The concept of body armor, has for years generated ideas of two...
In a world of ever-growing uncertainty, both civilians and armed professionals alike are seeking low-cost, high-value options for both armor and load carriage. We recently had a chance to review the OTTE Gear LVZ OVT (Low Viz/Overt) plate carrier. This kit was designed from the outset for the needs of both consumer types, effectively bridging the gap between slick armor carriers and full-blown, direct-action-oriented plate carriers. (More on the differences between the two here.)
OTTE Gear is most well-known for their technical apparel but has made recent strides to flesh out their product line with a series of bags and are now making their first foray into nylon gear with the LVZ OVT. In an age where modularity is king among plate carriers, many manufacturers have gone to an a la carte method of purchase where plate bags, cummerbunds, shoulder straps and placards must all be bought separately. While this does offer a high degree of out-of-the-box modularity, it often drives the final price up and can overwhelm less-savvy buyers who may not know exactly what they need (or know they need a fully scalable setup with multiple components). We appreciate the value that OTTE brings to the consumer by selling the LVZ OVT as a complete kit – the base plate carrier, cummerbund, three-mag shingle and padded shoulder straps all come included for a base price of just $160. For that price, you get a complete carrier that allows you to load for bear. As it arrives, the LVZ OVT has space for a whopping 11 AR-style magazines: four on each arm of the cummerbund, plus three more on the included front panel. Those slots can, of course, be used to stow anything else that will fit in them such as medical supplies, E&E kits or personal radios. On the latter note, the included shoulder pads come with Velcro-adjustable loops for cable routing. There are also laser-cut slots in the front plate bag for attaching QASM buckles so that chest rigs or clip-on placards can be attached or detached quickly. The only thing this carrier lacks in terms of attachment is loops or laser cuts for MOLLE attachment, which precludes the use of a direct-attach assault pack or hydration carrier. But these things fall outside the carrier’s intent of being a low-visibility carrier intended for concealed use or short-duration emergency response (or other low-signature tasks like plainclothes surveillance). For these types of applications, hook-and-loop pouches for everything from ammo to handcuffs are now widely available and can be attached via the liberal amounts of loop-side pile tape sewn into the LVZ OVT.
This feature is part of what we really like about the OTTE carrier – because Velcro-style attachment of pouches and cummerbunds is so prolific in the marketplace, the LVZ OVT plays nice with components from other companies as well. So if you purchase the complete OTTE kit and find that the included components just don’t fit your needs quite right, the combination of Velcro and QASM compatibility means you can plug and play a host of other parts from other manufacturers. To test this capability, we made a point to integrate some other products onto our LVZ OVT setup. First, we wanted to maximize the plug-and-play capability of the hook-and-loop tape all throughout the system. We especially appreciate that the included triple-mag placard has hook on the rear and loop on the front. This means you can wrap the cummerbund over top the placard to lock it in place and keep the profile low, or you can fold the cummerbund behind the placard and use the loop-tape front for patches and pouches. We added a couple of patches as well as a Tactical Tailor low viz Pistol Mag Pouch.
We also wanted to see how the LVZ OVT did with “sandwich in” ancillary pouches. So we stacked on a Swift Clip MOLLE Panel and Multi-mount Tourniquet Pouch from jtactical solutions and a Nairobi Knife Dangler from Parashooter Gear. The Swift Clip MOLLE Panel is a single-column thermoplastic MOLLE rack attached to a hook-and-loop covered “wing” that lets you sandwich it behind a placard or chest rig to get one extra column worth of attachment for small items like a knife, single pistol mag or tourniquet. We chose the latter, which is where the Multi-mount Tourniquet Pouch comes it. It’s a closed-flap TQ pouch that can mount via MOLLE or belt loops.
Parashooter Gear is a small company specializing primarily in tactical nylon specific to those who run AK-pattern rifles, but their Nairobi Knife Dangler is a clever and low-footprint way to get a fixed-blade knife onto your kit without taking up space on the primary front panel. It too, consists of a hook-and-loop “wing” design with an elastic sleeve on the end that is also lined with loop tape. It can accommodate a variety of fixed-blade knives, so long as you can get hook-side tape around its sheath and fit it inside the sleeve. We filled it with a Half Face Blades Disaster Jr.
Adding all these pouches, while conveniently scalable, does start to add ever-thickening layers of fabric sandwiched upon fabric. While the LVZ OVT took it like a champ, without a significant increase in overall bulk, we also wanted to configure it separately using the quick-detach feature. So we added a set of female QASM buckles and hooked in a Redwire Gear Emergency Management Rack, a laser-cut micro panel capable of being used as a placard or a standalone chest rig. We fitted our EMR with two G-Code Softshell Scorpion mag pouches and an HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch. This rack can be clipped on when overt load carriage is needed and removed just as quickly to return the LVZ OVT to its slick armor-only configuration. Likewise, the OTTE shoulder straps can be removed to minimize bulk and printing under cover garments if that outweighs the need for all-day comfort.
While the included cummerbund arms sit perfectly flat when not used, we really like ability to don/doff the carrier without tearing on a bunch of hook-and-loop. So we swapped the OEM cummerbund for the hybrid QD version from Defensive Mechanisms. These offer a combination of elastic and mesh MOLLE, as well as two fast-pull QD latches that and be locked and unlocked without any crunchy tearing.
The LVZ OVT is sized for “standard” 10×12-inch armor plates in an earnest attempt to create a one-size-fits-most solution, with the adjustability of cummerbund placement able to account for most of the variance in torso sizes. The plate bags are shaped somewhere in between the old SAPI cut and the newer “shooter’s cut” plate shapes. We used a set of lightweight Level III+ composite plates from Spartan Armor Systems which fit just fine, with no sliding or flopping inside the carrier. For reference, the Spartan Plates are 9.5×12.5 inches and 1.1 inches thick. The shoulder straps themselves, underneath the pads equipped with cable loops and MOLLE slits, are also adjustable for ride height.
We’ll continue to test the OTTE Gear LVZ OVT plate carrier in both training and daily “grab-and-go” use as able but, overall, we think this carrier offers a whole lot of bang-for-buck value, especially if you’re in the market for a first-time buy or want to pare your collection of carriers down to a single, modular setup that fills both concealed and overt needs. Stay tuned here and at OTTE Gear as they continue to expand their in-house line of plug-and-play accessories for the LVT OVT line.
Colors: Coyote, Tactical Grey, Ranger Green, Multicam, Multicam Black, Poppies of War
Fits: Medium SAPI, ESAPI, Swimmer Cut, 10″x12″ up to 10”x12.25“x1”
MSRP: $160 (Solids), $200 (Camo)