Everything you need to know about ALICE packs – neatly organized

31 comments
alice-tactical-attachment-system

 

Introduction

alice-packIt’s not always easy to find the right pack for your personal needs. While there are many pack systems available and many different aspects to consider, the ALICE system can be the perfect option for many people. Here’s a look at the history, the different types issued by the United States government and a quick guide to choosing the right ALICE system based on individual needs.

History

The ALICE system – which stands for All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment – was developed through the latter half of the 1960s for use in United States military branches. The system was introduced in the early 1970s and is still in use in some branches today. The system components were developed to distinguish between combat loads and existence loads – that is, loads that are necessary for fighting, such as small arms and ammunition, and loads that are necessary for sustaining existence, such as a field pack for extra supplies. While the ALICE system has been replaced by the newer MOLLE system in many branches of the military, ALICE is still employed by the Navy and by the US Marine Corps for training.

alice-tactical-attachment-system_2ALICE pack components, add-ons and mods

There are several basic pieces that make up the ALICE system. These pieces can be used in different combinations. The most basic piece is the individual belt, which comes in sizes for waists measuring 30 inches or less and waists measuring more than 30 inches. The belt contains eyelets for attaching equipment pieces.
From the belt there are a wide variety of ALICE pack add ons that can make the pack a customized design. One common element is the suspender system, to which other pieces can be added. Other than accessories like small compartments that can be clipped onto the belt and suspenders, there is a pack frame that can be attached with the ALICE pack straps. Once the pack frame is installed, there are different pack options that can be attached to the frame.

 

Choosing The Right Pack

alice-pack-external-frameThe many ALICE pack mods available make this system a great option for backpackers, campers and day hikers alike. Naturally, you will want to start with the basic belt piece and choose the additional pieces that fit your needs. A simple day hike probably won’t require much more than the canteen attachment, an extra ammunition pocket attachment for binoculars or snacks and the first aid kit attachment, or you can use a full ALICE pack for hiking if you like to be completely prepared or are training with extra weight.

Conversely, someone who is planning a long backpacking trip will want to consider the ALICE frame and appropriate pack. There is a medium pack size available as well as a large pack size, which come in different color options and with a few different features. The medium pack can be carried with or without the frame and can accommodate up to 50 pounds of equipment, while the large pack must be carried with the frame and can hold up to 70 alice-pack-with-external-framepounds of equipment. Both packs can accommodate a bedroll strapped to the top or bottom of the pack. Long backpacking trips require careful planning in order to determine individual needs. If the load can be reduced down to 50 pounds or less, a smaller pack is always better than a larger one. Loading an ALICE pack appropriately can go a long way toward how comfortably a pack sits and can make all the difference on hiking excursions.

Conclusion

Albeit very different from MOLLE, the ALICE system is a versatile pack system that can be used by a wide range of individuals for a vast array of functions and needs. The different ALICE pack options make this system a useful and particularly functional addition to a backpacker’s or day hiker’s equipment.

Questions?

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Meet the Author

I'm a former US Marine, full-time father and husband, and part-time survivalist. I like old things, like music, furniture and time-tested survival technique, but there's always a place in my heart for new technology such as weapons and sleeping bag fill. I'm here to share my knowledge and experience, and I hope you'll share yours as well.

31 comments… add one
  • Stan Henderson Apr 20, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Doe’s anyone know who makes the Alice pack and are they still making them?

    • Mike Apr 21, 2015, 9:56 am

      Stan – ALICE was replaced by MOLLE years ago. There may still be companies making packs similar to the original ALICE 3 pouch, but most of what you’ll find these days are recycled surplus – old, used stuff.

      • Larry Nov 14, 2015, 11:24 pm

        Check out TacticalTailor.Com. They do modifications on ALICE packs and I believe also sell a version of their own.

        • Mike Nov 18, 2015, 2:27 am

          Lovin’ it Larry!

      • Clay Jan 9, 2017, 2:26 am

        Needing a Alice pack 4000ci or bigger I had found a surplus store in bronks, Manhattan or someplace in ny city but lost THERE contact can u help

        • Mike Jan 12, 2017, 1:05 pm

          Clay – I would contact and start with Rothco.

    • thomas conant Dec 29, 2015, 4:43 am

      Rothco, they pretty much had the market on military issue stuff.

      • Mike Dec 30, 2015, 5:59 pm

        Agreed.

      • Christopher C Sep 11, 2016, 5:07 pm

        Rothco carries ‘imported’ knockoff ALICE packs. They’re not the real thing, and are made by people who don’t care to make the real thing. Go with surplus. “Unused” ALICE packs are available, if you look, but cost more.

        • Mike Sep 19, 2016, 5:58 pm

          Christopher, Rothco was one of the original suppliers. What exactly was your experience with them?

  • Jeff Jul 6, 2015, 10:56 pm

    Help me figure this out please. I just got a medium Alice pack with no shoulder straps. I have found two types of straps, one with metal clips on both ends and the shoulder side is attached forming an upside down “V”, the other is two seperate straps and is just flat strap on the ends. Which is the correct strap system? Thanks for any help.

  • Dave Nov 14, 2015, 11:30 pm

    Hi. Regarding the alice packs, are all the frames the same size and the bags are different sizes? Or do the frames come in different sizes too? Thanks.

    • Mike Nov 18, 2015, 2:28 am

      I’m only aware of one size frame Dave. There are however several size ALICE packs.

      • Disgusting Fatbody Sep 14, 2016, 8:50 pm

        Ive rigged my large alice to an Alaskan Guide Frame. The frame is rated higher than Ill ever carry and far more comfortable.
        The large bag on the alice frame makes it too easy to overload.

  • JC Dec 8, 2015, 6:13 am

    I have a medium ALICE pack and frame and want to purchase a large pack. Is it recommended to purchase a second frame with it as well or just interchange them as needed?

    • Mike Dec 9, 2015, 12:44 am

      That depends on your budget. Money aside, it’s easier to have two sets of gear.

  • Matt Dec 13, 2015, 9:53 pm

    Do you know the maximum length of the ALICE pack waist belt? I’m a bigger guy and am looking into an ALICE pack medium, but don’t know if it’ll fit around the hips. Thanks!

    • Mike Dec 30, 2015, 6:03 pm

      I’m not totally sure Matt. I wish I could tell you, but my ALICE pack was stolen 10 years ago when I left my car unlocked in the parking garage of a mall! What an idot – both the thief, and me.

  • Sarah J. Dec 16, 2015, 3:49 am

    Can you use the ALICE pack frame shelf while using a medium or large pack at the same time or does the shelf interfere with the pack usage?

    • Mike Dec 30, 2015, 6:01 pm

      Shelf?

      • Tommy A. Feb 20, 2016, 9:19 pm

        The aluminum shelf for the ALICE pack is detachable, and is usually purchased separately from the frame. It can be attached/detached from the frame while the pack is attached, and does not interfere with its normal function. However, it does not have much purpose while the pack is attached to the frame, unless you plan to remove the pack in order to mount something onto the shelf during a particular outing. The shelf is a very convenient attachment to have if you wanted to carry box type items such as ammo cans, crates. I have used the shelf to mount a self made backpack HAM radio system complete with battery, HF radio, and antenna system. I hope this helps.

    • Susannah Feb 10, 2016, 4:52 am

      Thank you for such a wonderful site! I’ve read many articles here and I just really appreciate you sharing your knowledge – S

  • James May 23, 2016, 4:17 pm

    Just wanted to comment that lots of Alice gear and backpacks can be found on ebay or even Goodwill sometimes cheap. The quality, sewing, and hardware are usually much better than what you’d find in civilian gear for higher prices. If you are looking for good gear, maybe you aren’t going to climb everest, or in a deployment like an old fart like me, but, for camping and survival, it is still quite good stuff.

  • Paul Champagne May 25, 2016, 11:22 pm

    As a former infantry man, I can assure you that the Alice packs can carry much more than the weights that they are rated at. While stationed in Alaska, I found myself carrying just under 100 lbs in and attached to my pack. When you add in the weight of the piece of mortar equipment slung over the top of the pack, you end up with a total of 120 to 135 lbs supported by the frame and shoulder straps. While not the most comfortable backpack out there, in my opinion, it is by far the most durable. There are also ways of packing and modifying the Alice to increase the comfort. Trial and error will allow you to come up with what works best for you.

    • Mike May 27, 2016, 12:13 pm

      ahhhh, the mortar equipment. I never carried any of that, but as an Armorer, I’m no stranger to lugging those tubes around 🙂

  • Mike Nov 7, 2016, 8:23 pm

    Mike,

    Thanks for the great site and all the info, and thank you for your service. Have an Alps Commander hunting backpack (external frame), but the new (unissued) large ALICE with frame arrived today. This one looks/feels to be perfect for my hiking needs, and the Alps will be up for sale. The Alps has a lot more room and pockets, not always a good thing. As you well know, way too easy to add unnecessary “extras”. And empty it feels almost twice as heave as the empty ALICE.

    The ALICE feels and fits great, and has well enough room for quick shelter, first aid, food and water, to include small water filter. And those outside pockets will hold exactly what’s needed for quick access. Also a small stove with fuel. Seems like I’m always finding I can do without more of the “extras”, anyway. Yours and other reader suggestions are good to help configure/adjust and load the pack. When I went through USAF survival training we all found that we needed to carry a lot less than we thought. And it was Spokane, Washington in the dead of winter. Even though after growing up in east KY and spending a lot of time in the woods the training did feel more like a big camping trip, but still learned a few new things. Resistance training was a whole other subject.

    I did get to spend a bit of time with your fellow Marines at “Twentynine Stumps” teaching them airstrike control. We all had a blast and traded a lot of ideas for making life a little better in the desert. Wish I’d had an ALICE then instead of lugging those radios up and down the hills with just a strap and spare batteries in my pocket. And I was impressed with how your folks used the PRC-104 a lot more than other services out in the field. That radio worked great in hilly terrain if you used it right.

    While I flew F-16s we did have a survival kit in the ejection seat, but it was very basic. So most of us carried a few other things in our pockets just in case. So I’m thinking this new ALICE will carry every thing I normally need, with plenty of room left for anything else. MREs taste much better now than back in the 80’s, and they’re easy to pack. And it’s amazing what a lift you can get from a simple roll of Lifesavers.

    Thanks again for the great work on this site, helped a lot to make the decision before buying the ALICE.

    Mike

    • Mike Nov 8, 2016, 1:12 pm

      Glad it helped Mike! And thank you for your service!

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