For newcomers to the world of paintballing who’ve fallen in love with the sport after a speedball session, the prospect of having to stock up on protective gear can be daunting. For one, there’s a great deal more to consider than a simple face shield and knee pads, particularly when you enter into the realms of woodsball and scenario paintballing. What’s more, getting kitted out with a full wardrobe of protective gear can be a pricey predicament.
You can spend a small fortune on paintball armor, only to find the non-breathable material will bring you down faster than the enemy. Perhaps you’ve parted with an eye-watering amount on a new tactical vest, only to find sub-par padding and next to no options for adding accessories and pouch storage. Whether you’re new to the game and need some pointers or you’re keen to progress from speedball to the higher stakes of scenario and woodsball, our go-to buying guide has all the insights you need to start compiling a premium line-up of the best paintball armor.
Key Areas of Protection to Consider When Paintballing
Many new to the world of paintballing think protective gear begins and ends with masks and face shields. While this is certainly chief among protective clothing, there’s a whole host of other bodily regions that are just as deserving of defence. As a general rule, you want to be ensuring as little bare skin is exposed as possible. Even before you begin to layer on specialist gear, you’ll want a hardy base of clothing that will help withstand impacts from high-velocity paintballs.
Keep arms covered with long-sleeved tops whenever possible and opt for slightly looser fabrics. Why? Tighter clothing might seem like a better choice for dampening the force of impact, but paintballs are more likely to beak apart when they come into contact with it. When it comes to the lower half, once again you’ll want to keep as much of the leg covered.
Thicker material is best here, certainly robust enough to handle all the crawling, kneeling and rigorous activity you’ll be undertaking during paintballing. That being said, consider how freely you can move in your jeans or cargo trousers of choice. Freedom of movement is crucial in keeping one step ahead of the enemy.
Footwear decisions ultimately rest on what kind of paintball format you’ll be playing. Scenario and wood paintballing will be much more intensive than speedball games. As such, you’ll want footwear that performs well and ensures your ankles are adequately supported to prevent sprains and injury. Things like hiking boots are a good choice here as they offer ankle support and better treads than other footwear.
Now we’ve brushed up on the basics of what you should be wearing for paintball, we can get into the detail of the specific types of protective gear you should be thinking a bout investing in.
Priority Protection – Masks/Goggles
This is without doubt the most important part of your anatomy to protect from high-speed projectiles. Think about all those sensitive points found on the face and then you’ll realise how crucial it is to be kitted out with clothing that offers ample protection for both the front and back of your head. Protective headwear needs to be worn during the entire length of play, so you’ll want to ensure you’ve picked something that’s both functional and comfortable enough that it won’t impede your performance.
A paintball mask should without doubt be the first of call when it comes to purchasing paintball armor. Always approach with functionality at the forefront of your buying decision and don’t be led astray by aesthetic appeal. Fit will likely prove the deciding factor when purchasing a paintball mask. Although masks will fit wearers differently, the main areas to focus on are the area around the eyes, as well as the ears.
Provided the mask fits well around these points, you should be suitably protected during play. Goggles are another component to consider in detail. The lenses of your mask can make all the difference when playing outdoors, with anti-fog coatings a must to ensure your vision remains clear. To find out more about head protection, check out our review on the best paintball masks currently available on the market.
Need Neck Protection?
Depending on whether or not your paintball mask has integrated neck protection, you may have to add another item to your paintballing gear. Neck protectors are an affordable piece of paintball armor, with the best options offering plenty of padded comfort and ventilated material to ensure optimum airflow.
Make Sure Your Torso Isn’t an Easy Target
When it comes to paintballing, the torso is a prime target for enemy fire. And it’s not just incoming paintball projectiles you need to worry about either. Wood paintballing and scenario games can be physically demanding endeavours, requiring you to dive, roll and slide across across a challenging environment. There’s a good deal of variety when it comes to torso protection, with the simplest choices being chest protectors. These protective pieces are strapped over your paintballing jersey.
More expensive alternatives combine the jersey and protective element into a single garment. Such gear should not only provide padded protection for the chest, but also the back, shoulders and ribs. As with anything w hen it comes to paintballing armor, functionality and comfort are paramount. As such, you’ll want torso protection that’s lightweight and breathable enough to keep you in adequate comfort during all-day paintballing sessions.
Keep Protected When Crawling
It’s easy to forget, but the elbows take a lot of punishment during paintballing. Any good game of woodsball or scenario skirmish will involve you diving into the fray or crawling through harsh terrain, so it’s pivotal you protect your arms from harm. A simple solution here is to stock up on a quality pair of elbow pads. The main things to look out for when selecting a suitable pair include a snug fit and enough flexibility to ensure adequate freedom of movement. Elbow pads engineered for paintball shouldn’t just cover the area in question, they should also fit the curvature of your arm at either side of the elbow.
In an ideal world, elbow pads should allow for as much flexibility of the arms as if you weren’t wearing them. Another area of the body t hat bears the brunt of many a scrape when paintballing are the knees. Whether you’re crawling through woodland terrain or kneeling down to scope out an enemy target, a good pair of knee pads are a must. Like with the elbow, the ideal pair of knee pads should cover the entirety of the knee and fit snugly, while still allowing you to move freely as you paintball.
You don’t want to clad your legs in anything too cumbersome, however. Make sure the knee pads you pick are durable but discreet, able to fit easily underneath your clothing, while also being lightweight enough that your movement and speed isn’t affected.
Slide in Safety
If you’re a regular of more demanding paintball games, slide shorts are certainly worth investigating. These protective shorts can be worn underneath paintball trousers, offering enhanced levels of protection for the crotch and other sensitive areas. These garments can also keep friction to a minimum when carrying out slides and dives, while providing added support for the hips. You’ll want to pick something that’s discreet enough to fit underneath your outer layer of trousers, while also making sure you’re dealing with a material that’s lightweight and breathable enough to keep you comfortable for the duration of play.
Gear Up with the Right Gloves
You’ll be using your hands at all times when paintballing as you handle your marker and take shot at the enemy. As such, having them constantly exposed isn’t a good idea. Having your fingers incapacitated by the brunt of incoming paintballs could put you out of the game, never mind leave you with a pretty unpleasant bruise to take home with you. As with all key pieces of paintballing armor, gloves should have ample padding to withstand the force of high-velocity paintball impacts.
Far more than any other other part of the body, dexterity is crucial when it comes to the hands when paintballing. Therefore, the gloves you choose need to be lightweight and flexible enough to allow you to property operate your marker and carry out essential tasks in the field. To ensure you’re at your best throughout the day, you’ll always want to pick a pair made from high-quality, breathable materials.
The Best Paintball Armor of 2022
Now we’ve run through some of the most pivotal things to consider when looking to buy protective gear for paintballing, we thought you might like another helping hand with your search. Below, you’ll find a cherry-picked selection of some of the best paintball armor essentials currently on the market.
The one-size-fits-all design also ensures just about any wearer can look forward to a first-rate fit, with adjustable shoulders and side straps as standard. Padded shoulder pads are also included, adding to comfort levels. The plater carrier also offers incredible storage potential, with MOLLE loop panels at the front and back for attaching patches and placards. There are also two M4 magazine pouches, with bungee retention ensuring maximum peace of mind.
The Level IV Model 1155 plates also provide exceptional stopping power. With NIJ Level IV protection as standard, these plates are constructed from a combination of composite backing material and a ceramic exterior. Tried and tested against multiple hits, these plates come with an impressive 10-year warranty.
This kit also comes with a carrying bag for convenient storage of all items. The bag is constructed from premium-grade 500 denier line, with more than enough space for storing the plate carrier and plates, as well as weapon magazines. Loop panels are also included for attaching modular storage, while twin carrying straps make transportation easy.
If you’re looking for lightweight, yet incredibly effective protection, the Shellback Tactical Rampage 2.0 Plate Carrier is an ideal choice. This plate carrier is designed for use with 10 x 12 inch ballistic-grade plates and is made from premium 500 denier nylon for maximum durability. With both and front rear plate pockets, this carrier is designed for optimal protection from almost every angle. There is also scope for customisation, with laser-cut MOLLE at the front, rear and waistband so you can incorporate additional storage pouches.
Although highly effective when it comes to protecting against ballistic projectiles, this plate carrier is a comfortable choice. Integrated mesh padding at the front and rear, as well as the shoulder, ensures maximum comfort for the wearer at all times. The cummerbund also features additional pockets with secure bungee retention, as well as space for additional armour inserts for enhanced protection.
Armadillo Dry Cooling Vest – Body Armor Ventilation, Air Flow for Ballistic and Tactical Vests, Keeps You Cool Under Internal Carriers and External Carriers (Large)
If you’re seeking protective gear that doesn’t compromise on comfort, this Armadillo Dry Cooling Vest might fit the bill. Designed for enhanced ventilation, this vest not only keeps you cool as you exert yourself, it also ensures you’re left dry of perspiration thanks to the breathable material used in its construction.
Intended to be worn underneath outer layers of paintball gear, this cooling vest ensures bulky chest protectors and heavier armor aren’t pressing directly against your body, helping regulate temperature effectively for more comfortable paintball sessions. What’s more, the pared-back design and classic black colour make it an easy complement to your existing gear.
Intended to provide complete core protection for your chest, back and upper arms and shoulders, this Empire Paintball BT Chest Protector will leave you feeling confident as you take to paintball combat. The innovative materials used in this design are also worth highlighting. The underarms and side vents are made from stretch fabric that wicks away moisture, keeping your skin dry and at an ideal temperature.
Location of padding has been carefully considered for the best levels of protection, with padded sections featuring perforation to encourage ventilation. The padded element of this chest protector is particularly robust, with the high-density material the result of a thermoforming process.
If you’re on the hunt for a chest protector that provides defence against enemy fire and plenty of storage for day-long paintballing, this GZ XINXING Tactical Paintball Vest is a strong contender worth considering. Made from high-density nylon that’s manufactured to resist heavy wear and tear, this tactical vest is also highly adjustable, allowing for a better fit to a wider range of wearers. What’s particularly worthy of praise here is the storage potential.
You can add no less than three standard-sized magazine pouches, as well as a further pouch for carrying a map and flash light. If that wasn’t enough, there are two pouches for communication kit and another reserved for medical essentials. Quick-release handles, a reinforced rescue pull handle and secure Velcro fastening round off the features of a top-tier chest protector for tactical paintballing.
YAKEDA Tactical Vest Outdoor Ultra-Light Breathable Combat Training Vest Adjustable for Adults 600D Encryption Polyester-VT-1063 (Black) (Black)
This YAKEDA Ultra-Light Tactical Vest is an ideal choice of torso protection for those who value manoeuvrability and practical features. Adjustable straps can be found at the side and shoulders, allowing the wearer to perfect a perfect fit to their shape. The protective credentials of this vest are more than adequate, with high-density polyester ensuring a durable piece of paintballing armor that will serve you well for a good long while.
Mesh elements ensure breathability and comfort, while also delivering a torso protector that’s less on the bulky side and not likely to bog you down with added weight. There’s removable pouches aplenty here, ensuring you can have everything you need for paintballing well within reach.
Take your paintball protective gear up a notch with this padded compression shirt from EliteTrek. Although designed with multi sport use in mind, this compression shirt is highly suitable for paintballing thanks to its premium padded protection. The chest, ribs and flanks of the torso are all afforded reliable protection thanks to the use of strategically placed EVA foam.
This quality material is not only very durable, it also allows for a high degree of flexibility. This compression shirt is cut short at the neck, ensuring the garment doesn’t impede a full range of movements. Provided you compensate with an additional neck protector, this EliteTek essential delivers the goods.
This chest protector from Tippman keeps things simple in design and aesthetics, but you’ve got everything you need here to keep you safe from harm during paintballing adventures. You can look forward to a quality fit, with adjustable straps ensuring this piece of gear conforms snugly to your torso, while your arms are left mobile for play.
Good levels of protection for both the front and back of the torso means even close range shots won’t leave you reeling in the moment or taking bruises home with you. Affordable and functional, this chest protector is manufactured to a high standard, with double-stitched construction making for a more rugged and durable piece of protective kit.
An affordable option for torso protection, this Maddog Padded Chest Protector has been designed to deliver the goods for all Airsoft and paintballing adventures. You can count on an easy fit thanks to elasticated shoulder straps, plus an adjustable strap at the side. This is handy considering the protector is a one-size-fits-all type.
This chest protector also ensures good levels of flexibility, with a lightweight design that won’t hold you back from games when manoeuvrability is a must. There’s a variety of colourways and styles to choose from that should satisfy all tastes which, combined with the ample front and back protection provided, makes this an essential piece of gear from a quality manufacturer.