Here’s my take on the body armor/vest discussion.
I opt for being modular. What I mean is this, go with a quality chest rig that can be worn over or attached to body armor if the need arises. Personally I’m a fan of Haley strategic because their rig is not over encumbering and can easily be attached to a plate carrier or IBA style body armor using quick detach fasteks. I personally am not a fan of tactical vests because they trap a lot of heat and limit how one can set up their load out.
Like some others here, I wore body armor in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both places sucked. Afghanistan was worse because the unit I was in walked A LOT. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that plates are heavy. Even well conditioned soldiers get their arses handed to them wearing that stuff. Add to the armor your load out (ammo, IFAK, water, and other stuff) and it will wear you out. For most civilians body armor would quickly exhaust them and make them combat ineffective.
So my take is that unless you are defending a static position (home, bug out location, etc…) I would not wear body armor. If you are in situation that requires fast movement, ability to get in and break contact, conduct recon, etc…, then go with a quality rig. Additionally, train with your gear. Either stay in or get in good physical condition. If you feel that body armor is a must then go with a quality plate carrier and quality plates. Spend the money on good ceramic or composite level IV plates that offer great protection while keeping weight down.
Finally, be realistic. In a SHTF scenario, keeping a low signature (noise and light discipline as it was pounded in my head as a your paratrooper) will be invaluable. Know the terrain your operating in and hopefully you can find like minded folks to team with. There is safety in numbers as long as everyone is on the same page.