I’m a big fan of the booming commercial market for body armor these days. Finally, affordable ballistic protection for the people is a realistic option. But I would hardly call most of it practical for everyday use by your average American. In fact, if I’m being honest, even the body armor I’ve bought with my own money very rarely leaves my man cave. 

It’s cool. It’s functional. Yet, it’s hardly practical for my daily needs. That’s what makes Bodyguard Armored Backpacks from the Self Defense Company a lot more intriguing than the Kevlar helmet and plate carrier hanging on my wall. 

These seemingly ordinary backpacks might actually offer the instant armor solution you would leave home with every day. So, we grabbed a pack to see just how well it works with some hands-on testing.

Table of Contents

Video Review
Specs & Features
Wearability & Use
Ballistic Testing
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts

Video Review



Bodyguard Armored Backpacks come in three flavors: Elite (25 liters), Switchblade (40 liters), and First Responder (40 liters). The main differences between the three are size and purpose, with the smaller Elite bag and larger Switchblade having a non-tactical profile compared to the tactical First Responder. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The Elite backpack has an unbranded, non-tactical look to it. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Here’s the Bodyguard lineup from left to right: Elite, Switchblade, and First Responder. (Image: Bodyguard Armored Backpacks)

All three designs use the patented Switchblade deployment system (U.S. patent 11,181,343) that has two pull straps to instantly convert the otherwise normal-looking packs into front-and-rear plate carriers. The design allows users to discreetly carry their armor with them until it’s needed. 

It’s not the first backpack-style body armor, but the Bodyguard setup is pretty sleek. While there are some eccentric ideas floating around when it comes to hidden/portable armor, these backpacks keep it simple for the user.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The deployment system is user-friendly and discreet. (Image: Switchblade deployment system patent)
Body Armor Backpack
Other attempts were either far more complex or far less practical for someone trying not to stand out in a crowd. (Image: Other backpack-style armor patents)

Regardless of the bag’s size, it can host two hard armor plates that are 10x12 inches or two soft panels measuring 11x14 inches. You can even use a stacked combination, which is an option for some types of armor, thanks to a separate pocket just for soft armor. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The front panel has a dedicated pocket for the hard plates and an additional pocket on the back for soft armor. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

There are two plate options you can buy with your backpack. There’s a soft level IIIA panel designed to stop up to .357 SIG and .44 Magnum handgun rounds. Or you can pick a lightweight hard polyethylene level III+ plate designed to stop rifle rounds up to 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. You can also opt to just buy the backpack and use your own plates.

As far as uses, I can see a lot of options for the Bodyguard lineup that range from first responders and private security to daily commuters, travelers, students, or even range safety officers. It would also make a solid go-bag or bug-out bag you can keep handy in your car or home with some basic medical, survival, and self-defense essentials. 

Specs & Features

For our testing, I selected the Elite backpack because it’s the trimmest option that’s closest to my own personal day bag that I use for hiking, commuting, and travel. The pack is similar in size to my 24-liter 5.11 Rush 2.0 backpack that I’ve used extensively. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
This front panel slides upside down into a dedicated pocket at the back of the pack. There’s another pocket next to it that holds the back panel. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I also opted to test the polyethylene hard plates with this pack. They eat up some of the internal space, but the plates are relatively lightweight at just 3.24 pounds on my scale and bring a lot of protection (more on that later). 

Let’s do a quick rundown on the basic specs for this bag and these plates:

  • Dimensions: 17x12x8 inches
  • Bag Weight (With 2 Plates): 10.63 pounds
  • Bag Weight (Without Plates): 4.14 pounds
  • Single Plate Weight: 3.24 pounds
  • Polyethylene Plate Rating: Level III+ (NIJ Standard 0101.06)
  • Caliber Protection: 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x51mm NATO, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield
  • Additional Protection: “Special Threat” tested to stop six spaced hits of M80 7.62x51mm NATO FMJ at a velocity of ~2,780 ft/s. Slash proof and stab resistant.
  • Bag Material: 600D Cordura fabric
  • Warranty: Eight year (ballistic plate guarantee), five year (plate warranty), one year (bag manufacturing warranty)
  • TSA Compliant: Yes
  • MSRP Range: $349 to $1,047

The Cordura fabric used for the bag is the kind you would find on military and LEO-type gear items. It’s tough, water resistant, and rip resistant. One of the key areas to check on any backpack, much less one that carries armor plates, is the stress points. This bag has triple staked stress points with extra heavy stitching along the straps and grab handle. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The grip handle and straps are all reinforced with extra stitching, and the zipper is heavy duty. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I want to draw special attention to the waist belt, clips, and compression straps. The waist and shoulder straps host metal quick-release clips. The compression straps along the sides also have quick-detach hooks. Both features are helpful when you need to rapidly remove or open the pack. This makes the bag easy to open and easy to remove in an emergency.

The front chest panel has amply MOLLE attachment points and a Velcro panel for patches and identification. Two Velcro straps ride over the shoulder straps as part of the Switchblade deployment system. You grasp and pull up and over with both straps to deploy the front armor panel. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The Switchblade system has deployment straps that attach over your shoulder. Side panels on the belt allow you to secure these straps after deploying the front panel. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The front panel has Velcro for patches and MOLLE attachment points. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
There are plenty of internal pockets, and the designers smartly put the branding only on the inside of the backpack. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The waist strap has Velcro attachment points on the sides so you can secure the pull straps after deploying your chest panel. A series of three breakaway magnets seal the chest panel compartment. These automatically reseal after you deploy your front panel.

Magnets allow the rear panel to deploy and seal the rear pocket automatically. I love this feature. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Finally, we get to the metal, water-resistant YKK zippers. These are far more robust and thicker than your run-of-the-mill backpack zippers. This is what I would expect to see on a backpack designed for heavy weight and rough use. 

Currently, the Elite and First Responder backpacks are only offered in black. The Switchblade pack can be had in black or gray. 

Wearability & Use


Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Overall, it’s an unassuming design that doesn’t scream "tactical" to the wider world. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I selected the Elite backpack for testing because it best hits my requirements when it comes to a body armor solution meant for daily use. It’s discreet – or at least more so than most options – and it offers significant levels of ballistic protection. 

The waist strap and clips do hint at the more tactical/self-defense side of this pack. Still, there is no MOLLE on the exterior or branding that suggest the bag as something more than your everyday backpack. 

From a wearability perspective, the bag is relatively comfortable. The armor plates rest snugly against your upper back when not in use, and that keeps the balance and weight close to your body. If I had to nitpick any feature, it would be the strap on the Elite pack. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
I can easily see it as a daily carry option that blends in relatively well. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The straps are thinner than I like, but they are reinforced and fine for most of my needs. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

On the one hand, the straps are a normal size for an everyday backpack – minus the Switchblade deployment straps. My minor complaint is the design of the shoulder straps, which are 1.62 inches wide and 0.33 inches thick. This is thinner than tactical packs like my 5.11 Rush. That pack has straps that measure 2.69x0.56 inches. This helps with displacing weight on your shoulders, but it does have a distinctly tactical look to it. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The Elite backpack is similar in size to my go-to 5.11 Rush 2.0 bag on the left. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The Rush 2.0 design has much thicker shoulder straps and a yoke to help spread out the weight of heavier loads. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Personally, I would prefer wider straps for added comfort given the weight, but it’s not an uncomfortable design overall. The other models offer wider shoulder straps to accommodate the larger pack sizes. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Here’s a closer look at the Switchblade deployment system. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The Switchblade deployment system really surprised me. I was hesitant to deploy a hard ballistic plate over my head with any amount of speed. I imagined whacking my noggin on my first attempt, but the plate carrier proved easy to size and deploy after just a little tinkering.

The instructions suggest that you test the deployment several times for break-in purposes after setting your strap lengths. Personally, I have long arms and found my first adjustments worked great. There were zero retakes for either the video or photo shoot depicting how this backpack works.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
You can adjust the straps for various body sizes. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Just make sure to fully extend your arms to avoid bopping your head. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

You will absolutely need to use the waist strap before deploying your front plate. That strap holds the bag to your body. Attempting to deploy the front plate without the strap will quickly turn your backpack into an uncomfortable hat. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The waist strap doesn’t interfere with concealed firearms, either. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Luckily, the waist strap is designed to ride above your hips. This means it doesn't interfere with any of my concealed carry holsters. The plates that came with the Bodyguard pack also have a shooter's cut, which gives me a normal range of motion and allows me to shoulder a rifle. Overall, I can see myself carrying this pack every day with little issue.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The shoulder and waist straps have quick-release buckles, and you can unhook the compression straps on the sides. I like to tape down the extra lengths of straps to limit snag points as well. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

The quick release clips on the shoulder and waist straps are another win. They’re easy to remove quickly, even when they’re under pressure. This makes it possible to drop the entire pack quickly in an emergency even with the armor deployed. 

However, once deployed, your backpack is staying on your back unless you want to drop your armor. That’s the one downside of this type of system. My final nitpicky complaint is the lack of a water bottle holder on the Elite pack. The Switchblade offers a bottle holder, and I think it helps the pack blend in a bit more while also having a daily use function.

Ballistic Testing


Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Here are the three rounds I tested on my armor for this review. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

You can’t really test ballistic protection without getting ballistic, so we just had to shoot the plates that came with Bodyguard backpack. I opted for the hard polyethylene plates. Soft armor has its advantages, but backface deformation and caliber limitations are two of the major downsides I’ve encountered during previous testing of soft armor. 

Related: Everyday Armor – Premier Body Armor's Phoenix T-Shirt (Ballistic Test)

Since a backpack can easily conceal hard armor, I think that’s the best way to maximize the performance of this type of gear. Polyethylene is also lighter than water and will even float – a plus if you’re into aquatic activities – but it really highlights the weight-to-protection ratio that comes with the material.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Here’s a side-by-side look at the test plate and an undamaged plate. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I elected to shoot the provided plate with three rounds: 55-grain M193 5.56x45mm FMJ NATO, 123-grain 7.62x39 FMJ, and 150-grain 7.62x51mm FMJ NATO. This covers the vast majority of common rifle calibers. All rounds were fired at a range of just 15 meters per NIJ standards for testing rifle ammo. I used a water block as the back support so the armor would have a weighted backing that still offered a level of flexibility. 

The plate easily shrugged off the 5.56mm round that I put into the top right. It also fully absorbed the heftier 123-grain 7.62x39mm AK round with minimal backface deformation. 

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The top right hole is from the 5.56x45mm round. The 7.62x51mm and 7.62x39mm are next to each other on the bottom right. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I inadvertently placed the 7.62x51mm NATO round about an inch away from the impact of the 7.62x39mm AK round. That’s a heck of a of a lot of impact in a small area, and we did see sizable plate deformation on the backface. However, the plate both stopped and captured all the rounds we tested.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Must of the deformation came from the hard-hitting 150-grain 7.62mm NATO round. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The round penetrated several layers of the polyethylene. Don’t get too hung up on the delamination between the layers. It’s a sign the layers were dispersing the energy across the plate instead of allowing the projectile to over-penetrate. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

One of my favorite features of lightweight polyethylene armor is that it tends to capture the entire bullet in the ultra-dense layers of polymer. This limits the risk of splatter, spalling, and ricochets you get with steel plates and sometimes even with hard Kevlar or ceramic plates.

Related: Is .40 S&W a Dead Cartridge or Still Relevant? (Ballistic Test)


Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
All the bullet material was captured inside the plate. That’s a big plus if you want to avoid damage from flaying chunks of bullet. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

I’m a fan of polyethylene, but it does have one Achilles’ heel. Specific rounds like green-tipped M855 5.56x45mm NATO can penetrate the softer polymer. To demonstrate this, I pulled out an unused polyethylene plate and shot it with both the 150-grain 7.62x51mm NATO and the much smaller green-tipped M855 62-grain 5.56x45mm NATO.

Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
Since I had already shot the test plate with three rounds, I pulled out another polyethylene plate for demonstration purposes. Polyethylene-based armor can often be penetrated by very specific ammo, such as the small 62-grain green-tipped M855 5.56mm round on the bottom. I shot the plate with that round first, and it penetrated both sides. The much larger 150-grain 7.62x51mm bullet hit the plate after the 5.56 round and was still fully stopped. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

As you can see, polyethylene isn’t perfect, but it’s very effective at stopping most rounds. Overall, the armor that came with the Bodyguard backpack performed just fine.

Pros & Cons


Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
The Bodyguard backpacks offer a solution if you don’t want to walk around with bulky tactical armor on all day. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Here’s my short list of the pros and cons for the Bodyguard Elite backpack with level III+ polyethylene plates:


  • Rugged build material and design
  • High level of ballistic protection
  • Quick release clips make it easy to take off
  • Non-tactical appearance
  • Easy, fast, reliable deployment system
  • Soft and hard armor options
  • Adjustable design
  • Doesn’t interfere with concealed carry firearms
  • Decent storage space
  • Relatively lightweight 
  • TSA compliant
  • Product warranty


  • Slightly thinner shoulder straps
  • Only offered in black
  • No water bottle holder
  • Must remove armor to access backpack

Final Thoughts


Bodyguard Elite Armored Backpack
This bag also blends into non-tactical environments better than most alternatives. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

Just like any concealed carry firearm, selecting body armor that fits your needs is a game of give and take. The Bodyguard line of backpacks isn’t a perfect solution for all armor needs, but it’s a highly portable and discreet option that makes it easy for people to keep armor handy every day.

The Switchblade deployment system works, and it works well. I also appreciate that the design allows you to choose whatever armor panels or plates you want. That’s a nice nod to those who may already own armor and just want extra options for carrying it with them.

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