As paintball gains more ground in the woods, the selection of tactical-style accessories has grown significantly. People are trading in their flashly speedball jerseys for camo-patterned clothing. A huge multi-pod harness is now being swapped for a more woodsball-equipped tactical paintball vest. Paintball vests come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and options. Choosing one can almost make your head spin. There are very high quality units being produced by companies such as Special Ops Paintball, Warsensor, PCS, NXe, Gen-X and Real Action Paintball. Let's take a look at few key points that you should keep in mind when choosing the correct paintball vest.
Vest Size - Some vests will come in specified sizes, others do not. Non-size labeled vests are typically made in what we would consider an adult medium/large. All have some degree of adjustablity which means they can typically accomodate one to two sizes bigger by adjusting the side straps, waist straps and shoulder straps. The perfect example of this is the Special Ops Dagger Vest. For those skinny players, consider buying a vest with bottom belt loops. The Warsensor paintball vests allow you to add a belt to the system. This is great for players who's vest does not fit tight in the chest. The belt will prevent the vest from moving during running.
Vest Weight - The weight of the vest is an important element. Very heavy vests can drain you on a hot summer day. Light vest allow you to stay agile, but are limited in carrying capacity. Typically the higher the paint carrying capacity and accessory pockets a vest will have the greater the weight. Although it's one of the top tactical paintball vests on the market, the Warsensor Elite is a heavy vest. It's probably a vest best suited for a heavier person or someone who is playing a stationary position.
Carry Capacity - Carrying paintballs, genades and other accessories is extremely important otherwise a standard harness will do. Make sure the vest you've selected will work with all of your gear. Not all paintball vests will accomdate a bottle if you are running a remote line. Some will not accept large diameter nitro tanks. Make sure the vest will accomodate all of your equipment before buying. One of the common mistakes people make when purchasing a vest is assuming that they need as many pod holders are possible. Be realistic. Most organized weekend field games only last 15-30 minutes per game. Only carry what you need, anything else is dead weight and will not only slow you down but drain you as the day goes on. All-day events or events in which you have no staging area are another story. It's probably best to load up. Not only will you have enough carry capacity for yourself but also for other players as well. Having a large capacity paintball vest can be a real team asset. For instance, the Warsensor Tactical Elite Vest can hold over a case of paint (2240 balls)!
Color Pattern - If you're playing a swat-style scenario event in which you're clearing buildings then your best bet is a basic black or swat blue. For anything else, camo is a must. Gone are the days when camo options were limited to tiger stripe and woodland patterns. Real-Tree type patterns and Digital ACU (army combat uniform) have taken over. Pattern and color selections seem endless. Choose a similar pattern for your vest if you already have existing camo gear. Try not to mix patterns that do not work well with each other. You'll actually stick out like a sore thumb! Try to match the basic color of the foliage for that specific time of year. Greens work great in the late spring/summer. Browns and tans work well in late fall/early winter before the snow falls. Special Ops and Real Action are two companies that manufacture vests in multiple colors and patterns to match just about any place or time of the year.
Modular Flexibility - Most paintball vests on the market have sewn in pockets that offer you diverse storage options. For instance the Gen-X Swat Deluxe Vest is a great, preconfigured vest. For those of you wanting the ultimate in flexibility, a MOLLE system may be your best bet. MOLLE vest systems consist of a bare bones vest in which you add pouches, pockets and even a hydration system. The accessory pouches use a hook and loop, velco or snaps to secure them to the vest. This allows you to build your paintball vest, adding only what you need on the field. Not only are you able to be efficient but flexible as well. BT Paintball Vests incorporate the Molle system. You can easily change or create a tactical paintball vest that will accomodate different types of play as well as short or all-day events.