Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hanging Out With Alice

Warning! Photo heavy post ahead!

I have been spending some time futzing around with my Alice Packs.
Yes, I have more than one.
I have 3.5 packs, with the .5 being an Alice pack on a Boy Scout(?) frame.
2 of them are Woodland camo medium packs and 1 is a large OD pack.
The .5 is a medium OD pack that was given to me some time ago.

I have been upgrading the suspension system on 3 of them, and contemplating the 4th.
If you are a fan of the Alice (A.L.I.C.E. for you purists) you are probably familiar with the HellCat modification.

If not, it goes as follows:
Molle shoulder straps (Woodland) installed
Molle II molded kidney belt (Woodland) installed
Molle sleep system carrier (Woodland) installed

HellCat example, not mine.

Note: Photos of Hellcat Mod property of "Enforcer"

I have made several modifications beyond this, which I will call the Scout Mod, and the Pioneer Mod, as I find the 'Hellcat" name rather cheesy.

All the mods utilize the Alice frame and pack, and also utilize the following:

Molle II Shoulder Straps (ACU)
Molle II Molded Waist Belt (Woodland)

Molle II Modular Sleep System Carrier (Woodland)

2 Quart Canteen and Pouch (OD w/Alice clips)

This one is closer to the Scout Mod, but not quite there yet.
Notice the paracord handle, the machete, canteen and various pouches.
The Scout Mod leaves out the Modular Sleep System Carrier (MSS) and adds the 2 quart canteen
The Pioneer Mod adds the MSS carrier and the Molle Medic Pouch.
Or I can reverse this config. It is very customizable and adds quite a bit of capacity to a otherwise limited load carrying system. The drawback is that it is heavier than some other systems, but it should not let you down in the field and should last for many years.

Both will feature:
Carry handles and the addition of Fastex buckles on the main closure straps for easier interior access.
The U.S. Woodland Field Pack is mounted to the top cover and is large enough to carry assorted rain gear plus other items.

The Sustainment Pouch is mounted on the left side of the pack using the built in loops on the pack. There is no particular reason for this arrangement, it is just what I attached first.

The 1 QT Canteen / General Purpose Pouch is mounted on the right side, at the top of the pack. If you are going to carry a canteen in this pouch, I would recommend putting it on the lower position to keep the weight lower to center of mass.
The 2 Quart Canteen is mounted on the bottom loops.

If you wish you can change to either side with your attachments, but the sustainment pouch is large and takes up both the top and bottom mounting points. Any Molle or Alice attachment can be utilized, just use your imagination.

Now the reason I went with the ACU Molle II Shoulder Straps has more to do with cost than function, and if I could have gotten Woodland pattern straps at the same price I would have gone with them. Just be warned that there is a difference in the way Molle/Molle II mount as they are not entirely the same.

The Large Alice may become an INCH bag (I'm Never Coming Home). To be used in this fashion, these mods are required for comfort and function due to the increase in weight carried.

Here are some photos of the Scout Mod.
That is the Field Pack up top.

Here you see the 1 QT Canteen / General Purpose Pouch on top and the Medic Pouch below it. Look closely and you will see the mounting straps for the shoulder straps.

Here is the Sustainment Pouch. It holds a lot!
By itself, I would guess that it increases the volume of the pack by at least 1/5th

Here is another shot of the Field Pack mounted on the top flap. 
Yes, the straps need to be tamed. Have patience!

Here you can see the Molle II ACU Shoulder Straps. 
You can also see part of the waist belt.

This is a brand new Alice pack system, as everything, all components are new. By adding these pouches to the standard Alice system, I have nearly doubled its carrying capacity.

The easiest places to find the components to build your own are on Amazon and eBay. If you wish to spend some time searching, you may find components to build your own from other sources for better prices. Yard sales, second hand stores and such can yield many a treasure to help assemble on the cheap. At the very least, try to get a new frame. The other components in used condition should be adequate.

Sportsman's Guide has large Alice packs with frame and original straps for $49.99 for non-members, or $44.99 if you are one.

eBay searches yield some great results too, allowing you to buy now or play the bidding game.

If you wish to read more about modifying your Alice pack, here is a excellent tutorial on assembling the HellCat system.

Some other posts:
ALICE Gear Setups
Share your cheap yet potentially valuable tricks

Source of Fastex style buckles, Nylon webbing and other accessories: (Good Stuff!)


I have purchased a Woodland camo Molle Shoulder Straps setup and will be installing it on the Scout Mod pack. On the scout Mod, I removed the 2 quart canteen and added the Molle Medic Pouch in the lower position. I then added a 1 quart Nalgene canteen and stainless steel canteen cup onto the waist belt as there are mounting points there also.

See the difference in the Molle vs Molle II Shoulder Straps.

I also purchased a new Camelback in Woodland camo. I am pondering ways to mount it and get rid of the 2 quart canteen. I don't want to put it in the pack if I can avoid it. I bought both new additions on eBay with the "buy it now" option.


  1. ...good post, food for thought, the only i got is the large alice pack and frame, that and my tac vest...load out changes with the seasons, that's about it, been that way twenty years or so(creature of

  2. Hi Ken! Having a pack and keeping it loaded is the Idea. Changing for the appropriate seasons is key. Adding the Molle pouches helps if you run short of space for your gear. The Molle waist belt and shoulder straps really shine under heavy loads, but are not required. They do make for a more comfortable hike though.

  3. I like the Alice pack, well designed and utilitarian. I like packs in general and have 3.5 of them myself. However I have hiked enough to know a 5 lb pack is a mistake and that is being charitable. You cannot carry 70 lbs any great distance. While it might be true that the Seals do it they also get airlifted out by helicopter and have very very different motives and goals.
    My suggestion is 1 lb or less for your empty pack. Your final pack including everything you will need should weigh 20 lbs or less. While it would be awesum to always have everything you need right on your back it is really a buzzkill to have to carry it.

  4. The lbs. can add up quickly if you are not careful. That is one reason I prefer to cook over an open fire. No stove or fuel needed. It is also another reason I came up with my homemade ration packs. A good (not expensive) sleeping bag will weigh at least 3lbs of that 20. Add a little gear such as a hatchet, spare batteries and flashlight... well your starting to squeeze that 20lbs pretty hard. Add a water purifier and some water and you could be over. 20lbs is a pretty comfortable weight for a 3 day hike. Beyond that it will start lacking in something unless you are a "light hiker" with all the latest in ultralight gear. Just make sure it isn't the Toilet Paper!

  5. I feel the need to change mine up a bit after reading your post! Thanks for giving me some very useful info!

    Have a great day!

  6. Thanks Jim, I hope you have a great day also. It took me several months to accumulate all the Items I used in this setup because I wanted to use new if possible. Used is generally readily available so making your desired changes can be much quicker than mine. The Field Packs can be a little tricky to find though.

  7. I bought some hellcat frames from this guy a while back:

  8. Now and then Old Grouchs Military Surplus has ALICE packs for pretty good prices sometimes. Think I got a couple for $30 or something.

    The "Hellcat" Mod seems appealing in some ways. On the other hand it adds significantly to cost. To me the biggest benefit of the ALICE is cost. Once you figure the cost it puts an ALICE pack into a very different price range where other arguably better options are available.

  9. Thanks for the link Luther.

    Ryan, I agree but there are a few points to argue.

  10. Thnks for the great Blog. As far as your camelback mounting goes, the guys at Spec Ops makes a pouch that attaches to the inside of the frame.

    I have it. It works great. You can also carry other things in it besides a water bladder.

  11. Updated Link:

  12. Spec Ops no longer offers the pouch on their website.