I wish I had $1 for every time someone mentioned or had a question about the military ALICE Pack. This Bug Out Bag Review Post is long overdue. In my experience with discussing the ALICE pack with survivalists, campers, soldiers and outdoors men and women, there seems to be very strong feelings about this pack – either people love them or hate them. I’ve used an ALICE pack before for short overnights but never really put it through the rigors of a potential Bug Out Scenario or hiked with it fully loaded as a 72-Hour Kit.
So, with BUGGING OUT in mind, this post is a review of the MEDIUM Military ALICE Pack as a potential Bug Out Bag.
First, the specs:
- Main compartment 19 inches x 11.5 inches x 9.5 inches
- Three pouches (5 inches x 2.5 inches x 9 inches)
- Main compartment capacity (approximately): 34 litres (2075 cubic inches)
- Total capacity (approximately): 39.52 litres (2412 cubic inches) – this is maximum volume of all the compartments
- Separate pouch inside large main compartment
- Accessory loops for storing extra gear (12 on the top front under top flap, 2 on bottom, 3 on each side)
- Capacity: 39.5 litres / 2413 cubic inches
- Material/Fabric: Nylon
As I transferred over the contents from my existing BOB to the Medium ALICE for my 6 mile test hike, it was quite clear that everything wasn’t going to fit. I normally recommend Bug Out Bags being in the 3000 cubic inch range and the Medium ALICE comes in at around 2400. I now completely understand why the ALICE pack was traditionally paired with a Belt & Keeper system shown in the illustration below.
This system was designed to carry a variety of items including canteens, entrenching tools and ammunition pouches. However, when you pair these two items together, you look exactly like a classic soldier – not really a look I’m going for in a Bug Out. Thus, if using the ALICE pack as a BOB, I would opt not to use the Belt System. However, the ALICE pack does come in a LARGE size which is about 3800 cubic inches – plenty big for a BOB. So if after reading this post you decide you might want to try the ALICE – I might suggest the LARGE over the MEDIUM as a primary BOB.
The ALICE pack was built with one purpose in mind – rugged performance. Field tested by countless soldiers around the world, the ALICE has earned its reputation as a rugged beast of a pack. With that said, it is a NO FRILLS pack. Don’t expect the posh features and design of a recreational back-pack.
The Medium Alice has 1 Main compartment with 1 inside pocket, 3 outside pouches and 1 flat velcro pocket on the flap. it is not hydration compatible but you could probably rig one using the large pocket inside of the main compartment.
The side of the pack does have several webbing loops (top, middle,bottom) which can serve as lashing points. The middle webbing is horizontal and the top/bottom loops are vertical and though not designed to be MOLLE compatible you can still strap on MOLLE pouches.
The above photo is a view from the bottom of the pack. Especially with the MEDIUM ALICE, you will have to strap your tent/tarp and foam pad to the bottom of the pack. There is webbing on the bottom of the pack to help with this. You can also use the aluminum frame as a lashing point as well.
Speaking of the frame, notice the pack in these photos is mounted to an aluminum frame. You can use the ALICE pack without the frame but don’t waste your time – especially with loads of 40 lbs or more – it is really uncomfortable. The frame helps to distribute the weight and makes a HUGE difference with heavy loads. It also keeps the pack away from your back – which is nice in warm weather.
The ALICE pack isn’t the most comfortable pack in the world. I can certainly tell the difference in the padded straps and hip belts versus some of my other recreational back-packs. For extended hikes, this is important. For this post, I hiked about 6 miles in the medium ALICE with about 35 lbs of gear and the comfort level was manageable, but less than desirable.
I’m used to easy access bottle pockets and without the belt accessory to carry a canteen, you pretty much have to take off the pack to get a drink of water unless you’ve jerry-rigged a hydration system. This was a huge frustration for me.
My biggest frustration with the ALICE pack was the strap closures and adjustments. I hate those OLD SCHOOL metal strap adjusters and closures where you have to feed the webbing in and out of the metal buckle to get open or adjust a pocket. It is ridiculously time consuming and frustrating and nearly impossible in cold weather with gloves on. I much prefer modern squeeze buckle closures. Fortunately, the 3 pouches on the ALICE at least have snap closures but I hate snaps too. The main compartment is controlled by the old school metal adjusters.
The bottom line is I LIKE the Medium ALICE pack, but I don’t think I’ll be switching it to my BOB anytime soon. I certainly wouldn’t turn it down or turn my nose up at it as a BOB, but it’s not my first pick. Unlike many others I spoken with, I do not LOVE or HATE the ALICE pack. In general I really like it, with a couple frustrations that would prevent me from getting too excited. It would be a great secondary BOB for an additional family member. The ALICE pack has been been phased out by MOLLE Packs in most of the military branches. Thus, surplus units can be found on-line or in military surplus stores for a very affordable price – typically $60-$80. This is an excellent value if your style is to go with a traditional military style pack versus a modern recreational style pack. Everyone has different preferences and the fact is that some people just like and prefer military gear and some don’t.
As I’ve said many times before, choosing a BOB is a very personal decision and the fact is that MANY different types and styles of packs will work.
Medium ALICE Pack Pros/Cons
- Built to last
- Rugged & Tough
- 2 sizes (both sizes mount on the same frame)
- Proven by 1000s of soldiers in the field
- Very affordable
- Not the most comfortable pack on the market
- Old school metal adjusters and closures
- No easy access pockets for bottles, etc.
If anyone is interested in picking up a Surplus Medium ALICE pack – we have a few in stock for $65. Here is the link: http://willowhavenoutdoor.com/store/products/medium-surplus-military-alice-pack/
I know some of you LIKE the ALICE packs and some of you HATE the ALICE packs. Help others reading this post make an informed decision by sharing your thoughts and personal reviews in the comments section.
Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,