I spent the first few years of my time in the Marines doing what most of my fellow grunts did, by trying to spend as little money as possible on personal gear, making do with what gear I’d been issued. This worked for a time, but after two deployments I realized I was making a mistake. Regardless of what it cost, I was living in this gear for months at a time and it was time to make it more bearable. A final kick in the pants was the Marine Corps’ switch to an “improved” plate carrier over the ones I had been using for the last several years.
As most veterans know, new gear doesn’t always mean better. These plate carriers were no exception, so after acquiring an older plate carrier I began looking at a few small add-ons to make this next deployment a little more enjoyable. I didn’t want to go full gear queer, I wanted my flak as stripped and light as possible. No matter how cool your gear looks, a few hours walking around the desert and that cool factor will wear off. One small purchase I made, and didn’t think too much about, was a pair of High Speed Gear shoulder pads. They were inexpensive, didn’t really add any weight, and appeared to be an improvement over standard shoulder coverings.
These shoulder pads are a simple design, made to strap onto any shoulder strap 2 inches wide or less. They have a gel-like insert that is far more comfortable than anything I had been issued, and they were less than $30. Even if they ended up performing horribly I wasn’t breaking the bank, and if they broke the Lifetime Guarantee offered ensured I wouldn’t be fixing them out of pocket.
I spent eight months in country with these shoulder pads, and they performed admirably. They showed no wear through daily use, and added a level of comfort I wasn’t used to. I’m not saying your shoulders aren’t going to ache after a long day outside the wire, but you’re going to feel the ache a bit less, and it’s the little things that matter. A friend of mine showed me an added benefit, while in the turret I could remove them, have my dismount stuff into the A/C vent for a time to cool them off. Reattaching the cooled pads was a comforting relief, and the padding held the cold for a fair amount of time. Cool relief when the temperature is triple digits and you’re baking in the sun helps bring a bit of life back into your body. I’m not sure it’s something the company recommends trying, but it made my days easier.
My fireteam also realized how well the pads worked. Anytime the trucks had to be staged before a patrol, or even moving them to refuel, if I wasn’t there one of them was bound to throw my rig on instead of theirs. There was always a comment on how much more comfortable my flak was, a few even tried to trade for the pads, their comfort making a $26 upgrade worth so much more.
There was only one real issue that I ever had with the pads. The shoulder straps on my plate carrier were much smaller than the two inches these pads could cover. That left plenty of play in the pads, which was not always ideal. Once on your body they wouldn’t move, held down by the weight of plates, magazines, IFAK, and whatever else. There were times though in throwing on my flak in a rush, for QRF or whatever reason, that the pads could flip out of place. Not a major issue, but a definite and recurring annoyance.
Even after the deployment the pads continued to earn their keep. My unit disbanded and I moved on to another, and brought the pads with me. My new platoon believed far more in hiking with crew served machine guns than I did, thankfully I had the pads with me. Balancing a Mark 19 or M2 on your shoulders is never comfortable, but the padding served as a cushion to keep the edges from digging in as much.
I’ve been out for over two years now, and while I don’t run around wearing full gear anymore the pads are still there, working just as well as they did on day one. At this point I have owned them for over four years with no issue aside from the fitment mentioned. This isn’t a flashy purchase, you’re not going to run faster, shoot straighter, or look cooler because you have gel-like pads. At the end of the day however, you will notice that your shoulders aren’t burning quite as much, and that chaffing from the issued gear isn’t happening anymore. These pads aren’t going to change your life, but they might make it a bit more comfortable, without adding extra bulk or weight to your gear.
Fit/Functionality: 4/5 The pads are made to fit universally to anything 2” wide or less. However, it would be nice if they could be secured more tightly to thinner shoulder straps.
Weight: 5/5 You will not notice a difference between these pads and the standard ones. The difference is negligible.
Durability: 5/5 They’re over 4 years old and still in perfect condition, most items bought so cheaply do not hold up so well. Made of 1000 denier Cordura and 6.5mm neoprene.
Appearance: 5/5 They come in a variety of colors, with options that will blend with your issued gear in the event you have a higher up that is a little too anal about gear uniformity.
Cost: 5/5 They’re $26, very inexpensive price for how well they perform.
Overall Score: 24/25
For enhanced comfort while wearing plate carriers and chest rigs. Will adapt to any webbing shoulder strap up to 2″ in width. Perfect upgrade for the USMC SPC or most plate carriers. These shoulder pads will add a thin soft gel-like padding to help manage the load.
Made of 1000 denier Cordura and 6.5mm neoprene.
Made in the USA.
Measures 3″L X 8″WX .5″D