Body armor, whether for military, law enforcement, or private citizens provides protection against ballistic threats. However, the effectiveness of this protection hinges on how well these protective plates and panels are maintained and stored. They take care of you, so why not take care of them so they can keep doing their job?  

Body Armor Plates Vs. Carriers

Contrary to popular belief, a “bulletproof vest” is not the single, standalone option for personal ballistic protection. In reality, there is a diverse array of options for effective protection, many of which involve body armor plates placed in a plate carrier, or soft armor panels placed in a vest.

These vests or carriers are often misidentified as the “bulletproof vest”, but it’s the plates inside that do the work of stopping a bullet. Plate carriers themselves should be treated as any other garment, meaning they are stored in a manner that will not stretch the material. Plates should be stored in a manner that protects them from the environment, and does not put pressure on any one part of the plate. 

Body Armor Plate Carrier & Vest Storage

While it’s acceptable to hang the vest or plate carrier on a hanger, it’s NOT recommended to do so with the plates still in it. Over time, this can stress the carrier’s material and may compromise the fitting of the plates.

Body armor hanger
Body armor on hanger

Similarly, the shoulder straps can become worn overtime. While hanging a vest on a hanger may be convenient, it puts a lot of stress on a small area, even with a specialized armor hanger. Rather, it is best to lay the equipment down flat, or leaned up against something as to not stress any part of the gear. 

staging body armor
Staged body armor with rifle and mags

Body Armor Plates & Proper Storage

Different types of body armor plates have different compositions and therefore, require different storage considerations. Proper storage of body armor will ensure that it will continue to function as designed to do by not introducing potenetally compromising variables to the plate.

Steel Body Armor Plate Storage

Steel body armor plates require minimal maintenance. However, they should be kept out of wet areas or places susceptible to extreme heat and cold. Even though they are steel they should still be treated with care, laid flat, and not dropped. Steel body armor carriers can be stored with the plates still inside, providing they are not on a hanger. 

How to store body armor
How to store body armor

Ceramic Body Armor Plate Storage

Like steel, ceramic body armor plates need to be kept in a place where it is not wet or too hot or cold. They should also be handled with care, as they can crack if dropped or hit hard. Keep in mind a drop on the corner or edge will be more damaging than a drop on the face. 

Polyethylene Body Armor Plate Storage

UHMWPE plates also need to be kept in a place where it is not wet or too hot or cold. While still hard and inflexible, nothing too heavy should be placed on top of them. 

If you have Kevlar or UHMWPE soft armor it is fine to prop it against something to help it retain shape within a vest. Kevlar vest carriers should still avoid hanging for prolonged periods of time as the weight will still pull on the shoulder straps. 

Body Armor Vests & Carrier Storage

Various materials are used to make body armor vests and carriers, each requiring different storage considerations.

What Are Body Armor Plate Carriers Made Of?

Materials typically used in the construction of carriers include a polyester/cotton blend, Kevlar, or 500D nylon. The materials used in a specific carrier will often be based on the intended use of the armor. Generally, hard armor carriers will be made of 500D nylon to increase the overall life of the carrier once weight is added, and ensure durability with use. 

Polyester/Cotton Blend – This is the most basic carrier fabric, similar to regular clothing. It can be hung like a shirt and stored wherever other clothes are kept. 

500D Nylon – 500D nylon refers to the denier or thread count used in a woven fabric. It is a tough, abrasion-resistant material ideal for rigorous environments, but like other materials, it should be kept dry and away from extreme temperatures. Repeated folding may degrade the material overtime, so it is best not to routinely do so. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Soft Armor Storage

When it comes to ensuring the durability and longevity of soft armor made careful steps should be followed. 

Soft armor, often made of materials like Kevlar and UHMWPE requires careful 

Essential Do’s for Prolonging Protection

1. Store flat at room temperature in a dry place. Folded body armor creates stress points that can prematurely wear certain areas. Humidity is not good for the fibers and can lead to early degration. 

2. Keep in a shaded place that minimizes exposure to direct light. UV light can lead to premature wear, shorting the life of the fibers themself.

3. Hang body armor on a hanger made to support the weight. If a standard hanger is used it has the potential to break under the weight, leading to the body armor falling and potentially being damaged.

4. Turn the soft armor vest inside out to help it air out from sweat. 

5. Air dry before storage to prevent mold or mildew.

Essential Don’ts for Prolonging Protection

1. Don’t bunch or crumple your soft armor; it can cause the material to degrade.

2. Don’t hang on wooden or wire hangers; they can distort the shape of the armor.

3. Don’t hang by the carrier straps; this can cause unnecessary stress on the straps.

4. Don’t store in a low-airflow environment; this can lead to moisture build-up and potential mold growth.

Proper storage of body armor, both plates and carriers/vests, is crucial to maintain their effectiveness and longevity. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your body armor will provide reliable protection when you need it most.

 Storing Body Armor: Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you store body armor? 

Body armor should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It should be laid flat or hung on a durable hanger that can support its weight for brief durations.

Can you store body armor in a car? 

No. Storing body armor in a car is not recommended, as temperature fluctuations can damage the material. This may not be an issue for brief durations, and if you do so keep it in a cool place such as the truck, and try to park in the shade.

Can you store body armor in a car
Body armor in trunk

Can you hang body armor? 

Yes, you can hang body armor, provided you use a sturdy hanger that can support its weight. However, avoid hanging it by the carrier straps, as this can strain them and cause premature wear

How long before body armor goes bad?

Typically, body armor has a warranty period of 5 to 10 years, although body armor does not technically “expire.”

Does body armor go bad in heat? 

Yes, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can degrade the materials in body armor, reducing its effectiveness. This is a particular danger to UHMWPE armor.

Can body armor get wet?

Yes, body armor can technically get wet, but it should be dried thoroughly before being stored, as moisture can cause mildew and other damage. Some types, such as Polyethylene armor, have high water resistance. Certain coatings like the TPU coating on Tacticon’s Ceramic and UHMWPE plates are water resistant for a long time. 

How do you store Kevlar? 

Kevlar should be stored flat at room temperature in a dry place. It should be kept in a shaded place to minimize exposure to direct light and allowed to air dry before storage.

What happens if you freeze body armor? 

We can’t say for certain, but it will make any armor very brittle, and if struck with any amount of force while frozen it very well may break. Similarly, even if not struck it will degrade the armor in almost all cases. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, body armor is a critical tool for ensuring personal safety in numerous professional and tactical situations. The material used in manufacturing body armor, whether steel, ceramic, Kevlar, or polyethylene, largely determines its strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate care and storage methods.

It’s essential to understand that different types of body armor are designed for different situations and threats. While hard body armor like steel or ceramic provides excellent ballistic protection, it may be heavy and uncomfortable for extended periods of wear. On the other hand, soft body armor made from materials like Kevlar and polyethylene offers more flexibility and comfort but may not provide the same level of protection against rifle rounds.

Lastly, proper storage and maintenance of body armor are crucial to its longevity and effectiveness. Body armor must be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and it should be inspected regularly for any signs of damage or degradation. By understanding and applying these principles, you can get the most out of your body armor and ensure it provides the protection you need when you need it.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.