Words and pics: Rich Norman

Introduction

If kit purchasing behaviours were solely based on the merits of manufacturers’ products per se, I’d predict we’d all be using Esstac Daeodon plate carriers.

But things are more complicated than that. Branding, endorsements and social media reach – amongst other things – all have a role to play in our decisions. Because style is content: discursive, ideological content.

That’s not Esstac’s business model, however:

Esstac is a tactical gear manufacturer owned and operated by Stu Wilson, based out of Washington state. Stuart is a US Navy Veteran. Stuart started esstac to build and repair his personal gear. Later turning to his design and sewing skills to build a business that allowed him to be a stay at home father and still contribute to our serving men and women.

What is a Daeodon?

Given that Esstac named its chest rigs after a type of pig, it will come as no surprise that they’ve done exactly the same for their plate carrier…kind of.

While in popular culture the Daeodon is thought of as a rather formidable-looking prehistoric pig, newer research points to its genus being closer to modern days hippos (which is potentially more scary, as hippos are way harder than pigs).

And, much like Esstac’s chest rigs, the Daeodon plate carrier is an absolute beast – boasting a raft of features which are pretty unique; including the rather exotic choice, nowadays, of a higher denier cordura for the bulk of the carrier’s construction (I want to say 1000D, but I can’t verify it).

If you have 25 minutes to spare and prefer watching TV to reading (who doesn’t), Esstac themselves produced a comprehensive video which shows the Daeodon’s features, and also contains some great tips on how best to adjust it for fit. I won’t be dealing with the latter in this review, so unless you watch Esstac’s video – or are some kind of plate carrier savant – you are on your own.

Suffice to say that the Daeodon comes in one size only, featuring a plate bag which is good to go with anything up to a large SAPI plate. As such, I used large SAPI training plates while evaluating the carrier.

That said, the Daeodon is available slick or with a MOLLE front flap. I’ve gone with slick, with thanks to Tactical-Kit who provided this carrier on loan for review.

Salient Features

A few things to underline…

The slick version of the carrier comes complete with QASM clips. These allow the mounting of placards under the Mayflower system, which has become the standard for modern carriers.

Here’s one of Esstac’s KYWI placards attached, which I’ll be reviewing soon. It’s included with the carrier.

Jacquard webbing is used for PALS on the cummerbund and on the lower section of the rear plate bag. The angled daisy chains on the shoulder straps are also composed of this fabric.

Jacquard webbing is high quality and highly durable. It doesn’t white-out with use, like standard Multicam webbing.

Another thoughtful and high quality feature is the edging on the leading edges of the cummerbund. I’ve not seen this before.

…and look at all that bar tacking. The quality of the stitching and attention to detail is some of the best I’ve seen.

Ride height is adjusted at the shoulders using Velcro and the carrier has really decent padding here. Not only that, but it extends into the plate bags and offers some soft backing with plates in situ.

It’s a bit of an arse getting the plates in while making sure the padding doesn’t slip to the front of the plates, but as long as you don’t have a habit of switching plates around you’re fine.

Indeed, despite being a lite carrier, padding is a bit of a theme because the Daeodon features facilities for use with PIG Pontoons. These are padding strips which both cushion and provide stand-off for ventilation.

Aside from its excellent edging detail, the cummerbund setup is quite special.

Hidden under a flap at the rear plate bag, we find this:

It looks complicated, but in reality it’s really simple to adjust the length of the cummerbund using the G-hooks and PALS webbing. A stretch panel is also included for heavy lunch girth tolerances (pies, pasties, etc).

Securing the cummerbund flap after adjustment is a bit of a pig (if you’ll excuse the pun), but you’ll soon get the hang of feeding its free end through the webbing strap provided. In any case, you shouldn’t be mucking about much with the cummerbund after it’s been set, as you can make a pretty wide range of adjustments at the front plate bag end of things.

The interior of the cummerbund is helpfully lined with loop Velcro, so you can attach appropriate accessories close to your body.

Salient points explained, how does it wear?

Wearability

This is a really comfortable carrier, thanks mainly to the closed-cell foam shoulders. Materials are key, here. I’m not that keen on plush padding but Esstac has used some really decent, firm foam.

As mentioned earlier, this padding extends into the plate bags and – providing you’ve put the plates in properly – it will cushion against those plates, too. This also provides a degree of stand-off, which I don’t think anyone else is doing in quite the same way.

I didn’t get to try the carrier with PIG Pontoons, but I’m guessing they would extend the wearability enhancement a touch further.

Final Thoughts

I like this carrier and there are more famous brands on the market which aren’t stitched anywhere near as well. Remember what I said about branding, endorsements and social media reach? With the right marketing, Esstac could be stellar.

Not only is the quality some of the best I’ve seen, but the brave use of 1000D (I think) in a lite carrier means there are no questions about abrasion durability. And it really doesn’t feel heavy…with not a laser cut PALS slot anywhere.

In addition, this carrier has been thought through entirely and just feels that little bit different.

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