There are myriad of systems utilized over the course of military history to carry equipment from point A to point B. While the pack mules have disappeared from the regiments the gear has not lessened for the fighting men and women on the battlefield. Today we discuss systems with the sole purpose of positively impacting the carrying capacity of the military, today we discuss some of the closest women in the lives of every veteran for the past five decades: ALICE and MOLLE.
The first real evolution in the world of load carrying came by way of the Korean War with the advent of the M1956 Load Carrying Equipment. The system was essentially a beefed up set of canvas suspenders on a heavy belt with metal eyes that allowed for the attachment of different pouches. As the plastic industry began to flourish the military brass pursued improvements in the M1956 that would lighten the load on the troops, thus the M1967 was born. If you compare the pictures below it’d be hard to see much of a difference as the main upgrade in design was a switch to nylon materials. These relics of the Vietnam veteran did not hold, but were the impetus for the creation of the first real lasting innovation in load carrying.
The All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) system was introduced in the early 70’s by Natick Labs. The system included a load carrying setup not entirely different from the pictures above except for the ever important “Y” shaped suspenders. If you happen to be in the market for an ALICE setup it is probably worth your time to find the “H” shaped suspenders as they distribute the load much better. The real addition to the ALICE system was the pack rack, a metal frame that fixed to the load carrying equipment on the back of the soldier. The same rack can be used to hold small, medium, and large packs depending on the type of carry you are planning on. The medium pack has a capacity of 50lbs while the large pack and frame are good for up to 70lbs.
Medium and Large ALICE Packs
The ALICE pack was retired in the early 2000’s by the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE). The signature utility of the MOLLE system came in the form of the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) that was sewn to almost every surface in sight. The incredibly strong nylon loops sown in rows with very dense stitch work allows for a quantity and variety of clip on attachments that the ALICE system just could not keep up with. This system was also created by Natick Labs in the neverending quest to make the most manageable system for all equipment soldiers need in the field. The final consideration in the design of the new system was the requirement for use of two straps in every attachment. In older setups accessories could be attached at a single point which would inevitably wear over time as the equipment jostled around. Every MOLLE attachment requires at least two connection points which means you the carrier will have a much more stable carry and longer lasting equipment.
The FILBE MOLLE II Pack