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I have to be honest: as a Navy guy, I am not always issued a plate carrier. When your command is the USS Underway, the only time you get armored up is with the security department’s oversized hand-me-down kit during a roving watch on the ship. Your duty is basically just to cruise the passageways looking for Seamen Horny and his Boat Bae getting some extra duty in the gear locker. But if you are lucky enough to be stationed with an expeditionary unit, chances are you will be issued a plate carrier, and I received my issued kit on day one when I served with Naval Special Warfare and got all the trimmings to get after it. On occasion, I would throw my vest on during our Friday PT sessions to earn some “I’m a total badass” points, and to add some intensity to whatever torture our Command Fitness Leader dreamed up. This is where I discovered the benefits of utilizing a tactical-style vest to improve fitness, as well as to become more physically and emotionally connected with the gear I would take downrange.
Enter the Wolf TacticalPlate Carrier Vest. Advertised as a plate carrier for both tactical and fitness use, the vest comes in at an MSRP of $119.99. My editor sent me this economically priced vest to throw down on some workouts, get uber tactical, and decide whether or not it lives up to the advertisement of being able to handle everything from “CrossFit to combat.” Here is how it stood up to what this Navy guy threw at it.
The Wolf Tactical Plate Carrier Vest comes shipped in a standard cardboard box, wrapped in clear plastic. Inside the plastic bag you find the plate carrier and a bifold detailing instructions of how to customize the fit and insert plates. In addition, the kit comes with a black, white, and red Wolf Tactical Velcro patch, adorned with the company’s geometric wolf logo. As a collector of patches, I appreciate the subtle addition.
The lightweight nylon vest measures 20 inches in height, and roughly 13 inches in width. There are front and back plate pockets that fit Wolf Tactical’s laser cut plates, SAPI ballistic armor, or any flat weight you put in (which I will get into later). The top portions of the vest have soft MOLLE panels for Velcro attachments, while the bottom portion is adorned with the traditional MOLLE panels. In the comfort department, there are light shoulder pads, and the inside of the vest has breathable mesh pads that raise the carrier slightly off your person. There is a large front pocket at the top of the plate carrier that Velcros shut and would fit anything you need quick access to. The carrier is strapped on with adjustable elastic waist straps, and the whole ensemble comes in at just 2.5 pounds.
I was impressed with the looks and feel of the vest, and everything about it looked premium, except for the waist straps which appear to be the least rugged of the whole kit. With the vest unboxed, it was finally time to put it through the rigors of testing.
How we tested the Wolf Tactical Plate Carrier Vest
The best way to find out if a vest is up to snuff for working out is to throw the Murph workout challenge at it. The legacy of Lt. Michael Murphy — a decorated Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient for his actions during the War in Afghanistan — lives on every time someone straps on a weighted vest and runs a mile; completes 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats; and then proceeds to run another mile. So, as an ode to Murph —and so you don’t have to — I chucked 20 pounds into the pockets and got after it. My ballistic armor was at the dry-cleaners, so I improvised with four standard five-pound Olympic size weights. The Velcro pockets snuggly wrapped around the circular plates and I was off, down the suburban street for my first mile.
Without getting more than a quarter-mile down the street, I could already tell this vest has a lot of action and movement when running. This got annoying to the point where I did start to run the next block with my hands holding the front plate carrier to minimize the jumping. Finding that even more annoying, I decided to just press on what remained of my first mile and dealt with the vest moving up and down with every stride.
Next up was a serious dose of calisthenic pain. The squats were a breeze, and I noticed no issues of impediments to movement. The vest’s armholes have plenty of room and allow for a great range of motion. The vest performed much better than other vests I have used for the push-ups because it is flat. Weighted vests that have sand or metal pills you stuff into slots mess with your angle when doing push-ups, but Wolf Tactical’s vest did none of that. Finally, I got to the pull-ups, and to no fault of the vest, it was a slog. With sweat now soaking the breathable pads on the inside of the vest, it created just enough tact to limit the movement up and down I experienced on the first mile. The second mile actually went better than the first. The only remaining issue I had to deal with was the staring faces of neighbors wondering what this crazy guy was up to running around suburbia in a tactical vest.
The weighted vest passed the Murph test like it was born to do it. My initial annoyance with the vest movement was met with acceptance. If you are running with your tactical vest on anyway, something has either gone wrong, or you are in a quick sprint to chase down a suspect where some movement in the vest should not affect your speed that much. So, the vest handled Crossfit, but would it handle combat?
I loaded up my vest with all the same attachments and gear I would take on a mission down-range. Magazine, radio pouches, as well as my trusty admin pouch because, as an intel nerd, that is my weapon of choice. All of my pouches went on easily, as the MOLLE loops are not sewn too tight, which I cannot stand on some gear. The laser-cut MOLLE on the upper half of the plate carrier that allows for Velcro pouches is very nice to the touch but probably would not withstand serious punishment in harsh environments over time. Just tugging on it with my finger a little bit has stretched the material out somewhat.
I ran through some dry-shooting drills and saw no reason why this vest would hinder shootin’ and scootin’ in any way. There was plenty of range in the shoulders, and the vest is light enough so that it would not exaggerate fatigue. My biggest issue with the vest would be if you encountered a worst-case scenario, it lacks some life-saving functionality. For one, there is no strap or handle for an emergency buddy-drag. You could always just pull on the shoulder straps, but those are Velcro and might pull off. Additionally, there is no quick-release capability to rapidly get the kit off your person if there is an injury in the field that needs attention. Not having these attributes makes me seriously question using the vest in a tactical situation. That being said, it performed every test I threw at it aptly.
What we like about the Wolf Tactical Plate Carrier Vest
Wolf Tactical’s vest is very reasonably priced compared to others on the market, which quickly get to over $200. For someone trying to get fit on a budget, Wolf Tactical’s plate carrier can be used with a pair of 10-pound standard Olympic-size weights into the pockets without having to shell out the additional $80 to $110 for the specially cut plates. Many reviewers on Amazon noted that other off-brand weight plates fit perfectly into the Wolf Tactical plate carrier as well. This type of versatility is not found in many other fitness-style carriers and is a selling point to me. If you are going to purchase some plates, I recommend you purchase some NJI ballistic-rated plates which will not only stop a bullet but also provide weight if you did want to use them in a fitness capacity. At 2.5 pounds, the vest is light, and completely adjustable to accommodate someone of almost any size. The nice deep pocket on the front has plenty of room for a phone, some wrist straps, or chalk. Having your straps and chalk on person when attempting to break a personnel record could be a difference-maker.
What we don’t like about the Wolf Tactical Plate Carrier Vest
The waist straps could be beefed up with a tougher fabric to protect the elastic. Your straps could become a liability if they get snagged on something sharp, melt from hot brass, or god forbid there is a fire, I cannot see them making it through. When I was running, there was some noticeable movement and bouncing around of the plate carrier. Every vest is going to move around some when you run, and while it did settle down once I started sweating, I have experienced less movement in plate carriers. The MOLLE panels on the top portions of the carrier have a Velcro-able exterior that is already getting stretched out a little, and down the road, I wonder if it will hold up to abuse. It does not have a quick release or a buddy carry strap, and those are things I would want in a tactical vest. If I go down, I want someone to know where to drag my wounded ass out from, and be able to rapidly remove the plate carrier to examine my wounds.
Wolf Tactical’s Plate Carrier is best suited for the gym or the range. Wear the vest when you are crushing reps with your bros, or practicing for a real fight. In a real-world application, I hesitate to recommend it because there are a few missing pieces I would want when the shit goes down. I also call into question the durability of the waist straps and the laser-cut MOLLE webbing. Hard repeated use of these two pieces could seriously complicate your mission when failure is not an option. However, for those looking to upgrade their workouts and maybe just dip their feet into the tactical waters, this would be a great entry-level purchase. Wolf Tactical’s Plate Carrier Vest is great for working out and just ok for tactical use.
FAQs the Wolf Tactical Adjustable Weighted Vest
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does Wolf Tactical’s Plate Carrier Vest cost?
Q. Does the plate carrier come with weight plates?
A. No it does not. Wolf Tactical and many other companies offer weight training plates that are NOT ballistically rated. If you are using the plate carrier for real-world applications, you will need to purchase NIJ-rated ballistic armor plates.
Q. Black cramps my style. Does Wolf Tactical offer other color options?
A. Yes, the plate carrier comes in black, multi-cam, multi-cam black, navy, OD green, and tan.
Q. Is Wolf Tactical’s Plate Carrier Vest made in the U.S.A.?
A. The company is based in the U.S.A., but I am still unsure where the vest is made, there is no tag to indicate the place of origin.
Q. How much are Wolf Tactical’s laser cut weight inserts?
A. A 5.75-pound pair is $79.99, an 8.75-pound pair is $89.99, and the 14.5-pound inserts cost $109.99.
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Dan Caywood serves in the U.S. Navy. He is a husband, father, adventure seeker, and fixer of things around his house. He currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The opinions expressed in his reviews are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.