Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure to be able to give a piece of gear a real workout. Anthony from Safeguard Armor (who wrote the guest post “Bullet, Stab, and Spike Proofing Yourself During a Civil Collapse” a couple weeks ago ) sent me one of his company’s GHOST bulletproof vests to try out and review for you fine folks who read the blog.
Safeguard Armor is a UK-based company with facilities in Colorado, USA as well. Obviously, their forte is bulletproof vests, and they offer everything from covert under-the-clothes vests to overt full-tilt tactical body armor. A perusal of their website is impressive, as well as a learning experience. An hour on their site taught me more than I ever thought I’d know about bulletproof vests, ratings, how they work, and different models and materials that they are made of. If you are even remotely considering a bulletproof vest for your preps, (and I personally think you should) you should take the time to go here and read up on what a bulletproof vest is. It’s worth your time.
Safeguard also offers a clothing and refurbished armor site, for the budget-minded.
The GHOST vest I received was a very high-quality piece of gear. It weighed in at 6 pounds, give or take, while sporting a Level II bulletproof rating (9mm and .357 Magnum handgun) and level I blade protection. It is “soft” armor, meaning that the bulletproof panels are pliable and able to be wrapped around your body for a snug fit. (“Hard” armor incorporates fixed, heavier ceramic or composite plates over vulnerable areas) The panels were removable from the vest carrier, for washing, transferring to a different style carrier, etc. It has elastic straps that wrap around your body and secure with Velcro, keeping the front and back panels snug and secure on your body. Each panel with the thin cloth carrier vest was roughly 3/4 of an inch or so thick.
When worn under clothing (as it’s generally meant to be) it was fairly undetectable to the untrained eye. People who knew me and saw me with the vest on asked if I’d put on a few pounds, so it definitely makes you girthier, but not hugely so, and definitely not enough to be a huge encumbrance. The straps and Velcro pads print just a tiny bit through just a t-shirt, but, again, not enough to make a difference if you’re wearing one because there’s a possible need for it.
Okay, so you put a GHOST vest on for the first time. What strikes you first? The solid feeling. It’s six pounds, which is a lot if you’re travelling light, but the weight is spread out over your whole chest. The bulletproof panels wrap completely around your body, under your arms (I liked that feature a lot.), and it’s very warm, snug feeling. Almost a little comforting. I know, that sounds weird, but there it is. Mobility isn’t hampered, but if you bend over it rides up just a tad if it’s not snug on your body (so be sure to get the one that fits properly!) The next thing that strikes me is that if I were female, with all the accompanying protuberances and body contours, it might be uncomforable to wear for a long time, and proper fitting would be essential. But at least it would keep things snug and contained for running, moving, etc.
You definitely want to wear a T-shirt under this vest, just to keep a barrier between you and the vest to prevent chafing, etc. The inside of the vest has a vented cloth surface, but I found it much more comfortable with a t-shirt on. Your body doesn’t get to breathe much while wearing it (more on that later) but it does add a pretty good layer of insulation if its colder out, and it makes a nice back-pad for when you wear a pack. Shouldering a rifle isn’t awful while wearing it, either: on me, the vest over-the-shoulder straps stayed in closer to my neck, so the rifle came up and shouldered right where it normally does without the vest getting in its way.
So overall first impressions are very good: solid, high quality and well made, comforting to have on, not much of an inconvenience to wear. Onto the real tests.
Urban Skills Challenge
I’d been looking for a good way to test this bad boy out in a more real-world scenario, wear it in a long-range bug-out type scenario. Under a pack, under every-day clothes….wear it for a long distance to see what it would REALLY be like wearing a vest for the reasons you’d get a vest. I’d like to see if it was worth the trouble, in a nutshell. Enter the Prepared Associates Urban Skills Challenge: six and a half miles of walking with a pack on, over varying terrain and varying conditions, over seven hours. All while doing activities, moving at different rates. Perfect. I decided to wear the vest for the USC (I gave Stuart from Prepared Associates a heads up that I was doing so, and to keep an eye on me in case I had issues), and really see what it was like wearing a bulletproof vest while bugging out.
That’s me in the blue shirt, fourth from the left. The vest was on. If you study really carefully, you can see the outline of the vest, but you can also see that if you were moving quickly, and someone didn’t know you, it would be hard to tell there was something there. We saw people on the streets, and none of them seemed to give me a second glance (of course, they were probably distracted with wondering what a big herd of people wearing backpacks was doing walking around the streets of Portland, ME.).
How’d it go? Well, the ambient temperature started out about 55 degrees Farenheit, and progressed to 65-70 degrees as the day wore on. It was bright and sunny out: a beautiful day, really, to bug out. Humidity was there, but it wasn’t oppressive. After the first mile, once my body started getting up to temp and working, I could tell it was going to be an interesting day. My core got pretty warm, and once I started sweating, the sweat stayed there. After about 4 miles and the temps around 70, it started to feel like someone dumped a cup of soup under the vest…but just under the vest. As I said before, the vest doesn’t breathe, and doesn’t allow for sweat to wick away from your body. So if you KNOW you’ll be wearing a bulletproof vest, be sure to pack an extra t-shirt or two in your bag. Be sure to take time to sponge off, then dry out the vest, too. Don’t need it getting all funky!
By the end of the day, though, I was pretty impressed with the vest. Yes, I got sweaty. If it was 90 degrees out with 90% humidity, it would have been pretty miserable. But it wasn’t overbearing at all for the situation I was in…it certainly wasn’t worth NOT wearing one. The comfort of knowing I could have been stabbed in the chest by a street hobo at any given point and come through chuckling more than offset the discomfort of wearing the vest.
As an added bonus, the vest really helped distribute the weight of the pack I was carrying.The layers of the best made a nice back pad, and it made carrying a pack actually more pleasurable…so that in itself was worth the price of owning one. If the temps were in the 30s or 40s, say, having the vest on certainly would have helped retain core body heat immensely as well, as long as you kept an eye on the sweating and body moisture for when you took OFF the vest.
So what was my overall impression, viewing things as a prepper? The pros definitely outweigh the cons, my friends. Pros? Your abdomen is protected from handgun caliber bullets (with this particular vest), and many knife-type attacks. The vest provides the psychological feeling of comfort (though don’t let it think you’re invincible: a common malady of people wearing bulletproof vests, I imagine.) that could be wonderful when the chips are down. It also adds physical comfort, negating colder temps and helping you distribute your pack load if you’re getting the hell out of Dodge in an uncertain environment. I think that spending $500-600 on a vest is something that you should look at before you go out and spend $500-600 on a new rifle, for instance. Being able to keep your mindset positive and safe is a huge advantage in a SHTF scenario (whatever yours may be) and a bulletproof vest is cheap insurance to help promote that…and really, if it ever saves your life, you won’t care how much you’ve spent.
So what do you think? Is body armor a waste of time, or a worthy addition to your preps? Do you think it’s something that can actually save you, or is it something to wipe your hands on after you drop the shovel from digging your foxhole? Sound off below! Oh, and here’s a sneak peek at the next installment of this review:
Have a great day everyone! Stay safe!