Salomon Forces

Frank Woods – Plate Carrier Set Up

This should stimulate some lively debate. Gear is a passion for most SSD readers, so let’s keep it on topic and civil.

Following the write-up I did laying out how my personal belt is set up and why, I figured it’d be a good idea to do the same for my plate carrier since I realized I’ve never done that, or haven’t in a long while and it’d be easier to account for any changes I’ve made to it over the years.

So here’s what I’ve got:

– LBT 6094A (Medium)

— Velocity Systems API-BZ plates

– First Spear Admin Pouch (6/9)

– 3x Tactical Tailor single M4/AR mag pouches

– 3x Blue Force Gear single AR mag Ten Speed pouches

– First Spear double pistol mag pouch

– First Spear single pistol mag pouch

– 2x First Spear General Purpose/Utility pouches, Size Medium

– 2x Blue Force Gear Tourniquet NOW TQ holders (CAT 7s)

– 2x Petzl carabineers

– Spiritus Systems DARC drag strap

– Emdom Vehicle Hydration Carrier

—- CamelBak Milspec Antidote 3L

– Blue Photon Light

I’ll break it down bit by bit:

1.) Plate Carrier & Plates: The LBT-6094 (A for Medium plate size) was recommended to me by a retired SEAL friend back when he was still active, and I’ve been using it since 2013. I like it because it’s comprehensive in its simplicity: the PALS webbing is where it needs to be to mount whatever variety of MOLLE pouches wherever I want, so the modularity is tops. I can scale up or down as needed, rather than be pigeonholed into a minimalist design and without going full on gigantor turtle shell with something like an Eagle CIRAS.

It’s an older plate carrier design compared to more recent models that are made of laser cut material or rely on swift clip placards that double as chest rigs when a strap system is introduced, but it holds up damn good in capability despite being a dated option.

Fabric/materials wise, it isn’t terribly heavy (let’s be honest, the plates are where armor carriers get their true weight worth considering from), and I’m still on the fence about the laser cut materials since I’ve heard they tend to sag under weight after a while, so I’ve been waiting to see how the new Gen 3 6094 holds up after a while before rushing into an upgrade I don’t immediately need.

I’ve never been a fan of the clip in placard system typical of most plate carriers these days because I find them limiting in their prefabricated pouch configurations that often rely on double stacking pouches to carry the same amount of gear I’d spread out across the plate carrier and its cummerbund, along with a belt to compliment the limited capacity the placards offer (in terms of rifle mags at least). I know some of the placards come in blank MOLLE webbing for customized pouch configurations, but I’m not the market for an entirely new plate carrier that I’d need for placard compatibility to begin with. If I want to switch from 5.56 to .308 pouches, it’s a simple matter of popping the MALICE clips and switching out the mag pouch array on the front. I’ll go into more detail on that later.

Speaking of the cummerbund, I feel like these are becoming a lost art in the world of plate carriers. Lately I’ve seen a lot of skeletonized cummerbunds that only allow for MOLLE pouch mounting, or a clip and buckle just to keep the armor secure against your body, or straight up slick side elastic bands, the latter two of which you can’t mount shit to. The LBT 6094’s cummerbund has PALS webbing on the outside, but there’s also padding and integrated pouches on the inside that facilitate carrying additional rifle mags or a radio (one of each on each side). This saves me a need for additional pouches for either of those things, but in my use it’s where I like to put my +1 rifle mag.

The Velocity API-BZ plates replaced the Level IV stand alone multi curve plates I had in this carrier previously, which have since been moved to a slick/low profile carrier and feel much lighter than they did here. The API-BZs are a much lighter and therefore comfortable plate to wear, while accounting for a wide variety of most likely encountered ballistic threats. These things are clutch. They come with a high price tag per plate but they’re worth every penny, as is all armor from Velocity Systems.

2.) Admin & General Purpose pouches: Good for odds and ends and delineating where I’m keeping admin stuff like IDs, cell phone, pens, note pads, multi tools, a hand held flashlight, etc, from other stuff that might be essential or good to have for a particular task. They don’t take up a lot of space and I’m glad they’re there when I’m having one of those “Where or how am I gonna carry this easily portable thing I’d rather not go without?” moments. Just don’t forget anything in there (one of the good spots, as my old man likes to say) or be tempted to pack it up with bullshit just to have stuff in there.

3.) AR mag pouches: This may seem sophisticated but I learned it over time and I can’t think of a better way to do this. Typically I like to keep everything on my front “single shingle,” meaning nothing like a double mag pouch that protrudes out too far forward. This is mainly a concern for mobility and going prone, where there’s already an armor plate and the width of an AR mag between me and the ground, so I’m avoiding additional lift off the ground preventing me from getting flat as possible, and if I’m rocking double mag pouches and only have one mag in the pouch I don’t have to worry about the extra unused pouch material getting shitted up from being loose and getting snagged or dragged under me, or failing to retain the remaining magazine cause the retention thereof is hinged on the presence of two mags.

But I do like the option of being able to plus up on mags in anticipation of a scenario where one would want more mags readily available in situations where you wouldn’t anticipate going prone cause mobility on your feet is of higher value anyway. When you’re swapping paint in a force on force shoot house class, you might find yourself running low on mags fast after burning through less than a standard combat load or lending one to a buddy if they’re already dry.

So on top of the single mag pouches I have the three Blue Force Gear TenSpeed mag pouches. They’re very tight and snug when it comes to retention, but when I don’t need them they collapse flat on themselves and it’s like they’re not even there. They’re not hanging open to get caught on anything and get torn up, or adding extra unused material just hanging out there.

Between the dedicated mag pouches and the two spots available on my cummerbund, I have the capability carry 5 to 8 AR mags on the plate carrier alone. Typically it’s 3 + 1 in the cummerbund, plus the 2 on my belt leg rig, and one in the rifle. I can ditch the one mag in the cummerbund if I wish, but the point is I can freely scale up or down as needed. Regardless of where or how many mags I have on me, they never go from my plate carrier straight to my rifle. Since I reload from my leg rig on my belt, that leg rig gets replenished from the mag pouches on my plate carrier. This gives me one consistent location to pull reloads from rather than four or five and having to remember which pouches are still full.

Empties go in the dump pouch, partials go into the mag pouch the last full mag was previously pulled from, going from right to left across my body. This guarantees that if I need a full mag to replenish my leg rig from, the last mag I’m going to grab after my first reload is going to be across my body farthest away from my support side. If I haven’t reloaded the weapon from an empty magazine and I’m doing a tac reload, that’s usually the only time I’ll pull directly from the pouch across from my support side, bring the fresh mag up to the gun, swap mags, and drop the partial back into the pouch I pulled the fresh one from, since the partial was gonna end up there anyway.

4.) First Spear Pistol Mag Pouches. These are pretty straightforward: Double holds two pistol mags. Single holds my Benchmade Infidel auto knife. Double pouch replenishes pistol mag pouches on the leg rig, knife is just there if it’s needed.

5.) TQ holders are self explanatory. One on the front and one on the back for accessibility. There’s a third on my IFAK that’s belt mounted, I need to figure out where to put a fourth (accounting for each limb.)

6.) Carabineers & Drag Strap: Chemlights and bundles thereof get looped onto and pulled from one, situated on my support side. The other links the Spiritus/DARC drag strap to my belt. Said drag strap is a factory mass production version of the enhanced drag strap Rich would have us make out of tubular nylon webbing, which in turn is better than any drag strap that’s ever been sewn into the rear of a plate carrier because it provides much better leverage and therefore ease with which to drag wounded and injured personnel.

7.) Hydration: Carrier fits within the confines of the rear plate bag without hanging below it, bladder fits within that also. I can always underfill it or not fill it at all if I don’t want 3L/100oz of water on my back. Bladder will fit into my Tactical Tailor assault pack if I wish to remove the hydration carrier and clip the pack into the buckles you see woven into the PALS webbing on the plate carrier, in case I determine I have to carry extra stuff on my person without going full ruck (at which point the assault pack could clip onto THAT).

8.) Blue photon light: Carryover from the older DARC packing list that I never got rid of. Good for reading maps or performing medical or other things requiring limited visibility + light discipline to avoid blowing your spot up with white light.

The modular capacity capability is a running theme you see throughout my gear, and I’m a loud proponent of it because it allows me to scale up or down as needed. I see a lot of people lean towards “minimalist” setups for the wrong reasons that doesn’t give them as much flexibility in their setup and I think it’s dumb to shortchange yourself and what your gear can do for you just because “I’m just a civilian, I don’t normally have a need for X cause I don’t carry a gun for a living.”

This contradicts the most often listed reason why civilians buy this kind of equipment: SHTF. Under those circumstances, where you have to bust out the tactical nylon, two factors are now in play: Something (or a series of things) really bad happened and nothing is going to plan + NOW you carry a gun for a living, in order to remain living. That’s the worst time to be doing PCCs/PCIs and thinking “Damn, I wish I could carry more mags.”

Just something to be mindful of. I bring up this context of civilian use since this is my personal gear no different than anyone else could purchase and put together for training use (where plates are required equipment for safety purposes in shoot house classes and the like, or you just feel like running your gear and shaking it out.)

Frank Woods is one of the principals behind the revival of

41 Responses to “Frank Woods – Plate Carrier Set Up”

  1. Czerta says:

    Is there a rational behind 5 pistol mags on a setup that also supports a rifle? Ive generally seen people trending to fewer pistol mags not increasing them.

    • Frank Woods says:

      Originally I only had the two there and didn’t have any on my personal belt. I never got rid of the two on my LCE, but I don’t mind that they’re there. They’re not heavy and I have no need for the space otherwise.

  2. SShink says:

    Mag pouches take-on dirt & sand when exiting a helicopter?

    • Frank Woods says:

      Couldn’t tell you, never been on a helicopter. I was careful to point out this was a personal carrier for training and emergency use, not for duty, though it could be used for such if anyone wanted to copy parts of the setup.

      • Steve says:

        Why are you using 6 mag pouches rather than just 3 of the Ten Speeds on the 6094 kangaroo pouch? Seems like extra nylon for no benefit.

        • Frank Woods says:

          I had it like that initially, but once I put the mags in the kangaroo pouch and it expanded forward, the hook side velcro facing inward on the flap that covers over the loop side velcro cummerbund flaps was exposed out to the sides and it would flex and rub against the loop side velcro and keep making velcro tearing noises whenever I moved and it was annoying so I just said screw it and proceeded as though the kangaroo pouch wasn’t even there.

          • Ray Forest says:

            That’s an interesting bit. I’ve not had personal experience with the LBT. I’ve been in Velocity rigs for over 20 years now. I use the kangaroo pouch and insert with a 10 speed over it. No Velcro sounds. It’s hearing these little details I value.

  3. Joe_K says:

    As Pat Rogers would say, “Mission drives the gear train”.
    Only things I’d reconsider if that was issued to me, or, if I was your team mate or leader are:
    1) How easy would it be for you to plus up with side plates with a quickness.
    2) Side mounted admin pouches look like they *might* be in the way of your pistol draw, but hard to say without watching you perform a transition in full kit.
    As for placards it’s super easy to modify an LBT 6094 over to placard compatibility, carry your equipment exactly as pictured, but, also giving you additional load out options that take significantly less time than swapping out mags.

    • Frank Woods says:

      1.) Cummerbund comes with integrated side plate pockets, so it’s just a matter of my buying and inserting them.

      2.) Side pouches never got in the way of drawing my pistol, fortunately.

      3.) Oh? What’s that entail? I wouldn’t be opposed to putting my 5.56 and .308 mags (which have the same Tactical Tailor/Blue Force Gear double pouch setup) three across on a blank placard for easier swapping if it meant I didn’t have to change anything else.

      • Joe_K says:

        1) Buy a MOLLE only placard, or a triple shingle similar to this:

        2) Buy swift clip adapter like this:

        3) Here’s where the pucker factor happens: Take some trauma shears and remove the front MOLLE cummerbund/kangaroo flap. Burn any Irish Pennants. Make sure that on YOUR Plate Carrier this won’t affect other elements of the PC.

        I’ve done this mod on a SKD PIG Plate Carrier and it works great.

    • Meatloaf says:

      Placards are absolutely the way to go for swapping mags between platforms. The swift clips take up minimal real-estate and most placards have PALS webbing on the front so you can duplicate your pouches across platforms. Trying to unthread and rethread MALICE clips or other PALS webbing seems unnecessarily tedious to achieve the same effect of unclipping two swift clips and slapping a new placard onto your kit.

      • Frank Woods says:

        I haven’t threaded MALICE clips in a while because of how tedious that is, as you describe. I just run em down the PALS column and secure them at the bottom.

        • Meatloaf says:

          That’s slightly better than weaving the PALS webbing but still not as fast or easy as a placard swap.

  4. Meatloaf says:

    Maybe I misread this article but what is the purpose of this carrier? Is the author in the military and uses it for patrolling? Civilian and uses it for training classes? Prepper for SHTF? He dismisses minimalist set ups because they don’t allow the user to carry enough stuff but scalability is a technique developed over the last two decades of wearing kit that looks just like this. Carrying too much gear is a thing, ask every vet with chronic back pain and 10% disability. You could easily trim down this plate carrier to essentials, for example 3 mags, glow sticks, and a handheld light and store the rest in an assault pack that you carry when necessary.

    • Gear Guy says:

      The author is a cop from a very large metro department and this is primarily his training and SHTF rig.

      • Meatloaf says:

        So when the SHTF he is going to abandon his job as a police officer and go boogie boy in his AO? Or is this to be worn in addition to his duty gear? Not trying to sound like an ass, I’m just confused what a cop in a big city is going to be doing during heightened civil unrest instead of taking care of the public.

        • Frank Woods says:

          We’re getting off topic at this point, and you’ve begun making assumptions. You also sound agitated; there’s no reason to get excited. I couldn’t begin to tell you what version of SHTF we’ll be visited by, where I’ll be when it happens, or what my response to it would be given the variables and options in play at that moment in space and time. But if my gear is accessible and the situation calls for it, it’s there waiting for me. There’s really no justification required beyond that.

          • Meatloaf says:

            Definitely neither agitated nor excited, just trying to understand what the other poster meant by SHTF, especially when referencing a LEO. I agree that the discussion of a dystopian future is subjective and capricious and falls well outside of discussion of SSD, hence my questioning above. I’m all for the discussing of training gear and the pros and cons to the functionality of said equipment.

            • Gear Guy says:

              It’s really not that hard to figure out, yet here you are. Cops don’t work 24/7 and depending on what agency they work for, most rarely live close to where they are assigned, due to a multitude of factors. For example, my cousin is a deputy with the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, but lives outside of Riverside, CA. He too has a SHTF rig to protect himself and his family, as well as for training. Being prepared doesn’t always mean it is used for duty.

              • Meatloaf says:

                You’re rather salty. Let me clarify, I’m not a cop but my bold assumption is this; if the “shit” is hitting the proverbial “fan” then department leadership is probably calling in all of its off duty personnel to assist with said critical incident. I also assume that both your cousin and Frank Woods are good LEO’s and would heed the call to support their brethren and will spend much of their time responding to SHTF in an official capacity. As I have said before, I think this is off topic for a discussion on SSD because of the subjectivity involved therein.

    • Frank Woods says:

      I could do that (bare essentials) anyway with the setup as is just by removing or declining to fill pouches. The point there is I have the option/capability to do so, while some of the otherwise dedicated minimalist setups are only ever that, and therefore don’t afford you the option. Don’t like, be offended over my opinion re: the dedicated minimalist stuff or the placards.

      I’m not advocating back injury via pack mule configuration either, that’s why I stressed the scalability up or down as needed. If you’re able to do what you have to do with what minimal capability it affords you by design, okay cool. For the discerning personal end user that doesn’t have CAS, MEDEVAC, QRF, Indirect, etc backing them up, it’s just another point to consider.

  5. LowSpeed says:

    I really enjoyed reading the thought process on each item and its placement.

    When I was younger I usually just:

    1. Put stuff where I was told to put it
    2. Emulated leaders
    3. Emulated the cool guys in my field
    4. Figured out my own placements within the confines of SOP and mission needs.

    This isn’t a setup I would do but I like the versatility, scalability shared here. It is a good starting point for people new to gear setups.

  6. Joe says:

    Uncle Chuck is disturbed by your dump pouch

  7. Adam says:

    Was expecting this to be more COD related. My disappoint is immeasurable and day ruined.

  8. the dude says:

    What a disaster, I don’t even know where to start. Just set the whole thing on fire and walk away.

    • Frank Woods says:

      But then I’d have no plate carrier 🙁

      I’ve got some traffic to sit through on the way home, so I’ll bite: What’s your problem with my plate carrier as it sits? I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here that if this was your ice breaker, the only direction you have to go from here is up, so. I’m looking forward to an intelligible analysis and critique, though I understand it’s coming from a place of comparison to your unique requirements of your own gear.

      Like there’s no airsoft or chinese stuff on here so short of some perceived personal issue with me I’m curious as to what you found so egregious.

      • the dude says:

        I believe if you spent more time in it, you’d find out yourself.
        If anything try to place your TQs in a neutral position you can reach with either hand, assume you will not have full range of motion.

        • Frank Woods says:

          “If you spent more time in it you’d find out yourself.” Well unless you’ve spent more time in my plate carrier that’s changed only slightly and incrementally since I got it and started using it in 2013, I’m drawing a blank on how you know something about it that I don’t. So your vaguery is for naught.

          I can reach the front TQ with either hand just fine. The one on the back is there in the event someone else needs or is applying it and I’m not laying on my back, or I’m slumped over.

    • CJ says:

      That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

  9. Marcus says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Very well thought out with enough insight so people can change to fit their individual needs. The only thing I can add is I double stuff my IFAK with two TQ’s. At one point I had a single TQ in my ATS RUDP, but obviously once I used it that was untenable. YMMV.

  10. Terry Baldwin says:


    Thank you and SSD for putting this up. I just have one comment that might be helpful for other folks trying to get their rigs together. Make the effort to answer this one question up front; in the SHTF scenario I am gearing up for, do I intend to be working alone or as part of a team? That makes mission essential capabilities choices a little easier – what to carry and not carry. For example, if acting alone, chem lights are probably a lot less relevant. Drag straps? If alone, nobody is with you to drag or be dragged. Medical supplies like tourniquets – are you carrying items strictly for self-aid or to treat others? Obviously, if you personally have the need for a fourth tourniquet, you will NOT be applying it yourself! Looking at the way your rig is set up right now, I would assume that you plan to be part of a team. Respectfully.


  11. Steve says:

    -3x Tactical Tailor single M4/AR mag pouches
    -3x Blue Force Gear single AR mag Ten Speed pouches

    Why are you using the 6 single mag pouches rather than just using the kangaroo pouch with three Ten Speeds? The TT mag pouches seem like 2 extra layers of nylon that aren’t needed.

    • Frank Woods says:

      I had it like that initially, but once I put the mags in the kangaroo pouch and it expanded forward, the hook side velcro facing inward on the flap that covers over the loop side velcro cummerbund flaps was exposed out to the sides and it would flex and rub against the loop side velcro and keep making velcro tearing noises whenever I moved and it was annoying so I just said screw it and proceeded as though the kangaroo pouch wasn’t even there.

  12. Whiskey says:

    I just really appreciate the Metal Gear Solid patch.

  13. Papa6 Actual says:

    Mr. Woods – thanks for the time and effort you but into this article. I always appreciate hearing the rationale behind a person’s gear set-up. For what it’s worth, I like your layout. I admit that my plate carrier is totally different than yours (very different mission parameters) but I still can learn from others.

    I think it’s rather funny how people get all upset how someone else sets-up their equipment. Opinions and personal gear load outs are just like a$$holes; everyones got one and most stink . . .

    Take care,