Who is ALICE?

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Apr 7, 2016
463
93
suffolk
The ALICE Pack.
I'm sure it's been covered many times, and there will be many (most) out there, a lot more informed than I; but if you are looking for a no nonsense rucksack without spending the Bolivian national debt on some bag developed by NASA and helium filled for lightness, these packs may have crossed your field of research. If not, they should.
Available more commonly in med. and large (65 ish litres), they are a nylon external frame rucksack, predominantly from the 70s and 80s as used then by the US military

I have just got one after much research although yet to use in anger; so this is qualified opinion......

They are often referred to in some "tough as old boots heavyweight" bit of kit terms, and from what I've examined, I've no reason to doubt the former...but heavy they are not, unless you are used to gossamer, as I've said, helium filled frames and cloths...... The frame is a small aluminium item, pop riveted with flat cross bracing. Some may bemoan pop riveting, but it's fast and easy to repair if needed.
The heavy duty water resistant (coated as far as the closure flap is concerned) nylon pack more or less hangs from the top of the frame, strapped at the bottom. Easy and simple. It has bucket loads of pockets of various sizes (6 I think!) sealed with quick release straps and also poppers and two also with draw cords.

The main pack has a huge draw cord (which has a simple "locking" system) opening and a smaller pocket held shut by it's own quick release strap within. This was for a radio, I believe, and it will swallow a polish lavvu tent and poles! It has it's own securing strap The top of the pack is then covered by a large flap and two very long straps which tension nicely by pulling UP wards. It also allows tents, bedrolls, napalm or whatever to be strapped to the top of the pack securely. The top flap even has it's own small compartment within it closed by velcro. My Kendal mint cake store! The pack is covered with lots of strap loops for tying whatever equipment/weaponry wanted. One could get easily carried away with this pack, I think, such is it's inherent versatility. Another example would be the usefulness of the smaller interior pocket if you just wanted to use the pack as a day pack, and thereby keep a reduced load high in the pack? The pocket is big enough.


All the pockets have draining holes, as does the main bag.
It has a simple kidney belt, easily adjusted and two padded shoulder straps that facilitate instant release, and easy tensioning and slackening. The system for this works very well. The shoulder straps can be removed and attached to the pack without using the frame, should you be of unsound mind..............(med. ALICE pack only, not the large, as per "Santamans's" post below)
Of course none of this waffle would be needed if I could post piccies easily here, but as an ol' git, I can't or won't!:sulkoff:

So that is really it: a good, solid, no nonsense, robust and capable pack.
I have a feeling as I'm a big tall chap that the frame may not be the most comfortable, so this may not be the best choice for a long w/e in the Himalayas or the Appalachian trail; but for a few days ambling about with all your gear, for not a lot....marvellous.

At time of writing I paid £38 delivered for mine, in good sound condition, Model LC1 Large. (GoArmy/EBay) Hope it helps........
 
Last edited:

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,850
1,062
64
Florida
The shoulder straps can be attached to the medium ALICE for use without the frame; but not to the large. The Medium has 3 pockets and the large indeed has 6.
 
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mrcharly

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 25, 2011
3,246
33
North Yorkshire, UK
The only times I've carried an external frame pack they were excruciatingly uncomfortable because the frame dug into the sides of my hips and my shoulders. I'm not a big person. Do the ALICE packs sit high enough that this doesn't happen or are wide enough that it doesn't happen?
 
Apr 7, 2016
463
93
suffolk
That's interesting re the large bag straps, and indeed on close scrutiny, I can't see a method of attaching the shoulder straps without frame at the top............(actually I've just done it...don't know if designed that way, but I threaded the top shoulder straps through the "hanging pad".............?)

I have looped the closure straps around the top tube of the frame to also take some weight off the stitching of the "hanging pad" on the pack when shut tight. It picks the bag up, on the frame.
Re the frame; the hip pad should keep the lower frame well away from your back and digging in, if tensioned enough; but the 2 vertical side rods can touch your back, but I thought this would be a problem more with broader backs?

I do carry the pack well cinched as the Americans put it, and therefore as high as I can, and as such I find it pretty much ok. I am largish/tallish...........
 
Last edited:

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,850
1,062
64
Florida
That's interesting re the large bag straps, and indeed on close scrutiny, I can't see a method of attaching the shoulder straps without frame at the top............(actually I've just done it...don't know if designed that way, but I threaded the top shoulder straps through the "hanging pad".............?)

No, it's not designed that way. The Army's user pamphlet specifically states that the large must be used with a frame (although what you're doing may or may not work once you have a load in the ruck)
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,850
1,062
64
Florida
The only times I've carried an external frame pack they were excruciatingly uncomfortable because the frame dug into the sides of my hips and my shoulders. I'm not a big person. Do the ALICE packs sit high enough that this doesn't happen or are wide enough that it doesn't happen?

It's a military pack and frame. It rides well above the hips to provide clearance for the other gear (webb belt with canteens, bayonet, and ammo pouches, etc.)
 

Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Aye Up Lawrence,

Re old school, external framed (military) rucksacks –

You will be lucky if you find one that fits you correctly (unless the frame itself is adjustable - haven't come across one). It will either dig into your lower ribs or press against your upper spine. You might only find this out when/if you carry a well loaded one over long distance. :(

Brit versions are usually made of steel and IMEE, any carrying advantage (if any!) is outweighed - literally by the weight of the frame. I believe that they were actually designed as instruments of torture for anyone attempting SF selection! :surrender:

Any old sweats on here will be able to regale tales of pipe lagging and black masking taped frames to ease the pain!
That goes for the Alice pack too.

The Alice set is arguably not tough as old boots, the lightweight (un-adjustable) one-size-fits-some! aluminium frame tubes are known to fracture, usually just above the riveted joints of the top cross spar. I've broken one in use and also inadvertently purchased a broken one (replacement).

The ‘heavy’ reference is correct - again load and distance carried dependant, as the pack tends to become bottom heavy and sag towards the lower part of your back. mrcharly was correct about it being designed to sit above waist-belt order but it was also designed not to ride high on the back so that the steel helmet of a prone soldier didn't prevent him from raising his head to face the enemy (Hence also the QR straps). In a nutshell, as a load carrier it is a compromise!

If you modify an Alice frame for a bespoke fit and upgrade the waist and shoulder straps (I have) you can achieve a degree of (stand-off) ventilation between your back and the ruck, if moving your CofG rearwards isn't an issue. You can also raise a ruck load higher up your body (theoretically a more efficient carry) but not in standard Alice form - the load sags low and you lean forward!

With the frame shelf fitted there isn't a great deal of room below the ruck (if any) - the shelf was intended to turn the frame from a ruck carrier into an ammo box/jerry can carrier. If you make the ruck easily and quickly removable from the frame and you modify one of the original shelves to greater depth (they are only two and three quarter inches (45mm-ish) wide!) it could be useful as a water container carrier/wood-fuel carrier but how often would you use it for that?

I searched the net extensively for a UK available shelf about a year ago without success and ended up ordering from the US (Etsy if I recall correctly). Quite cheap in itself but then you have to add the postage and it came out at about 20 quid. It too is made of ally and is designed to just slot into place and remain there with a load on it. It doesn't add any counter fall-over aspect to the ruck either unless you fix it firmly in place (drill/bolt) and even then only if the ruck is very lightly loaded.

External framed rucksacks? - misplaced nostalgia! A collectors item/local shopping bag.

Better to add an extra piece of useful (same weight) kit to a modern-day, efficient ruck and leave history in the past - or with the military re-enactors!

Pigeon cat amongst? :lmao:

Anyone with similar experience?
 
Apr 7, 2016
463
93
suffolk
Thank you for your info. re the cargo ledge thingy.
The review was just that, as I find the pack; not intending to sell it as the best of anything!

At 30-40 years old, the ALICE has proven to be tough and durable. The frame (on mine at least), is aluminium. It works and is cheap.
As I opined, perhaps not the first choice for Annapurna, but good value for money specially for a few days away???

I admit though to being only an occasional user, as canoeing is my primary choice of transport if camping.

Horses for courses....and bank balances:)

Pigeons???? Where's me rifle...... yum!
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,850
1,062
64
Florida
......With the frame shelf fitted there isn't a great deal of room below the ruck (if any) - the shelf was intended to turn the frame from a ruck carrier into an ammo box/jerry can carrier. If you make the ruck easily and quickly removable from the frame and you modify one of the original shelves to greater depth (they are only two and three quarter inches (45mm-ish) wide!) it could be useful as a water container carrier/wood-fuel carrier but how often would you use it for that?....

It's also useful for bringing out a quartered elk, but a pack horse is better.
 

Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
2,001
291
Knowhere
Does anyone know whether the "cargo shelf" for the frame can be bought in the UK, cheaply? Or at all!?

Why not make one? I repaired an old pack frame with plastic piping, mind you it is not my favourite now, as I made a frame out of willow, the frame weighs less than the heavy duty leather straps and brass buckles that I insist on using for the aesthetics :)
 

beezer

Forager
Oct 13, 2014
180
5
lockerbie
im getting one for xmas. cant wait. been trying to make a swedish M39 rucksack work for larger loads without much success.

long live external frames huzzar
 

MikeLA

Full Member
May 17, 2011
1,609
132
Northumberland
Still like to use my British version the SAS/Para Bergen. Had a Alice pack only recently through it out only because I was down sizing kit. Good strong rucksack
 
If guys are set on using the Alice bag it is worth trying to tack down a 64' Pattern Rucksack frame. I have run a medium Alice on this frame especially as a winter patrol pack due to the fact sweat likes to freeze in the -25C weather. The Alice frame was horrible for myself due to the height and curve at the top of the frame. 64' doesn't have the same curve and is a little bit taller, the but pack is able to fit right on with a little patience.
This is for use without a waistbelt though; you can mount them on the frames but never gain any shoulder lift and then the frame sits too low for comfort (meant to be worn a little higher as previously mentioned). Overall I still like the setup, but if I am going for a ways I use a Barneys frame and custom 64 bag/valise combo.

Cheers,
Andy
 
Apr 7, 2016
463
93
suffolk
The ALICE Pack.
I'm sure it's been covered many times, and there will be many (most) out there, a lot more informed than I; but if you are looking for a no nonsense rucksack without spending the Bolivian national debt on some bag developed by NASA and helium filled for lightness, these packs may have crossed your field of research. If not, they should.
Available more commonly in med. and large (65 ish litres), they are a nylon external frame rucksack, predominantly from the 70s and 80s as used then by the US military

I have just got one after much research although yet to use in anger; so this is qualified opinion......

They are often referred to in some "tough as old boots heavyweight" bit of kit terms, and from what I've examined, I've no reason to doubt the former...but heavy they are not, unless you are used to gossamer, as I've said, helium filled frames and cloths...... The frame is a small aluminium item, pop riveted with flat cross bracing. Some may bemoan pop riveting, but it's fast and easy to repair if needed.
The heavy duty water resistant (coated as far as the closure flap is concerned) nylon pack more or less hangs from the top of the frame, strapped at the bottom. Easy and simple. It has bucket loads of pockets of various sizes (6 I think!) sealed with quick release straps and also poppers and two also with draw cords.

The main pack has a huge draw cord (which has a simple "locking" system) opening and a smaller pocket held shut by it's own quick release strap within. This was for a radio, I believe, and it will swallow a polish lavvu tent and poles! It has it's own securing strap The top of the pack is then covered by a large flap and two very long straps which tension nicely by pulling UP wards. It also allows tents, bedrolls, napalm or whatever to be strapped to the top of the pack securely. The top flap even has it's own small compartment within it closed by velcro. My Kendal mint cake store! The pack is covered with lots of strap loops for tying whatever equipment/weaponry wanted. One could get easily carried away with this pack, I think, such is it's inherent versatility. Another example would be the usefulness of the smaller interior pocket if you just wanted to use the pack as a day pack, and thereby keep a reduced load high in the pack? The pocket is big enough.


All the pockets have draining holes, as does the main bag.
It has a simple kidney belt, easily adjusted and two padded shoulder straps that facilitate instant release, and easy tensioning and slackening. The system for this works very well. The shoulder straps can be removed and attached to the pack without using the frame, should you be of unsound mind..............(med. ALICE pack only, not the large, as per "Santamans's" post below)
Of course none of this waffle would be needed if I could post piccies easily here, but as an ol' git, I can't or won't!:sulkoff:

So that is really it: a good, solid, no nonsense, robust and capable pack.
I have a feeling as I'm a big tall chap that the frame may not be the most comfortable, so this may not be the best choice for a long w/e in the Himalayas or the Appalachian trail; but for a few days ambling about with all your gear, for not a lot....marvellous.

At time of writing I paid £38 delivered for mine, in good sound condition, Model LC1 Large. (GoArmy/EBay) Hope it helps........

(Since writing the above, I would say possibly the best £38-Ipaid-...……...I've paid? Robust, no nonsense, versatile. Does the job.)
 

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