More Padding = Smarter Paintballing, Part II
Elbow pads rank right next to knee pads as mandatory equipment in my book. Your arms take a lot of impact throughout a day of play, from using those elbows while crawling to landing on your forearms when diving headfirst. They are also one of the places you tend to be shot the most, especially on the bony bits. A good elbow pad needs enough padding to protect your skeletal structure and muscles without hindering movement and need to hold in place. Older elbow pad designs tended to slip up or down at the most inopportune times, but now almost every manufacturer’s elbow pads have the thumb hole design that keeps them from sliding up the arm when sliding, and a strap around the bicep to keep them from sliding down.
Dye’s the elbow pad most people know about due to their massive advertising campaigns and like most things Dye they are usually the most expensive…. for a reason. Their Dye Core Elbow Pads incorporate a lot of the classic elbow pad perks with some features to put them in contention for the best out there. They feature the thumbhole design common to the new generation of pads but also throw in some compression-formed padding on the back of the hand for those paintball players who prefer to go gloveless. They are molded to fit the arm and feature the classic Dye rubber bumps to grip and hold your jersey in place so you’re not swimming in your jersey. One thing to keep in mind if buying the Dye Core Elbow Pads… they are running a little smaller than usual so I’d suggest buying up one size larger than you are used to.
Empire introduced their THT series and quickly became one of the best-selling line of pads, period. This years Empire THT Grind Elbow Pads continue the tradition of being possibly the most cushioned pad out there. Really, banging your elbows in these feels like smacking a bed matress. They have the must-have thumbhole, wrist and bicep strap, plus a cutout section in the elbow pit to give you some ventilation. Cutout windows help channel air through the pads for comfort. These are available is a wide range of sizes including Youth.
Next up is Valken Impact Forearm Elbow Pads. Like most things Valken, these deliver a lot of features for a bit less money. These have the thumbhole, dual straps and cutout elbow that experienced players have come to expect. On the outside is a HUGE zone of kevlar-reinforced fabric to make the Valken Impact Elbow Pads last forever. Plenty of padding ensures a soft landing during your dives to bunkers.
The last item of protective gear I’m going to talk about is a chest protector. Wearing a chest protector carries a stigma with some players, akin to training wheels on a bicycle. Well, if thats what the ‘hardcore’ think, let them. Paintball is all about having a good time and some people (actually the majority of players worldwide) would rather experience a little less sting when hit. When you are less afraid of being hit you play more confidently. Chest protector are popular with all ages but I think they should be standard equipment for kids in addition to full head mask systems.
The most common type of chest armor is what I often call a ‘body shield’. Basically, its a sandwich of padding that wraps to the body. Worn inside or outside clothing, this armor provides the best protection in terms of impact protection (you barely feel anything!) and coverage for front, back and sides. The only real downside is a little extra bulk but the peace of mind is well worth it. Probably the best in this class is the CORE Reversible Chest and Back Protector. They flex with the body, are lightweight and reverses from black to woodland camo.
A trend of the last few years is the ‘shirt’ style protector. The consist of a snug but stretchy sleeveless or short sleeve shirt with integrated padding sewn in. These tend to cover a little less than the ‘body shields’ but are very comfortable and in some cases hardly noticeable under your playing clothes.
Leading the pack this year is the Empire THT Grind Pro Chest Protector. These are selling like crazy and really hard to keep in stock. They are a shortsleeve shirt with padding blocks sewn in the chest, back, sleeves, shoulders and stomach. I bought one of these for my wife and she swears by it. Combined with a full head mask, neck pad and elbow pads she is not afraid to get aggressive at big games when there is a lot of paint in the air. These are available in sizes from Youth Small to XXXL Adult.
The other hot seller in this style is the Dye Performance Top Chest Protector. This shortsleeve design has softer, thinner padding that fits more snug but flexes and stretches easier. They don’t offer as much coverage but are by far the most comfortable body protection, period. Worn under a shirt or jersey they are hardly noticeable. They are available in Black or DyeCam camo.
Last item here is another one from Valken, the Valken Impact Chest Protector. Not as flexible as Dye or as covered as Empire but they get the job done and are $30 less! Great overall protection that leaves money in your wallet.
That wraps up my general overview on a lot of paintball protective gear. Its one category of products I like to talk about for good reason… it helps keep people from getting hurt. Paintball is a great past time and sport and the more padding you wear, the longer your body can continue playing!