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[How-To] Set Up the Best Battle Belt & Plate Carrier

You ever get low-key jealous of a superhero’s gear loadout? Grappling hooks, batarangs, utility belts…all part of a super load out.

We may not all have Batman’s bankroll, but what all can do is set ourselves up for success just like the Caped Crusader did. 

Joker Toys Meme
Wouldn’t you like to know?

Understanding how to set up a battle belt and plate carrier kit properly is exactly that — making sure you have everything you need to come out ahead while not bogging yourself down with unnecessary items.

Ferro Concepts Rig Front
Modern day Batman unlocked.

The key is going to be figuring out what you need to accomplish before you set out…as cliché as it sounds, missions dictate load-outs!

If you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of accessories and kits, you’ve probably felt the anxiety of being so totally overwhelmed you have no idea where to start.

Breathing paper bag
Yeah the world of “kits” can have you feeling like…

Yeah, we’ve all been there, my friend. So, we’re keeping you off the anti-anxiety meds and brining all the good stuff right to you.

In this article, we’re talk about why you want a kickass battled belt/plate carrier, what you can use it for, and we’ll even recommend some things you might want on it.

So let’s get started!

Table of Contents


LARPers and Range Commandos…Oh My!

As stated, your mission dictates your loadout, so what constitutes a mission?

Some common missions for the everyday gun owner are easy. 

First, you have your range time. A trip to the range, magazines, ammo, and a firearm can make for a wonderful time. Adding some pieces of a kit can make it not only fun but a start to developing into a gunfighter. 

3. RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster in Desert
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster in Desert

Live-action role-playing isn’t just for the sci-fi and fantasy crowd anymore. Call it goofy, but clearing my house in full kit is another drill I do to try and stay sharp.

Monty Python Holy Grail
Me n’ the boys out on a weekend LARP

Sure, I may get surprised looks from the mailman when I open the door with a plate carrier and helmet on, and my wife has burned some calories laughing at me…but that’s ok. 

Laugh gif
My wife, every time she sees me headed for the gear closet? Yes.

There is a point to doing this besides looking good on Instagram.

Simply put, wearing plates changes things. Unless you get comfortable and adjust to those changes, it may be a bad day if you ever need them. 

John Instagram Star (3)
Okay, but lookin’ good for the ‘gram is what we DO.

Belts, chest rigs — and in some cases, plate carriers — are also great for competition shooting and hunting.

Being able to store more ammo, utility pouches, or a place to securely stash spent magazines is wonderful. 

Minimizing extra movement, finding that economy of motion, and focusing on getting your gun running quickly are things that can drop split times.

They can also mean the difference between taking home some meat on a hunt or not. 

Lead Free Ammo Bird Hunting
If you’re not geared up for your hunt, you’re not ready!

Belts: Not Just a Fashionable Accessory Anymore

Everyone wears belts, so we may as well start here. 

In terms of “battle belts,’‘ there are two main types: single belts and multi-belt systems.

Both styles have some great offerings, so it boils down to which is going to be right for you. 

Arbor Arms SALT Belt
Arbor Arms SALT Belt

Single Belts

Single belts, with or without a padded sleeve, are easier to set up. They also are widely popular and great for tossing on in a hurry.

Belts like the ones High Speed Gear offers are great examples of single-belt setups.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A newer product creating a lot of buzz — the Good’Nuff Gun Belt from Arbor Arms.

at Arbor Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Just keep in mind that if your body size changes drastically (gaining or losing weight), you will have to replace the entire belt with single-bet rigs.

If you have plans to lose your Quarantine 15 (or 20… 30…don’t judge), you might want to do it before you drop big bucks on a single-belt setup.


Multi-belt systems add more than just layers. With multi-belt systems, you gain the ability to doff outer belts in a pinch, swap to different setups in a hurry, and have better weight distribution across the belt. 

You’ll feel like you’ve got some serious bat-bucks backing you as you switch and swap around your outer belts to meet your needs.  

at Ferro Concepts

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Three belts worth checking out are the Ferro Concepts Bison Belt, The Blue Force Gear CHLK Belt, and the Arbor Arms Salt Belt (which is available padded or not).

All three utilize some form of inner belt, woven between the belt loops of your pants, then an outer belt (sometimes with a third belt inside the molle belt for more rigidity) that attaches to the inner. 

at Blue Force Gear

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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While not as fast to initially get on as a single-belt system, multi-belts allow for rapid transition from one outer belt to another if set up beforehand. 

at Arbor Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A great example of this is on the range.

If you shoot multiple guns and stage outer belts with loaded mags. That way, you can swap from one to another. It’s as easy as pulling the outer belt off and attaching the new one. 

Pimp Your Waistline

The big reason to run a battle belt is the ability to customize your loadout to meet your end goal. 

As each person’s desired outcome is different, I can’t write out what you “should” have on your belt, as things may or more not work for you. 

Shotgun Battle Belt 8
Shotgun Battle Belt — Great for scatter guns, not ideal for like…anyone else.

What I can do is talk about components, functions, and when you might find a use for them. 

One quick note: I am a right-handed shooter, and as such my layout will be from that perspective.

If you are a lefty, swap everything to the opposite position, and cry for the state of your wallet.

one lefty friendly
At least Glock loves you, ya left-handed weirdos! 😉


We are gun owners, so no belt is going to be set up without a holster of some sort. 

Assorted Safariland Holsters
Assorted Safariland Holsters

For battle belts, the most popular ones on the market come from Safariland and G-Code.

There are a ton of other options out there, so find a quality Kydex holster that fits your belt — some might require MOLLE attachments while others can fit on an inner belt. 

True North MHA
True North MHA

If you are looking for modularity, I cannot recommend the True North Concepts Modular Holster Adapter (MHA) enough.

It is a noticeable improvement in terms of rigidity over Safariland or G-Code and can work with either.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I run this just slightly forward of my right hip, just shy of 3 o’clock, with True North’s MHA leg strap kit to prevent movement while I’m running around.

True North MHA
True North MHA

Mag Pouches

Your gun is no good if it runs out of ammo.

Carrying spare magazines on your belt is going to be almost mandatory in any situation. 

Bravo Concealment, Glock 17 with TLR-1 and Mag Pouch
Bravo Concealment, Glock 17 with TLR-1 and Mag Pouch

Some people like to run only pistol magazines on their belt while others like a mix of pistol and rifle.

I generally run two pistol magazines and one rifle magazine on my belt, but you will have to determine your needs.

Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig Mag Pouches
Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig Mag Pouches

There are two main concerns with magazine pouches: retention and accessibility.

You want the pouch to hold your magazines snuggly so they don’t fly out while you are moving. By that same token, you don’t want them to have such a vice grip that you cannot easily pull things out to use them. 

The two products I’ve seen check both these boxes consistently are the Esstac KYWI which is available in a huge number of configurations, and the High Speed Gear Taco Pouches

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Regardless of what you choose, run it on the opposite side as your firearm so your support hand can easily access your magazines.

Dump Pouch

Dump pouches may not see use in every setup, but they’re worth mentioning.

They are designed as a bag to hold empty magazines or other gear you need to “dump” so it isn’t in the way. 

Arbor Arms Dump Pouch
Arbor Arms Dump Pouch

An ideal dump pouch should be able to roll up or fold up to minimize their space when not in use. 

Great examples come from companies like Tactical Tailor, Blue Force Gear, and Arbor Arms

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This is typically going to be run above your support hand butt cheek, but move it around and find someplace comfortable for you.

Med Kit

A med kit is probably the most important piece of gear you can own, as it is useful in more situations than anything else. 

Too many tourniquets? No such thing!

Your med kit should have a tourniquet, a chest seal, some sort of wound packing gauze, and some shears, at the very least.

You should honestly have much more but know your skill limits. (If you need to get spun up on training, check out Best First Aid Classes: Beginner & Intermediate.)

Having a good IFAK or first aid kit in your car is a wise plan but you also need to carry a tourniquet on your body. If you have an EDC you can also have an EDC TQ.
Having a good IFAK or first aid kit on you is a MUST.

Some people run their med kits mounted to their belt, I prefer to use a fanny pack style. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. 

If you go belt mounted, make sure it has some sort of feature to allow quick access or detachment.

Great examples of this are the Coyote Tactical S.T.O.M.P., the Raptor Tactical MIFAK, the 3C GSW with Vanquest Pouch, or the Cro Medical Tear-Away Hybrid

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

For fanny pack style medkits, make sure they have some method of detaching the strap quickly, or if possible a second way to attach the kit to you.

Probably the two best examples of fanny pack style kits are the Cro Medical Hybrid IFAK and the Arbor Arms Medical Nut Ruck

at Arbor Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

With regards to tourniquets, carry as many as possible without negatively impacting movement.

Have your tourniquets staged and ready for deployment — not in a jumbled mess.

Neat, folded, tucked into a holder or a pocket where you can get at it easily.

Best Tourniquets
Best tourniquets we’ve tested.

To that effect, a tourniquet holder mounted to your belt is a great addition.

I prefer the horizontal mounts so they don’t snag on things or jab you while you’re moving around. 

Great examples to check out are the Soileater BMTH or the Blue Force Tourniquet NOW! Strap


Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Other Odds and Ends

This is by no means an all-encompassing list of things to throw on your belt, but rather the more necessary ones that will fit most purposes. 

Other things to consider throwing on a belt include a knife, utility clip for holding gloves or hearing protection, more magazine pouches, or any specific items you need for a job (breacher’s pouch, more med gear, etc.).  

best edc knives
Knives! Never leave home without one!

Nalgene bottle holders and canteens are also seeing a lot of popularity in belt-mounted holders. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

You’ll have to take a hard look at what you think you’ll need and then figure out how to make it work. 

Plates Aren’t Just for Holding Food

The second major part of your kit is going to be a plate carrier of some sort.

The most popular ones on the market today offer a high degree of modularity to allow the end-user to configure them to meet the needs of the job at hand. 

Velocity Level IV Plates
Velocity Level IV Plates

Look for carriers that will fit the size plates you need, which will depend on your body shape and size. Also, opt for ones that are easily customized and durable. 

Crye Chest Rig with Spiritus Systems Pouches
Crye Plate Carrier with Spiritus Systems Pouches

The most popular ones today include the Crye JPC 2.0, the Spiritus Systems LV-119, the Ferro Concepts Slickster, and the Tactical Tailor Rogue.

For the folks out there who want something a little more price-friendly while still being able to do the job in a pinch, the Arbor Arms Minuteman is worth considering.

Worth noting, it lacks some of the options the other offerings on the list will get you.  

at LA Police Gear

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

As with the belt build-out section, there are too many options to cover in one article when it comes to mounting things to your carrier.

I will again include some basics to look at where they might be positioned, but it is up to you to decide what you need in the end.

Crye Chest Rig with Spiritus Systems Pouches
Crye Plate Carrier with Spiritus Systems Pouches


The term plate carrier isn’t just a catchy name, they are made to hold armor plates.

If you don’t think you are going to be wearing plates, a chest rig is likely better suited for you. 

Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig In Action
Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig In Action

Plates come in different ratings (NIJ-certified plates) as well as special threats.

(See our hands-on body armor testing to learn more!)

8x10 Body Armor Plate
Whatever plate you wear, it needs to sit with the top at your collar bone!

Special threat armor is rated for specific rounds, for example, 5.56, .308, 7.62×39 but may not stop 30.06 like level 4 armor.

The draw with these plates is stopping the most common rounds without going overboard. 

Steel plates are not only heavy but often have some pretty harsh repercussions that are just as bad as being shot without armor. Like spalling. Ouch. 

So, ceramic plates are the current go-to.

RTS Ceramic vs AR500 Plate Thickness
RTS Ceramic vs AR500 Plate Thickness

Both Hesco and Hoplite offer some truly outstanding plates in a variety of ratings and configurations.

If you need to save a bit of money on your plates, AT Armor also offers their brand with a bit of saving without sacrificing quality. 

at AR500

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Front Panels

Most carriers you will come across leave the front left bare to allow for load out specific panels or placards. 

1. Original Ferro Slickster with Spiritus Microfight
Original Ferro Slickster with Spiritus Microfight

For range work, training classes, or to fight off the zombie hordes, you’ll want some sort of ability to mount magazine pouches.

One option is to go with a MOLLE panel like Crye offers for their JPC carriers, which allows you to mount any pouches you like.

Once again Esstac is a great option to mount to MOLLE panels. 

at Esstac

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Another option is to get a placard to mount to your carrier.

Items like the Spiritus Mk4 Micro Fight or the Haley Strategic D3CRM Micro allow a combination of magazine pouches, an admin pouch, and potentially more to be mounted all in one spot. 

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

These placards will often have their own magazine pouches to run with them or require aftermarket products to make others work.

A great example of that is the RASP by Scissor Runner Solutions. This custom front flap panel (similar to what Spiritus offers for their Mk4) features an angled molle webbing to attach a mag pouch for quick and easy reloads. 

Side Panels

Some form of side pouch to hold smaller plates is going to be available for the majority of carriers on the market. 

Side Plates Body Armor
Side plates may be standard issue in the military, but you don’t have to use them in your rig!

Whether or not you need side plates is a personal decision. They add weight and bulk but may be necessary depending on the task.

The other option: add pouches or items on the sides of your carrier, attaching directly to the cummerbund. 

Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig Right Side Profile
Crye Precision AirLite Chest Rig with pouches mounted on the cummerbund

One thing to bear in mind if you are a right-handed shooter. You will need to leave enough space on your right side.

Why? To allow your pistol to clear the carrier when you draw.

Don’t bog down your right side and inhibit the use of your sidearm.

On your non-pistol side, you might consider a radio pouch, knife sheaths, admin pouches, or pouches to hold specific rounds (like adding shotgun shell holders).

Honestly, the options are pretty much endless, so have fun with it.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Radio pouches, like Crye and Blue Force, accommodate a variety of radios while mounting securely.

If you do plan to run a radio, consider adding a push to talk. Pair that with a holder and mount it near the top of your chest for easy use. *chhck* Over.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

On your pistol side, you may want to leave the area blank. If you do choose to run something, a soft and collapsible pouch, similar to the Blue Force Ten Speed, is a great option.

One of these means you can stage magazines without compromising your pistol draw.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Back Panel

Anything you attach to your back on your plate carrier is for use by others.

I’ve seen guys load up back panels with items they needed to use frequently, only to realize they have to remove their carriers to reach things. Whoops…

Rather than attaching it directly to your carrier, consider something like a Haley Flatpack or the Twin Needle Mini MAP. These packs allow for items easy access.

They are also small enough that a full-size rucksack/large bag can still be worn over them.

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Whether you run an actual back panel or a pack, hydration is typically going to be carried on your back in some sort of pocket or panel. 

The IcePlate Curve, as well as the Camelbak Reservoir, are amongst the most popular options for this.

If you plan on being out for extended periods or in direct heat, hydration is something that cannot be skipped. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Many people also run a secondary med kit on their back. 

This serves two purposes: first, if the person carrying it is injured, it allows someone else to quickly access items to use.

Second, if running in a team or group, it allows for a medic to grab a kit and use it as needed.

Keep in mind that bulk on your back can make sitting against a seat or terrain uncomfortable. So, you want something that will be flat when packed.

The Blue Force Trauma Kit Now and the 3C GSW Kit are both great examples of a minimal footprint while still securing everything you need. 

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What Else Do You Need?

There are still many options you can toss on a plate carrier that serve functions other than looking cool. 

Running a radio with a push to talk? Why not use a PTT leash to keep it on your kit? 

What about a phone, GPS, or other electronic navigating system…but make it hands-free? Try a Thyrm Darkvault or Kagwerks Nav Board Kit

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Need more tourniquets (hint: you do)…check out a whole bunch of ways to mount them with our best tourniquet holder list!

Tourniquet on Armor Carrier
Tourniquet on Armor Carrier

Not interested in running a front placard with an admin pouch?

A host of companies make danglers that you can Velcro or clip onto your front panel. These just hang…or dangle…just in front of and below your carrier. 

If you can think it up, chances are there is a product out there to help you with it! 


There are a variety of reasons to own a battle kit setup. From more efficient range trips to tactical training, we can’t think of a single good reason to avoid a belt and carrier in your life. 

You never know when they’ll come in handy!

The key is, figure out what configuration will best suit your needs and then train in it.

Prioritize the essentials and fill out the rest of your kit as time and money allow.

money meme
Buying kits can get a little…spendy.

Don’t get overwhelmed, but make sure to do your homework before diving into the deep end on products you aren’t familiar with. Double and triple-check all sources!

And know your resident PPT gun buddies will help when we can in the comments below.

Author All Geared Up with Carrier and NVG
All Geared Up with Carrier and NVG

So what do you run on your battle belt or tactical loadout? What are your favorite pieces? Let’s chat about it in the comments! Check out some other essential articles, like the Best IFAKs and the Best Body Armor to add to your setup.

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4 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Old Jarhead

    All the variety in gear makes these choices critical to Joe Average as quality gear is expensive! As civilians who buy kit ourselves (not our gov. purchasing dept.) we need to think about the minimum requirements needed for the most likely scenarios we may encounter and save some pesos for ever increasingly expensive ammo. Soft body armor vests can be discrete and a simple pistol holster belt can be hidden under an untucked shirt or jacket. Shotguns used in defense of one's home needs no additional outfitting. If you choose to go 'full metal jacket' consider the picture you present to others - especially law enforcement! I urge you to be realistic before you end up with a room full of expensive gear you'll never put to use and possibly have family and friends raise an eyebrow at you! I offer this advice as someone who has almost gone bankrupt with 'gearitis' - severely over purchasing equipment that is really impractical for 99% of the situations I will ever encounter as a civilian. I have made use of some of the items for hiking and hunting but too much of it just sits in several trunks or hangs in the back of the closet. Practice to be competent with your firearm(s), stay aware in your surroundings (aware not paranoid), know your local laws and keep it real! Let's allow our well trained military and LEO warriors to do the heavy work for us - that's what they do. Hey - if the zombies do come I'll be right there with you!

    June 6, 2021 4:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John S.

    Hello not sure what to get. I want something that will be some what concealed that will hold 3 rifle and 3 pistol mags and knive. I'm trying for a"gray man" look. Is this possible or do I have to look "militarized"? Thanks

    April 20, 2021 8:55 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Aaron S.

      You'll never have that much ammo on you and stick to "gray man" gray man at best will get away with one extra pistol mag. The second you add a rifle the gray man look is out the window.

      May 14, 2021 6:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      todd gimian

      Check out the slickster or the spiritus lv119 covert system

      July 14, 2021 10:39 am