Product Reviews: ALICE Web Gear
By: Tony Yeary
Today’s prepper is absolutely spoiled for choices in load bearing gear. From military surplus equipment to the most sophisticated modern products that the industry has to offer, no prepared individual has an excuse when it comes to finding gear that works for them. Personal load bearing equipment is important to any prepper, not just those who incorporate a weapon into their preparedness. Having essential items like a canteen, paracord, or a flashlight close at hand is just as important as having secured magazines or a sidearm quickly within reach. To the prepper who is on a tight budget (or feels that they need to be practical) the classic ALICE system is an excellent solution.
The All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment or ALICE system is load bearing web gear that was developed through the Vietnam War and finally perfected and adopted afterwards. As opposed to the modern MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system which supports the burden of weight off of one’s shoulders and whole torso in general, the ALICE system uses suspenders to hold weight on the shoulders and a web belt to hang weight off of the hips. The components of the system are attached to the belt by specific ALICE clips and the suspenders attach with hook-shaped metal ones. The attachment method is significant when you consider that it is backward and forward compatible. The older web gear components from the World War II and Korean War eras will attach to the ALICE system and the ALICE components can be used on the modern MOLLE system. What worked for the military when phasing out the old and bringing in the new can be beneficial to the prepared civilian piecing together a practical load bearing rig.
A standard ALICE system contains six basic components: a pistol belt, suspenders, a first aid kit pouch, an ammunition carrier, an entrenching tool cover and a canteen cover. The belt is adjustable for waist size; older versions have a metal buckle, while later examples have a plastic one. The suspenders are padded over the shoulders and are adjustable for one’s height. The first aid pouch uses two metal snaps to secure a plastic, waterproof container which holds the contents of the first aid kit itself. The ammunition carrier can hold three 30 round M16/AR15 magazines and uses a quick release plastic buckle to secure it. The canteen cover is designed to hold the canteen and cup, plus it has a side pocket to hold water purification tablets. These components feature drain holes to keep water from building up inside, extremely rugged build materials and superior stitching.
I, for one, love the ALICE system. Some people think I’m ridiculous for feeling that way, but a lot of others understand where I am coming from. Through my six years in the military, ALICE and I spent a lot of time together. Whether it was the many training exercises we had to go through or my time in the Middle East, ALICE equipment was strapped to my body for many accumulated months of time. Wearing and using it daily will either send you running to the hills looking for something better or it will have you growing to appreciate what it can do for you. For today’s prepper, many will find that ALICE is not just “good enough,” it is in fact ideal in many cases.
ALICE has advantages over MOLLE that need to be considered. Primarily, it is VERY affordable. One can strap together a functional ALICE setup for a fraction of the cost of a MOLLE equivalent. It’s so affordable that one can purchase multiple sets of it to hand out to family members and friends in S.H.T.F. scenarios if need be. Secondly, it is also easy to acquire and readily available, moreso when you consider that brand new aftermarket equivalents are being manufactured abroad that are at most times made just as good as MIL-SPEC. Thirdly, it is very versatile. ALICE-type clips can be substituted with cable-ties if the factory clips are unavailable (some swear that this is a better way to go anyway), ALICE components can be fastened to MOLLE systems if desired, and the components can easily be used for things they were never intended (charged Mosin-Nagant M91-30 stripper clips fit well in an M-16 mag pouch if you arrange them right and modern holsters can be cable-tied to the eyelets on the pistol belt for instance).
To those who want to spend a lot of their cash on modern MOLLE and comparable load bearing systems, I’m not going to try and sway you. To those who seek simple practicality or a more frugal solution, I urge you to visit your nearest surplus store and hit the ALICE component bins. I guarantee that your creativity will run wild and you will find a setup that fits all of your needs. If a need for it ever arrives, there your vintage Vietnam-era gear will hang, ready for you like an old friend.