Sunday, April 30, 2017

Large ALICE pack

I own a large ALICE (All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) pack. User manual. More here.

It's not an ALICE pack I was issued as a soldier, but rather one I purchased on eBay for a schoolmate who was a Marines officer candidate having trouble with the ruck march portion of the qualification course. He stopped practicing with it because one of the shoulder straps would slide and lengthen under load due to insufficient grip by the blunt teeth on its adjustment buckle. After he returned the ALICE pack to me, I found out that when the adjustment buckle is squeezed into the strap, it grips enough for the shoulder strap to be usable. The shoulder strap will still gradually slide when the pack is under load and needs to be periodically tugged to shorten it, and if I were a soldier, I'd DX the ALICE pack. For a civilian, it works acceptably adequately.

I don't remember how much I paid for it. I believe I bought the cheapest complete large ALICE pack, which includes the frame, shoulder straps, and lower back strap, listed on eBay at the time because it was meant for my schoolmate to practice ruck marching, not for general use as a backpack. It's worn. ALICE packs are described as water resistant, not water proof, and soldiers are issued dry bags to use in their rucksacks. My ALICE pack hardly resists water at all. In a rain storm, it takes in water like it's made from cotton. The OD green paint on the frame has many chips exposing the aluminum. The rivets on the frame are loose, so the crossbars squeak and clack under load. One of the metal keepers on the top of the frame is bent. There's a roughly centimeter square hole on the top of the main flap and multiple patches spread over the pack. The tie down straps are frayed and thinned. The edges of the frame attachment webbing are frayed. The strap for the inner compartment and draw cords for the 2 side large outer packets are missing. There's a hole at the bottom of the inner compartment where the stitching is missing; the hole might have been made on purpose. Some stitching is also gone, likely worn away, on the edges of the large outer pockets. The envelope that fits the pack onto the frame is stretched and worn like the rest of the pack. The velcro on the main flap pocket is weakened. The snap is missing on one of the quick-release straps; it's secured with a piece of 550-cord sheath. But for all its wear and tear, the integrity of my ALICE pack is sound. It's a rugged piece of equipment.

The bottom of the main flap pocket is white mesh with traces of faded dark greenish coloration, which is different than the rubberized plastic at the bottom of the main flap pocket in the ALICE packs I used as a soldier. I wondered whether the plastic was stripped out or whether the ALICE pack I bought on eBay is real military surplus. Then I saw this video by a former USAF SERE instructor featuring a medium ALICE pack he's owned since 1986 as a 16-year-old. Its main flap pocket also has a white mesh bottom. I guess his medium ALICE pack was manufactured sometime between the mid 1970s and early 1980s while the ones I used in the Army were a later version. My ALICE pack looks like it could have weathered hard use for 20+ years before I bought it.

I added a handle fashioned from cobra-stitched 550-cord to the top of the frame tied on with plastic fishing line, replacement draw cords for the 2 side large outer packets fashioned from 1/16-inch kernmantle accessory cord tied with poacher's knots into compression knots, a replacement inner compartment strap using a plastic mesh sleeve that held garlic bulbs, a pair of used shoe insert pads to the shoulder side of the shoulder pads tied on with shoestring, and shims fashioned from egg carton styrofoam at the base of the vertical cross bar tied on with dental floss. Hopefully, the shims will solve the creaking and clacking from the vertical crossbar when the ALICE pack is under load due to the loose rivet at its base.

Mitch Mitchell from season one of Alone has an interesting series on youtube in which he modifies a new large ALICE pack by removing the 3 small pockets and then sewing on a large center pocket in their place that he removed from his old large ALICE pack. His series provides insight on how the ALICE pack is stitched together. His old large ALICE pack has a white mesh bottom in the lid, like mine, and the mesh also appears to have some faded dark coloration. He says the waterproofing has worn out from the lid. His ALICE pack took in water in a rainstorm like mine and he treated his ALICE pack with silicone.




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