Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by XD9sc » Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:21 pm

I am trying to figure out if getting a hiking backpack from REI or Northface is worth the extra money than getting an Alice pack.

I am female, 5'6"/130lbs. So I'm looking at a hiking BOB to carry 1/4 my weight, i.e. around 30 lbs.

I want something that is going to be comfortable hiking w/.

I'm learning so much from you guys/gals.

I really want some of my stuff to do double duty as camping/hiking equipment.

Thanks!!

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by FriedCheese » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:10 pm

XD9sc wrote:I am trying to figure out if getting a hiking backpack from REI or Northface is worth the extra money than getting an Alice pack.

I am female, 5'6"/130lbs. So I'm looking at a hiking BOB to carry 1/4 my weight, i.e. around 30 lbs.

I want something that is going to be comfortable hiking w/.

I'm learning so much from you guys/gals.

I really want some of my stuff to do double duty as camping/hiking equipment.

Thanks!!
Welcome to ZS.

I think you answered your own question.

"I really want some of my stuff to do double duty as camping/hiking equipment. "

Get a good bag. You'll be happier when hiking. Alice Pack is cool and cheap. But isn't so cool when it's uncomfortable. I have one. It now just a bag that has tons of extra FA stuff in it. I would NEVER think of trying to carry anything even slightly heavy in it.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by crypto » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:10 pm

The alice packs are as comfy as any 1980's frame pack, and are built to be bombproof. That said, they're a lot heavier than a modern internal frame pack from REI or Cabelas or Bass Pro.

The load on a external frame pack and the alice in particular tends to hang farther from your back than in an internal frame, so it balances a little different. You have to load them differently, putting all the weight down low so it keeps you from hunching over to keep your balance.

The alice straps lack load lifters, which results in most of the weight being on the top of your shoulders instead of the front like a modern pack.

You'll be slinging your shelter and sleeping bag under the frame, which drives some people nuts if their bedroll is bumping against their butt all the time.

However, the payoff is that you dont have a sweaty back all the time, since the only contact is the top and bottom of the frame.

I just recently put together a large alice pack and frame, so I havent rucked around in it enough to really say whether I prefer it or not. I'll let you know after my first fall backpacking trip.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by Ufdyixcaff » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:14 pm

If you are looking for comfort, the ALICE isnt the place to be.
If you are wanting to dual use it with sport backpacking, the ALICE isnt the place to be.

It will happily carry 30lbs of gear for years and years and years... but there are better options.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by HHaase » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:56 pm

crypto wrote: The alice straps lack load lifters, which results in most of the weight being on the top of your shoulders instead of the front like a modern pack.

You'll be slinging your shelter and sleeping bag under the frame, which drives some people nuts if their bedroll is bumping against their butt all the time.

I just recently put together a large alice pack and frame, so I havent rucked around in it enough to really say whether I prefer it or not. I'll let you know after my first fall backpacking trip.
Alice packs actually are much more comfortable if you keep the belt tight and put the weight on your hips. Most packs were designed that way, weight on the hips and shoulder straps for balance. Keeps you from overcompressing your spine. But yeah, any real weight in it and you'll be leaning forward a bit to keep from falling down.

You're right though, you definitely need to be careful how you pack the bedroll on the bottom or it will always whack you in the ass as you walk. It's not easy, but you can lock it in pretty solidly.... I just can't remember how I used to do it. I think I used some shot cord. Though I used to put my sleeping mat up top.

One thing I always like though about the Alice pack was that if you pack it solidly enough and cinch it all down, the contents shouldn't shift at all. Nothing worse than everything flopping around in a pack constantly changing the balance. It's also real easy to do an overhead hang, which the guy standing next to you in formation really appreciates. By overhead hang, I mean when you lift the pack over your head and drop it down onto your back to wear it. Really slick and easy to do once you get the hang of it.....as long as it isn't too heavy.

But all that being said, it is an old design now and there is better stuff out there.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by don vito » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:14 am

Hi and welcome.

ALICE was build for your average GI Joe in mind and not a slender female body. As adjustable and flexible it can be there are much better packs out there which will fit your form and shape better. If you have one of the outdoor retailers near you take your time and check what they got. Today most will have a knowledgeable staff to help you find the right pack for you. These days one size fits all is not the only option.

With ALICE you only have an option of medium and large (they make an aftermarket ALICE in small size but that won't be suitable for your needs), With a hiking pack you have an option of capacity, color, suspension and more important a semi custom fit (considering you try most of the models and newer packs have more adjustment).

Mil surplus packs are cheap and you can always pick one up later to play with but having a good start with the right gear will help you build confidence and motivate you to learn the skills needed to do what ever you want to do survive/hike/evade a horde of zombies etc...

Another point is that hiking/camping with a civi pack will attract much less attention.

p.s. if you settle on a north face pack get one from a dealer and don't buy direct, tnf charges the msrp and retailers usually sell lower and have clearance/sale deals. I got a nice tnf day pack from ems on sale for 30 or 40 dollars less.

good luck.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by arrowolf » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:27 am

I think your best bet would be an internal frame pack. These will have a narrower profile and can be adjusted for comfort. Some makers have designs specifically for women. Mine is a Kelty Coyote. My normal load is about 40-50 lbs and I have no problems with getting adjusted to be easy on my back and especially my shoulders.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by XD9sc » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:29 am

Thanks everyone for your replies! That's very help. You've pointed me in the right direction. I'll start looking for a good hiking backpack.

Thanks for the warm welcome! :mrgreen: I'm looking forward to learning much more and sharing my experiences :mrgreen:

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by Maeklos » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:38 am

I recently picked up an internal-frame hiking backpack from, of all places, Wal-Mart for about $20 (was on sale from $30). It's called a Desert Excursion Pack from a company called Outdoor Products (never heard of 'em before), and I have to say that it's probably the most comfortable pack I've ever owned. The back is padded enough to be comfortable, and the belt is very thickly padded, making it extremely easy to carry the weigh from your hips. Loaded up with my full BOB (almost 60 pounds now), it stood up to 14 miles through the woods this pack weekend, and aside from some stiff knees, I felt great - none of the strain in my shoulders that I'm used to from toting my old (read 60's or 70's era) ALICE pack or my EastSport day pack.

So if you want to try something different for not a lot of money, drop by the camping section of your local Wal-Mart and see what you like. If nothing else, it'll give you a couple of ideas about what you like or don't like if you decide to drop a lot of money on something from a more reputable manufacturer.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by goblin » Tue Aug 12, 2008 9:51 am

Go with the REI...your back will thank you!!! :)
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by cg3006 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:06 am

Not sure what your timeline is for getting the pack, but REI has a scratch-n-dent sale 4 times a year. I pick up a new Osprey Stratos for $50 that was returned because it was dirty and a new Gregory G-pack for $45 that had a loose strap on the lid. 10 minutes with a needle and some thread and it was good as new. If you go, go early thats when you get the good deals.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by SweetTea » Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:17 am

Also, make sure you buy a pack made for women. If you put heavy loads on a pack designed for men, you could run into some serious problems (like herniated discs serious) because your body is shaped different from what the ALICE platform and other men's packs were designed to do. There are tons of great women's packs out there that will make you super comfy while you schlep your stuff.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by el Punisher » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:02 pm

crypto wrote: You'll be slinging your shelter and sleeping bag under the frame, which drives some people nuts if their bedroll is bumping against their butt all the time.
I didn't think people just hung their sleeping equipment off the back with an external frame. i use some rope and sinch my tent, sleeping bag, and thermarest to the areabelow my storage section( for lack of the officail word) and the frame to keep it fixed in place, I've even done that with an internal frame.

first of all I think an internal frame backpacking pack would suit you well, when you go to buy them bring a thrity pund weight of some sort and try out the different models, comfort is key!! ten miles down the road you'll be dead if you just have nylon straps. get big comfy shoulder and waist straps that sinch down well that way you can alternate between carrying wieght on your hips and shoulders. Ive found this technique to be very effective when you havew to hike 7 miles and 3500 vertical feet to get to some high mountain lake. ( these lakes often contain excellent fish)
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by Deschain » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:49 pm

ALICE is meant to be cheap, hardy, and utilitarian. Comfortable, not so much. There are plenty of ALICE mods which make it considerably more so, up to the ridiculously expensive 64 Ruck loadout. I have the 64 (GenII), and it's pretty comfy, but it set me back. As with a lot of military equipment, part of the comfort factor is practice and knowing the little tricks to the kit.

Likewise, civilian bags are meant for a different purpose. They are not necessarily meant to be cheap, nor are they meant to take the amount of punishment a military bag would. They often have a lot of nice features that make loads more comfortable, but aren't designed to carry a combat load.

Both are excellent for camping. Whatever you decide on, make sure it has a frame, and be aware that you often get what you pay for.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by Galath » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:24 pm

I've been humping Alice packs for over 15 years now. In Korea, in 1993, my pack often weighed more than me. I am (or was:)) slightly built, and as an assistant M60 gunner carried the lion's share of the ammo, as well as the spare barrel, tripod, etc. In a large Alice, you should be able to carry the sleeping bag inside and not have to hang it from the bottom.

I own two large Alice packs now. They store things in my garage unless I have one out for drill. My BOB is in my internal frame camping pack. I know all the tricks to make the Alice more comfortable, and I can carry one many miles a day, over terrain, for days on end. I prefer the internal frame when I can use it. I made sure to get one that's forest green with no bright colors. It's stealth-tactical (looks civilian, raises no red flags, but would work for para-military application).
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by ironraven » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:37 pm

double post
Last edited by ironraven on Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by ironraven » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:57 pm

OK, triple post, actually.
Last edited by ironraven on Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by ironraven » Tue Aug 12, 2008 8:03 pm

My advise, ALWAYS, is try it on. I would sooner buy shoes I hadn't tried on than a pack I hadn't tried on. For most people, the more modern packs are more comfortable. I've got a problem called most of them aren't wide enough through the shoulders, and the stick up too damn far. I hate the head knockers.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by JohnGalt » Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:18 am

I just picked this one up for my wife for her birthday:

http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___80731

This pack is ultra-ultra light at just over 1lb, has 4000 cubes of storage, and can carry loads of 40lbs. That way, if you get a little overloaded, it won't put too much of a strain on you.

My BOB theory is based around dual usage, mobility and comfort, and it seems like you may have a similar idea. This is my pack and below and underneath is the women's version if you feel like spending a little extra money:


http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___84510

http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___84509

These packs will carry 30lbs comfortably, and are in my opinion the most comfortable packs on the market. We do a lot of recreational backpacking, so something that will do double-duty and not scream "Psycho!" is important. I think these types of ultralight packs are the way to go for bugging out and recreation in terms of comfort and the ability to move quickly. This is probably your most important gear choice, so don't go too cheap, but don't feel like you need to spend hundreds to get a good pack. The downside to these over the GoLite pack is the max comfortable weight limit. The Granite Gear's limitations force you to plan carefully and commit to ultralight equipment. The benefit is incredible comfort.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by XD9sc » Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:21 am

Thanks for the advice everyone :)

I know this bag is going to be one of the most important pieces of equipment so I don't mind spending the money and getting a good pack. I've been doing a little research and talking to a friend who was in the marines and has done search and rescue, etc. and has a BOB, well several b/c he also does security and protection stuff. Great guy and very knowledgeable.

This is the pack I'm leaning toward. Gotta go find an REI store or somewhere that carries it and try it on. I know Osprey is top of the line.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by TCBA_Joe » Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:29 am

I'm gonna throw something out there about the ALICE. Mind you I haven't learned all of the tricks for it yet, and I'm sure I eventually will, but...

Some packs are good, and some suck, no matter how you set them up. I had a pack at Ft. Lewis that no matter how I adjusted the straps, bent the frame, etc... would not sit properly and short marches made my back kill. My pack from school didn't take much at all and it was perfect. To me, ALICE packs can be hit or miss.

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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by gart43 » Wed Aug 13, 2008 11:20 pm

The thing with all mil surp equipment, is that its made to be four things, cheap, tough, utilitarian, and CHEAP.

You need to be careful, you get what you pay for, but its relatively easy to ruck with them if you know a few tricks, which are easy to figure out, and even easier to find out from others. Don't be afraid to ask!
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by JollyRoger762 » Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:05 am

First of all, it depends on which ALICE pack you wanted.
For a 30 pound load I immediately assumed the medium ALICE, others seemed to assume the large.
Th emedium or large with the frame simply will not work for a woman. The medium without the frame caries as well as any traditional ruck (i.e. weight is born by the shoulders alone), and 30 pounds is easily doable. That being said, a traditional ruck will never be as comfy as a pack that puts most of the weight on your hips. TIP: with the ALICE, the sleeping bag/shelter half goes ON TOP of the pack, held in place by the top flap. What goes on the bottom is the sleeping pad, which is light enough to not flop around.

That's a pretty decent pack you've posted. Definitely look at the woman-specific packs like that one.

It's easy for us guys, just about anything, including milsurp can be made to work for us. Not so much with women. Good luck.
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Re: Alice Pack vs Hiker Backpack from REI or Northface, etc.

Post by congochris » Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:04 pm

My wife (who is your height as well, and about 120) found a gregory pack at REI the other day she liked. It had a mesh back that held it away from her body and as a bonus was a very pretty shade of blue. :roll: Sadly, I can't seem to find it online, but that might just be the sinus infection killing my braincells. It was the smaller of the two gregory's they had on the wall there, and around $200, perhaps?

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