inally it's here. Early in 2020 I made a comparison of different plate carrier setups price- and feature-wise (let me know if you'd like to hear about that comparison too) and the Crye Precision AirLite Structural Plate Carrier came on top, meaning I picked it as my go-to load bearing solution for my new load out. Watching some reviews from YouTube and other information else where it seemed to check all the boxes to be the best solution between a heavier carrier such as the Crye AVS and a lighter option like the JPC. The first one being a little heavy for my purposes and the JPC being less rigid for carrying pouches on the cummerbund etc.
But man was it a little hard to get. It's been mostly out of stock for the bigger part of the year pretty much everywhere. Fortunately I wasn't in a hurry with the purchase and actually eventually sourced the parts from a couple different places.
Here's the setup I'm building:
- AirLite SPC, check
- AirLite Detachable Flap - MOLLE, check
- AirLite Structural Cummerbund (small), check
- AirLite Configurable Radio Pouch (waiting for it to arrive)
- Zip-On Back Panel, not bought yet, any tips, what to look for? Let me know.
Current pouches / attachments:
- S&S Precision NavBoard FlipLite
- ESSTAC Kywi Triple M4
- BlueForceGear Tenspeed Triple M4
- BlueForceGear HeliumWhisper Multi-Radio Pouch
- MilSpec Monkey Tac-Organiser
- Tactical Tailor Universal Mag Pouch
Let's dive into it!
The main part of the AirLite SPC is the carrier itself with its front and rear plate bags. The bags connect to each other with JPC style velcro straps that also function as shoulder straps for the carrier. They're covered with sleeves that are not padded. In the shoulder straps you also have fast pull-tabs for emergency doffing.
Both bags have a velcro closure at the bottom for keeping the plate in after inserting and elastic webbing on the sides of the plate to keep it in place horizontally. The outer part of the plate bag is made out of Crye's proprietary AirLite material and the inside features 3D mesh-net to allow air circulation between your body and your plate package. Both bags also have quick attach side loops for added ballistic coverage, as well as groin protection attachment points where needed.
Both the front and rear outer part are laser cut to to provide MOLLE attachment points, except on the front's lower part you need the separate "Detachable Flap - MOLLE" for pouch attachment, because of the cummerbund's securing system.
The Detachable Flap - MOLLE is a simple thing, made out of AirLite, it attaches with velcro webbing through slots in the front bag's outer face. Once it's attached you can add your favorite MOLLE pouches on the front. It secures in-place with velcro around the front and a button at the bottom of the carrier.
Additionally the front plate bag has webbing loops to support adding detachable chest rigs or placards.
The rear plate bag also has zippers for adding Crye's zip-on backpanels, loop velcro strips for identification patches and channels for the cummerbund.
One of the nicest thing's about the SPC is the AirLite Structural Cummerbund... well apart from actually adjusting it to the right size...the bungee cord adjustment is a pain in the ass to get right. What I did like in the adjustment phase is that one can hide the excess bungee cord through a slot in the rear plate bags closure inside the carrier so it's not dangling around or messing with your pouch attachment. Kudos to Crye for that detail.
However once you've got the adjustment over with, the cummerbund is sweet. Like Crye says it really does provide rigidity and structure for your sides even with larger and heavier pouches. This is because it is lined with a composite material that provides it with a strength to keep its form even when loads increase. It's also compatible with the STKSS system that can be used to manage shoulder and back loads.
On top of that you can mount pouches on the inside and outside of the cummerbund whichever you prefer and it also supports AVS-style slide on pouches.
The cummerbund is easy to close because of the rigidity that it has and as it has the AVS style slots for the cummerbund arm in the front you'll always position it the same way, keeping your adjustment right. It's also really smooth to open with the cummerbund's low-profile release handles and they sit nicely under the MOLLE flap without adding bulk to your front.
Some Observations From Setup
#1 PTT placement, like some more experienced guys have already noted it seems for some reason it's like Crye forgot to add one laser cut slit on the front of the carrier. So unfortunately PTT placement has its challenges. For now I've found a pretty okay position using one "Ferro" style PTT attachment through one of the laser cut slits near the chest rig tab and the shoulder strap hole. Also AXL Advanced advanced offers solutions to fix this issue.
#2 MOLLE real estate on the front, if you want to go off the current trend and add more stuff to your front then the SPC will be quite limited. If you're running a triple shingle and add a small admin pouch or something like the FlipLite for an end-user device you're not gonna fit anything else. So if you like to go heavy on the front the SPC might not be for you.
#3 Cummerbund sizing, if you're light built definitely go with the small cummerbund! I guess the medium and large one were designed for body builders or something. I'm glad I listened to this recommendation from others online, there's no way a larger cummerbund would've worked for me.
So there you have it, my initial observations about the SPC. I haven't yet worn it to the range or airsoft games so this is totally based on first impressions just from setting it up and testing how the thing works in general. I'll be doing an in-depth review once I've got time with it in actual use and will then comment more on it's comfort level etc.
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