Most of the vest companies recommend replacing vests every 2-5 years, or more often if you hit the ground in them. Mine is... uhm… at least 15 years old. Although it still fits just fine, the foam is noticeably thinner than on the new vests I’ve tried out, and the zipper is shot. In other words, it’s waaaay past time to replace it.
My Tipperary vest, circa 1999
I really want my new vest to be certified – the Tipperary vests are not certified because they are constructed of many small pieces of foam, and theoretically would allow an object to puncture the space between the foam. So I’ve been looking at a couple of other companies that make certified vests, namely Airowear, Charles Owen, and Rodney Powell.
Charles Owen vests
The design and construction of these vests is quite similar – solid pieces of foam over the body. Our local Dover store carries the Airowear vests, so I tried a few of them on. After wearing the Tipperary for most of my adult life, I can definitely say that I do NOT like the bulk of the other style of vests. The Tipps are very flexible and really move with you, but in the Airowear I felt like I couldn’t even get my arms down by my sides because of the bulk of the vests. But ok, whatever, I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for a certified vest.
However, I’ve encountered a stumbling block that may leave me with very little choice as to the vest I ultimately purchase. My original Tipperary vest is custom-made, because when I got it, Tipperary ONLY did custom vests. What I did not realize is that despite the plethora of sizes that are now available, I may still need to have a custom vest made, because NONE of the off-the-rack vests fit me. Here are the issues:
- Chest size – Much to my embarrassment, I’m a kid’s size. Even the smallest women’s sizes leave too much of a gap around the bust. But if I go with a kid’s size vest, they are far too short in both the front (don’t cover the ribs) and the back (don’t cover my tailbone).
- Tailbone protection – The Tipperary Tall XS is the only vest that actually covers my tailbone. All the rest of them, even in the “long” lengths, are at least an inch (even two!) above the end of my tailbone. Airowear does make an “extra long” length, but the measurements show that it will probably still be too short. And because it’s special order, I can’t return it if it doesn’t fit.
- Rib protection – The front of the Airowear vests are at least an inch above the end of my ribs. However, the Tipperary covers my entire rib cage.
Rodney Powell Pro Body Armor
So it looks like my choices are a non-certified custom Tipperary, or a custom certified RP or Airowear vest. I’m super-tempted to go with the Tipperary, just because they are a comfortable and known quantity, but there’s that little certification thing in the back of my mind. So, anybody had any experiences with any of the other vests, or with having a vest custom-made from any of these companies? I need some help making a decision!!!