ALICE packs are often used by campers with or without their additional components. Most of them are military lovers who, if they are using the ALICE pack, love to use the entire carrying system, which includes the shoulder straps and the kidney pad.
Campers and hikers sometimes get an ALICE pack without the additional equipment and purchase the kidney pad separately. But then, they don’t know how to attach these two pieces together.
Attaching a kidney pad to an ALICE pack is challenging only for those who are doing it for the first time. The most important thing to remember when attaching the ALICE kidney pad is that the pad goes to the bottom of the frame and is tightened and locked in place with a buckle strap.
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What is ALICE?
Beginner campers may not know that the ALICE pack is an All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. The system was designed primarily for the military, and of course, over time, it has extended its use towards civilians.
It was adopted by the US Army in 1973 and was modified and upgraded. Many military and civilian users opt for this loading system that includes many pack bags, frames, and pads.
ALICE packs were designed as part of the Lightweight Individual Clothing And Equipment program implemented back in 1965 that was made with the aim to lighten soldiers’ carrying loads.
The next generation of packs from the Vietnam Wars has been almost entirely phased out by the military in favor of the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, as well as the Improved Load Bearing Equipment packs.
The ALICE load-carrying system is meant to be used in all environments, making life easier while carrying equipment. The starting rule of any packing is to keep every item in its proper place. Try to avoid the mistake of carrying all types of unnecessary items of clothing, food, equipment, or whatever it is you think you may need, and is not really essential.
Size of ALICE Packs
Upon creation, ALICE packs included three different sizes. However, after testing, the military deemed it necessary only to have medium and large packs. After they became popular among civilians, all three sizes were in use.
Small ALICE Packs
Non-military-affiliated size small ALICE packs are available on the market. They come in 13x16x7 inches and are not designed to be used with a frame. Because of the non-standard usage, there are different manufacturers, so the specific measures may vary.
This is considered to be a ‘basic’ version of the pack. The classic design of one large main compartment and three smaller exterior pouches comes standard in design. However, the small packs have non-removable adjustable shoulder straps and do not include a waist belt.
Because of its size and limited purpose options, this pack may only be used for a day hike or day-to-day use (if you are not prone to heavy packing).
Medium ALICE Packs
The size of the pack can be used with or without a frame and can carry up to 50 pounds of gear. The dimensions of the main compartment are standard 19×11,5×9,5 inches, and the additional pouches measure 5×2,5×9 inches.
Medium ALICE packs can be purchased brand new in the US as discontinued military items, but there may be limited supply. Originally, the packs came with an aluminum pack frame, with an extra-wide kidney pad and added shoulder straps.
Because of its features, the medium-size ALICE pack is more feasible for backpacking (particularly when you do use the aluminum frame). It is a good thing to keep in mind that modern backpacking bags come without a frame, but are designed to distribute the weight load evenly, and are more comfortable.
Large ALICE Packs
The largest type of ALICE packs must be used with a frame. It can hold more than 100 pounds of gear. But if you are a fanatic that will pack this much equipment, you will probably get tired very quickly and won’t be able to cover many miles with that much weight added.
The large size pack measures 22x6x14 inches of the main pouch and has six external pouches (the regular three and three mag pouches). Now, these packs are durable and can bring heavy loads, the weight of the load can be an issue for a camper who is used to enjoying nature rather than crossing some ground for war purposes (which these packs were meant to do).
What Are the Components of ALICE Packs?
The intended aim for the entire carrying system was meant to be used in conjunction with the following gear to be able to carry the most amount of gear, without putting too much pressure and weight on the back itself.
- The individual belt comes in various sizes (all depending on waist measurements) and includes a design of several eyelets for attaching equipment like canteens and so forth.
- Suspenders were also an option to be added with the aim of holding the belt in place and providing additional space for pouches, knives, etc.
- An aluminum pack frame could be used with a medium or large-size pack, but it was optional.
- Padded shoulder straps and kidney protectors came in as additional components with a waist belt.
The basic design of ALICE packs is composed of one larger, and three smaller compartments. The benefit of this system is that it can attach compression straps to a backpack as well as other components really easily.
Because of their modular abilities, these packs are easy to reconfigure for different purposes and pack weights.
Use ALICE Pack With or Without the Frame
ALICE packs are available in three sizes and can be used with or without their component frames. It depends on the amount of equipment you are packing if you will need it or not.
Some backpackers strive to have day packs with kidney belts, but without the frame. There are options where you can build a medium ALICE pack with the frame, straps, and kidney pads replaced with a MOLLE equivalent. Also, some people tend to try to avoid using the metal frame altogether in an attempt to reduce the overall weight they have to carry. However, experienced ALICE users often shun down at people who make such decisions.
Using ALICE Pack Without the Frame
There are many options to avoid the frame in the ALICE pack. For this one you will need:
- A speedy stitcher
- Hot glue gun
- Copper rivets
Start by taking your belt and attaching it in place to the bag with a hot glue gun. Another option is to use any type of adhesive. After you have connected it, secure the material by pressing them together with bricks, or anything heavy at hand, while drying.
After a few hours, you can additionally secure from tearing and washing out the glue by using a speedy stitcher. After that, consider treating the stitching with a seam sealer.
Finally, use copper rivets or simply drill holes in pennies to use pop rivets. Keep in mind to make a hole in every fabric layer, icepick, or a red hot nail to hot rod the hole.
Consider reading up on different needle locking and following patterns from leathercraft blogs where you can pick up handy advice on how to connect types of material that are stiff and durable.
Avoiding the Backpack Frame Is Not Always a Good Idea
Depending on how heavy your gear is, deciding to use an ALICE pack without the frame can be an exhausting and even dangerous thing. That much load on the back can be very hard and exhausting.
Looking at the frame as additional weight is a wrong approach, as it is more secure and not as pricey as any other camping bag. A simple pack combined with a waist/kidney pad practically turns a simple camping bag into a luxury device.
It is really important from where you are acquiring your equipment. Megamarkets and stores where they have the ‘outdoor products’ section are likely to have cheap, and not very durable pieces of equipment.
A military surplus store can provide better and long-lasting gear while being sometimes cheaper than the least expensive pieces of equipment.
Attaching ALICE Pack Kidney Pad
Now you understand that there are different types of pads, but when it comes to the standard ALICE frame, aka as pack here is how to do it.
The composition is really simple. You will be using three items:
- The strap with a buckle on it
- The kidney pad
- The frame
Using these three items in the following order is sure to provide you with a functional and secure kidney pad for your next hike. You can hop over to this video tutorial if you are having issues visualizing the given instructions.
- Take the bottom of the frame and the kidney pad. Look for the flaps of the pad and put them through the metal components at the bottom of the frame, on both sides.
- Take the buckle from the strap and on the far end opposite the buckle loop it through the kidney pad on both sides.
- Take the strap and see it through the buckle (as you would with a belt for your pants), and tighten it as much as you can. Don’t worry about getting the tightest grip.
- Finally, you need to push the buckle on the opposite side so the outer frame is facing upwards until you hear a click.
Now you have a tightly secured kidney pad.