How to Set Up a Tactical Vest? – 4 Steps for Beginners

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how to set up a tactical vest

There are many different ways on how to set up a tactical vest. They differ according to occupational use as well as personal preference. The following are the most common types of tactical vests:

  • Police Vest – Lighter and more flexible than the succeeding vest types; can withstand stab attacks (usually Level IIIA)
  • Military Vest – Of heavier material due to bullet-resistant quality (usually Level III)
  • Swat Vest – Bullet-resistant material (Level IV body armour protection level)
  • Navy Seal Tactical Vest – Customized according to mission, environment, and platoon role; Level IV body armour protection level

To get started on the set-up, continue on the following sections of this article.

Tips to Set Up a Tactical Vest


There is no one best way to build a tactical vest. As mentioned earlier, the loadout, accessories and overall arrangement can differ from person to person.

Hopefully through the following guide, you can identify the tactical vest setup that works best for you.

What to Prepare

  • Body Armour – Decide on whether you’re going for a full tactical gear setup or full plate carrier setup
  • Tactical vest accessories – Accessories will depend on your nature of use

Step 1: Choose your body armour


The body armour will work as the outer shell of this whole tactical gear setup. Identify the protection level you will need as this will be the determining factor whether you will be better off with a tactical vest or plate carrier.

The tactical vest is usually a zip-up configuration that is lighter in weight but also offers less bullet-resistance and protection. Plate carriers, on the other hand are heavier but are best when it comes to protection level.

Step 2: Choose your accessories


As mentioned, vest accessories are completely customizable. You can choose from a variety of accessory combinations.

Most vests have apt load bearing capacities, especially molle vests, since MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) compartments make it easy to keep accessories organized around the vest.

The following are common tactical gear pieces:

  • Pouches
  • Holster
  • Carabiner
  • Flashlight
  • Gun/Weapon Retention

For law enforcement personnel that deal with non-combat threats on a daily basis, they may need less accessories and items.

A typical police duty vest, for example, may contain extra handcuffs, keys, radio, flashlight and other personal defense weapons (PWD) such as a taser, pepper spray, and baton.

You should also put your first-aid kit, if the job requires, on the back, to quickly take it off when necessary.

Step 3: Arrange the accessories around the armour

  • Those in the military or those who work on specialized missions recommend keeping the front of the vest as flat as possible to allow better mobility such as when crouching down and squatting.

Each side of the vest must be balanced and the back may be used to hold heavier loads.

  • Police external vests, on the other hand, usually place important gear such as weapons,by the dominant side of the individual for swift access when needed.

This is the reason why some police load bearing vest setups come with holtser configurations.

Step 4: Put on Tactical Vest


There is no better way to test for comfort and mobility than to wear your vest and go on a trial run. This will be the point where you can set up outer vest carrier adjustments according to what really works for you.

This is also helpful for you to memorize the compartments and location of different gear around the vest. It would be helpful to withhold from rearranging gear every now and then to avoid developing unfamilliarity with your vest.

Essential Items for Your Tactical Vest

The previous section covered common tactical vest loadout accessories. However, there are certain items that are not optional, but rather, essential, when you want to set up outer vest carriers.

This section is especially for mission deployment use. Since these missions often involve harsh weather conditions, less access to food and water, and higher possibility of combat exposure, essential items are to be considered to improve the overall utility of the vest.

  • Ammo Kit or Pouch – This comes with a holster for your weapon (some include a second weapon), and extra magazines.
  • First Aid Kit – This includes basic first-aid items packaged into a flat and compact pouch and is usally placed in the back of the vest
  • Hydration Pack – This container can hold more water than the typical water bottle does.
  • Communication Kit – This is a mobile communication system especially for personnel with a comms role in the platoon. This usually comes with an antenna installed or inserted from the inside of the vest.

Helpful Tips/ FAQ


What are tactical vests?

Tactical vests are protective vests commonly used by uniformed personnel. Aside from their protective feature, they also have load bearing capacity that allows the wearer to carry essential items easily.

These tactical vests are not to be confused with plate carriers that look similar and have a similar purpose, but are of stronger and more specialized build and make.

What should be on your tactical vest?

The composition of one’s tactical vest depends on the wearer. As mentioned in the previous sections, there are vest accessories that are customizable while there are essential must-haves as well.

These essential items are more common for tactical vests intended for use on combat deployment or other specialized missions.

What is the purpose of a tactical vest?

When you wear a tactical vest you enjoy its features of utlity and protection. It serves as a bullet-resistant cover as well as a load bearing gear to help carry essential items at all times during deployment.

Is a tactical vest a bulletproof vest?

They serve a similar purpose. However they cannot be treated interchangeably because tactical vests are more like specialized bulletproof vests used by professionals on the field.


We have covered choice of armor, accessory and gear composition, overall vest set-up and even covered some FAQ’s.

From kids who used to make a tactical vest out of cardboard, to actual adults learning how to set up a tactical vest, hopefully this article taught you how to do it right.

Don’t forget, utility and comfort are the key priorities when setting up your tactical vest. So, make sure not to compromise these factors.

Good luck!

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