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It's strange to describe a plate carrier as athletic. For the most part, designs trend towards the tactical, like the Crye Precision JPC, or the load-bearing, like their APC system. In another direction, minimalist plate carriers sought to go light and sleek in order to fit under clothing unnoticed. Modularity demanded so much of so many different systems, as hook-and-loop, MOLLE/PALS webbing, zippers, and more competed for the limited real estate on the front, back, and cummerbund. The worst designs were the ones that dismissed the need for athleticism or propper fit, the best accommodated the athlete-professional. From what we've seen from Arbor Arms, however, appears to begin with the athlete, and built a plate carrier for those expecting to wear their body armor for extended periods of time, and through extensive feats of physical exertion.
The Arbor Arms Minuteman Plate Carrier is their take on a minimalist piece of kit. As modularity has expanded into how the cummerbund secures to the plate bags, through connectors like First Spear Tubes, AustiAlpine Cobra Buckles, Taktic Buckles, not to mention Velcro, the Minuteman gives the owner an immense amount of choice. Whether as slim as a single line of webbing, or as complete as a 3-strand elastic capable of bearing side plates and more, the Minuteman is scaleable to various scenarios, be it the professional Tactical Games athlete, or those on the line of duty.
A factor not lost on Arbor Arms, is the desire for customization that many are looking for. Very little of their plate carrier forces the wearer to pick between a short suite of proprietary options. The front features a combination of hook-and-loop and MOLLE attachment space.
The cummerbund can attach to the front plate bag itself, or to an Arbor Arms placard. The elastic then pulls the whole plate carrier tighter to the wearer's body, reducing if not eliminating the bouncing of gear that would otherwise quickly tire any bearer. This is where the athleticism of the design comes to show.
One place where professionalism and physical acumen come together is how one fits in their plate carrier. A hallmark of experience between soldiers and operators looks at not only at the fighter's physical condition, but whether or not their gear is in order. A loose-fitting plate carrier quickly exhausts the wearer, and the sudden shift in weight can lead to disastrous consequences, as a mild twist of the ankle suddenly turns into a year of recovery.
The Arbor Arms Minuteman addresses this problem through its fitment and adjustability. In addition to the cummerbund, the shoulder straps are adjustable, and capture radio PPT's, Garmin 401's and more through lengthwise anchor points sewn into the base strap that also serve as a place to attach a single-point sling. Arbor Arm's Shoulder Pad Accessories are some of the most intricate we've seen in the market. While those deployed have utilized everything from chopped yoga mats, to slip on pads, to spreading a shemagh across the nape to balance weight across one's shoulder's better, these include both cable/hose management straps, and a generous but compact pad that takes the edge off a full combat load.
What the Arbor Arms Minimalist Plate Carrier is not, however, is a ready-from-the-box plate carrier. That is a good thing, as the wearer goes through the process of fitting the various parts to his body. The ability to customize the plate carrier to the wearer requires them to take the time to fit it to themselves, and make adjustments as the pieces come together. The result: a plate carrier that feels opposite to a generic model.
One example of this, is the ability to customize the length of their multi-strand elastic cummerbunds. By setting the lowest strand one segment tighter, the bottom edge of the front plate sucks into the chest, further reducing the amount of bounce and giving the whole carrier a feeling of being supported by the Rib Cage, taking some of the pressure off the shoulders themselves. This feeling of being adhered to the rib cage, instead of being worn like a vest or pack, helps make the carrier feel more like part of the body, than something to be managed. The cummerbund has the ability to be mounted in such a way to produce two preset sizes: one for warm weather, and another to go over thicker jackets.
The Arbor Arms Minuteman Plate Carrier does not feature a molle back panel, but instead has proprietary anchor points for upcoming hydration systems. The Plate Bags are “one-size-fits-most” with an integral strap to ensure shorter plates ride securely.
The Arbor Arms Minuteman has taken cues on what is commonly expected from a plate carrier, and added their own improvements to both the fit and features. The result is a plate carrier that can be fit to the user, while keeping away from the trap of another proprietary system. Additionally, the components play well with others, matching intuitive design with quality manufacturing.
Colors: Multicam, Coyote Brown, Ranger Green, Wolf Grey
Weight: 14.4 ounces with single strap
MSRP: $99 for the Plate Carrier, $5-150 for the Cummerbun