitching, durability, and the ability to integrate with other tactical gear.
  • Outdoor Activities: For activities like hunting focus on load-bearing vests that offer ample storage without the need for ballistic protection. These vests should be lightweight, breathable, and equipped with various pockets for carrying essentials.
  • Concealed Carry: Choose vests designed for discreet weapon storage. Look for vests with internal holsters and pockets that don’t draw attention while providing quick access to your firearm.

3. Fit and Comfort

Comfort is crucial, especially for extended wear.

  • Adjustability: Ensure the vest has adjustable straps and buckles to customize the fit. This is important for wearing the vest over different layers of clothing and for users of varying body types.
  • Padding: Look for padded shoulders and a mesh lining. Padding reduces pressure points and increases comfort, while mesh linings improve breathability and reduce sweating.
  • Sizing: Tactical vests come in various sizes. Ensure you choose the correct size for your body type. Some vests offer universal sizing with adjustable straps to fit a wide range of body types

4. Protection Level

Consider the level of protection needed.

  • Ballistic Plates: For high-risk environments, choose vests that can accommodate ballistic plates. These plates are made from materials like ceramic, steel, or polyethylene and provide protection against bullets and shrapnel.
  • Soft Armor: For lower-risk scenarios, soft armor vests provide some protection without the bulk of hard plates. Soft armor is typically made from Kevlar or similar materials and offers protection against handgun rounds and fragments.

5. Storage and Organization

Evaluate the storage options based on your gear requirements.

  • Pockets and Pouches: The number and arrangement of pockets and pouches are critical. Consider what gear you need to carry and ensure the vest can accommodate it. Look for specialized pouches for magazines, radios, first aid kits, and other essential items.
  • MOLLE Webbing: MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing allows you to customize your vest by attaching additional pouches and accessories. This modular system provides flexibility and adaptability to different missions or activities.

6. Weight and Mobility

A balance between protection, storage, and mobility is essential.

  • Lightweight Design: A lighter vest reduces fatigue and improves mobility. This is particularly important for long missions or activities requiring a lot of movement.
  • Mobility: Ensure the vest does not restrict your range of motion. Tactical vests should allow for free movement of the arms and torso to perform tasks effectively.

7. Ease of Use

Quick and easy access to gear is essential.

  • Zippers and Velcro: High-quality zippers and Velcro closures are crucial for reliable and quick access to pockets and pouches. Ensure they are durable and easy to operate under stress.
  • Quick-Release Mechanism: For emergencies, a quick-release feature can be beneficial. This allows you to remove the vest rapidly in situations where you need to lighten your load or extract yourself quickly.

Additional Features

Features such as pocket placements, the extent of the MOLLE system, and compatibility with other gear are essential considerations. Whether it's a pouch for your map, space for armor plates, or an efficient quick-release system, the tiny details in a vest's design can enhance its overall functionality.

tactical vest

What Is the Difference between a Tactical Vest and Plate Carrier?

Tactical vest is primarily designed for gear storage, but also for protection. It offers multiple pouches and compartments for items like ammunition and radios. Made from durable materials, they emphasize utility and accessibility.

On the other hand, plate carriers - as the name implies, are crafted to house ballistic plates, offering protection against gunfire. While they can carry gear, their main focus is safety. They're typically more robust and heavier than tactical vests due to the protective plates.

Unlike the ability to customize your plate carrier to suit specific needs, tactical vests often come with predefined pouch placements and storage options, catering to a range of standard operational requirements.

In essence, while tactical vests prioritize carrying capacity, plate carriers emphasize ballistic protection.

What Is the Difference between a Tactical Vest and Body Armor?

The difference between a tactical vest and body armor is that body armor emphasizes personal protection (protects wearers from physical harm, especially ballistic threats), whereas tactical vests prioritize utility and gear organization.

What Goes Well With Tactical Vest?

Once you've selected the ideal tactical vest to suit your specific needs and scenarios, whether it's the mobility-focused Chest Rig or another type, the next step is to complete your tactical look. You can start with selecting your tactical hat or other complementary accessories that enhance both functionality and style.

TradeSmart Tactical Hat combines utility with comfort. Made from 100% cotton, it ensures a breathable fit, warding off itchiness and discomfort, making it suitable for prolonged wear.

The unique easy-clip closure, featuring a 3/4" buckle, not only assures a snug fit but also allows the hat to be attached to belts, backpacks, or tactical vests, always keeping it within reach.

TradeSmart Tactical Hat

TradeSmart Tactical Hat

With outdoor activities often leading to perspiration, the hat's moisture-wicking sweatband becomes invaluable, soaking up sweat and drying swiftly to minimize discomfort. This extremely thin sweatband, made from high-quality materials, ensures the hat can be comfortably worn with TradeSmart earmuffs, and still maintain a strong seal against noise leaks.

Durability is a hallmark of the TradeSmart hat; it's built to retain its shape and hue even after repeated washing.

Furthermore, it addresses a common grievance of many shooting enthusiasts – the pesky top button. Its ‘no-top-button design’ ensures you won’t feel any pain or discomfort caused by the button pushing into top of your head from the headband while wearing over-the-ear hearing protection. 

A boon for safety-conscious individuals, the hat is designed to be seamlessly paired with safety glasses. Plus, its ponytail-friendly architecture caters to a plethora of hairstyles, ensuring everyone gets a perfect fit.

For those wishing to personalize their hat, added Velcro patches enable customization.

Rounding it all off, a 2-year warranty signifies not just the product's quality but the brand's confidence in its offering.

Prime Try Before You Buy

Firearm Safety Course

Dovetailing with TradeSmart's commitment to safety and proficiency, our brand, renowned for its tactical gear, has introduced an innovative firearm training program – the TradeSmart Firearm Confidence Course.

Developed in collaboration with eminent industry specialists, this premium course is meticulously curated to offer an unparalleled understanding of firearms.

Spanning 10 exhaustive modules, each containing over 15 detailed lessons, participants receive over an hour of expert instruction. Esteemed gun safety instructors like Candy Sugarman, the powerhouse behind Gun Powder Gals, and Hunter Elliott of RangeHot.com, ensure a well-rounded and comprehensive learning experience.

From the foundational aspects to an all-encompassing 'Course Recap', the curriculum delves deep into topics like firearms classification, handgun operations, gun safety, ammunition intricacies, and special licenses, among others.

Firearm Confidence Course

This course doesn't just aim to educate but to instill confidence in firearm handling, reinforcing TradeSmart's unwavering dedication to safety and expertise.


In summary, the tactical vest remains an indispensable tool for individuals across various professions and passions. From military operatives to outdoor aficionados, the vest's blend of functionality and adaptability makes it a prime choice for those keen on efficiency and preparedness.

As with any piece of tactical gear, the key lies in understanding one's specific needs and ensuring the chosen vest aligns seamlessly with those requirements. The right vest, crafted from durable materials and tailored for the intended purpose, not only enhances the user's efficiency but can also provide an added layer of safety.

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