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A simple way to ramp up your bodyweight and cardio workouts is to strap up with one of the best weighted vests on the market. By adding weighted resistance to simple exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, running, and squats, you can increase that exercise’s relative intensity1, which can help improve your cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

Plate carriers and weighted vests take their design from tactical vests, so much so that many plate carriers double as weighted vests—such as the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier. With a drag handle, MOLLE platform for tools, and airflow panels, there’s a lot of utility to this vest.

But does utility lend itself over to being a good weighted vest for fitness? GGR founder Coop Mitchell has used this plate carrier for about two years now; in this 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier review, I’ll go into his thoughts on this weighted vest, its highs and lows, and who might best be suited for this piece of gym equipment. 

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Coop has trained with the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier for about two years in various workouts and cardio exercises at home. While using the vest, Coop has become acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of this tactical vest for fitness. He rated the plate carrier 1 to 5 in multiple aspects, such as:

  • Materials and durability
  • Adjustments and comfort
  • Breathability
  • Performance
  • Weight capacity
  • Overall value

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

GGR Score: 4.1 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 4.8 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Made from an ultra-durable, water-resistant 500D nylon
  • Uniquely designed to give the wearer an increased range of motion
  • Breathable

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Designed to give user increased range of motion
  • Can hold plates in front and back
  • Shoulder pads reduce friction

Cons

  • Weight plates can make it expensive
  • Vest costs more than $200
  • Cut very tight

Bottom Line

The 5.11 Vest does a great job of providing breathability, comfort, and a secure lockdown for the vest we believe is the best available.

A Quick Look at the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

Starting in 2003, 5.11 Tactical has emphasized purpose-driven gear, providing police, military, and first responders—along with outdoor hikers and adventurers—with tactical gear, ranging from backpacks, footwear, accessories, body armor, and plate carriers.

The 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier was developed originally for those on duty, able to fit medium and large ESAPI plates—ballistic plates able to protect users from rifle shots. However, many fitness gurus and CrossFitters realized these armor plate carriers could mimic weighted vests with weight plates inserted into the carrier.

Coop holding up the 5.11 TacTec PLate Carrier

These carrier vests became wildly popular in the CrossFit community, so much so that 5.11 Tactical redesigned the vest for CrossFit workouts, able to support Rogue Fitness weight vest plates. Furthermore, 5.11 Tactical even became a sponsor for the CrossFit Games for a few years, and athletes used the weighted vest for Murph in the 2015 and 2016 CrossFit Games.

The updated plate carrier is designed to allow for extended movement and for breathability. The vest is constructed out of high-quality 500D nylon, and still has many features you’d see in a carrier vest for law enforcement or military:

  • A front pocket admin pouch with a hook-and-loop closure 
  • A grabdrag handle that can be used to pull someone out of an emergency situation (think pulling someone out of a fire) 
  • A quick release cable system that can break the vest down quickly
  • A MOLLE system, allowing you to attach tools, knives, mag pouches, and more to your vest

While that’s great for first responders on the clock, fitness enthusiasts might not get much out of these extra features.

Before You Buy

  • Although the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier is one size, the skeleton waistband cummerbund and shoulder straps can be adjusted to fit you better. Larger athletes (above an extra-large) may need to purchase a waistband extender, however.
  • The plate carrier vest doesn’t come with weighted vest plates, so you’ll have to factor those plates into your budget, on top of the $215 price tag.
  • If you’re not looking for the added bells and whistles for operators, 5.11 Tactical has a trainer’s vest streamlined just for fitness, at a much lower cost of $135.

Is the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier Worth It?

The TacTec Plate Carrier is made with durability and functionality in mind, making it a great tool for military and law enforcement. However, that also makes it a pricier vest, costing $215. You’re paying for a lot of the bells and whistles that come with it, but for most fitness enthusiasts, there’s not a lot of utility for many of those tools.

By comparison, the Rogue Plate Carrier is a streamlined version of a plate carrier, which makes it a bit more breathable, and has less material on it. Because of that, it’s less burdensome and less expensive—only $130.

Coop agrees; the market has changed since the TacTec carrier vest first came out for fitness use. Having used this for many WODs and runs over the past couple of years, he rates the value a 3 out of 5, saying, “It’s well made, but talking about value…there are many options I’d choose over it.”

Great for:

  • Law enforcement and military
  • Those wanting a heavy-duty, durable weighted vest
  • People who already have weighted vest plates

Not recommended for:

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier Specs

Price$215
Vest typePlate carrier
Weight rangeFits medium and large ESAPI weight vest plates
Material500D nylon
Size optionsOne size
Color optionsBlack, Storm, Kangaroo, MultiCam, Ranger Green, Dark Navy 

Using the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

GGR founder and longtime fitness aficionado Coop Mitchell has used the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier on and off for the past two years, for just about anything you can imagine: running, walking, push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. Unless you’re using a plate-loaded weight vest, these are the typical bodyweight movements and cardio movements you’ll perform with a weighted vest.

RELATED: Kensui EZ-Vest Weighted Vest Review

Even with the oversized airflow channels and breathable construction made to help increase your range of motion, Coop feels it’s still a bit clunky. “It’s overly bulky, since it was originally designed for operators and to hold ballistics—not as gym equipment,” Coop explains. “It looks cool if you’re into the vibe, but there are better weight vests designed more for fitness and less to be ‘tacticool,’” he adds.

Man wearing the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

Overall, he gives the secureness and performance a 3 out of 5, saying that, “If you’re smaller it probably won’t feel great, especially on runs.” Coop also warns that although the multi-Velcro system keeps the vest in place, Velcro does wear out over time.

Materials and Durability

This is where the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier really shines. Made from a durable 500D nylon, the plate carrier is made for professional operators, so it’s made to last through adverse conditions. The updated build allows for enhanced comfort as well, which helps, especially the padding on the shoulder straps. 

Coop rates the durability a 5 out of 5, simply saying, “It’s a great quality build; it’ll last a long time.” Even after using his weighted vest for two years, it still is very solid.

Man adjusting the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier review

The updated plate carrier is made to be more breathable, with airflow channels and a mesh fabric. It does improve upon the previous model, leading Coop to rate the plate carrier’s breathability a 4 out of 5. However, he does add, “Overall, it’s still not all that great.”

Weight Capacity

The weight vest weighs 2.5 pounds by itself, but allows for weighted vest plates, such as those made by Rogue Fitness, to be placed in the front and back of the vest. Rogue’s plates are available in 5-, 7.5-, 10-, and 20-pound pairs, allowing for 10 to 40 pounds of extra weight on the plate carrier. The weight vest also accepts most weighted vest plates (shaped like armor plates), allowing for the possibility of a versatile weight range…if you purchase all of the different plates.

Man posing with the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

With that in mind, you can get a pair of plates that’ll suit your training and still have plenty of versatility while in use, earning the TacTec Plate Carrier a 4 out of 5.

Adjustability and Comfort

The TacTec Plate Carrier earns a 3 out of 5 for its adjustments and comfort, mostly due to its one-size-fits-most approach to the weighted vest. Even though the plate carrier comes in one size, there is a cummerbund (called a skeleton waistband) that wraps around your waist to help secure the vest. Additionally, the shoulder padding can be adjusted to help secure the weighted vest around your chest and torso.

Again, the issue here lies in the overall bulkiness of the plate carrier. “The padding on the yoke straps is nice, but it adds more fabric to the body, making it hotter,” Coop adds. “It will fit a lot of people fine, but it does move around a bit during more dynamic movements.”

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier vs Rogue Plate Carrier

Rogue Plate Carrier

Rogue Plate Carrier

GGR Score: 4.7 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Designed specifically for use in functional fitness scenarios
  • Very reasonably priced at around $130
  • Durable but comfortable

Made in USA Made in USA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Designed specifically for use in functional fitness scenarios
  • Made in the USA
  • Very reasonably priced at around $130
  • Durable but comfortable

Cons

  • Could have thicker shoulder padding for long-term wear
  • If you get the wrong size, it’ll definitely jostle while running (measure!)
  • Steel plates sold separately

Bottom Line

The Rogue Plate Carrier is our best-rated weighted vest largely due to its value proposition.

The Rogue Plate Carrier is made with fitness in mind, and it’s notable when compared to the utility-based TacTect Plate Carrier. The Rogue carrier vest is bare bones, with a streamlined design to keep the vest lightweight and breathable. 

There is a simple velcro strap to wrap around your waist, shoulder straps that will secure the vest to you, and the vest body is made to be just large enough for weight plates.

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier hanging next to Rogue Plate Carrier

All those little differences add up in a big way when comparing the price. At $130, the Rogue Plate Carrier comes in at close to $100 cheaper than the TacTec carrier, making it the clear pick when comparing these two weighted vests. Unless you need the tactical tools and add-ons of the 5.11 TacTec vest, I’d recommend the Rogue Plate Carrier.

Check out our Rogue Plate Carrier review for an in-depth look at this sleek weighted vest.

5.11 TacTec Plate CarrierRogue Plate Carrier
Price$215$135
Vest typePlate carrierPlate carrier
Weight rangeFits medium and large ESAPI platesHolds up to 2 20-lb plates
Material500D nylon1000D and 500D Cordura
Size optionsOne sizeSmall, medium, large
Color optionsBlack, Storm, Kangaroo, MultiCam, Ranger Green, Dark Navy Black, Coyote Brown, Gray, Ranger Green

Customer Experience

TacTec items are built to last, and they back it up with a limited lifetime warranty for their plate carrier, earning the company a 5 out of 5 for customer service and experience. Along with this, the company offers a hefty 90-day return policy, allowing for carriers that are in the original, unworn condition to be returned for a refund. There are multiple ways to contact the company—phone, email, and a live chat function.

Ordering and Assembling the 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

The 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier comes fully assembled. “All you need to add is your weight plates,” Coop says. The plate carrier can be ordered directly from the 5.11 Tactical website, and you’ll get free shipping on orders over $99—which the plate carrier will easily qualify for. Financing is also available through Affirm.

Customer Reviews

As of this writing, there are 124 reviews on 5.11 Tactical’s website for the TacTec Plate Carrier, averaging a strong 4.8 stars out of 5. Most reviews are positive, with many reviews saying the materials are durable and the fit of the vest is decent.

The few complaints are also about the fit, however. One reviewer in particular wished that the vest was a little longer, as it doesn’t cover their torso fully. Another reviewer simply says that the vest was too loose and bounced when they ran.

Final Verdict of Our 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier Review

The 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier is a well-constructed weighted vest with a lot of solid materials. With a myriad of tactical bonuses—like a drag handle, MOLLE system, and airflow panels—the vest makes for a solid tactical plate carrier. However, for fitness and workouts, the vest is bulkier and hotter than other weighted vests, plus it’s an expensive plate carrier. Other weighted vests may better suit your needs.

Still, if you want a durable plate carrier with a lot of tactical tools and add-ons, the TacTec is worth a look.

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier Rating

5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

This once was the gold standard for weighted vests. In our 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier review, we see if this plate carrier still stands up to the competition.

Product Brand: 5.11 Tactical

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 215

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.1
Weight Capacity and Versatility – 4
Adjustability and Comfort – 3
Materials and Durability – 5
Breathability – 4
Secureness and Performance – 3
Value – 3
Customer Service – 5
Customer Reviews – 4.8
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5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier: FAQs

Is CrossFit really for everyone?

CrossFit workouts can be scaled and modified to accommodate a variety of skill levels and needs, from beginners to advanced. Because of the amount of personalization, CrossFit can be made to work for just about anyone. That said, high-intensity workouts like CrossFit may not be a preferred method of working out for some people; some may prefer general strength training or cardio-focused workouts. However you wish to train, the important thing is to do it! 

How much weight can you put in a 5.11 TacTec?

The 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier can support ESAPI plate inserts, as well as Rogue weight vest plates—made in the USA. Most weight vest plates go as heavy as 20 pounds, meaning the TacTec can have about 40 pounds of weight added to it.

What plate carrier does the US army use?

The US Army uses the Soldier Plate Carrier System (SPCS), which is commercially called the KDH Magnum TAC-1. It was specially developed for the Army to provide as much, if not more, protection as their previous carrier: the Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

References

  1. Puthoff, M. L., Darter, B. J., Nielsen, D. H., & Yack, H. J. (2006). The effect of weighted vest walking on metabolic responses and ground reaction forces. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 38(4), 746–752. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000210198.79705.19

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