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The Baldwin Articles – ALICE Pack Trilogy: Part 1 of 3

I am going to talk mostly about the ALICE Large Combat Field Pack (rucksack) (bottom right) because that is the version that I used almost exclusively during my time in service. But I didn’t always have one. During my tour in Germany (75-78) I never saw them. We were issued strictly M1956 Load Carrying Equipment (LCE). I discovered ALICE when I rotated to Ft Lewis in the fall of 78. In stateside infantry units at that time we were issued medium rucksacks with frames and only RTOs got the large rucksacks. However, the large packs were sold at Clothing Sales. I don’t remember the price, but it was cheap. So just about every NCO and Officer bought their own for the field. And that was basically how it worked on my next tour in Hawaii. But it seems to me that when I inprocessed at the 82nd in 1983 everyone in the infantry battalions got issued the Large. In any case, in Airborne and Special Operation units the large ALICE rucksack was the standard.

The Army and USMC experimented with various rucksacks in WW II including a “Jungle Pack” that looked a lot like some of the new jungle packs that are being tested today. There had also been a popular “Mountain Rucksack” issued to some specialized units. Versions of that ruck were used quite a bit by Special Forces in the 50s and early 60s. But conventional units in WW II and Korea mostly did without. Small packs carried the soldier’s fighting load and perhaps a minimal bedroll and everything else went into the duffel bag to be moved by transport. That worked after a fashion but usually left the foot soldier shivering in the cold in both conflicts. But even that less-than-satisfactory experience didn’t convince leadership to make a rucksack general issue to the troops. So the post-Korea M1956 gear was fielded without a rucksack component.

Then came Vietnam. The long movements and extended operations in the jungle terrain kept adding more and more weight onto the soldiers’ backs. So eventually two different rucksacks were fielded during that conflict with mixed results. One is the Tropical Rucksack also called a Jungle Rucksack that I have on display (bottom left). As you can see it is nearly identical in size and pocket configuration to the medium ALICE. It has a spring steel X frame that is longer but similar to the frame on the canvas ARVN Pack. The other issued pack was the Lightweight Rucksack which came with a tubular aluminum frame. I don’t have one but if you have seen Platoon or some of the other Vietnam War movies this is the one the actors usually carry. Neither was entirely satisfactory in service but features of both were eventually incorporated into the ALICE packs.

ALICE was very much a product of the hard lessons learned from extended infantry combat in Vietnam. It is what I would classify as an excellent combat patrolling rucksack. That is it was optimized to fight and live out of for long duration dismounted operations. Despite its origins, it was also definitely not just a jungle ruck. It was intended for worldwide deployments and functions equally well in the desert, mountains, jungle or artic. It is simple and adaptable and can readily meet the load carriage needs of the Paratrooper or the Marine and anyone from conventional riflemen to Green Berets and SEALs. The ALICE rucksack is probably the closest thing to a truly universal piece of kit the US Military has ever developed.

  
A number of packs have been tested or fielded in the interim intended to replace the ALICE. The first contender I encountered was the Lowe LOCO pack (top left) which came out in the early 80s. That eventually morphed into the CFP 90 (top middle) which in turn led to the Gregory SPEAR pack (top right) and the USMC’s Arc’teryx ILBE pack (not shown). All of these were high end backpacks designed by leaders in the civilian backpacking industry. They had suspension systems that were much more comfortable than the ALICE. Yet none remained in service very long or were ever very popular with troops who live, work and fight with a rucksack on their backs. And the reason for their rejection was simple. None of them were very good combat patrolling rucksacks. The very features that made them attractive to civilian outdoorsmen made them less than ideal for soldiers as compared to ALICE. Three common characteristics in particular were problematic. Their height, the internal frames, and the extended padded waist belts.

First, they were simple too tall. Extending above the shoulders as high or higher than the top of an individual’s helmet and blocking head movement and vision. Not necessarily a significant issue if conducting an administrative roadmarch for physical conditioning but a critical problem on a tactical Movement to Contact – even if just in training. Paratroopers probably disliked those long packs the most. None of them rigged very readily for airborne operations and because of their length they inevitably drag on the aircraft floor for even the tallest jumpers. And the shorter the jumper the more of a safety hazard the long packs became. I recall my ODA jumping the CFP 90s just one time not long after Desert Storm and that experience was so unpleasant that we went back to ALICE for good the next day.

The internal frames are also not as suitable for combat operations as an external frame. Soldiers routinely carry heavy and odd shaped loads like mortar bipods and baseplates secured to the outside of their rucks. Tying items like that off to a rigid external frame rather than just to the exterior of the rucksack bag keeps the load much more stable and manageable. And as with the height issue mentioned above, internal frames are not conducive to easily rigging these packs for jumping as compared to external frame designs. Internal frame packs intentionally hug the wearer’s body when worn and do not leave space between to facilitate ventilation. Although admittedly this criticism is perhaps not as relevant today when body armor is routinely being worn. The tall internal frame packs also do not naturally sit upright like the short and squat ALICE with its external frame. Soldiers have to find something to lean the long packs against in order to load or unload items or even to put the rucksack on or off. The internal frame packs are simply less user friendly and can actually make the job harder rather than easier.

The long packs all had extended padded waist belts that were intended to distribute part of the load onto the hips. Assuming an individual’s waist and hips were actually clear of fighting load gear. This wasn’t and still isn’t usually the case. In short, while well intentioned and sound in theory, wrap around padded rucksack waist belts always interfaced poorly with LCE / LBV or body armor and tended to get snagged or tangled up with the other gear. That made donning and especially dropping the backpacks much more complicated and troublesome than it had been with ALICE. And getting tangled up with a rucksack can be more than just an annoyance; it can be dangerous. Therefore most experienced troopers kept the waist belt / pad wrapped back around the frame or pack body and as much out of the way as possible. All the time. And from what I have observed that still remains true even today.

Lots of people look at older gear as clunky and unsophisticated…and therefore deemed to be less effective than newer kit. I prefer to think of the ALICE pack as a flexible, rugged, classic design. And like all classics it continues to enjoy popularity at least in some professional circles because it always functions reliably. It gets the job done. When I retired a few years ago ALICE packs were still a fairly common fixture in many Team Rooms (I expect they still are today). Not because there were not newer “sexier” alternatives available or that people were adverse to change. But rather something that works as well as ALICE just doesn’t go out of style until something that is proven to be much better comes along. So far that hasn’t happened. It is no accident that the USMC’s current FILBE pack clearly shows its ALICE roots. And many of the complaints I have heard about the MOLLE II Large Rucksack could be fixed if it were actually a little more like ALICE (something I intend to discuss another time).

Some might take umbrage if I called ALICE the gold standard of combat rucksacks. I agree that is probably too grandiose a characterization for the old girl. But I do think it is fair to say that the ALICE pack still remains the baseline standard by which all newcomers will have to be judged for many years to come. ALICE packs were obviously not perfect. That is also a fact. But I submit that if tasked to develop a single multipurpose or “full spectrum” combat rucksack today. One that could be versatile enough to effectively fill so many diverse roles for so many people in so many different combat environments. I have no doubt the resulting rucksack would look a lot like ALICE. And rightly so.

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (RET) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments.

Next: Part 2, Common ALICE Pack modifications.

81 Responses to “The Baldwin Articles – ALICE Pack Trilogy: Part 1 of 3”

  1. Dev says:

    I think you nailed it, there is really no pack system out there that is so versatile and good (subjective, I know) at the job it was designed to do. Perhaps the venerable British Bergen comes close (personally have no experience with the Bergen) but being 159cm tall I absolutely love the ALICE. There isn’t an internal frame load carrying system out there that allows a short low-arsed individual like myself to carry a decent amount of pack weight while wearing a plate carrier and belt kit.

    I noticed you didn’t touch on the newish 1606 frame from DEI (I’ve had the misfortune of trying out the 1603 frame before and it’s absolutely terrible) but in my experience and opinion it’s more or less the same as the ALICE but less weight and bulk and perhaps help distribute the weight better by keeping the load closer to the back compared to the classic ALICE design.

    In my opinion the only system that outright surpasses it is the NICE frame from Mystery Ranch, but the design of the hip and lumbar pads do not allow for a belt kit to be comfortably worn in conjunction with a plate carrier.

    Thanks for the interesting information in relation to the system. Keep up the good work and brilliant articles coming.

    • Eddie says:

      You should take a look at some of the packs High Ground Gear makes, their quick release belt system and frame system with body armor is a match made in heaven.

    • Terry B. says:

      Dev,

      I’ll discuss frame options and suspension upgrades in Part 3. The 1606 will be a fair part of that piece.

      TLB

    • Dev says:

      Thanks Eddie for the recommendation. I’ll have a good look but I’ve got half an eye on the LBT rucks already.

      Looking forward to the next installations.

    • Keld says:

      The British Bergen of Para fame was a shitty pack to carry any load in. Shoulder straps were awful and only supported in a 1″ strip on each shoulder. Went for a wilderness course in Sweden once with one I borrowed. First and only time I used that ruck. Hated it.

      • SSD says:

        The ALICE isn’t much better. Despite the nostalgia perpetuated by this article, ALICE’s only real advantage was that it was issued. It had to be modified to make it more usable. The shoulder straps suck and frames are notorious for breaking.

        • Keld says:

          Yeah, I know, I’ve used one for the first coupleo f years in the Army. Went to Vector (Lowe Alpine) rucks instead.

        • Terry B. says:

          SSD,

          I assure you that I’m not that nostalgic about ALICE as issued. But despite detractors, I do believe the Large ALICE still represents the soundest design for a combat rucksack in terms of basic geometry.

          It does need upgrades and modernization especially the frame and suspension. I’ll be talking about some specifics in parts 2 &3. And I also believe that the Army would have been better served if it had concentrated on upgrading rather than fixating on replacing ALICE.

          SPEAR and the other “better” packs didn’t fail because people were nostalgic. They failed because they weren’t really well suited to the mission.

          Much as the M16 has evolved over time into the M4 and countless individualized AR platforms. I would submit that ALICE is still a solid platform or template from which to build a truly better combat rucksack.

          TLB

          • historia says:

            I suppose the various molle/spear etc rucks could have been avoided if the something like the highly upgraded alice just became issue.

        • balais says:

          Yeah and its still better than the current MOLLE ones being issued among big army.

        • historia says:

          SSD,
          you know before I switched my frame to the welded TT Frame, I forgot about the rivets popping. Yes I recall being told I would need a rivet gun.

          • Cord says:

            I drilled out every rivet on one of my frames and replaced them with screws and nylon lock nuts. Never had one come undone but keep a few extra in pouch.

      • historia says:

        I had a Bergen, I thought the pockets coming off would be handy, you could load it up like no ones business, in Africa on my 1″ straps broke, then you are truly boned.

  2. fudman says:

    Great summary on ALICE and other rucksacks over the years.

    This is a cautionary tale regarding operational requirements and how they influence and determine end item performance. While I did not participate in the development of the SPEAR rucksack, I am familiar with the ORD and the Gregory product was never intended as a combat rucksack. It was designed (per the ORD) to carry 5,000 cubic inches and 120 lbs. In addition, you could piggyback the Patrol Pack onto it for an additional 2,500 cubic inches! Hence, this backpack was in a league by itself regarding capacity and never intended as a combat ruck. However, for those that remember that photo of the mounted SF guys in Afghanistan, the Gregory SPEAR pack made for excellent panniers! LOL!

    And I agree with the comments above on NICE. The modular design offers a great compromise between external and internal frame advantages and disadvantages.

    • Terry B. says:

      fudman,

      The SPEAR pack was a monster. And based on a new post by SSD I see that SOCOM is going to try to reinvent the son of SPEAR in the 5000 range. I know what you are saying about terminology. They are calling the new version a “Recce” ruck.

      But SOF doesn’t hump these beasts in safe areas. A “combat ruck” is any rucksack you have on your back when the shooting starts. A GOOD combat ruck is one that not only helps you carry the load…but doesn’t make it harder for you to survive that encounter with the enemy.

      Bottom line: I still would not recommend going into a likely firefight with the SPEAR pack (or any pack like it) on your back. I don’t care how comfortable it is.

      TLB

  3. Daniel says:

    I think the main reason hip belts aren’t used as much in the American military, is that soldiers are trained not to use them from the get go. This buts a lot more fatigue on the soldier and can lead to other problems down the road (e.g. nerve damage in the shoulders.) Hip belts should be used, they save you from a ton of wear on the body, and equipment should be designed to allow for their use. Many studies have been done on this exact topic, and while there are merits to not using a hip belt, we should encourage its use as much as possible.

    Obviously there are people with a lot more experience than me, I was just a lowly grunt in the IDF, but the research is definitely there.

    https://ke.army.mil/bordeninstitute/published_volumes/mil_quantitative_physiology/QPchapter11.pdf

    Page 312 talks about it a bit. A quick scholar.google search gives more studies.

    • Chris says:

      This is very true… I went through Army basic a at the ripe ole age of 30 and this was one the first things I remember, “you don’t need the waist belt, it gets in the way”. Growing up in the boy scouts and civilian hiking I was always taught to use the waist belt to balance the load and take weight off the shoulders.

      I try to use the waist belt and set my load carrying gear up the best I can to make use of it. On long movements it makes carrying the load a lot easier, but can make getting the ruck off a little tougher.

    • Mike Nomad says:

      Wasn’t familiar with the book, wound up grabbing all of it. Many Thanks for the link.

    • Terry B. says:

      Daniel, Chris

      I’ll have to respectfully disagree with both of you. Carrying a load with the maximum comfort is a very low priority in combat or training for combat. The first priority is surviving the fight and completing the mission. And if possible not becoming a casualty today. So you pack and carry your gear based on that harsh necessity not comfort.

      And to Chris’ point about fighting load and waist belt interface. I would say you are looking at the problem backwards. Set up your fighting load so that you can effectively fight with it on. Then, and only then, adjust your rucksack so that it works as well as it can with your kit…not the other way around.

      Civilian backpacking is just not the same.

      TLB

      • "Bob" says:

        True, and obviously, as you stated, traditional hip belts don’t work with current combat setups, but I think the point trying to be made (as I read it) was long term permanent damage, like a ruined back and shoulders, and the possibility of injury in the short term, all reducing the soldier’s effectiveness. The human body is not designed to carry massive loads unsupported on the shoulders, so it would be nice to see some system that reduces the strain on the back, yet still allowed use of a belt or whatnot.

        Of course, these days, guys aren’t running around with packs this size for extended periods of time, so it might not matter.

      • Phil says:

        what do you REALLY need to carry on your hips to fight that you can’t on/in a chest rig? absolutely nothing.

        • Concur, bought a Kifaru in 2003 with the incredibly efficient waist belt. Realized my old LCE wouldn’t work anymore, so I got a chest rig and never looked back.

  4. Alex says:

    I’m gonna be tuning in for this series.
    I agree that ALICE, despite its age is still a very relevant and adaptable system. Modern enhancements like TT’s MALICE frame have helped bring it into the 21st century
    The fact that there are still SOF users today fielding ALICE based rucksack systems is the best testimony to how good a setup it is.
    I used to have an LBT 8-pocket ruck (Basically a Large ALICE) that was upgraded with a MALICE frame and an HSGI ALIPAD and I’m starting to regret selling it for a civilian style ruck.

    • Dev says:

      I’m actually looking into getting one of those (or the 10 pocket version) to replace my Platatac ALICE XL 2013.

      Would that pack have any issues taking up a 1606 frame? Is the bottom separable compartment large enough to take a sleeping bag with bivy bag?

      • Alex says:

        I can’t speak IRT the 1606 frame as I understand they’re geared toward MOLLE rucks, but I’ve heard that others have had success adapting it to other large ALICE style rucks.

        As to the Sleep system, as long as you got everything nicely compressed or don’t have some crazy gucci setup, you should be able to fit it in the bottom compartment just fine. Everything compressed properly, I was able to fit a complete USGI sleep system in there with space for a spare pair of boots.

      • Alex says:

        And if you’re willing to spend the dosh, I say go for the 10 pocket ruck as It comes with LBT’s upgraded suspension system that has two built in compartments for Hydration bladders much like the now discontinued HSGI alipad.

        • Dev says:

          Thanks for your feedback. Always knew LBT made great kit and gear but wasn’t so sure about dropping almost 1G on a pack and having to ship it half the world.

          Gotta get meself one of those now.

    • Stacy0311 says:

      Started out with the Tropical Rucksack with spring steel frame. Got it from my dad (Vietnam vet) used in Boy Scouts and still have in a toughbox in the garage.
      Bought a Large Alice when I was a grunt in the Marine Corps.
      Bought a TT Malice with upgraded shoulder straps and waist belt after using a MOLLE pack once.
      30 years with ALICE, don’t like that tramp MOLLE…..

  5. historia says:

    Excellent article again, I have used a variety of military and civilian rucks, and I still think the ALICE is an excellent pack. I currently have a Blackhawk variant of the large Alice I use for extreme cold weather, which is good, but I still think I prefer the GI one.

  6. Al V says:

    Great article.
    I used the Canadian 64 pattern ruck (jump ruck) right up to my release in 2013.
    That frame is still used to this day.

    • R711 says:

      The 64 pattern Rucksack was an offshoot of the Vietnam era jungle ruck. I have used the 64 ruck till i was released in 2013. The ability to pack odd shaped items to the pack like the SF kit for the C6, radio etc. I have also used the PLCE Bergen, works great, the waist belt had just the right amount of padding to be used and ditched quite quickly. As for the article keep them coming, great insight into the history and development.
      R711

  7. patrulje says:

    I started with the old jungle ruck that only took up the lower half of the frame with the PRC 77 radio (later PRC 70) mounted above. Later I carried a LOCO on a LRRP (later LRS team) until it fell apart. One thing you failed to mention was the rappel harness built into waist belt on the LOCO, the waist belt was quick detach from the ruck as well. My last tour in AFG, I carried a gen 1 Kifaru MMR. I tend to like internal as opposed to external frame rucks, but doing reconnaissance, I had very specific load requirements. Internal are much hotter when working in jungle or desert environments since there is no airflow across your back.

    • SSD says:

      You have my deepest condolences for having to carry the PRC-70.

      • patrulje says:

        Add to that the antenna bag, DMDG at least I got to pawn the G-76 hand crank generator on my ARO. All that being said that I could make the system talk around the world. At one point we had someone decide that teams needed to carry the NVIS antennas kit and TVS-2 for border ops. I was very glad when we got the LST 5Bs.

    • Dirty Leg says:

      When I was on a LRS team most everyone carried large ALICE rucks, as opposed to the new (then) MOLLE piece of garbage that constantly broke. Then NCOs that could get away with it started transitioning to the Kifaru and eventually Mystery Ranch type rucks. Those are REALLY good for modern LRRP type patrols because you can carry a ton of crap and still get good weight distribution onto the hips for that lovely 15k insertion (in the rain, of course).

      They’re also very, very expensive so most Joes stuck with good old ALICE until all of them eventually broke- it’s amazing to me that a ruck can last almost 20 years in a units inventory with daily abuse like that. Great ruck.

    • Terry B. says:

      patrulje,

      I didn’t mention the rappel harness on the LOCO because I was focusing on ALICE. The other packs were just for comparison.

      I thought that was the coolest thing about the LOCO. But then I realized I just wasn’t rapelling that often and otherwise it was just additional weight I didn’t need.

      TLB

  8. Whit says:

    My medium and large GI ALICE packs are still my go to packs. With the hip belt, they allow me to carry heavy loads comfortably.

    I agree with the author – ALICE is still the baseline from which all others are judged.

  9. Lt M says:

    Re: British bergens, they’re designed to sit above webbing/belt kit, even with the pack waist belt (I rarely use the waist belt), and can rest on top of webbing depending on setup. A common adage is ‘bergen for living; webbing for fighting; smock for surviving.’
    In Afghan I used a Karrimor SF Sabre 45 on patrol and it worked well for what we were doing, but this was with armour and no webbing. For multi-day patrols and tabbing, you can’t beat a bergen w/ rocket pouches over webbing.

  10. FLC says:

    The ALICE concept was a result of a Program called LINCLOE.
    Lightweight Individual Clothing and Equipment. 1965.

  11. Dirty Leg says:

    TT’s Malice pack is still my favorite of all time. Has all the ALICE features with added room and good padding to boot. Also very jumpable. Can get em pretty cheap on the old Fleabay from time to time, sometimes with TT’s steel frame too.

    • jjj0309 says:

      Agreed. The only con that I found is lack of velcro secure or drawstring storm flaps on outer pouches.
      The other alternatives like Blackhawk SOF or LBT Ruck are very robust too but IMO they’re too overkill in design. While TT Malice is simple to use and pure enhancement from the original Alice and retaining it’s basic design.

  12. Fly on the Wall says:

    I had many packs with 100+ lb bizarro loads always starting with AN/PRx-xxx. I felt the best combination I ever had was a personally procured Mystery Ranch NICE frame with a TT Malice pack. Modern suspension and loadbearing with tried-and-true packbag design. Being particularly long in the torso, I always had the kidney pad awkwardly pressing on the soft tissue with the standard sized-for-midgets ALICE frame. Had it been 2 1/2″ longer all would’ve been tolerated.

  13. PAK says:

    Excellent commentary. There are many great features of ALICE and the other packs that you mentioned. How do we keep the positive features, while also eliminating the injuries caused from not wearing a waist belt?

    Talk to people who have worn ALICE and you will hear about chronic back pain, numbness/ tingling in the hands, and plate crush/shortness of breath. These injuries affect performance and safety while in the service, as well as adding a legacy of pain after retirement

    http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/weight-of-war-gear-that-protects-troops-also-injures-them/

    • Terry B. says:

      PAK,

      I don’t have the solution. It wasn’t part of this discussion but the problem goes back centuries in that soldiers are habitually grossly overloaded when they go into harms way. And despite being well aware of this…we still do little to address it even today.

      No rucksack, no fancy suspension system or state of the art frame will correct that issue. Humans, no matter how physically fit, are not designed to carry the kinds of loads we are talking about. A 180 pound trooper with a 120 pound pack…on top of his fighting load? That is absurd but all too common.

      Whether you wear or don’t wear a waist belt isn’t going to resolve that problem or even have much effect.

      TLB

      • redbeard33 says:

        There certainly are frame and pack systems out there that alleviate much of the major issues that ALICE causes, as mentioned by PAK.

        I have enjoyed your articles and was hoping for an objective history of the pack systems. I hope nostalgia won’t color your future excellent sleuthing abilities.

        • Terry B. says:

          redbeard,

          I do strive to be objective in my conclusions. I appreciate your constructive criticism / feedback. But I wouldn’t agree that I am blinded by nostalgia.

          I have spent decades trying to improve ALICE for my own personal benefit if for nothing else.

          And I have eagerly tried every new wonder-pack that has come along in all those years. Always looking for something appreciably better for the direct combat role than ALICE.

          I haven’t run into it yet. That is just my professional opinion. FWIW

          TLB

  14. jjj0309 says:

    Good to see some real experienced stories behind why combatants rejected those ‘Long-packs’.
    As a civilian, I always wondered why sodiers hated those internal frame long-packs and the USMC ditched ILBE and goes FILBE which is based on ALICE.
    I know they’re not very compatible with plate carriers but that doesn’t explain why those top-notched, ergonomic designs from the civilian market not working well with combat situation and many just went back to their decades old ALICE. Thank you for your great article, my questions are now cleared and solved.

  15. FHRITP says:

    I can relate to alot of what the author had to say about this. While ive only worn the alice on a cpl backpacking trips, it packed everything i need for it nicely but the external frame was more weight and was overall uncomfortable.

    In training i used the issued ruck, in acu. At the time i didn’t particularly care for it. I didnt know how convenient it was to be able to access things from the bottom rather than pull everything out. The sustainment pouches were nice and it carried relatively comfortably. It was large and had an internal separater flap that would seperate between the top half and lower half.

    In afghanistan i was issued the medium ruck, in multicam. That damn thing was complete garbage. More like a slightly larger assault pack. The first week i was there it didnt seem so bad. But then i had to carry shit. Alot of shit. Heavy shit. Shit that wouldnt fit with the packing list and i couldnt strap it down to the outside. I was a 240 gunner but also had to carry my m4. So id have my portion of a combat load of 7.62 which was 600 rounds plus double combat load for my m4 which was 14 mags altogether. A few times i had to pass off the 240 and take a 60mm mortar with the base plate and 10 rounds of various types, mainly h.e. It was damn near impossible to fit all that shit. Walking around with that shitty thing was a pain in the ass. I started remembering the large ruck back in garrison and wished they had issued me that in multicam rather than the stupid piece of shit we had.

    Coming back i started to look around for better rucks. I was in a surplus store looking for a canteen pouch in multicam for a nods pouch and saw a mystery ranch carson mountain ruck in tan for $230. I knew mystery ranch was pretty high end and pretty expensive so i googled the ruck and it was $635 or something new. And this one looked pretty new. I snatched it up with a quickness. That ruck is even better than the issued large ruck and i really wish id had it on deployment. I couldve loaded eveything so much easier and wouldve been able to strap shit down to the outside with ease as well. The only complaint i have about it is i wish the shoulder straps were wider by about 2-3 inches. Other than that its been fantastic in all the ftx’s we’ve done and and the rucks we’ve been on, the most recent being a 25 miler and it carried like a dream. Lol as much a dream as a ruck can be over 25 miles anyway

    Anybody lookin for a great ruck i highly suggest the one i got. Its awesome.

    • 4xRanger says:

      Sounds more like a lack of leadership from your NCOs if you carried a 240 as well as a M4 w/ double combat load. Your leadership doesn’t understand weight management IAW tactical movements, should be max of 30% of your weight for combat patrol according to FM.

    • Terry B. says:

      FHRITP,

      I’m not throwing rocks at you. I’m sure you were doing what you were directed to do…but you story is troubling to me.

      What kind of unit were you assigned to in Afghanistan? On the face it doesn’t appear that your unit leaders understood basic load planning or load discipline. Why were you issued a medium ruck (as I presume the rest of your unit was as well) and then routinely carried a full sized ruck load? Why weren’t you issued the Large Molle?

      Even more disturbing is that based on your comments it would seem your leaders had no concept on how to employ their organic supporting weapons. If you were a dedicated machine gunner, why did you need to carry an M4? If you were not a designated gunner…then why were you carrying the MG? Are you an 11C? If not, then why did you carry the 60mm mortar?

      There is nothing egalitarian in combat. Some people will carry heavier loads than others. Weapons systems should not be distributed just to “even out” everyone’s load. Or passed around so that everyone gets a turn. If you are a gunner your primary duty is carry and get that gun into effective action as quickly as possible. And that is the mindset your leaders should be enforcing.

      Maybe I’m getting it wrong. But I’m thinking your leaders were out to lunch to put it mildly.

      TLB

      • FHRITP says:

        Im an 11b. My unit deployed with sof and as such we broke down into 12 man cross functional teams and were attached to either an oda or a seal team or a marsoc team. We didnt have the men to carry everything on patrols or air assaults so every man got loaded down. I had to carry a 240 and m4 so we could setup static positions in whatever compound we strong pointed and depending on what we were doing i might have to leave with a different element and come back later. That was especially true for all yhe r.o.n.s we did. I think it stands for remain over night or something. Same with the mortar i had to carry but that wasnt very often. Obviously it was all mission dependant.

        Honestly any time we went out whether we were dismounted or mounted or air assaulted anywhere we took out an arsenal and idk why. Any time we had a tic we brought so many assets to bear that we’d be in contact for maybe 30 mins and an awt or cas would take care of the rest. The 18b was usually the one that used the mortar. Lol i told him once if i carried it i used it and he was like fuck it and let me jump on. It was alot cooler than i thought it’d be.

        Anyway i get yalls concern but that was just the way it had to be. Had we had an entire platoon things wouldve been alot different and i feel alot better on my body. The oda had all their shit they had to take out as well as the eod guys and jtacs and dog handlers so we were the packmules pretty much

      • FHRITP says:

        Also i have no idea why we got issued the medium ruck but the entire battalion got them and not a single person got a large. It really pissed everybody off when we realized what we were going to be doing. Usually the only ppl who liked them were ppl who stayed at the larger fobs and did shit like opcen were the only ones who liked them. Probably because they used them more as a backpack than a ruck :/

        • Terry B. says:

          FHRITP,

          OK, I get the dynamic now. It happens with those kinds of orphan ad hoc team taskers. The primary chain loses visibility.

          Still, the important take away is the situation you found yourself in is not what right looks like. I get it that you had to suck it up and drive on for a time. That’s what good soldiers do.

          But someone in charge should have recognized the mission / resource mismatch pretty early on and at least gotten you some larger rucks more appropriate for the mission.

          TLB

          • FHRITP says:

            I agree and my chain of command did their best but there wasnt funds for it and for whatever reason the big supply place in country couldnt give them to us. I cant remember what it was called. My ncos also tried to mitigate as much weight as possible and constantly questioned why we were packing so much shit. After a while though when they had had enough ‘because sotf wont approve whatever if we dont bring x amount of shit’ they realized it was out of even the team cpt and team sgts hands

            Anyway glad i could clarify for anybody wondering what was up

  16. majrod says:

    Great write up! Keep them coming.

  17. BillC says:

    Great article. It is always great to know about our gear history and why things are. The thing I hated about the MOLLE II Large Rucksack was the external frame. It seemed to me to be more in the way and the plastic frame would cause it to squeak like a mouse being raped.

    • FHRITP says:

      That was the biggest thing i hated about it. Eveything else was small to me personally. Youd be tryin to be quiet and get a loud annoying SQUEAK for turning slightly

      • SSD says:

        That can happen with an ALICE frame too.

        • Terry B. says:

          Exactly right SSD,

          Even the internal frame packs squeak and groan anytime the load is shifted.

          I have never used any full sized ruck that was completely silent when loaded. The SPEAR was actually quite noisy…although that might have worked itself out with use as it became more worn.

          TLB

          • El Guapo says:

            My MALICE used to squeak like a mouse porno till I taped the frame w/ 100mph tape where it contacts the ruck.

            Problem solved.

  18. Cpl K says:

    I’ve been using the NZ Alice for 11 years now and the biggest comfort difference came from swapping out the issue straps for something more ergonomic. They started issuing the Erblestock Terminator but it’s useless- the infantry is all going back to Alice.

    • FHRITP says:

      The terminator is useless? We had eod guys with us that were issued them and they said they loved them. Maybe it has alot to do with the different loadouts being carried.

      Whats bad about them?

      • Bolty says:

        Ours are made in Vietnam. Might be the issue.
        Poor stitching quality- PALS rows pop with some mild finger pressure.
        Codura material, esp the 500D ripping at stitching points.
        Harness are very thin as to padding, causing shoulder nerve issues.
        Random buckle types, side pouches have different to rest of pack, makes no sense and means additional type needed for repair kit.
        Weight- its heavy when empty, the use of 500D codura to save weight is lost when they double layer it with pack nylon.
        I have one reinforced for PT use, but carry a FILBE for field. With luck we will waste them out and go back to the drawing board again.

        • FHRITP says:

          Wow the eod guys we had loaded their shit down with all types of shit and the rucks were pretty tough. Maybe it is that they were made in vietnam idk

    • Bolty says:

      Chuck on a 1606 frame and you’ll never look back.

  19. bulldog76 says:

    ah alice my first love when it came to rucks she is still the best there has been and ever will be LOL

  20. Bill says:

    For sure the MOLLE packs that came out in the late 90’s were horrible. ALICE is hands down the best

  21. Rearmount says:

    This article is awesome. Please keep these articles that go in-depth into packs and other carriage systems coming.

    Funny how sometimes the military comes full-circle.

  22. RayForest says:

    I have a place I shoot where you can drive to all the target locations. I still use my Large Alice 20 plus years later to haul steel B/C steel tragets and stands downrange. I can get 2 targets, two H stands and a couple 2×4 verticle stands in mine. Just such a durable and adaptable ruck. Never even understood the need for the Medium.

  23. FormerActionGuy says:

    Still have my isued SPEAR pack. Love it.

  24. SR says:

    Anyone who did time at Lewis knows what the best ruck is. MALICE pack, everything important about the malice pack with modern materials and closures. RIP logan.

    • balais says:

      I second this. After getting out, I tried many differing types of civilian rucksacks, eventually ending up with one of the Mystery Ranch ones. But recently, I rediscovered the MALICE and now have two. I wouldn’t use another rucksack.

  25. z0phi3l says:

    I swear did any of you actually have to hum an ALICE pack for more than a mile? It was horrible no matter how light it was and worse when loaded down for any real training and jump ops