Originally appeared at Badlands Fieldcraft. -NCS
The following was a question from a friend and reader who I’ve had lengthy discussions with in the past, and I thought this discussion might be of interest to other readers as well.
Are you still running an ALICE pack and web gear? If so have you changed out waist pad and shoulder straps? Just wondering since your blog post on operating out of extended cab pickups, which leads to the next question, Awhile back you sent me a link to a video of use of pickups/technicals, are you running with this idea,; full size or Toyotas?
So I still have a couple medium ALICE packs, one with the metal frame and LC-2 pads, the other with the MOLLE II polymer frame and MOLLE II pads. I bought this pack from a gentleman who had it modified when he was at Ft. Bragg and it’s got fastex buckles added to all the straps and pouches. The MOLLE II frame is the latest version and I believe they’ve fixed the issues they had early on. This is one of the Coyote frames, avoid the black ones. I’m still convinced the medium ALICE is the best bang for the buck for packs.
But it’s got its drawbacks too, I wanted something that I could carry up to 65L of gear in, but then I also needed a patrol pack. I think this is a common situation faced in the military, once you’ve hiked in, you still need a smaller pack to carry gear on foot patrols out of the patrol base. I think the US has struggled tackling this problem with different designs incorporating a smaller pack added to a larger pack. For some reason we can’t seem to crack this nut that the Brits cracked in the early 80’s with the PLCE system.
I’ve since upgraded packs to a Karrimor SF Predator 45. As the name implies, it’s a 45L pack, but from what I’ve seen that rating is very conservative. In my mind there’s typically 3 types of packs, based off the time you expect to be out. A “day” or “patrol” pack, a “3 day” pack, and a “long range” pack. The 45L+ size of the Predator 45 puts it solidly in the 3 day pack range, but the beauty of the design is that it’s very modular.
The PLCE packs utilize a pair of zippers on each side for the addition of extra pouches. This might seem similar to a MOLLE sustainment pouch, but these are larger and the zipper and buckles that it attaches with make it a much more solid install. Each side pouch is 12.5 L, and with the addition of both side pouches I’m at a conservative 70L. This is a ton of room, and that’s without adding MOLLE pouches. And with the addition of a PLCE yoke, these pouches can be converted into a day pack. You can also zip the side zipper together to reduce the packs size by about half. This is nice for using it as a day pack.
The Predator is a top loading pack, and also being short and wide, it is quite similar to an ALICE as far as packing it. It has two drawstring closures on top to keep the rain and snow out, as well as a compression strap that is useful for carrying gear under the lid. The lid itself has a nice pouch on top for carrying items that you want quick access to as well as a mesh pocket underneath. The lid is detachable allowing for a large amount of expansion underneath. The Predator 45 also rides perfectly on top of my web gear, not surprising since it is a current issue pack for the Brits.
The Predator 45 is an internal frame pack utilizing a stiff frame sheet, but with the 4 D rings supplied on the top and bottom it can be attached to an external frame. I’m not aware of a specific designed frame for this but from the location of the D rings they would attach to an ALICE frame easy enough. The shoulder straps and waist belt are nicely padded and plenty comfortable.
So while I think a medium ALICE is a great pack for the money, I feel like the Predator 45 offers a lot of features that people typically add to their ALICE’s making it that much better.
I’m still running with the web gear, it rides high enough that it serves as support for my pack if I clinch up the waist belt good. I use a USMC battle belt rather than the old school pistol belt so I can do this. I’ve also added a web belt pad so that it functions like a pack belt better.
I haven’t changed a whole lot on this setup in quite awhile, it just works good for me. Between the web gear and my Hill People Gear chest pack, all the 10 C’s are covered and I can carry a small amount of chow with too. The butt pack is large enough to honestly forgo a day pack if I wanted to. I don’t use ALICE clips or zip ties to attach it, instead I ran the compression straps through the MOLLE webbing on my belt and that has made it quite stable.
I’ll do a more detailed post on the gear in the future, detailed what, where and why I pack certain things.
Trucks and operating mounted
So as far as what trucks I had in mind in my blog post, I prefer full size pickups for the cargo capacity. The extra weight of the larger truck helps a lot too when plowing through snow and mud. It seems to be en vogue for the off road folks to use the smaller Toyotas, but then there’s always a roof rack added so they can actually store their gear. Seems kind of silly to me and it throws off the center of gravity of the vehicle. I’m not saying the smaller trucks aren’t useful, or even UTV’s/ quads for that matter. My main idea was really to think about using conveyance and a team to create a somewhat self sustaining group for long range operations. If I was to have my dream truck I’d go with a Dodge Power Wagon with a pintle mounted 240 in the back. 🙂
I get why the reader is asking about gear and vehicles, because the web gear is pretty much a no go when driving. I can do it in my pick up if I slide the seat all the way back, but it’s very uncomfortable still. For this I think I would try and equip my vehicle drivers and commanders with a light chest rig, just IFAK, mags and commo. Something they could wear while in the vehicle, but then if they wanted web gear for foot patrolling swap it out. All the other guys in back would have their dismounted gear already.