“Should I buy, an ALICE Pack or a MOLLE Pack?” – that is one of the questions that I see a lot of on the forum. The answer is not a simple one. Before you can answer a question, sometimes you have to ask a few questions.
How much room do you need and how rugged do you need the frame? For example, the MOLLE pack has a plastic frame, ALICE has a metal frame.
A couple of weeks ago my son, nephew and I went on a boating / camping trip. We loaded up the gear, launched the boat and headed out to a camping spot on the river. While we were there, I decided to put together a video about the packs and do a little comparison.
My first exposure to the ALICE pack was way back in either 1992 or 1993. One of my good buddies had just came back from the first Persian gulf conflict, and one of the first things he did was buy himself a medium ALICE pack to replace the one he had been using in the ARMY. I liked the pack so much, I bought myself one. The difference between my buddies pack and mine – my pack was woodland camo, while my buddies pack was olive drab. After using the medium ALICE for a few years, I found it was a little so, so I bought a large ALICE pack in olive green.
My first exposure to the MOLLE pack was a couple of months ago after I bought 3 packs off ebay.
The three packs that my son, nephew and I brought on the camping included:
- Large MOLLE with internal sleep system.
- MOLLE II with external sleep system.
- Medium ALICE pack.
Large MOLLE Pack
Digital camo, internal sleep system compartment, plastic frame, no external pouches or internal pouches, map case in top flap, no radio pouch inside of pack, no hydration pocket for water bladder.
The shoulder straps and waist belt are desert camo because I bought 2 desert camo packs off ebay, and used one set of straps and waist belt on my large molle. I would really like to replace the desert camo stuff with woodland green, but woodland green MOLLE stuff is a little difficult to find on ebay. Also, the military is supposed to be releasing its new camo to the troops pretty soon. This might cause the price of digital camo items to drop.
One of the things that I really liked about the large MOLLE is how much webbing it has. The pack also has webbing on the bottom of the pack to strap a sleeping bag, tent, tarp or anything else.
One of the things that I did not like about the large MOLLE – it did not have a radio pouch inside the pack like the alice pack does. Nor does the pack have pouches on the outside of the pack. The plastic frame is also a draw back. Nor do I like having to use the pack with a frame – if the frame breaks your just out of luck.
Large ALICE VS Large MOLLE
If I had to pick between the Large ALICE and the Large MOLLE, to me there is no real comparison – Large MOLLE all the way.
When the Large ALICE is loaded, it seems to “fat”, and sticks too far off my back. The makes me have to lean forward to off set the weight sticking off my back.
The Large ALICE does not have any compression straps around the pack – this might be one reason why it seems too fat. Once th pack is loaded up, there is no way to take the slack out, because there are no compression straps. With the Large MOLLE pack on the other hand, it has a couple of straps where you can cinch it down nice and tight. So if your carrying a large load, it can be cinched up so that its close to your body.
The Large ALICE pack has 6 external pouches – 3 large and 3 small, while the Large MOLLE has none. This has its pros and cons. The small pouches on the Large ALICE are almost to small to store anything but small items. The larger pouches are big enough to store rain gear, and a 1 pound propane bottle will fit just right.
The Large ALICE pack has a radio pouch inside the pack, the Large MOLLE Pack does not. This may not seem like a big deal – but I like a place to store my smaller items, like bug spray, small flashlight, small muti-tool, bible, FM-2176, personal hygiene kit, camera and camera case along with spare batteries,,,,,, stuff like that.
MOLLE II With External Sleep System
lets just call this one the Medium MOLLE II pack – desert camo, external sleep system compartment, claymore pouch on outside, no internal pouches or compartments, plastic frame, map case in top flap – but has plastic on one side of the map case so you can see the map without having to take the map out.
This sometimes called the rifleman pack.
Overall, I view this pack as the least flexible – it has only a few webbing around the pack, none that wrap around the entire pack, and no webbing on the bottom of the pack. has very little webbing on it, no pouch on the inside and only one pouch on the outside of the pack.
Without the external sleep system compartment attached, and with something in it – the pack would not stand up on its own. It had to be leaned against a tree or something else in order for it to stand up. Its nice when you can drop and pack, and it stands up so you can dig through it.
Medium MOLLE VS Medium ALICE
If I had to pick between the Medium ALICE and the Medium MOLLE, I would have to pick the Medium ALICE.
The Medium MOLLE does not have enough webbing – this makes attaching extra pouches nice and easy. So if you need a place to keep a canteen, just attach a canteen. If you need a first aid kit on the outside of you pack, just attach a first aid kit.
The Medium MOLLE does not even webbing on the bottom of the pack for lashing a tent, sleeping bag, tarp,,,, or anything else to it.
The Medium ALICE pack has 3 outside pouches – which are just the right size for storing rain gear and a 1 pound bottle of propane for a stove. There is also webbing that runs the circumference of the pack, which makes attaching more pouches easy. The Medium MOLLE does not have any external pouches, and with a lack of webbing, there is no way to attach extra pouches.
Neither the Medium ALICE nor the Medium MOLLE has a place for a hydration bladder. As long as you can carry plenty of canteens, this should not be a big deal. But one more thing but that webbing – or rather the lack of it on the Medium MOLLE- if you dont have the webbing, your no going to be able to attach canteens to the outside of the pack.
When the canteens were put in the top flap (map case) the pack became top heavy. On the camping trip my son used the Medium MOLLE, and noted that it was top heavy because of where we had to put the canteens.
If I had to re-buy any or all of the packs in this article, it would be in this order:
1. Large Molle – Well designed pack, the few things I do not like about this pack can be easily fixed with a few add-on pouches. I still wish it had a metal frame instead of that junk plastic.
2. Medium ALICE – Battle proven through military use for around 40 years. Metal frame, lots of webbing,,,. The only draw back is that its a little heavy.
3. Large ALICE – Lots of room, but when fully loaded can be un-comfortable to carry. The lack of compression straps makes this pack too fat.
4. Medium Molle – I dont know if I would even buy this pack again. For something that supposed to be used by the military, I’am really disappointed in it.