The East Kingdom Youth Combat Rules are the ultimate arbiter of what armor is required, although it can be sometimes be difficult to interpret for newcomers without additional context, so you may want to ask a marshal for assistance.
See the Armor Bag Checklist page on the East Kingdom Youth Combat web site.
Below are some notes I’ve shared with parents in the past, but remember that there are multiple ways of meeting the requirements, and this is not an endorsement of the specific products mentioned below.
You can put a basic Div II/III youth armor set together with new sports gear for about $200, or you can spend less if you find used items or hand-me-downs. Teens who get into historical accuracy can end up spending quite a bit more for leather and steel gear, or putting in innumerable hours learning how to make their own gear from scratch.
The standard choice is an ice hockey helmet, although other kinds of helmets can also work, including lacrosse or football, as long as they have solid ear coverage (no “Gretzky-style” hockey helmets), a grill that’s spaced no more than 2” wide (some football helmets might need additional steel wire across the widest openings), and any adjustable pieces must either latch or screw into place (no baseball catcher’s masks with flexible back edges).
There’s an online guide to choosing an appropriate helmet.
The “Bauer Prodigy” or “Bauer 5100” model hockey helmets are decent and can be found for around $55, although other nearly-identical models sell for closer to $100. Hockey helmet sizing is done by head circumference, measured from just above the eyebrows around the back of the head; some brands measure this in centimeters, others in inches. Most helmets have some kind of adjustment so they can be loosened as the kid grows.
Larger fighters can use an adult steel helmet, but these are heavy and can strain a smaller kid’s neck. Prices for the simplest helmets such as “munitions grade” bascinets with bar grills start at about $150-200. It’s possible to find lighter steel helmets in kids sizes, but you don’t want “costume” or “LARP” helmets that might fail catastrophically when hit.
The front and back of the neck should be protected with a rigid cover and padding. This is the single hardest part to find proper off-the-shelf versions of at a reasonable price.
We made several of these at home using plastic that can be molded into shape after being heated in the oven, and then padded and wrapped in foam and fabric.
Steel gorgets from adult armored combat may work, if you can find one that fits comfortably. These don’t generally come in kids sizes, although larger teens may be able to find ones that fit them without being awkward.
Another very nice option is a historical fencing gorget, which are available in sizes that will fit teens. They’re made of leather over a set of internal rigid plates, and have have a “skirt” that lies flat over the shoulders to support the collar; prices start at $100 and up.
There needs to be some kind of rigid cover and padding over the sternum and xiphoid process, where the front ribs come together, and girls should have some additional upper chest protection.
Shoulder pads aren’t required, but these often come together as a single unit. Ice hockey shoulder/chest pads are a good solution, but choose the lighter-weight ones — the heavy-duty ones are overkill and can restrict shoulder movement, and the same is probably true for football shoulder pads.
For example, you can find the “CCM 1052 Jr Shoulder Pads”, for around $40 at a local sports shop or at Amazon.
There are also more-medieval options made out of leather, or home-made versions like the quilted tunic and armored surcoat that Alex fights in. There’s a good guide available here for making a simple “coat of plates” or “jack armor”.
Lamellar armor, made by stringing together hundreds of small plastic plates, is another great choice.
If the armor extends down to the waist and wraps around the back, this item may also address the need for kidney protection covered below.
The lower back needs to be covered to protect the kidneys. The easiest solution is a 4-6” wide leather weight-lifting belt. Measure from the navel around the middle of the back to find the right size if ordering online. You can find these in sporting-goods shops for about $20, or online such as this one at Amazon.
Boys need a rigid cup. There are some models that tuck into a matching pocket in associated underwear, and others that have waist straps that can be worn between the underwear and pants.
My son likes MMA or karate groin protectors which can be worn over his pants, such as these.
There are similar products with a different shape for girls, or you can construct a padded skirt with sufficient protection.
Knees and Elbows
Knee caps and elbows points need to be covered with a rigid cup over padding. Cycling or skating pads are good, as long as they have a plastic outer layer, not just soft padding; football or hockey pads work as well but may be overkill.
Gloves need to have 1/2” foam and rigid support for the back of the thumb. Ice hockey gloves are perfect. Hockey gloves are sized by measuring from the base of the middle finger to the inside of the elbow, in inches:
You can find hockey gloves from CCM and Bauer for about $40 at local sports stores or Amazon.
Leather and steel options are available, but require difficult tradeoffs between affordability and flexibility, so Alex is still using regular ice hockey gloves.
If your kid is wearing modern sports gear for armor, you can camouflage most of it with a tabard or surcotte.
If you’re handy with fabric and sewing, this document describes how to construct a pattern sized for your child — but leave some extra space if you expect them to grow in the coming year, and make sure to measure them with the armor on!