A few years ago, I participated in Murph for the first time. I did it on a whim, and I was crushed. But I was also hooked. A friend of mine had let me borrow a weight vest for the session – a relatively inexpensive Amazon no-name special. It worked OK, but it was bursting at the seams.
I had to get my own, but I knew I wanted something durable that would stand up to abuse. After a bit of research, I landed on the V-Max and V-Force lines of weight vests, and I’m glad I did.
The V-Max and V-Force lines of weight vests are among the best. They are recommended by Stew Smith of Military.com and other highly respected trainers. The vest is made-to-order, tough, durable, and well-fitted. The 2.5 lb plate increments make the weight vest convenient to dial in the resistance without having to buy expensive plates for a plate carrier-style vest.
Let’s talk about the ins and outs of the vest. First, I’d like to talk about why I specifically prefer this type of adjustable weight in a vest, rather than a plate-style vest like the 5.11 or Rogue.
The vests come in a plethora of weights and variations, but they all share the same basic functionality. That is, they are adjustable in weight in 2.5 lb increments.
For a home gym guy like me, this is a huge plus. All the iron weights get retained in the vest when it’s not in use, and the vest gets hung over my pullup bar for storage. Done.
Aside from a set of resistance bands or a TRX, this weight vest might be the most compact piece of gym equipment money can buy – no stacks of plates to deal with, since everything is stored in the vest when not in use.
If I want to take it to the park or on a hike, I can grab the whole vest and throw it in the trunk.
With a traditional plate carrier-style weight vest, you’ve got to purchase the vest, and then weight plates separately.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got two stacks of barbell plates taking up space in my home gym. I don’t have the space or the desire to buy another stack of plates that are only usable in a weight vest.
For this reason, I think that something like the V Force or V Max weight vests, which come with 2.5 lb plates included, makes a lot of sense.
I mentioned in the title that this review comes after a year of regular hard use. In addition to countless pull-ups, push-ups, dips, rows, squats, lunges, and split squats, this vest has been used on road runs, trail runs, hikes, burpees on concrete, gravel, and everything in between.
Between my wife and I, this vest has been used 3-6 days per week for over a year at this point.
I’ve noticed no appreciable wear, other than the Velcro isn’t as aggressive as it was when we first got it. This is totally OK, as the Velcro is super aggressive when you first receive this vest out of the box.
If there’s one word to describe this vest, it’s rugged. I’m not just saying that – the straps are thick, the plate pockets are thick layered nylon, and the straps are extremely tough. Despite all that, the vest is very comfortable (more on that later).
Even the velcro is grippy and durable. After getting this thing out of the box, the velcro was the one thing I worried slightly about. However, it hasn’t been an issue. If it ever becomes an issue, I’ll make sure to come back and update this review.
Anywhere I looked online, the advice I got about weight vests was to make sure the vest fits tightly to your body. This is especially true in articles that discussed Crossfit, Chad 1000x, or running with a weighted vest. For all of those pullups and pushups, we want the vest not to slide around on our bodies during the sessions.
Makes sense, right?
This vest, when adjusted properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions (video below), fits on me fantastically, while also allowing plenty of room to breathe. This is critical for workouts that involve both heavy calisthenics with cardio components as well.
The weight distribution is perfect, hugging the upper back and chest very well. I’ve even done high-rep sets of pike pushups in this vest just to see if I could get this thing to move – I couldn’t.
Despite the fact that this is not the women’s version of the vest, my wife also very much likes the fit and uses this vest regularly. When we got it, I suggested that she take a look at the women’s versions. Upon trying it, she decided just to stick with this one – that’s how well it fits both of us.
The reason? This vest has infinite adjustability for the individual by setting up the straps according to the length we’ll need, prior to actually clipping the vest on. Initially, the setup was a bit of a confusing process for me, but the good news is you only have to do it once if this is going to be your vest.
The plates in this vest are 2.5 lb “weights”, which are glorified chunks of cast iron. They are durable, and they are true to their weight.
They slip in and out of the pockets easily, but the pockets are well-formed around the weights. They do not rattle, shake, or fall out.
The Velcro surrounding the pockets is super tight. In the time I’ve been using this vest, I have never worried that the weights were going to fall out, and I haven’t seen the pockets loosen.
The weight plates and weight plate retention on this vest are top-notch.
The adjustability of the vest has made it especially convenient for weighted vest strength training, allowing us to dial in the resistance used for the exercise or set just like we would with a barbell or cable stack.
Adjustment on this vest is a bit confusing at first. I’ve included a quick video below if these written instructions throw you for a loop as they did for me. This is the process I’ve found works best:
- Take the included strap and find the middle. Place the middle of the strap on the middle of the velcro strip on the back of the vest.
- Take the two included fasteners and stick them on the front velcro strap, with a small gap in the middle.
- Place the vest on your shoulders, and grab the two ends of the adjustment strap. This step can be tricky. Feed the two ends of the straps through the D-rings on the fastener pieces.
- Once you’ve got both ends fed through the D-rings, tighten to comfort and double back and attach them to the velcro on the strap.
- Clip the small plastic clip in the front of the vest and viola, you’re done! Your vest is now set up for your body type. You can now take the vest on and off without ever having to adjust it again.
Of course, you can always make adjustments later by pulling apart the velcro on the sides and restarting the process. I’ve only done this once in the life of the vest when I realized my initial setup was too tight to breathe well during heavy cardio.
What is the difference between a V-Force and V-Max weight vest?
Though these vests are extremely similar, I had a bit of trouble determining what the differences are.
According to their FAQ, the V-Max weight vest is their original vest, whereas the V-Force weight vest has more reinforcement throughout the vest. It appears that other than that, they are identical.
There is also a “Box” vest option, which comes with an extra slick liner for easy cleaning after workouts.
My personal weight vest is the 50lb V-Max vest, and so far I haven’t seen any reason to upgrade or trade out to a different one.
About the Company
The V-Force vest is the official weight vest of Mountain Tactical Institute and is recommended by Stew Smith and Seal Grinder PT.com. The vests are made-to-order in the United States, and they have a lifetime warranty.
Though I have not used it, they offer a $35 trade-in credit if you decide to switch vests down the road.
Their customer service is very responsive, and they even have a “clearance” section on their website where very good deals can be had if you check often.
I would purchase this vest again if needed, though I suspect I’ll never need to. The vest is super tough and works just as well as the day I got it.
I suspect it’s going to last a lifetime – which was my intention when I bought it.
They are certainly not the cheapest vests out there, but if you’re looking for a vest that’s portable, rugged, fits well, and can be used for a variety of workouts, check out weightvest.com’s selection of vests.