Originally designed for aviators and aircrew, the best survival vest is perfect for preppers as well. It lets you carry the most essential gear, without affecting your mobility like a heavy backpack. And you can use it with a backpack as well.
During an emergency, you may need to reach for a survival tool quickly. At that point, sorting through your bug out bag isn’t an option.
That’s when the survival vest can make a huge difference.
Which are the best survival vests in the market? We have them lined up for you.
9 of the Best Survival Vests for Tactical and Wilderness Survival
This adjustable vest rounds up some great design features with superb comfort.
Being adjustable it works well for adults of different body shapes. You can adjust the waist size and the length as well.
The 600D polyester material is lightweight but feels well made. The heavy-duty belt adds to the overall ruggedness. The material is breathable and there’s plenty of mesh to add to the comfort factor.
We noted that the stitching quality is good too. At 3 lbs, it’s not heavy at all.
There are multiple removable pockets for storage, including two internal pockets with zippers. On the backside, there’s a MOLLE system and a hydration compartment. In terms of functionality and weight distribution, it’s top-notch.
What makes the vest stand at the top is tons of adjustability that allows you to customize the vest as per your needs. Also, the price to performance ratio is excellent.
Users pointed out that not all of the pockets are adjustable. The holster is also on the smaller side. So it’s not ideal for larger handguns.
Beyond that, the range of the shoulder adjustment is also limited. So some users with a thin build found the fit loose.
In terms of comfort and durability, this vest from Yakeda checks all the right boxes. We would wholeheartedly recommend it for preppers looking for a reliable product that offers great value.
Quite simply, this is an affordable survival best that comes with a professional-grade design.
The standout feature is the high-quality belt that’s adjustable between 37 to 48 inches. As expected, you get belts at the shoulder for length adjustment.
What about durability?
Well, durability is one of the strong points of this vest. The material is 600D encrypted polyester with a high-quality, tear-resistant mesh. The mesh design provides excellent breathability while keeping the weight under control.
The overall functionality is good too. There are four parts including the holster and the best that can be detached and customized.
One more thing…
The back of the vest comes with strip webbing. We find it a practical addition for carrying larger items like a machete or a survival shovel.
Last but not least, at this price point, this vest offers solid value for your dollar.
To start with, the quality of the main zipper isn’t the best. We wish the vest came with a heavy-duty zipper.
Another point users noted is with the holster strap. It’s a bit too short. However, if you’re not carrying a handgun that isn’t an issue.
We were delighted with the build quality and features of this survival vest. It’s a cost-efficient product that offers you a lot of flexibility.
With this vest from Rothco you get the best of both worlds.
It’s designed for use as a regular travel vest. At the same time, it can work as a great survival vest as well. The material is a mix of cotton and polyester. It feels rugged and the stitching quality is excellent. The design is simple with no adjustments. However, it comes in 8 different sizes. So picking the right size isn’t a problem. It also runs true to size.
At the same time, the vest is extremely light. We gave it high marks on the comfort scale. Rothco has provided plenty of storage options here. There are 13 front pockets and 3 inside pockets.
Also, the pockets are super deep. That allows you to store tons of gear. All in all, there are 17 pockets in total! Sounds impressive, right?
We also loved the use of elastic bands on the pockets to keep the contents secure.
The users also liked the overall ergonomics of the vest. The pockets are placed in the right spots for easy access.
Now, the material quality isn’t the best in terms of extreme-environment durability. If you need a vest that can beat the rough outdoors, there are better options. Besides, users were not satisfied with the quality of the zippers.
Some users also mentioned that the back neckline runs a bit high. This can become uncomfortable during long hours of use.
This vest from Rothco isn’t designed for tactical use. Nonetheless, the user-friendly design and the ability to store loads of stuff, make it one of the best in this category.
One look at this vest and you’ll understand why it’s the best tactical vest. Moreover, it also comes with dual-leg platforms for more versatility.
The material is a combination of 600 D polyester and high-quality mesh. The overall fit and finish are excellent. Even the velcros are designed to withstand a high level of tension. You can expect it to withstand rough use without breaking a sweat.
Users were also satisfied with the comfort levels of the vest. Besides, the snug fit allows you to wear a weather-resistant poncho over it during heavy downpours when you need to stay dry.
Note, the vest is fully adjustable. It comes with shoulder panels, side straps, and ladder buckles. There are 4 rifle magazine pouches and 2 pistol magazine pouches and an internal mesh pocket. There’s also an integrated MOLLE system.
The magazine pouches come with quick-release elastic tabs that allow you to change the configuration as needed. The leg platforms are removable too.
The extended design makes this vest one of the heaviest in this category. Still, the excellent design makes sure you don’t feel the weight while carrying it.
Firstly, this vest from Barska comes with the highest price tag in this category. Budget buyers need to look elsewhere.
Next, it isn’t an ultralight vest. At over 6 pounds it’s pretty heavy. Beyond that some users found the sidearm holster to be on the smaller side.
Anyone looking for a top-end tactical vest that’s rugged enough for outdoor use will find this a great pick. If the high price isn’t a problem, go for it.
What We Like
If you want a durable tactical vest that’s made to last for years, this product is a great pick. The combination of 600D polyester and high-quality mesh makes it one of the most durable vests in this category. Moreover, the quality of the stitching is excellent.
The liberal use of mesh also keeps the ventilation on the higher side. You can easily use it in any season. Apart from that, you also get good adaptability in terms of fit. There are three straps on each side and additional shoulder straps. That allows the vest to adjust with a variety of body shapes.
In terms of storage, there’s plenty of space. You can adjust the pouches and the holster as per your requirements. That said, it has the right design to distribute the weight evenly.
The heavy-duty belt is well designed and comes with additional pouches. Keep in mind, the belt is detachable.
Quite simply, we loved the attention to detail in this vest. Honestly, it offers the right bang for your buck in this category.
What Needs Improvement
One common issue with the vest is the sizing. Heavily built users found the fit to be on the tighter side. In addition, there were issues with the durability of the zipper.
As with many other vests in this category, users found the holster to be on the smaller end. But that shouldn’t be a problem for preppers who don’t carry sidearms.
With great features and excellent quality, this vest is a great purchase. If you take the right care, it’ll surely serve you for years to come.
Four Additional Survival Vests
Here’s what makes this vest unique- it’s available in two different fabrics. The first style is made from cotton and polyester. The second one is a cotton linen combination. The lightweight nature makes it a great wilderness survival vest.
There’s also a wide range of colors you can choose from.
In terms of durability, both the materials are good but not the best. For preppers, we would suggest choosing the first material since it dries quickly.
Next, the ventilation offered by both the fabrics is good. Being lightweight, the vest is extremely comfortable for use. You can easily wear additional layers with it for some extra warmth.
Apart from these, there are 16 pockets for storing items. The pockets come with zippers and velcro. One big zipper pocket at the backside is useful for keeping larger items.
Considering the price, we feel this vest is a good option for preppers on a budget.
Firstly, the pockets on the vest aren’t removable. If you want the flexibility of a tactical vest, this isn’t the right choice.
Some users pointed, the velcro used on the pocket isn’t enough to keep the flaps secure. A larger strip of velcro would have been better. Also, the quality of the main zipper isn’t the best.
If you’re looking for a simple and easy-to-use vest, you can’t go wrong with this one. It isn’t a tactical vest but will serve you well during an emergency.
This tactical vest is a good choice when you’re looking for the right balance of comfort and durability.
The polyester material can handle rough use and also offers good breathability. The shoulder and hip adjustments work well to provide a comfortable fit. Users with a heavier build were satisfied with the fit.
What’s more, the mesh used at the backside is rugged enough for outdoor use. We also noted that the quality of the zipper and the velcro attachments were impressive.
As expected from a tactical vest, there are multiple magazine pouches and a cross-draw holster. Additional webbing at the back panel allows you to attach extra gear.
One more thing…
When fully loaded, the weight distribution of the jacket is excellent. That makes it extremely comfortable for long hours of use.
One major downside is some of the pouches are too small for holding large items. Some users also faced a few issues with the holster clip.
Also, unlike other tactical vests, most of the pouches are permanently fixed. That reduces the customization options.
Lastly, unlike other premium vests, there isn’t a true MOLLE webbing at the back.
Overall, this is a solidly durable vest that’s well designed. But the unimpressive price to performance ratio keeps it from joining the top products in this category.
The Condor Recon Chest Rig looks more like a military vest loadout than the rest of the options in this guide and that’s because it’s meant to be used out in the field. This is basically what real service men and women are using and it’s the closest thing to a full on survival vest kit that you can find.
It comes with three built-in magazine pouches and three extra pockets behind the main area. You can fit about 6 M4 mags and 6 pistol mags. There’s also the option to customize it by adding extra pockets.
This is the right choice if you’re not trying to hide your intentions at all and you also don’t want something that is overly bulky and covers your entire body.
This super lightweight option is one of the best tactical vests you can have in preparation for the worst. It’s made using ripstop cotton and polyester so it’s incredibly durable and it comes in a large range of sizes stemming from small to triple XL.
Whenever possible, you want to go with a lightweight military vest because it’s going to gain a lot of weight when you start piling it full of gear, ammunition, and essentials.
This one comes with 17 pockets and a hidden handgun compartment so there is plenty of room to put whatever it is you think is most important.
Another important consideration is the fact that this vest doesn’t scream “survival vest.” It looks more like a fly fishing vest which wouldn’t make you stand out in a large crowd as a prepper.
Choosing The Best Survival Vests
With a wide range of survival vests in the market, you’ll find a lot of differences in quality. Not all of them deliver the same performance as an aircrew survival vest. So here are a few tips to help you choose the best bug out tactical vest.
The material of the vest will determine its overall quality and the amount of abuse it can take. Ripstop material is the best choice in terms of durability. When it comes to denier fabrics, it’s best to choose above 30D for the best durability.
We wouldn’t expect much waterproofing from a vest. However, it’s best to pick a material that dries quickly and offers good ventilation. A nylon mesh vest with polyester reinforcement is great in terms of comfort.
The other important features to check include the stitching quality, the zippers, and the velcro fasteners. A heavy-duty vest will ensure that these features will last for years. At the same time, make sure that it isn’t too heavy for hours of continuous use.
In essence, the vest should offer the right balance of durability and comfort.
Firstly, a survival vest allows you to keep the important items close at hand. Next, it also reduces the load of your backpack or survival kit. So sufficient storage space is a must.
Obviously, the vests aren’t designed for items like a survival shovel. But they are perfect for carrying survival gear like multipurpose tools, first aid kits, navigational tools, and other small items like flashlights and firestarters. Make sure there are sufficient pockets to help you carry all the items you plan.
Military and tactical survival vets offer a lot of flexibility in terms of rearranging the pockets. Vests with MOLLE attachments are also great for attaching a variety of gear.
However, the pockets should be ergonomically designed and come with the proper covers. Also, ensure that the design of the vest allows for proper weight distribution. A top or bottom-heavy vest will hamper your movement.
The Comfort Factor
Since you will be wearing the vest for long hours, the right level of comfort is a must. The material needs to be padded or should come with an inner lining. A breathable material will also allow moisture to escape.
One important aspect of comfort is the fit. While a loose fit will hamper your movement, a tight fit can dog into the shoulders or the bag and cause chaffing. A snug fit is the best choice.
Note, it’s best to leave some gap between your hips and the bottom of the vest. That way, it will be more comfortable when you sit down or kneel.
An adjustable vest is a good choice since you can wear it over other layers of clothing. Shoulder and waist adjustments will also help match the vest with your body shape.
You may need to carry your INCH bag over your vest during a survival scenario. These straps can run over the loaded vest pockets causing discomfort. So figure out what pocket arrangement will work best with your backpack.
When your aim is to survive, the idea of fashion goes right out of the window. That said, you can choose a color that allows you to blend in and doesn’t stand out in a hostile environment. However, if you want a vest that can be used for travel as well, you can choose a design that suits you best.
There you have it.
We have listed the best survival vest to help you make the best choice. As per our reviews, the Yakeda tactical vest is the best overall choice in terms of design and quality. The budget-friendly Himal Sports vest is the next best choice.
A survival vest is a great tool to help you perform better in an SHTF scenario.
Make no mistake about it.
Your response with a piece of survival equipment can be the difference between life and death. A survival vest can be incredibly useful in helping you react quickly and effectively.
Now that you know all about the best options, it’s time to take the next step.