Poll: What's your favorite ex-military pack system?
You do not have permission to vote in this poll.
M1910 (it was good enough for two world wars, it's good enough for today!)
0 0%
M1956 LCE (synthetics are like ladies nylons – it’s for those that can’t hack real canvas)
0 0%
M-1967 Modernized Load-Carrying Equipment (like rare & arcane stuff, do we?)
0 0%
ALICE (1973-now)
5 83.33%
Individual Integrated Fighting System or IIFS/Tactical Load Bearing Vest (1988)
0 0%
Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) I (1997)
0 0%
0 0%
Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE) (2004)
1 16.67%
I make my own, thank you
0 0%
Other (please share)
0 0%
Total 6 vote(s) 100%
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ALICE packs today
First, I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so for those wishing to review the basics or read the official ALICE manual, see the links section at the end of this article. Also, I'm hearing good things about MOLLE, so feel free to add comments & material about MOLLE and others.

ALICE packs are for sale everywhere (and with a little shopping around), cheap. Here's a brief summary of some of the uses for a surplus ALICE pack, in a civilian capacity. It isn't meant to be the end-all post, but hopefully seed a conversation where we can exchange ideas how best to use them. I find they're a great combination of decent quality at a great price point. Plus, they're easy to modify and adaptable to different requirements.

Like a lot of carry bags, it starts out life as a drawstring bag. From here, it has various attachment points and pockets added. What makes this a worthwhile pack is the ease at which it can be reconfigured for different roles, and being unaffected by exposure to the elements. The material appears to be 420 denier nylon, making it impervious to moisture (but not waterproof). Outside pockets are added, one interior central pocked is added, and the top flap is split for a little extra storage. Large ALICE packs will have several additional pockets along the top edge. The two major variants are medium and large. Wiki says there was small, I've never seen one. The large has additional internal volume and three additional narrow pockets along the top edge.

Top flap
Your ALICE pack top flap will likely have a large "US" surcharge on the top, and the bottom surface was originally green polyurethane (PU) coated with the basic care instructions printed on it. This was intended to be a water resistant shield to protect the contents from rain...assuming the rain fell perfectly plumb. It does *not* make the pack waterproof. Before long, the PU coating flakes off exposing a white fabric underneath. I suppose a commercial fabric waterproofing treatment might restore this, but I'd be tempted to put it on the top layer. The flap is also split and the halves are held together with Velcro, forming a storage compartment.

[Image: P1060475.jpg]
Top flap Polyurethane coating lifecycle, excellent to new condition (left), substantial use & age (center) and completely worn away (right).
They work well and have an adjustable strap. But, they won't secure small items if the pack isn't upright. Small items should be secured with a cord, or in a larger secured container. Assume anything smaller that a grapefruit will fall out of the side pockets if the ALICE pack is turned upside-down. Don’t ask me how I learned this. Very small items may fall out through the drain holes in the bottom. Sometimes I'll put very small items in a "parison" tube (baby soda bottle) for just this reason, and they'll stay dry too. Medium ALICE packs have three external pockets and one internal. Large ALICE packs will have six external pockets & one internal pocket. Cargo in the inside pocket is protected best, so that's where I stuff my camera and cables.
[Image: ParisonTubes.png]
Parison tube (image-internet source)
Environmental considerations:
The pack doesn't contain any materials that will break down or rot when exposed to the elements (good, IMHO) but won't protect the contents against much either. Any items that require waterproofing need a dedicated container to protect from moisture. This can be anything from a Ziploc type sandwich bag to an Otterbox, depending on your requirements. The point is, ALICE gear will provide negligible protection from the elements, rain in particular.

Also bear in mind that impact protection in an ALICE is minimal, so add padding if you're carrying anything fragile. Wrapping clothing around fragile items helps. A laptop computer will fit in the main area of a medium ALICE, but won't protect it if dropped. To keep this balanced, I've dropped mine almost three feet and my laptop still worked, but mostly because the pack was still upright in that short distance.

M1910 hangar system
The belt with holes is a leftover from W.W.I & W.W.II. It's designed to be compatible with the older wire hanger gear system, called the M1910 equipment system. While M1910 isn't used any more, you can adapt some items to work with it. There are several methods: run a loop of 550 cord through two adjacent holes, or fashion your own 1910 hangers. I've done both. I don't have the engineering specs for 1910 hangars, however they're fairly easy to copy. They show up for sale enough that it's easier to just buy them. Early ones (W.W.I era) were brass, later examples were subdued steel. The 1910 hangers can slip through test equipment belt loops, allowing outside storage. If you're interested in this approach, here are a few pointers from experience: don't use coat hanger wire to fabricate 1910 belt hooks -- they'll bend. Also note that whatever hangs on the outside will be exposed to rain. Also, as in W.W.I & W.W.II...longer stuff attached via 1910 may swing a little.

I bought a few original 1910 hangars and adapted some of my equipment to use them. Here's the 1910 hanger holes on an ALICE:
[Image: 1910_loops.jpg]

[Image: P1060433.jpg][Image: P1060434.jpg]
US Model 1942 bayonet with 1910 hangar.

And a 1910 hanger:
[Image: P1060447.jpg]
Original post-W.W.I M1910 hanger, subdued steel.

[Image: 1910_paracord.jpg]
550 cord ("Paracord") looped through the 1910 hanger holes to hang gear & 'biners.

[Image: P1060435.jpg]
Modern test equipment retrofitted with an original 1910 hangar, hanging on a ALICE pack.

With the tie-off biner on the frame & additional gear on the 1910 hangars, the ALICE becomes a wearable tool bag.

There's an external frame available for the ALICE, it's optional except for the large, which requires it. The frame manages the load much better than without it, and improves air circulation. So it's more or less standard with all my packs. Generally speaking, an LC-1 frame is black, the LC-2 frame is either anodized OD Green (early) coated or painted olive drab green (late). Neat trick-add a top handle to the frame. A top handle on the frame is an obvious improvement, but like many ideas...easier said than done. See the link section for more details on this. ALICE packs don't like to sit upright on the frame or cargo shelf. I tied a short piece of 550 cord to the frame and a carabiner on the other. This allows me to hang the pack at chest or waist level from an automobile/SUV luggage rack (or a low tree limb), so it isn't necessary to bend over to get access to the contents. A few things to watch for on the frames: Make sure yours isn't bent, and carefully inspect the attaching rivet at the top center of the pack. Often this is nothing more than a pop rivet, about 1/8". If it's loose or pulled out, replace it with another rivet. If the hole's too large, it might be necessary to bore the hole out for the next larger size rivet. Don't use a screw; there isn't enough wall thickness for threads.
Youtube video on making an ALICE pack paracord handle

Deciphering DLA numbers -- How old is the pack?
We really can't say for certain how old a given pack is, but we can get a general idea. Somewhere on most modern US military equipment that has a DSA, DLA or NSN number. Here's a quick overview, see URL link section for more details.

DSA (Defense Supply Agency): fiscal year (FY) 1962 - FY1977.
DLA (Defense Logistics Agency): fiscal year (FY) 1978 until FY1993.
SPO (System Program Office): fiscal year (FY) 1994 until ?.

Typical DSA or DLA contract number format: DSA WWW-XX-Y-ZZZZ


WWW is class of item
XX is year of contract (not year of manufacture)
Y I believe is type of purchase (C=contract)
ZZZZ contract number?

[Image: P1060470.jpg]
In this example (DSA 100-77-C-0773), this ALICE pack was part of the 1977 fiscal year procurement/purchase. So, it isn't any older than 1977.[/

Load management
I highly recommend the shelf and cargo straps. This is just the ticket for carrying boxy, heavy or rigid items that can’t or shouldn’t go in the pack. Obviously Uncle Sam had fuel & ammunition in mind. In my case, it's bulky radio components. But...they work very, very well. These are the NSN numbers: Cargo straps 8465-00-001-6477, Shelf 8465-00-001-6476. Both are fairly easy to find.
[Image: P1060417.jpg]
ALICE cargo shelf installed on an ALICE frame with a large pack.

Carge Straps, 52"
These come in at least 52" and 48" lengths that I'm aware of. These are ingenious, and limited only by your creativity. It's a length of 1" wide by 0.050" thick synthetic strap with a hook on one end and a captured overcenter buckle. To use it, wrap around the cargo, hook the strap onto the buckle, pull tight and flip the buckle body. The leverage created by the buckle moving through center will cause the strap to pull tight enough to pluck a tune. It will easily crush all cardboard & Styrofoam, and deform softer wood. Possible uses: bundling objects like firewood, ammo cans, sleeping bag compression straps, securing ladders & such on automotive luggage racks & more. If you're quick with numbers, you'll realize that a 52" strap can contain a round cylinder up to 17" in diameter and square objects to a trifle under 13".

There appear to be two types of buckles, for the lack of any better nomenclature I'll simply refer to them as type I and type II. They are not compatible with each other, but can be used with each other of the same type to double or triple lengths as required. Note that one uses a metal round section as a swiveling bail, and the other is completely stamped from sheet steel.
The stamped buckle has a snap détente, and will not release if the strap momentarily loses tension. Regrettably, these are far less common than the former.

[Image: P1060682.jpg]-[Image: P1060680.jpg]
Type I and type II cargo straps

The strap material appears to be the same strapping used on the main strap on ALICE packs. I suppose there aren't any laws prohibiting anyone to shorten these straps for specific applications, or changing the strap to a sightly longer length and even use Coyote color. The cargo strap itself measures 1" wide and 0.050" thick, I've seen several online vendors selling what appears to be the same material but in assorted colors.

Shoulder Straps, LC-1
Thin padding and width, usually only one has Quick Release fitting. These are less commonly encountered.
[Image: LC1_strap_early.jpg]_[Image: p1060418.jpg]
Early LC-1 straps, Viet Nam era. Note single quick-release and narrower padding. Functional, but more of a collector’s item today.

[Image: P1060421.jpg]
Quick-release mechanism on LC-1 strap. Note exposed latch/mechanism parts.

Shoulder Straps, LC-2
Thicker padding and width, Both have Quick Release fittings. Later LC-2 may have woodland-type camouflage. Have read negative reviews, but no first-hand experience with late LC-2 straps. Also note LC-2 has a quick-release on both straps.
[Image: P1060423.jpg]
Later LC-2 shoulder straps. More common and more comfortable.

[Image: P1060424.jpg]
LC-2 quick-release. Note the additional mechanism cover.

[Image: lc1lc2.jpg]
LC-1 & LC-2 side by side for comparison. (left) LC-2, (right) LC-1

Interesting variants
-US surcharge: most bear the typical "US" surcharge on the top flap, but not all. These typically bear no markings except for the DSA contract information. Note that many will have a faded surcharge, but there will be faint traces. However, a small few appear never to have been marked. These pique my curiosity.
-Some 1970s era models have a spring-loaded pocket and main strap buckles that allows quick tightening. These are my favorite versions.
[Image: old_buckle_4.jpg]
Early pouch buckle-this one is dated 1977. Side pouches and main straps are the spring-buckle type as found in the inner pouch, the center pocket uses the slider type buckle. This allows the straps to be pulled tight faster and easier.
Later ALICE packs were camouflage. I've seen pictures of them, but I haven't actually handled or inspected one. Hopefully someone on this board has one and will post with photos.

Chinese/imported shoulder straps-they slip under load. These are the USGI "style" frequently found on eBay that claim to meet mil-spec standards. They aren't even close. I don't care if it's official USGI or not, but it must work. These don't, save your money and buy the real thing. Look for the DSA/DLA imprint on the padding, and the buckle profile.

Damaged packs, they're tricky to feed through sewing machines -- particularly torn pockets & flaps (common). The best technique I've found to repair an ALICE is hand-stitch if there's enough material remaining. Tip: make one or two stitches but don’t knot – carefully examine the color match of the thread. I’ve had some challenges matching colors in the past. Also, don’t forget to use only synthetic thread.

Washing-Since I have more than one, I can afford to lose one or I toss one in a laundry bag and into the washing machine it goes. It gets an extra rinse, and several days on the clothesline to dry. No problems so far. TIP: make damn sure that laundry bag CANNOT open, those metal belts sure have a lot of potential to bitch things up real good inside a washer. Two wire-ties wouldn't be over-doing it at all.
Searing-The original cutting and sewing of most cloth-goods leaves loose thread ends and fraying edges. Using a small heat pencil or lighter and running the flame over all the threads melts them back to where they cannot fray, or will seal the holes. This act alone will stop one of the major causes of cloth-goods failure. Note: this only works on melt-able synthetics.

I know I've left far more out than what's covered, so this is where you get to kick in.

OK PA2A, let's hear it. Let's see *your* applications, mods and ideas.

The basics are covered by:
History, development -
Assembly -

FM 21-15 Care & use of individual clothing & equipment
Also see (LARGE download)
NSN listings for components, a few pics are missing, looks like it hasn't been updated in a while

1" fastex buckles on eBay
ON Google

Vendors that modify ALICE packs:

1910 hanger sources:

More information (forum)

Frame handle links:

DSA/DLA deciphering info:

[edit note: corrected typos Feb 13th 2014]
Subject matter expert on questions no one's asking.

How the hell long did that post take to create?!?!

And I sent my alice pack off to tactical tailor for a whole bunch of mods. Had over 100lbs in it during a deployment. It ended up as big as a duffelbag.

I used to have the quick release shoulder straps that allowed me to put it on by myself. After getting the tactical tailor shoulder straps which aren't quick release, I'd need help putting it on, or I'd have to have it sitting on a shelf of some kind to put on alone.
Personally I like the Soviet SPOSN SMERSH web gear. It's part ALICE and part MOLLE almost. Problem is, it's not very common and it's a bit pricey.
Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum
For those interested you can buy them at

[Image: pa_zps59e4c512.png?t=1379682235]
I currently have 2 ALICE Packs in different sizes. I had picked them up at my local ARMY/NAVY store. Although I cannot compare them to any of the other packs mentioned, they seem to serve their purpose as my BOB and Get Home bag. With that said, I would like to get an assault pack at some point too.
Sent from iPhone
I'd take my ALICE over my MOLLE rucksack any day...jumping MOLLE rucks is just plain annoying, while the ALICE was easy to rig and not too uncomfortable. I always took the sustainment pouches off the MOLLE to jump it because they became a snag hazard in the doorway. Also...Plastic frame is garbage.
axmdr40, proud to be a member of since Sep 2012.

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