Words and Pics: Rich Norman
That’s not the whole story, however – far from it.
To give Eagle their due, they’ve done some really innovative work to differentiate the ULV from the archetype – and it’s not just visual.
As far as visual differentiation goes, however, Eagle’s central motif is its use of eye-catchingly-cut HANK – a Hypalon type material – at the shoulders and cummerbund. Crye’s AirLite cummerbund – very similar to Eagle’s – does not feature this material and it does make a difference, as will become clear later.
The JPC 2.0’s shoulders do comprise of a Hypalon type material – iconically so – and to counter this more than passing resemblance, Eagle again uses hexagonal cut-outs in its version. Notwithstanding, the execution is extremely similar.
One massive difference between these two products is quality. The ULV does not look mass produced. It is well made, with excellent stitching throughout. That will be enough to recommend it to some.
Using 500D cordura throughout and minimising webbing, the ULV is also extremely light. Lighter in the hand, unladen, than a JPC 2.0. The ULV also comes complete with a front flap – the JPC 2.0 does not.
If you’re not following a clone correct loadout, the ULV is an excellent alternative to the cookie-cutter JPC 2.0. Some may choose the Eagle product just to be different. Aside from that, it does have a number of things to recommend it as I’ll outline below.
The Tactical Ultra Low-Vis Plate Carrier (ULV) presents with front flap attached and those hexagonal voids drawing the eye: persuading the open-minded observer that maybe Eagle has wrenched something new from this classic form factor.
Note that Eagle hasn’t overdone the front plate bag with weight inducing webbing and huge swathes of Velcro; although you’d be hard pressed to attach an XL UJ to what’s left behind. The ULV sure as hell isn’t a ‘busy’ PC.
Below – front flap stripped. Note that unlike the JPC 2.0’s cummerbund, Eagle has dispensed with the grab handles for use in opening and closing. The handles add a lot of bulk behind the front flap – sometimes causing it not to secure adequately – so this is a fair shout.
Below – rear. Again, note that compared to the JPC 2.0 the ULV is sort of semi-slick, with webbing and Velcro kept to a bare minimum. The Velcro which is featured is Multicam:
The ULV features loops for hanging a Mayflower style chest rig up front. These are semi-recessed but a whole lot easier to use than Crye’s super-fiddly efforts:
At the rear of the ULV is a rather familiar looking cummerbund adjustment and retention system. I’ll say no more than that.
The rear plate bag is flanked by zips, for zip-on back panels. I’d like to say which back panels these are compatible with – Eagle products certainly – but without a Crye panel I can’t test for cross-compatibility.
There’s also a very lightweight looking grab handle, although I’m sure it’s up to the job:
The ULV’s AirLite style cummerbund is differentiated by HANK inserts. HANK does lend some support – keeping the cummerbund in shape – so it’s not just for looks. As such, Eagle’s implementation doesn’t warp and deflect like Crye’s. This is ironic, because the ULV cummerbund does not exhibit the internal stiffening fibre material of the Crye product.
Also note the lack of vertical stiffening columns. The ULV cummerbund does not need these, because of the HANK reinforcement:
The inside face of the cummerbund’s webbing is loop Velcro (my last JPC 2.0 only had Velcro on one face):
On the sides and reverse of the plate bags, huge swathes of Tweave are exhibited. Tweave is a tough, four-way stretch softshell material:
The plate bags themselves are absolutely massive, so they probably don’t need this much stretch fabric to accommodate differently shaped plates.
As I was looking at the ULV I pinged Tactical-Kit – who kindly loaned this sample – to ask if perhaps I had a large instead of a medium. After checking the labels, I confirmed that I did indeed have a medium. Like I said, huge bags.
The plate bags close in the usual way:
Also, there’s no surprises with the shoulder covers – they are also Tweave, and stretch over the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps adjust via Velcro.
Lastly, the front flap. This is not compatible with the Crye system, because it sensibly uses standard PALS spacing:
Furthermore, unlike Crye AVS front flaps it’s really easy to attach:
And there you have it – the same, but different.
Who will buy this plate carrier?
Unless Eagle sells the ULV to a military client (whereupon it becomes a loadout to be copied), I suspect their customers will be people who want a Crye JPC 2.0-style offering but without looking like one of the masses.
Those customers will be free-thinking individuals, unconstrained by impression legitimacy, who love the form factor but want something different.
Thanks to Tactical-Kit for giving me a few weeks to play about with this plate carrier – I’ve really enjoyed looking at it and seeing what a reenergised Eagle Industries is capable of.
It’s a great start.