What is an ALICE Pack: It's History, Application and Use

What is an ALICE pack

And why you should strongly consider using one for your next outdoor adventure

One of the most essential pieces of equipment every outdoor enthusiast needs is a reliable pack. A high-quality pack will store all your essentials while proving its durability throughout the entirety of your excursion. One of the best and most versatile options is the ALICE pack, used and tested against the elements for decades. Here’s a brief overview of what an ALICE pack is, its history, and its usefulness for backpacking.

What Does “ALICE Pack” Mean?

The ALICE, in “ALICE pack”, stands for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. The ALICE system was adopted by the United States military in 1973. The goal was to be more lightweight than previous standard packs.

What are the Main Components of an ALICE Pack?

An ALICE system is made up of various components. These components can then be added, removed, and combined differently depending on your specific needs. The actual pack comes in small, medium, or large sizes and is most often placed used with a field pack frame. The large size strictly requires the frame, while the medium and small do not.

Using a frame is generally preferable. It distributes the weight of the pack’s contents better and keeps it from pressing into your back. How much weight can an ALICE pack hold? Without a frame, medium packs can carry 40-50lbs, while large packs with frames can carry approximately 70lbs.

The pack typically has one main component, with an inside pocket, various outside pouches, and a pocket on the outside flap. There are also webbing loops for extra attachments.

Traditionally, the pack is paired with a belt used for attaching various other equipment pieces. These include can include a water canteen, a first aid kit, a small arms ammunition case, or a compass case. Another common addition is suspenders, which can also be used as a lashing point for other, smaller compartments like the belt.

What is the History of the ALICE Pack?

ALICE pack development began in the mid-sixties to lessen the weight soldiers had to manage while increasing comfort and motility. ALICE Packs are created using lighter, waterproof nylon and an aluminum frame. Previous packs were constructed with heavier (and water-retaining) cotton material and steel frames.

ALICE packs were the most common packs used by the United States military in the 1970s and 1980s. Most military units are now using the newer MOLLE system. However, ALICE packs remain highly popular and are still used by the Navy and the Marine Corps for training.

Are ALICE Packs Good for Backpacking?

Modern ALICE pack

While ALICE packs were created for the military, they are highly suitable for many outdoor spaces. Firstly, the ruggedness of these packs is beyond doubt. They are made of extremely durable (and waterproof) material and can handle even the most strenuous of journeys. ALICE packs are made to last.

The load-bearing capabilities of ALICE packs also make them particularly suited to longer hikes or adventures which require more equipment. The aluminum frame allows for heavy packing, and there is a large amount of space to fill up. The extra attachments add another level to what you can include.

ALICE packs are also highly affordable. They come considerably cheaper than most backpacks which are specifically made for backpacking. They’re also compatible with many MOLLE system attachments. Both ALICE or MOLLE spare parts are commonly available on the market if you need a replacement down the line.

Take a look at part two of our ALICE pack series here - why you need a medium ALICE pack

The ALICE system provides rugged, versatile packs which have been field-tested for decades. They are perfect for many soldiers, campers, hikers, and survivalists alike.