I’ve wanted to write an AVS review for many months. For me it’s without equal; the gold standard in plate carriers. But Crye’s Adaptive Vest System doesn’t want to be pinned down. That’s because – perhaps unlike any other plate carrier out there right now – it’s an elaborate toolkit which can be diversely adapted to suit the user.
That said, over those same months I’ve honed my own setup to work for me. It basically revolves around a core of AVS components which Crye calls the Base Configuration. It’s this I’ll be dissecting to commence my AVS series of reviews.
The Base Configuration is a pairing of the AVS Standard Plate Pouch Set and the AVS Harness. The harness is really important to me, because in my own personal schema it divides the carrier world into two types.
Sandwich Board Versus Harness Plate Carriers
Until I tried Crye’s CPC, I wasn’t aware of the benefits of the harness system. Prior to this, I was used to ‘sandwich board’ PCs like the JPC (my review of the JPC 2.0 here). If you don’t know what a sandwich board is, or have never seen one worn by a human, google “The End Is Nigh” in images…
The sandwich board PC (which covers most designs out there, to be fair) concentrates weight on the shoulders, with little of it spread across the rest of the upper body. The harness PC, on the other hand, is in much greater contact with the upper body and so spreads the weight more evenly. Being semi rigid, it’s architected to carry greater weights without deformation or the feeling of imbalance; without the weight needing to be arranged symmetrically, about the carrier
There’s also a second benefit to the harness. Whereas the JPC moves a little with the user – insofar as its cummerbund has some lateral give because of the bungee latticed at its rear – the CPC truly follows the wearer’s movements; accommodating expansion and contraction along more than one axis, because of its articulated torso-moulded harness.
There are always trade offs, however. Harness PCs will be bulkier and less well ventilated than conventional sandwich board arrangements. Indeed, the CPC was the first PC I felt truly comfortable in, but there was just one problem. It was way too warm and sweaty during athletic use for someone who runs hot. So that’s why I progressed to the AVS.
As it often does in terms of capabilities, the AVS sits somewhere in between the CPC and JPC. It can be configured with a harness (e.g. Base Configuration, as reviewed here), but that harness isn’t as plush and complicated as the CPC’s – so the AVS is not as comfortable and doesn’t move with the user quite as closely.
Nevertheless, that loss versus the CPC’s capabilities has an upside. The AVS with its harness manifests itself as a lighter, lower bulk and cooler system – though not as well ventilated and high speed low drag as the sandwich board JPC. That said, the AVS is more comfortable than the JPC and moves so much better, because it does at least have a harness.
One final note is that harness PCs are not as packable as something like the JPC. The latter folds flat whereas harnesses by their nature prevent this. However, in these situations the AVS can of course be configured as a sandwich board PC – without using the harness at all.
AVS Base Configuration Components
The AVS Harness is one of the things which differentiates the Base Configuration. It encapsulates the wearer in a pre-shaped, semi rigid but articulated exoskeleton.
The heart of the articulation lies in the bungee lattice which runs the height of the harness and divides the component in two. Tension is adjusted at the base.
The harness is lined with Crye’s familiar One Wrap style loop. This can be used to attach items such as the hook backed AVS Harness Pad Set – as installed here. The pads create air channels for breathability and can be arranged as comfort requires.
The lining also makes the harness Crye Smart Pouch Suite (SPS) compatible. The 6x6x3 GP Pouch depicted simply slips over the harness arm, securing via the hook velcro contained within its SPS pass-through. It’s a highly convenient system to use when switching out pouches regularly, because MOLLE – and its tedious weaving – is not required.
The exterior of each harness arm exhibits PALS webbing, nonetheless.
Base Configuration comes complete with side straps, which connect steel loops at the rear of the harness with the front plate bag. Strap length is adjusted and fixed via a steel tri-glide. The harness arms cannot, therefore, expand any further than the outlying side strap, but they can pivot against it and this flexibility is important for comfort.
In order to pivot, the harness arms sit in channels in the front bag where they are free to move closely with the user.
However, if desired, one arm can be affixed semi-permanently to its channel.
The other arm remains unfixed, so that the user is able to don and doff the carrier with ease.
The harness extends to the shoulders, where the AVS Base Configuration comes complete with Tweave covers. These exhibit One Wrap style cable/hydro routing loops.
Standard Plate Bag Set
Rear Plate Bag
The rear plate bag is different to most, in that it’s internally stiffened – with something like a lightweight backpack’s frame sheet. I don’t think this is strictly relevant to its use in Base Configuration, but underlines that the latter is but one setup; the AVS itself can also be deployed as a sandwich board PC – as mentioned earlier – and the frame sheet helps with load bearing in that config.
However, in Base Configuration, rather than the AVS’ rear plate lying directly against the user it’s offset by the harness. As such, it can be raised or lowered independent of the front plate.
Adjustment is achieved via steel tensioning points at the shoulders of the harness, which interface with straps on top of the rear plate bag.
In addition, the rear face of the harness features stiffened webbing straps which are closed with poppers, embedded in hypalon.
The reverse of the rear plate bag features corresponding PALS webbing, through which the stiffened straps are inserted (then secured using the poppers). The PALS allows the straps to slide freely, so that expansion and contraction of the harness is not impeded as the user moves.
The face of the rear plate bag features PALS webbing and a loop velcro field – also arranged as PALS. Atop the bag, is a stowable drag handle.
To the sides, zips are present for use with Crye’s Zip On Panels. Tweave expansion gussets are also present, so the bag can adapt to plates of various specifications.
At the base of the rear plate bag is a flap which secures with velcro hook facing outwards. The flap features a webbing tab for ease of opening. Ballistic or weighted training plates are inserted here.
Front Plate Bag
Like the rear plate bag, the front is internally stiffened – much like a lightweight backpack’s frame sheet. This is important in Base Configuration, with the front plate bag placed directly against the user’s chest, because it assists with load bearing.
Front plate bag height is adjusted via velcro at the shoulders, where it connects to the harness. The AVS’ highly distinctive QD buckle (a blessing compared to carriers donned overhead, like the JPC) can be be positioned on either shoulder.
The reverse of the front plate bag exhibits channels on either side, where the harness’ cummerbund arms are inserted – as mentioned previously. At the base is a webbing receptacle for mounting abdos or AXL’s excellent Sub-Load Adaptor.
The reverse of both bags is lined with nothing other than cordura, but in Base Configuration you don’t miss spacer mesh or similar because both bags are subject to a degree of stand-off from the user’s body.
The bag’s base flap is again orientated with hook facing outwards. Ballistic or weighted training plates can be inserted within.
A popper is present with which to fasten the compatible AVS Detachable Flaps (e.g. M4, as fitted here, but out of scope for this review).
The face of the front plate bag features a loop velcro field, much like the rear bag; again arranged as PALS. Vertically orientated webbing loops are placed on either side – which can be used for PTT attachment, for example.
Like the rear plate bag, the front exhibits Tweave expansion gussets at the sides to enable the use of a variety of plate specs.
At the top of the plate bag is a pocket – secured with velcro – which features elastic daisy chain organisation inside.
Beneath this is a huge loop velcro field and more PALS loop where an AVS Detachable Flap can sit.
It’s also in this location that the harness arms’ side straps secure. These straps can be replaced with either the 2-Band (my favourite) or 3-Band Skeletal Cummerbund.
Alternatively, the straps can be dispensed with entirely and the harness arms can be unfolded and secured at the front of the carrier.
Size and Fit
My AVS Base Configuration was purchased from AOTac, ready assembled. Crye assembles the Base Configuration with correspondingly sized plate bags and harness – in my case medium/medium. However, if the items are purchased as separates, the user can mix and match.
I find the AVS Harness a little odd in terms of sizing. I’m using a medium harness with medium plate bags as mentioned above, but in terms of girth I could probably use a small; whereas in terms of harness shoulder length, a large may be better.
Presumably medium is a decent compromise for me, although many swear by sizing one down from plate size (e.g. medium bags/small harness). Oddly, the CPC’s harness in medium was OK for me – if maybe a little too small – so I don’t think Crye’s sizes are consistent in this respect.
Because the AVS Base Configuration’s plate bags are independent of one another, they can be pretty much dialled in to the user’s preference – without compromise.
Front Plate Bag
In terms of plate bag height, using multi-curve training plates I find that the front plate bag sits best at three finger spaces below the Suprasternal Notch. This orientates the plate high enough for potential protection, but also allows me to shoulder my Systema PTW L119A2 clone with CTR stock without interference.
Rear Plate Bag
To the rear, I also benchmark with the Suprasternal notch, bringing the top of the plate level with it. Again, this allows for decent potential protection but also balances the carrier to my preference.
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