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How to Pack an ALICE Pack

Updated November 21, 2016

ALICE is the acronym for the U.S. Armed forces item officially dubbed all-purpose lightweight individual carrier for equipment. This is military lingo for "backpack." Developed during the Vietnam War, the ALICE pack was designed to enable soldiers to comfortably carry larger quantities of gear with them over longer distances than had been previously necessary. Available to the general public through military surplus stores, the ALICE pack quickly became a favourite with recreational backpackers. A durable, economical item that could be used under a variety of conditions, the ALICE pack is designed to hold a large quantity and variety of equipment. The packing instructions here are a modified version of those given to new soldiers in U.S. Army basic training and is appropriate for a 2- to 3-day hike, provided water sources can be found along the way. It can be easily modified to suit your individual circumstances.

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  1. Pack the main compartment first. The recommended order for the placement of the following gear, from the bottom to the top, is: trousers; long-sleeved shirt; short-sleeved shirt; poncho liner or waterproof tarp; bivouac sack; inclement weather stuff sack packed with gloves, heavy socks, knit cap, wet weather trousers and thermal underwear; mess kit; waterproof bag with two to three days' worth of provisions and snacks.

  2. Load the outside pockets from left to right. The pocket that is accessible with your left hand when the pack is being worn should contain your coat or jacket.

  3. Fill the middle pocket with minor emergency supplies such as a small roll of duct tape, 50 feet of nylon cord, a leatherman or Swiss army knife, toilet paper or tissues in a waterproof bag, waterproof matches, fire starters, a small first aid kit and your rain poncho.

  4. Pack the pocket that is accessible with your right hand when the pack is being worn with two days' worth of food and snacks for easy access while walking.

  5. Wrap your sleeping bag in plastic and secure it beneath the main portion of the pack with two 4-foot lengths of waterproof nylon strapping.

  6. Fill the ALICE ammo pouches with a 30-day supply of vitamins, water purification tablets, small spray bottle of insect repellent, small bottle of sunscreen, small bottle of liquid antibacterial soap and one abrasive pan scrubber.

  7. Stuff the inner portion of the top flap of the pack with your hat, maps of the area inside waterproof bags, a small sewing kit and a metal S hook, which can be used to hang a pan over the fire when cooking.

  8. Attach a self-inflating air bed on top of the outside pockets by tucking it under the compression straps, and clip two canteens, a compass and a flashlight to the utility belt.

  9. Tip

    Use different colour stuff sacks for the storage of similar items--such as kitchen gear or extra clothes--for easy identification and location. Place the heaviest items against your back, close to your shoulders and directly between your shoulder blades. Pull compressing straps as tight as possible to restrict any load shifting while you walk.


    Do not carry too much if you are new to hiking. Take short day trips with lighter loads until you grow accustomed to trekking with the ALICE pack, gradually increasing the size of your load as you go.

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Things You'll Need

  • Medium or large ALICE pack
  • Trousers, 1 pair
  • Long sleeved shirt,1
  • Short sleeved shirt, 1
  • Poncho liner, 1
  • Bivouac sack, 1
  • Stuff sack, 3
  • Gloves, 1
  • Heavy socks, 1
  • Knit cap, 1
  • Wet weather trousers, 1 pair
  • Thermal underwear, 1 set
  • Mess kit
  • Freeze-dried food, 3 days worth
  • Jacket
  • Duct tape
  • Nylon cord
  • Swiss army knife
  • Waterproof matches
  • Fire starters
  • First-aid kit
  • Rain poncho
  • Waterproof storage bags
  • Sleeping bag
  • 2 nylon straps, 4 feet in length
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Water purification tablets
  • Antibacterial liquid soap
  • Pot scrubber
  • Hat
  • Maps of the area
  • Sewing kit
  • Metal S hook
  • Self-inflating air bed
  • 2 canteens
  • Compass
  • Flashlight

About the Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.

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