So you’re prepping for the worst possible scenario, and you want to make sure you’re going to survive if you have to leave everything behind but the clothes on your back. You’re probably looking for a survival vest—sometimes called a utility vest. If so, you’ve come to the right place!
Whether you’re planning a family excursion, or you just want to have all your emergency essentials in one place if a natural disaster rips through your town, survival vests are a great choice for easily carrying your possessions.
Let’s take a look at our top five picks!
Our Top Picks
FIREGEAR Tactical Weighted Vest
Tactical Airsoft Vest
Best for Kids
NcSTAR Children’s Vest
TIDEWE Heated Vest with Battery Pack
Best Overall Survival Vest
FIREGEAR Tactical Weighted Vest
The FIREGEAR Tactical Weighted Vest is easily one of the best survival vests that can be found. It is deal for survivalists looking for customization with the MOLLE design.
Adjustable for sizes ranging from S to XXXL, to fit almost all body sizes, fitting waists 32 to 52 inches.
- Adjustable shoulder straps
- Airflow panels made of breathable 3D mesh, increasing breathability and reducing friction
- The vest opens and closes instantly
- All FIREGEAR products come with a one-year warranty
- FIREGEAR is a premier, trusted US-based brand
- Some say it runs a little small, so you may need to size it up
GZ XINXING Tactical Airsoft Vest
The GZ XINXING Tactical Airsoft Vest is a solid budget option survival vest from China made from high-density nylon. It’s adjustable up to 50-inch chest size. The vest contains three magazine pouches, one map, and flashlight pouch, and one medic pouch.
This vest is ideal for those participating in outdoor games like paintball or airsoft, but it’s high quality enough to work as a survival vest.
- All pouches are removable
- Contains plate slots for tactical plates
- Good quality vest for its price point
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Some say the product is smelly when it first arrives, and it will need to be aired out
- Complaints about the quality of the velcro straps
Best Kids Survival Vest
NcSTAR Children’s Vest
Bringing the kids with you on your mission? Pack their pockets full of survival items. Or maybe your child just wants to look like you. Either way, the NcSTAR Children’s Vest is a great choice for little humans 8 to 13 years old.
This vest is also ideal for small adults who find adult-sized vests too baggy.
- Well-made from high-quality materials
- Adjustable and expandable to give children room to grow
- Includes pistol belt to keep everything in place
- The Mag holder is smaller than a traditional magazine holder
- Described as time-consuming to put on
Best Heated Survival Vest
TIDEWE Heated Vest with Battery Pack
The TIDEWE Heated Vest is not your traditional survival vest, though it is a great option for hiking and finishing during winter. It’s a great choice to wear under your regular survival vest for added warmth in frigid weather conditions.
This vest is available in Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large and is a great choice for survivalists who need some extra warmth during the winter times, especially if you suffer from back or neck pain.
- Four heating zones are distributed across the collar, mid-back, and the pockets
- Quick charge and up to 10 hours of working time while portable
- Vest is made from oil-resistant material for keeping clean
- 2 extra USB ports on the power bank, so you can charge your phone or other electronics
- While there are several pockets on this jacket, they are not removable, and this vest does not include the MOLLE system
- Not adjustable, so you will need to identify the right size for you
- Would not buy it as your only survival vest, but in addition to your other vest for cold temperatures
YAKEDA Airsoft Tactical Military Survival Vest
The YAKEDA Airsoft Military Survival Vest is a great MOLLE system option. It’s adjustable from chest sizes 40” to 50”, and is an all-around good vest for your survival needs. This vest also contains plates for target practice protection.
- Magazines fit perfectly in the Mag holder
- Plenty of pouches and plug-in systems
- Adjustable and breathable for easy movement
- Quick release buckle on shoulder and waist
- The pouches are reported as being flimsy
Survival Vest Buyer’s Guide
Types of Survival Vests
You will find that the best survival vests usually aren’t marketed as survival vests. Most of the best vests for the purpose of surviving worst-case scenarios are listed as tactical vests. Law enforcement, fishing, hunting, photography, air force, and coast guard vests all work well as survival vests, too.
The MOLLE design is often listed as the best survival vests product description. MOLLE stands for modular lightweight load-carrying equipment. The MOLLE system allows you to customize your vest with attachment models to suit your needs.
You can easily weave compatible pouches with the MOLLE system, allowing quick access to your items and the ability to buy additional pouches for your vest.
Several types of pouches are referenced in MOLLE vests. Here’s a quick list of pouches you can buy separately to add to your vest:
- Magazine holders: These pouches are not for bringing reading materials (though you could fit a book in them if you wanted to). You will see Magazine or Mag holders referenced often because they are intended for carrying Plates and belts. Having extra Mag pouches helps ensure you never run out of supplies
- Medical pouches: Intended for separating your first-aid equipment from other compartments for easy access when you need it
- Utility pouches: Designed for multi-purpose use like carrying everyday personal hygiene items and water
- MOLLE Panels: Allow you to attach your pouches to an insert, so you can pull out all your pouches in an emergency
- Pistol pouches: Pouches for carrying handguns
Quality of Vest
You want a survival vest that can withstand the elements, so buy a vest with durable fabric like high denier or ripstop material. Polyester, Kevlar brand fiber, and oxford are all durable materials that will survive harsh weather conditions.
look for vests with double stitching and strong stitching. You want to be careful with cheap vests because they can rip very easily, and that’s the last thing you need when you’re in an emergency.
Buying online can be difficult to judge the quality, so it’s best to read your vest’s online reviews before purchasing to get an idea of how well the vest holds up.
Comfort and Fit
A vest shouldn’t be baggy, because it might get caught on branches. A vest that’s too tight might cause chafing.
You don’t want the vest to go below your belly button, so pay attention to the length of the vest before you buy it.
Pay attention to the word breathability. You want to be able to move freely, and it will be hard to do that in a stuffy, heavy vest. You want a lightweight, breathable vest that will be easy to wear on your excursion.
Interior flaps for adjustability should be present in the best survival vests. Buy vests that can be adjusted so you can be prepared for colder days and the layers you will need. You don’t want a vest that only fits in warm weather conditions.
The pockets are the most important part of your vest! You want a vest with plenty of deep pockets in varying sizes for carrying a variety of items. What types of pockets should you look for? Here are some ideas:
- Large back pockets
- ID pockets
- Water bladder or canteen pouch pockets
- Body armor slots
- Life preserver slots
Many of the pouches mentioned purchased separately for the MOLLE system are also commonly included in survival vests, so be on the lookout for them, too. MOLLE attachments can end up costing an arm and a leg, so you can end up saving a lot of money if those pockets are already installed.
When shopping around for the best survival vests, you need to narrow down your purpose(s) for buying the vest in the first place. Determining how long you plan to use the vest will help you decide how much you want to invest in the vest.
Do you enjoy playing outdoor shooting games? If so, you will want one that comes with or can include tactical plates.
Will you be using the vest for multiple purposes? If so, you may want to have a vest with removable pockets. Removable pockets can be useful for storing the vest when traveling as well.
Will you be using the vest during the winter? You will want to make sure it can adjust large enough to accommodate the layers of clothing you will be wearing under it. A heated vest may also be a good choice for avid winter survivalists.
Survival Vest Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I wear a survival vest?
Aviators were the first wearers of survival vests. The idea behind a survival vest came from the concept: What if I’m ejected from a plane, what will I be able to take with me to survive?
Survival vests have been used in the U.S. military since World War II and are standardly issued for the U.S. Navy and Marine helicopter squads. These vests are gaining popularity among general survivalists because they are easy to wear.
These vests are ideal for preparing for worst-case scenarios. Think of them as your lifeline if you have to leave everything else behind but the clothes on your back.
The vests are comfortable so you’re able to move freely to get to safety. Their pockets make it easy for bringing your absolute necessities for survival with you in the event of a natural disaster.
What should I pack in my new survival vest?
Think of all the things you will need (and want) if you have to leave all your possessions behind. Here are some ideas for you:
- Emergency Food
- Purification tablets
- Pepper spray
Do survival vests keep you warm?
Survival vests, other than the battery heated versions, aren’t intended to keep you warm.
Makers of these vests focus on keeping them breathable because it’s assumed you will be wearing warm layers underneath should you need them.
Invest in warm gear to wear under your survival vest in inclement weather.
Can a tactical vest stop a bullet?
They are bullet-resistant by typically providing Level IIIA protection, and the vests contain mag holders for extra plate protection. Level IIIA vests can stop most handgun rounds on the market.
How long does a tactical vest last?
While the answer to this question may depend on its overall quality, generally speaking, many vests have a life expectancy of five years. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s service life recommendation. Do not use a bulletproof vest after its service time is up.
What’s the difference between MOLLE and PALS?
You will often see both MOLLE and PALS mentioned in the product description for tactical vests. PALS stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System. It’s used to attach smaller equipment to larger platforms.
PALS is the webbing, and MOLLE is the actual attachment, so they work together to add pouches to your vest.
What’s the difference between a survival vest and a bug-out bag?
If you’re looking into buying a survival vest as an alternative to a bug-out bag, you might want to rethink that decision. Survival vests are best used in conjunction with bug-out bags because they take up less room, and they’re easier to take with you in a true emergency.
You won’t be able to pack nearly as much in a survival vest as you can in a bug-out bag, but you can keep essentials in your survival vest in case you lose your bug-out bag or have to leave it behind. Since survival vests can be worn like clothing, you’re less likely to lose them or have to leave them behind in an emergency.
Wrapping up the Best Survival Vest of the Year
You’re ready to buy your new survival vest and start prepping for your excursion (or doomsday).
The FIREGEAL Tactical Weighted Vest has everything you need to survive, though all the picks above will help you survive your mission!
Looking for more common household items to pack in your vest? Read this list of everyday items that can become survival items.