If you’d have asked me a few years back about the merits of using weighted training plates, I’d have jokingly said that they’re only useful for fitness freaks and people who enjoy pain.
However, there’s something to be said for adding a little weight within your plate carrier. Certainly having something that both mimics the shape and solid feel of genuine armour plates will certainly help the majority of plate carriers sit better on the body, whilst providing a more convincing look and feel than foam inserts or hollow ABS plates.
So let’s start with dispelling a common myth: “weighted plates distribute the weight better on your plate carrier”. Whilst it might appear that this is that case, it’s not strictly true.
Putting an equal additional weight in your front and back plate bags will not magically redistribute the balance that’s being carried, the only way to do this is with asymmetrically weighted plates, or adapting your additional load to shift some weight around. What they will do though, is make the additional weight of mags and frags a more proportional difference, thus making it much more comfortable overall.
I won’t spend long on this aspect as it’s not really relevant to the review, but in an ideal world you want slightly more weight on your back then your front. We tend to place a lot of shit on the front of our carriers because it’s easy to get to, but if you can shift some of this to the side or rear (or better yet remove it entirely), then you’ll be doing your back a massive favour.
So what are weighted plates useful for? Well in the world of airsoft they’re primarily used to “fill out” a plate carrier. They’re certainly on the expensive end of a wide range of options, from home made cardboard plates and hollow plastic SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) replicas to the more specialised products such as offered by BeaverFit, Trident and of course… Travail.
One key benefit that weighted plates will actually have, is to help a plate carrier to sit more correctly on your body. The shape and weight of plates within the plate bags will drastically improve an armour carrier’s ability to fit correctly, less riding up and as a side benefit the carriers look a lot better when fitted with a suitable plate.
So why Travail? Why not one of the many other options on the market? Well there’s a lot of reasons to look at Travail’s range.
The method of construction is arguably the main selling point of these plates. Travail offer what are commonly called Multi-Curve plates, these are very similar in shape and size to the ceramic or steel ballistic trauma plates used by police and military units the world over. Travail offer what is commonly referred to as a “SAPI Cut” as their standard profile plates, or more recently they also offer a “swimmer/shooter cut” under their Granit2 range.
Multi-curve means exactly that, a compound curved plate design that’s been developed to be as ergonomic as possible. With many manufacturers that’s achieved by adding a slight curve to plates and job done… However, not all Multi-Curves are created equal.
Travail use a different curve for each of the front and back plates, with a more pronounced front plate shape that is designed to work with a wide range of body types (I’m not cross-fit shaped and yet these still fit rather well).
Travail have stated that a significant amount of research went into finding a suitable curve to meet the comfort requirements of those using weighted plates and from my own personal experience, I have to say it was time well spent. The plates are curved using an in-house process that is regarded as a trade secret, not that I can blame them for playing their cards close to their chest.
The curves are as uniform and well made as any sheet-metal products I’ve seen in the past and are not what I’d call a compound curve as you’d see with some stamped metal designs, but rather a pair of independent but complementary curves that meet in the centre of the plate.
The belly of the plate curves around a vertical axis whereas the upper portion curves upwards to contour the profile of your chest or back. When viewed from the front, a subtle triangle that’s formed from the curves can be seen in some lights.
The plates I’ve been sent for review are their 1.5kg set. They are the lightest, weighing in at 1.8kg (1824 Grams to be precise) for the pair (the backing adds another 300g).
I was offered the opportunity to test out any of their plates and although I should have probably tried a heavier set for the purposes of review, the 1.5kg plate set is heavy enough to give my Slickster a little bit of body but light enough for me to carry it around for a whole weekend without any discomfort meaning that it’ll actually get used. I figured that the majority of my airsofter readership would be heading for the lighter set too.
The 1.5kg plates that I’ve opted for are made from laser cut aluminium sheet, this being their lightest set, it’s also the only one not made from steel. All their plates, regardless of weight are then bevelled on the edges to prevent undue wear on your Plate Carrier/Harness and then finally powder-coated to fully seal the metal plates from the elements.
This powder coating process has a number of significant benefits for users of weighted plates, not only does it make them incredibly resistant to wear and tear (the carrier and the plates themselves) but it cuts down on the noise they make when knocked around.
The laser cutting and powder coating are outsourced to specialists within their respective fields, however all other facets of the manufacturing are done in-house. This allows Travail to both use the expertise of other businesses but also ensure that the quality of the finished product is held only to their own standards.
Each plate can backed with one of three customer chosen backer options, either 12mm or 15mm Neoprene or a third option of 20mm Pyrosorb, these offer a massive amount of comfort to the wearer and help “fill” the plate bag.
Neoprene is the material that most readers will be familiar with, being used for many applications such as laptop bags and wetsuits, but Pyrosorb is lesser known, being used mainly as a form of soundproofing but apparently very comfortable when used as a backer. The backing is cut perfectly to the shape of the plate and stuck on firmly with an adhesive layer.
Whilst I haven’t had the opportunity to field these plates within an airsoft game, I have spent a fair amount of hours walking around home, the local area and work (to a lesser degree) like a moron with my Ferro Slickster. During which I’ve done virtually everything I’d usually do within a game, and a fair amount of things I wouldn’t (Mrs ATRG has particular tastes…).
It’s holding up incredibly well so far, the only damage being caused by me inadvertently dropping the front plate on concrete and scraping off the powder coat from the bottom corner.
So, onto to the big question… Can I recommend them to a friend?
Well, the truth is that I didn’t need to. Upon seeing my new plates arrive, a colleague and very good friend of mine (Steve) immediately decided to purchase a set for himself, albeit in their heaviest weight at a whopping 9.7kg.
Having held his plates, I was blown away by their weight. A solid sheet steel, nearly 10mm thick with a 12mm neoprene backer. Certainly a fair amount of weight (more than I’d want to carry around) and enough to add that little bit of extra weight to your body if you’re trying to push yourself harder than your body weight alone allows.
His use of the plates are as part of a more punishing and testing fitness regime, his comments so far include the following: “They’re the perfect weight for intensive training”, “The Neoprene backing makes the plates comfy to work with” and “no restrictions in movement so exercises like burpees are no problem”. I’ll be honest, this is one of the few times I’ll admit that I felt obliged to get a second, more relevant opinion on an product before putting out a review.
So with all that said, yes, I can absolutely recommend Travail Fitness. The quality of manufacture is outstanding, the materials being used are in my opinion more run up to task, powder coating in particular is such a great addition and adds a massive amount of resistance to degradation and when it comes to cost, these sit exactly where they should at around £80 for a set. There are bundles available as well, and Travail do offer basic plate carriers for those only looking to use them as a training aid.
Thanks once again to Travail Fitness for supplying the plates, their full range is available direct through their website… www.travailfitness.com.