A Marine in Afghanistan kickin' with the good old ALICE Pack - DoD Photo, photographer Cpl. Reece Lodder

One of our readers, Walter Young, sent over a photo he found showing a Marine in Afghanistan using a medium ALICE pack and frame. I have to say, I’m quite glad this piece of kit is still in our military’s inventory. In my opinion, the ALICE pack (Medium and Large) are some of the most rugged packs ever made. This is an example of something that’s not broken, so shouldn’t be fixed. I realize that the good old ALICE pack isn’t fancy and doesn’t look “cool guy”, but it’s a solid pack that has proven its worth.

CFP90 Pack

When I got to Recon Bn in January of 1995, they had just started issuing the brand new CFP90. Wow, this thing was cool … internal frame, comfortable straps, bottom sleeping bag compartment!! It was cool until a couple of days later when we were doing some amphib training, and I realized it was a giant piece of trash. All of the extra compartments did nothing but hold water, those comfortable straps ripped off under any real weight, and that fancy internal frame ripped out of its “pockets”. Within a couple of weeks of issue, the entire Bn went back to supply and got our good old Mountain Rucks (Large ALICE Packs) back. About the only good thing about the CFP90 was the small day pack, which funny enough, all the CFP90’s turned in to supply were “missing” these day packs. Sometimes change isn’t so good.

The tried and true Mountain Ruck aka Large ALICE Pack

I absolutely loved my Mountain Ruck (I can say that now, because I’m not patrolling with 100+ pounds in it for weeks at a time!), so much that I bought one after I got out. The simple design just works. Sure, there are tweaks that could be made… like combining the 3 small pouches in the top into one (since that’s what most guys end up doing anyway), replacing the ALICE Clip straps on the sides with some MOLLE, and putting a couple of beefier welds/rivets on the stress points of the frame … but other than these small changes, it’s solid. I did see some large ALICE packs on Discovery’s Surviving the Cut – Marine Recon, that looked like they had these changes, but I couldn’t confirm that. Though I did just have a conversation with a Recon Bn Bubba a few days back and he said that 2d Recon Bn is still issuing the Large ALICE pack.

Anyone who’s tried carrying a serious amount of weight with a 3 day pack and no frame knows that it’s just not set up for that. There’s definitely a place for all of the new fancy packs, but I think that you can’t go wrong with an ALICE pack and frame if you need to lug around some man weight. Glad to see and hear that the Marine Corps is still fielding this fine piece of kit.

Kit Up! contributor Bill Janson is a former Recon Marine and is the founder of Eleven 10, a tactical gear manufacturer.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

David M December 24, 2011 at 4:20 am

Bill,

Couldn't agree more. I am still using the same Large Alice Pack, 3 – 5 times a week, as a work out tool, that I picked up at the AAFES Uniform Store in Furth in 1983, and it is still going strong!

Has to be one of the finest pieces of kit ever, next to the poncho liner, of course.

David

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SFC YOUNG December 24, 2011 at 5:24 am

I still use my Large ruck with frame for the occasional camping trip. I had upgraded the shoulder straps and kidney pads and since then the pack has been great. Due to having to take commercial air into Kuwait earlier this year I opted to try out a arc teryx pack that I found on their LEAF (Tactical) website. Even though the large pack is my first love I think I have found mistress.

Great write up.

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FH December 24, 2011 at 5:36 am

as a pj we still use em. although we use an updated version of a medium pack on the large frame for mounting extrication equipment on the bottom. check it out.

http://www.promedkits.com/csar_ruck.shtml

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Bill Janson December 24, 2011 at 6:07 am

The pack looks pretty sweet. PJ's get all of the cool kit!

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KG2V December 24, 2011 at 6:35 am

I never was .mil, but I used to hump a 50 lb ruck a LOT, and while the Alice is sweet, I like my Eagle Becker Patrol Pack – back when they used to sew all the pockets onto it, not all MOLLE. For a VERY short period of time, the made a modified "civilian" versipn, which had a zip compartment like a lot of civilan day packs – bought one for my daughter – she filled the thing with schoolbooks (dang those things get heavy if you put enough in there), carried it for 2 years, no visible wear, and you know how kids beat on them (drag on floors drop etc). Only problem with either – the price

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c0whunt3r December 24, 2011 at 6:48 am

I know it doesn't mean much in the big bad world of the real military but when my AROTC unit was issued the CFP90s to replace the ALICE packs several people traded their new packs to underclassmen who still had the ALICE because they hated the new CFP90s, I didn't do it myself but I wish that I did because my pack constantly rips or the plastic frames brakes. Maybe it's just old ROTC-issue gear but I prefer the ALICE myself
An updated ALICE pack like you said would be a god-send

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Fireteamleader December 24, 2011 at 7:14 am

101st pathfinder co still uses them, so does LRS

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Hammer27 December 24, 2011 at 7:41 am

I've had my ALICE ruck for almost 10years now and its still hanging in there, even with the rips its developed. I've always said that with some after market straps it was a great pack. CSM gear makes a great mountain ruck that's similar to the ALICE, I used it for a month with 60-80lbs in it and it was top notch.

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Eric December 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

I think the ALICE is dated and there are much better packs out there that can be used to replace it. I think alot of the memories of it are of yearing for yesterday and are mispalced.

I have used both an ALICE and the issue MOLLE ruck while at Ranger School. And for carrying heavy loads, the MOLLE fit me much better then ALICE. Load that ALICE up to much and the top peice of the metal frame would just dig into my shoulder blades. Nothing to be done about.

Is the MOLLE ruck the best out there? No, far from it. But not all body types will fit one ruck and indvidual expericne will varry. But to say the ALICE pack is the best ruck sack there is… Well I just can't even come close to agreeing with that.

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Para December 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

Molle ruck is awesome until the frame snaps on a jump.

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Panzerhund0311 December 24, 2011 at 10:59 am

I still have my large ALICE pack that I got back in 1996 at Saigon Sam's while at Camp Lejeune, NC. It was modified with side release buckles for the straps and pouches. Its still holding up after all this time. I had to replace the frame twice since I owned it! I found a few newer ALICE style packs in better camouflage colors and better hardware, more pouches, MOLLE webbing, etc. The prices have ranged from 200-600 dollars depending on the manufacturers. I still rather have a ALICE pack any day over the MOLLE pack, or what ever else is out there. I'm glad to see that the "Mountain Ruck" is still being used with our troops!
Found this for the guys who like the different camo styles, MARPAT, ABU, Multicam, ACU… http://fireforceusa.com/backpacks/8024.htm

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Bill Janson December 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Saigon Sam's!! That's a blast from the past!

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crackedlenses December 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

I disagree only in that I think the ALICE is an beautiful, "cool-guy" pack, kind of like looking at an A-10 when you need fire support……

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Sapper November 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I agree. I recently bought two large ALICE and one Medium. I put a crapload of gear on this thing and it feels ok. I like the A-10 reference. I always thought that thing was butt ugly….until I saw it in action over the battlefield in Iraq 1991. That is one bad-ass beautiful aircraft. BTW, I was a Sapper, Airborne, Combat Engineer. So far I have not found any pack that equals my ALICE packs. I've looked all over and money is not object but I keep coming back to tried and true. I carried one through 5 years of Army service. In the field 275 days of every year rain, snow, mud, heat….from forests of Germany to deserts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait…..ALICE never had an issue. I would hate to be in a situation where we have rucked into the bush a few miles only to have a pack break. I'm confident that my ALICE pack will not. Only time we ever ripped the straps on one is when we added 150lbs of gear to a medium pack without frame. That shoulder strap ripped off but with a frame I've never had a problem.

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Paul December 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

We use the CFP90 for our loudspeaker system. The best thing we did was strip the LSS down and zip-tie it on a ruck frame and put an old DCU pack cover over it. The CFP90 was crap.

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Jim37F December 25, 2011 at 12:29 am

Thank Goodness for the new LRADs that are small enough to fit into an assault pack, no more giant big ruck just for a darn speaker lol

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evan December 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

I noticed on Surviving the cut episode that followed Pararescue ETD that all the trainee's were using Modified large A.L.I.C.E's. I know that special operations weather still use's them to, I'm guessing because it can handle the heavyloads they have to carry.

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Casey December 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I've been using an alice pack for workouts in preparation for Recon and it fits better than anything I have tried before for running.

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Lance December 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I have a medium ALICE back pack made from the 70s works great for Maritime ops we do carries food and other gear just fine. the OD color works just fine since if you have to get camo they make covers for them. Overall the ALICE pack will be around for a long time. Not only the back bt the M-16 ALICE mag pouch is also still alot in the military and carries more ammo and is more durable than the crappy MOLLE pouches the Army made recently. I like I can carry three 30rd mags in once pouch compared to just 2 in the MOLLE or SPEAR gear. With the old LC 2 belt and spenders I bet the old pack and mag pouch will be around in GI hands for a long time.

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Sam Dawson December 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I have had the opportunity to have 1,000s of Alice Packs come through my hands. I have seen them in perfect condition and I have seen them in pretty rough condition. I can say that the USGI is pretty ingenious when it comes to fixing gear on the fly. Give them some para cord and 500 mile an hour tape and anything can be fixed.

The duck nylon that the Alice is made out of is durable and repairable. The same goes with the frame. The frame is a simple design that has worked since the late 1960s. Rivet goes out you pop a new one in and go. Plastic frame breaks on a Mollle pack hope you have a lot of duck tape.

The kidney pad changed about 1974 to a thicker pad and a buckle system. then it upgraded in the 80s to a sewn on belt to the pad.

The basic design of the Alice has not changed a whole lot since late 60s. The ID pocket on the back changed and the internal tie down strings are gone. Metal buckles where replaced by metal snaps. No Velcro anywhere. I have seen a few with FASTEX buckles but very few.

The frame keeps the pack off your back and enables air flow.

The quick release shoulder straps have also seen improvment over the years.

I deal with them on a daily basis along with other gear. Without a doubht durable and have been battle tested in every type of enviroment known to man and they keep on trucking.

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Richard December 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I am a ex marine and belive in adapt and overcome so I go with what works. I have used a alice pack the majority of the time because it is the best.Nothing else I have used comes close to do all things required of a pack in actual field use.

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Preston December 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm

http://www.tacticaltailor.com/packs_bags/rucksack
Tactical Tailor makes some custom Alice Packs that look pretty good. I haven't ever used them though.

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FormerSFMedic December 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Preston, I used the Tactical Tailor ALICE pack on my last OEF deployment. I'm not sure which model (it was given to me). It was outstanding! It was a slight cut above a standard pack and it was huge too. Of course as a Medic, I carried a Blackhawk STOMP II on dismount most of the time. But, the Tactical Tailor packs are solid!

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Neal December 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hey Bill,

I've stumbled across a mod for the ALICE pack on the internet several times called the Hellcat. Supposedly combining the best parts of MOLLE and ALICE packs, there's been threads on it at ZombieSquad's bug-out section and at AR-15.com's tactical gear section.

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Darrel December 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Love my ALICE medium pack, it's great for just about anything, especially if you're in a hurry, since you can just toss whatever you need to into the main compartment and be on your way. The side pockets are great for rolling up clothes in, or just tossing things in, I guess :D A little bit of molle webbing, and an updated material (cordura, maybe) would make it go a long way today. The frames are easy to make and don't cost too much either.

Also, that small day pack on the back of the CFP90 was more or less just a GI butt pack, I think. You can easily attach a butt pack to some of the ALICE webbing on the sides or on the bottom of your ruck. Unfortunately, I don't think any amount of updating will really put the ruck back into main service. As good as it is, our military wants everything to be 'modern' :3

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Tier 1 Scout December 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm

From a Tier One point of view, the more it costs, the better it is.

So Maxpedition and Duluth bags is how we roll.

Eat watercress and kale salad and stay healthy this Winter.

Tier one scout out.

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wyhunter December 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm

It's already out there:

Mystery Ranch NICE Mtn Ruck.

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majrod December 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm

For the price and quality the ALICE can't be beat. Kind of like jungle fatigues ($8 a set).

Another thing I like about the Alice is it doesn't have all those pouches on the outside and adding them takes some logistics (you have to take it to a tailor and mod it). Systemically troops carry way too much weight. Larger modular packs just make it easier to carry too much and not plan/prioritize.

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Brandon Webb December 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Good write up Bill. Personally not a big fan of the Alice pack (I preferred my Kelty) but I know I'm in the minority. I can't argue with the legacy of the system and sheer number of fans. -Brandon

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Ben December 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Still very happy with my issued Berghaus Vulcan, http://store.berghaus.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servl
The RNLMC tried to replace it a few years back with an even bigger pack, but the same old "best gear, lowest bidder" crap meant we got to go back to our beloved Berghaus packs (love em even more now)after loads of Marines got back/neck/shoulder issues during a Mountain Warfare Course.
Turned out the frame was cheap/weak and the straps didnt work correctly either

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Jim37F December 25, 2011 at 12:34 am

Had ALICE issued in Basic and AIT, MOLLE pack since then. The MOLLE has a bigger internal compartment (or maybe I just had a smaller Medium ALICE), but otherwise, I have no real favorite between the two. I haven't had a plastic frame snap on me during a jump yet, but it is a **** of a lot easier to rig up an ALICE IMO. Otherwise, don't know about other units, but in mine, they don't really care that much if you have an ALICE or MOLLE on a ruck march or deployment

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Dumb Grunt December 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

The Alice is a good solid pack, I have used it for many years, still do and never had any major problems with it. It's tough and durable with the capacity to over stuff if needed. No zippers to fail unlike some of the newer designs. Being a top loading design gives you more flexibility in your load volume, just pay a little more attention in packing is all. It's not the most modern or the most comfortable, but I believe it is more versatile and cost effective than many other designs out there.

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ZUESSFS December 25, 2011 at 1:39 am

I have both rucks still. I have used them both in the field and loved them both. I never had an issue with either of them. and they are both broken in but still in great condition.

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Ron stillwell December 25, 2011 at 8:12 am

Im glad to hear that Alice is still loved and thought so highly of.
I have 2 large and 2 medium rucks . They came out of the fort ord . In ca. I worked for the us forest service at the time and my district was getting lots of stuff from there
I was a fire fighter at the time and asked the guys if they wanted to use the packs to carry rolled hose in . This what some said (we don't want to use that ****).
I thought to myself , you stupid fools!!
I'm a Vietnam vet grunt so knew and know the value of the alice ruck.
Well I took thoughs pack home and I use them to this day.
I could never get turned on over the newier mil. And civilian packs . They I my option don't holed up as well.
I'm use my rucks for hunting , fishing , hiking and packing out deer and elk.
Hail miss Alice !!!!

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tribulationtime December 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

I agree on overall idea of too much changes for fashion. With my experience on mountaineering in my hand, a rucksack with external frame; it is a pain in the *** if you walk many hours per day, going worst as weight rise.

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Josh W December 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I used both the Alice and the CFP90 back in the 101st. I don't think we had the CFP90 packs for even 90 days before they pulled them off the line and gave us our large Alice bags back, and yes the CFP packs were all missing their day bags when they were returned.

As solid as the Alice packs were, I hated their frames, which constantly broke on us. I don't how many I've swapped out over the years.

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The1stIDGUY December 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

http://www.mysteryranch.com/military/military-pac

Might be something for you guys to look into since it is a great pack just a suggestion

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Chris December 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I absolutely hate the Alice (aka – the big green tick). The thing never felt "right" on me despite years of trying to make it work.

There is something inherently evil with that monster as it is apparently immortal and refuses to die.

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steelcobra December 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm

My experience with the crappy plastic framed ones is that the bag both sags and sits out further than it does on the ALICE pack, making it feel heavier with the same load.

Update the old model with quick-disconnects instead of the long straps, the Blackhawk shoulder straps, harden the frame, and put a better hip pad on, and it'd be perfect. Maybe even some way to fit it better to body armor.

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Zach December 27, 2011 at 5:33 am

ALICE packs are still the issued ruck we use for our MANPACKS here in Korea. In fact we just got several brand new ones in to replace the old moldy ones my predecessors neglected.

I enjoy the simplicity of them however I don't believe in using them personally. Too long for me to write about why, I just don't like them. Nor do I like the newer MOLLE ruck. Too many straps and too cumbersome, and don;t even get me started on the POS plastic frame.

I at the very least upgraded my frame. I was in contact with Mystery Ranch and got their extremely ****** and comfortable NICE frame attached to the MOLLE ruck. It's like having a pillow on your back!

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JMac December 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I took my CFP to a tailor out in J-ville and had them double stich everything. $60 of my own money but so worth it. I had it through assault climber school and the Slovinian Armys alpine ranger school.. It served me well.

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ghosted7982 January 4, 2012 at 3:18 am

Yeah they're are great, i like to use a pack based on 70- year old technology when there are far more advanced and better option available off the shelf. Yes its rugged. That is not hard to do. It is a terrible pack design. The weight is distro'd away from the body, the frame is not adjustable, yada yada yada. And for all you i got my tailored for $300 and i think it's great its NOT an ALICE pack anymore! It is now a custom rucksack…

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ghosted7982 January 4, 2012 at 3:20 am

and JMAC you mispelled Slovenian, and they don't have a ranger school (though they do have an outstanding alpine/mountain warfare course)

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JMac January 4, 2012 at 4:49 am

Well ****.. Slovenian it is. I'm fairly certain that my paperwork said alpine ranger school, but in truth I haven't looked at it in about 15 years. It was outstanding training though.

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Headshot January 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

Former Recon Tier 1 CFP-90 with a 80 pound load and the plactic shoulder yolk ripped off. ILBE is nice but the Alice mountain ruck can carry a V.W. bug in it's cargo. The ruck is painful but it is a L.R.R.P. pack in the winter carries all the sleep system. Not a fan of zippers stick to the basics. I still use a ruck I make them myself with internal frame and compression straps and external frame optional if I need it. Semper Fi.

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xcalbr January 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I long ditched my alice for a mystery ranch equivalent. best decision i ever made.

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Logan February 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I love my Medium ALICE Ruck, and feel it is the best all-around baseline pack around. If the Army had to issue 1 pack and not 3, I'd go with the old ALICE. Also, like some of the guys already said, modified versions are out there. Here's some links. Some examples were already mentioned however by fellow KU! Readers. http://www.tacticaltailor.com/packs_bags/rucksackhttp://www.tacticalassaultgearstore.com/mountainrhttp://www.bdstacticalgear.com/pd-bds-tactical-lahttp://www.mysteryranch.com/military/sustainment-

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Lalilu April 9, 2012 at 4:36 am

I've been reading quite a bit on this very site I had stumbled upon. I had the damnedest, cheesiest grin on my face when I saw this; Thinking to myself "Damn I'm glad I bought that thing". My medium Alice sure has been sweet to me the past 8 years. I bought it used on some army surplus site, and by judging off Sam Dawson's description, she must date back too the late 60's or early 70's. That S.O.B. keeps truckin'. Funny enough, I look over the side of my bed and see what… My good o'l Alice.. Of course with my IMI Jericho 941 tucked nicely in the upper half of it (Reliable sidearm for a reliable pack eh?), Both are quite ergonomic for me at least. Ahhh the nostalgia I get from this post! Ironic for a first post here, yes?

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Pathfinder July 11, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Wow, Ghost, one fantstic catch – your mama must be proud – oh yeah, you still have an Alice pack regardless of "customizing."

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Jason July 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm

The Mystery Ranch "equivalent" is one of the best packs I've ever seen…but…the price is way too high. After you get to the checkout…your looking at almost $800. It may be worth it in the long-run…but unless your well-off…'regular guys' can't afford it.

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scoutsout July 23, 2012 at 12:57 am

Realize this is an old post, but Alice packs are still used as radio packs. Not so much for carrying individual gear though!

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jack mahoney September 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm

i bought one two days ago at a yard sale for $10 and in it was a surround sound system with a new dvd player!

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Glenno October 4, 2012 at 5:40 am

You must have picked up a deluxe model. My standard version didn't even come with headphones.

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George Richter February 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I have been all over the Southwest US with a 20 year old medium Alice pack. I have day hiked to the most remote and rugged places. It has never failed to get the job done. I limit the items to 2 canteens, 1 K-bar, 1 Glock, food, Water purfier, canteen cup, GI foam pad and a poncho liner along with large gortex shell. Several times I just spent the night when I did not want to hurry back. I switched out the buckles to Fastex which makes in and out of the pack faster.

I plan on using this for another 20 years or until I am committed to a nursing home. For that matter just throwing this gear in my coffin would be fine with me.

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MEDIC July 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I DO AGREE THAT THE OLD SCHOOL ALICE PACK IS ONE OF THE BEST GROWING UP IN A MILITARY FAMILY BOTH OF MY PARENTS WERE ACTIVE DUTY HOWEVER THE NEW GEN II ALICE PACKS THE ARMY IS ISSUING ARE JUST AS STURDY I AM ON ACTIVE DUTY AS A MEDIC AND HAVE CARRIED BOTH THE NEW MOLLE IS MORE COMFORTABLE BUT JUST AS STURDY I WAS SKEPTIAL AT FIRST WITH A PLASTIC EXTERIOR FRAME VS THE METAL ONE BUT IT HAS HELD UP THROUGH SEVERAL DEPLOYMENTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST AND OTHER PERSONAL CAMPING TRIPS

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Vagabond warrior July 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I think things may be coming together ALICE-wise. Yes the old frames are one one the two weak points. But my understanding is that the latest version of the 2nd generation MOLLE frame has been modified to accept the ALICE frame mounting pocket and early returns report a greatly improved carry. The other weak point, the comparatively flimsy 420 pack cloth, is being replaced in many commercial packs by more robust Corduras. Very often low quality Rothco makes a surprisingly durable looking medium with frame for about $80. As for issues like old style ALICE attachment points, old style pocket closures and the awkward continuous strap main pocket closure, Tactical Tailor offers reasonably priced ruck sack modifications such as Fastex buckles, MOLLE pads and more. And it only took 40 some odd years.

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Kevin April 22, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Anyone know a good place to get updated & properly sized hip belts for Alice frames that will work for full figured men & women?

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Jon Greenspon May 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

I brought my ALICE with me when I left the Corps in '83. It's still my go bag.

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Shawn May 26, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I think part of the reason you see Marines using the Alice pack is that the gargantuan USMC ILBE pack they were issued had an internal frame and it did not work well with body armor.

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Marine grunt July 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm

The new packs are junk I left mine on ship and used the Alice pack in Iraq being a mg gunner on foot I had to carry a lot shi* the dod just needs to ask the grunts what they need and quit pushing the latest new tech on us. Grunt logic “if it ain’t broke don’t fuc* with it”

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JohnD August 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Humped the large Alice pack thru 2 wars, multiple peacetime deployments but hated the frame! There was a civilian frame out years ago that didn't make you walk like you have osteoporosis! Strapped my M5 aid bag on top E-tool and 2 quarts on the sides. At least you can jump it unlike some modern rucks!

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