The modern soldier has hundreds- if not thousands- of specialized pouches that he (and the occasional she) can choose to carry their equipment. However, this was not always the case. The #1 complaint I hear about the ALICE system is that there are not enough types of pouches. Now, this is true- there are only a handful of pouches and the ALICE system was never as diverse as the MOLLE system we use today. But the basic design of ALICE is very sound and the price hard to beat. That said, the following are some modifications that will greatly increase your comfort and the usability of the ALICE system.
Please note, I do not take credit for the modifications listed below. I’ve collected them from various sources including the “Ranger Digest” series of books by Rick Tscherne.
Thanks to local Milsim player Dave for his first hand insight into this topic.
Fighting Load Modifications
Below are tips referring to the fighting load, or belt and suspenders kit a soldier wears into battle.
- Sew small pouches directly to larger ones. For instance, a compass pouch can be sewn onto a 1 quart canteen pouch. This saves space on the belt and allows you to carry more gear without having to carry a pack.
- Make a drop leg pouch as shown at right. This can be done by attaching a strap to a small arms pouch and running it through your belt. If you attach this to your pants belt rather than your duty belt, you can use it as a survival pouch in the case you have to ditch your
gear. I run paracord through the drain hole on mine
and I wrap it around my leg to stabilize the pouch.
- Make a radio pouch. There are many ways to do this but one way is to cut a hole in the flap of a small arms pouch for the antenna. Drill two holes in the back and thread elastic cord through them to secure the radio inside. Use a cord lock or knots to secure the elastic cord. If you’re not the DIY type, Tactical Tailor makes an ALICE compatible radio pouch.
- Cut the metal belt attachment clip off your suspenders and attach them to your belt with para cord. Not only does this get rid of a pressure point while wearing a pack, but it also silences your kit and doubles the number of places your suspenders contact the belt. This distributes the weight more evenly and is more comfortable for you.
- Replace your ALICE clips (that attach pouches to the belt) with zip ties, para cord or MALICE clips (made by Tactial Tailor)
- Dummy cord your compass to your
compass pouch with para cord. Tie the cord to the thumb loop in the compass and run it through the drain hole in the pouch. Then tie a knot and fuse (melt) the end. This will prevent you from losing your compass and may save your life one day. Dummy cording other gear (knives, flashlights, NODs) isn’t a bad idea either.
- In order to further distribute the load on your belt and suspenders, use the rear “Y” strap from a couple sets of suspenders. If you run four small arms pouches up front, attach each end of the “Y” to the grommet on the top of each pouch. This will keep them from flopping around when you move. Otherwise, attach the clips to your belt as usual or replace the clips with para cord as mentioned above for further distribution of weight.
- For shoulder straps with better padding, remove the front chest panels from an Enhanced Load Bearing Vest (commonly known as a LBV-88) and replace them with ALICE suspender straps as seen above. Voila!
- Buy a “canteen straw”. A brilliant invention! This contraption turns your canteen into a pseudo hydration bladder that you can drink from on the move. Be sure to use the collapsible type of canteen when you do this. My preference is to use this with the 2qt canteens.
- Attach Fastex clips to the shoulder straps of your load bearing equipment. By putting two in the upper back you could attach your butt pack like a small backpack. by putting one on the front of your shoulder, you can attach your weapon via a webbing or para cord while retaining the ability to detach it quickly.
Fighting Load Tips
- This may seem like a no brainer, but keep your firing shoulder free of pouches. Otherwise you’ll have trouble shouldering your weapon properly.
- Balance your load between the front/back and left/right. Placing more weight in any one area will lead to pain and fatigue in corresponding areas.
- Adjust your ALICE belt so that 80% of the load is on your hips. This distributes the load directly to your legs without tiring your shoulders. Keep in mind that some weight does need to be on your shoulders in order for the suspenders to work properly.
- If you are going to be in a vehicle for an extended period, try putting the contents of your butt pack in two 2qt canteen pouches. Wear these on your sides to keep your back free of obstructions. This is much more comfortable while seated!
- Have extra gear to attach to your kit? Tape or para cord an ALICE clip to your knife, flashlight, E-tool or anything else you need to keep handy. This works great for odd shaped items that you have trouble finding pouches for.
- Are you missing your nice MOLLE dump pouch? Dump your empty mags down your blouse, into your pants pocket, or put them back in the mag pouch. Also, you can attach a carabiner or “Key Clip” to your belt and use that to gather spent mags.
ALICE Pack Modifications
- Cut 2-3 inches off each side of your foam sleeping pad. The decreased width will prevent it from getting caught up on low hanging branches while it is attached to your pack, but it will still be wide enough to lay on. Want to trim it further? Cut 2-3 feet off the end. You don’t really need a pad under your feet do you!?
- Many have used the military “tire cover” as a rain cover for their pack. Few realize that in heavy rain these covers fail and you end up with a drenched pack. A military poncho or tarp will not do this, and can be modified to fit around your pack. Cut the poncho to size, and sew a hem around the entire edge. Run elastic or para cord through the hem and put a drawstring at the ends. Fit the cover over your pack and adjust the cord with the drawstring to keep it in place.
- Use pieces cut from a military foam sleeping pad to pad your ruck sack frame. The places to watch fore are the upper back on the side rails and the lower back in the center. Don’t wrap the foam around the frame, simply attach it while it is laid flat. Be sure not to add too much padding or you will create pressure points rather than relieving pain.
- Put Fastex buckles on the straps that secure the flaps on your pack’s main compartment and external pouches. This makes it easier to open and close the compartments while retaining all adjustments.
ALICE Pack Tips
- When purchasing an ALICE pack, make sure that all the corner and reinforcement stitching is in good condition. This is what will keep the pack’s seams from rupturing under load.
- Refer to this video on odjournal.com for how to pack a ruck sack.
- Tactical Tailor is well known for their quality ALICE pack modifications. Stop by their website to view their current listings.
- Replace the ALICE shoulder pads and hip belt with MOLLE II shoulder pads and hip belt. These have better padding and conform to the body better.
- If you are able not confined to the MOLLE system, you can build a hybrid pack as shown here. This can be built with a medium or large ALICE pack as the base. One thing to note is that the sleeping bag carrier may bounce some when used with the large ALICE pack.
- Do your best to fit everything you need inside your pack. Attaching items to the outside may look cool but they will get caught on low hanging brush.
- If you are using the ALICE frame with your pack, hang small items in the space between the pack and your back. Knives, first aid kits, and other items you need quick access too are great to stash here.
- It is possible to hang your hydration bladder on the outside of the ALICE pack, but take care that it is mounted as high as possible. The best place for a bladder is going to be just under the top flap.
- While patrolling with a full pack, avoid simply flopping down when you stop for a short time. It is easy to sit or go prone with your pack on, but not very tactically sound. Instead, remove your pack and take up a firing position behind it. This will lower your profile and give you better concealment (and possibly cover as well).
- Have you ever tried to go prone with your foam sleeping pad mounted on top of your ruck? Good luck raising your head so you can see! Instead, mount it on the bottom of your pack. Is your sleeping bag already mounted to the bottom? Weave the pad in between the two components. Even better, get the newer style inflating mattress pad!
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of what what the ALICE system can give you. Questions? Have something to add? Post up.