Words and pics: Rich Norman
How does the LV119 compare to <insert minimalist plate carrier name here>?
It’s a fair question, and one which readers have been asking ever since I received a number of sample Spiritus Systems LV119s.
For a start, if you require something that’s even lower profile than the Slickster, say, the LV119 could be it. LV stands for Low Visibility and the LV119 is certainly the most low profile and low observable plate carrier I’ve ever handled.
But that’s not the only difference.
Spiritus is a highly innovative company which thinks things through. Needless to say, the LV119 incorporates a whole raft of clever design features and new ways of doing things.
In this article – part one of my appraisal of the LV119 ecosystem – I’ll be looking in detail at Spiritus’ individual components.
All products were provided free of charge by Spiritus distributor Tactical-Kit, and will be returned to them after I complete my evaluation. The items were earmarked specifically for review purposes, and I’d like to thank Tactical-Kit for their confidence in the blog. It’s a huge privilege to get these items before anyone else in the UK, through the official distributor.
Since I haven’t purchased the review items I don’t need to persuade myself I’ve been really clever in selecting them. However, it does mean that I’m unable to give long term feedback – so bear that in mind.
Spiritus designed the LV119 ecosystem to be issued to operators in its entirety. The idea being that they can then select the desired configuration to meet mission requirements.
Currently, the following components are available:
- LV119 Front Plate Bag – Covert
- LV119 Rear Plate Bag – Covert
- LV119 Cummerbund – 4″ Elastic
- LV119 Cummerbund – 1″ Strap (not shown below or reviewed here)
- Shoulder Cover – Trifold
- Shoulder Cover – Low Profile
So, it’s possible to construct a ‘Covert’ plate carrier with a choice of shoulder covers (either Trifold or Low Profile) and cummerbunds (either 4″ Elastic or 1″ Strap).
I’ll use the Wolf Grey set to illustrate.
Note that the supplied ITW Nexus QD clips are not yet installed in the pics above.
The major fabrics used in the construction of the LV119’s components are cordura; a hypalon-style material (which I’ll refer to using that generic name); a four-way stretch softshell; and a sturdy elastic.
There are webbing loops at the cummerbund ends and Velcro in the approprate places. There’s also a couple of lengths of shock cord, to be utilised in the cummerbund set up.
The Front Plate Bag – Covert is shown below with the supplied ITW female QD clips installed.
Unlike any other plate carrier that I’m aware of, these clips remain discrete when mounted.
Semi-covered by Cordura shrouds, the items remain silent when knocked against hard objects. The fabric also smooths the clips’ outline under clothing.
The shoulder straps are hypalon and are connected to the rear plate bag (and adjusted to size) using Velcro.
A loop field is central to the front plate bag’s thoracic area and a jumbo flag patch fits here perfectly.
The abdominal area exhibits a larger loop field which is where the cummerbund wraps-around and secures; as well as where a placard would be mounted.
Aside from the shrouded QD clips, the rear of the plate bag features another Spiritus innovation: a softshell document holder.
I’d hazard a guess that the softshell fabric wicks moisture efficiently and is fast drying. It certainly creates a degree of stand-off between the wearer’s chest and the plate.
The sides of the plate bag feature softshell panels, which expand to accept ballistic plates. Be warned – these are extremely snug plate bags and Spiritus specifies their tolerances on its website. Check here for sizing and compatibility before you order.
At the time of writing, it said this:
The carrier was designed to snuggly fit United States Standard Issue SAPI cut plates. The bags were built to accommodate “thicker” plates but they will not fit plates that are NOT cut to the SAPI Spec.
Medium-10″ x 12.5″
Large- 10.25″ x 13.25″
Thickness- MAXIMUM of 1.20″
I am using medium plates in medium bags.
Lastly, the plate is retained by a Velcro flap.
The spinal thoracic region of the rear plate bag mirrors the front: exhibiting a loop field big enough for a jumbo flag patch.
The lumbar region, however, is completely slick.
A channel in the rear plate bag tidies the cummerbund and smooths the lumbar region under clothing – keeping things discrete.
The channel’s openings are finished in hypalon.
The reverse of the rear plate bag is completely slick, but note the softshell panels:
The rear plate is secured, like the front, with a Velcro flap. However, the interior of the plate bag exhibits a ‘Swiss cheese’ hypalon sheet – another innovation – which secures the cummerbund.
More on that in the next section.
The cummerbund is composed of study elastic.
Its compartments are standardised on 556 AR mags, but will adapt to various regular and irregularly shaped objects.
The base of each compartment is semi-enclosed with elastic stirrups.
Stitching here is pretty hardcore.
The front end of the cummerbund terminates with Velcro, matched to one of Spiritus’ many colourways – here Wolf Grey. I’m amazed they didn’t just simplify things and use black Velcro, but that’s the kind of company they are.
Utilising the ITW Nexus clips, a placard can be mounted upon the cummerbund’s face Velcro if desired. Velcro on the reverse of the cummerbund secures to the front plate bag. The front ends of the cummerbund also exhibit a webbing loops, for ease of doffing the assembled carrier.
The rear of the cummerbund terminates in a female hypalon hinge:
Earlier I mentioned the Swiss cheese hypalon sheet, internal to the rear plate bag. This structure interfaces with the cummerbund’s female hinge via the supplied shock cord.
The first time I set up an LV119, I found this mechanism time consuming to configure. It seemed like a fiddly system and I wasn’t sure it was optimal.
However, I took a step back and reasoned that the decisions Spiritus took in the design of this carrier prioritised its low profile aspect.
Indeed, the innovative (if time consuming) method utilised here renders the LV119’s external lumbar section completely smooth and snag free; as per the design brief, presumably. Clothing slips over the carrier with ease and there is no tell tale bungee or PALS topography embossed on the surface of your outerwear.
In any case, with the second LV119 I set up, I breezed through the cummerbund configuration. Practice makes perfect. Just make sure you follow the instructions on Spiritus’ website; and tie big knots in the ends of the shock cord to prevent them pulling through the Swiss cheese hypalon sheet when in use.
The Trifolds are simple covers composed of cordura and Velcro, which wrap around the LV119’s shoulder straps. They can be used for routing comms and hydration.
As rudimentary as they are, they are essential.
Without shoulder covers the LV119’s shoulder straps – like all minimalist plate carriers – are pretty uncomfortable; so it’s best to invest. Even then, for me this carrier is best worn outside a collar. The shoulder straps are not wide spaced, so be aware if you have a solid neck.
I didn’t use the low profile shoulder covers on this set up, but they are simple tubular sleeves composed of softshell.
Despite their minimalism, they actually do a pretty good job of preventing the LV119’s shoulder straps cutting-in to your neck, if bare.
Here’s how the LV119 looks set up at its most covert:
Read Part 2 here.
Want more Spiritus Systems reviews? You can find a whole list of them here. The list is updated as more reviews are published.