Military Style Packs

6:19 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Anybody else prefer the heavy duty durable military style bags over the fancy schmancy new stuff that I feel like I'm getting pitched every day?  I'm not worried about fashion when I'm out on the campground or hiking the trail.  I need a bag that's not gonna fall apart!  

6:32 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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My pack collection harks from the 1970s - 80s.  Sturdy - never had a failure - but not nearly as heavy as milspec.

Ed

6:51 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Well, for starters, everything that was on that page you linked is trash. Or otherwise worthless junk.

That being said, I am prior military and am a firm believer in durable, tough, long lasting gear. There comes a point however where comfort and price meet.

For example: An ALICE pack. Great pack, that will hold any amount of weight your body can physically carry, and is tough as nails. Con of an ALICE pack is comfort. It is hands down probably the most uncomfortable pack in the world, or at least top 10. But, you can get an ALICE for 30$ or less typically.

Next example: The new ILBE pack for the marines made by Arc'teryx is a super tough pack, but costs upwards of 700$ brand new. However with some patience you can find one on ebay for 300ish. It's hard to find one in perfect condition with all parts for less than 400$ though. In a few years that will slowly change though. The ILBE is designed by a major commercial backpacking brand, and is based off of the Bora series packs just reinforced to carry 120lbs. And this pack IS comfortable to wear. Downside? It weighs like 8 lbs.

So, those two examples show two military packs that are excellent quality, but two different worlds apart technology wise. Now the questions you really need to ask yourself is if your going to need to carry anywhere near that much weight. Even going out for a 2 week stretch without resupply my weight is not over 65 lbs,  my normal weight is 30-40lbs for a few day trip. Do you really need to carry anywhere near 100-120 lbs?

My pack of choice right now is the Osprey Aether 70. The most comfortable pack i have ever used, i mean blows every other pack out of the water comfortable. And it weighs 5lbs 6oz. I was strongly considering buying an ILBE but i was outbid on ebay so i decided to save myself anout 150$ and buy the osprey. So not only did i save money, the osprey is almost 3 lbs lighter, and is super super comfortable.

The main reason i wanted to get the ILBE is for hunting, but i would have used it as my backpacking pack also.  When you add up the weight of all your backpacking gear, rifle, little extra ammo, tree stand etc it adds up, and of course packing out the meat. So if your going to be using a pack in that way then yes a military pack makes perfect sense.

If your not using it for what they were designed(carrying heavy heavy loads) then you are A)wasting your money unless you get a killer deal. B) carrying an extra 2-3 lbs of pack for nothing

So what are you doing, backpacking, or something else? A good quality pack from a quality manufacturer will be just as durable and well built as a military pack but just with lighter weight materials. This is not a disadvantage, this just means dont drag it behind a truck. I don't baby my gear, and it holds up fine. Besides, if it ever does break/fail the manufacturer will replace it or repair it for free. You get what you pay for, so if you buy a bottom of the barrel pack (not to throw any brand under the buss, but like Alps for example) and it falls apart at the seams after awhile then you shouldn't be surprised. Buy quality or your wasting your money. It's one thing if your on a super tight budget and are willing to do repairs to gear just to keep at the sport. But if your genually interested in backpacking do yourself a favor and buy quality gear the first time around if you have the funds to do so.

I hope I gave you some of the information you were looking for.

 

7:01 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Alice packs are designed so you can shoot in the peone with them and a helmet on, though the proper thing to do is shuck it on your way down. 

SG is an ok catalog but a lot of foreigh surplus there is, as Rambler put it, junk. 

I think ALICE packs are designed to hurt so soldiers, become angry, prevent pacivism and feel more inclined to kill the enemy and break his stuff. 

7:27 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

My pack collection harks from the 1970s - 80s.  Sturdy - never had a failure - but not nearly as heavy as milspec.

Ed

 

Mine, too.

Look at the pack in Ed's avatar photo-image.   The PACK ... not his face.

I have the same (pretty much).   Kelty external-frame, from 1978.   Also, a "high-techy" (for that period) Lowe Alpine external-frame pack made with DuPont "Zytel" (the frame itself).

Neither of these are heavy.   They are amazingly durable, do EVERTHING you would want from a pack.

PLUS ... and this is a BIG PLUS ... one walks upright, with the load very comfortably distributed.   Probably enables more endurance; thus, greater mileage  (if that's significant to you).  

You will NOT look like, nor feel like (with inherent back pain), an emerging primate, or orangutan like you will with internal-frame backpacks.

What's not to like / love ???

                                                  ~r2~

7:43 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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If you stay on trail then yes external frames are fine. But if you find yourself going off trail in more rugged terrain then external frames are a real hinderance in the balance department. But for real heavy loads nothing beats a good external for comfort.

10:01 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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My North Face Terra 60 seems to be a pretty durable pack.  I would much rather hike with it than with an ALICE, ILBE or even my Kelty external frame.  I think if you look long enough you'll find plenty of companies that make durable packs. 

10:07 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah ... I gotta agree with what's being posted here.

I admit to having a couple internal-frame backpacks in my quiver.   I use 'em as Ken suggests.

                                                  ~r2~

10:17 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

Well, for starters, everything that was on that page you linked is trash. Or otherwise worthless junk.

That being said, I am prior military and am a firm believer in durable, tough, long lasting gear. There comes a point however where comfort and price meet.

For example: An ALICE pack. Great pack, that will hold any amount of weight your body can physically carry, and is tough as nails. Con of an ALICE pack is comfort. It is hands down probably the most uncomfortable pack in the world, or at least top 10. But, you can get an ALICE for 30$ or less typically.    

I humped the dreadful ALICE for a couple years, with and without the frame, and like TheRambler says, it's a pain when loaded down with anything more than 30 lbs.  Try stuffing it with 65 lbs and you end up with a small green (but rugged) torture device with peeling urethane coatings and most everything lashed onto the outside.  Remember the tiny "map pocket" on the top "lid"?  Good for a couple credit cards.


foototot-jpgalice.jpg

Here's a fotog of my old ALICE on the left and my old North Face on the right.  I liked the ALICE w/o the frame as the frame rode too high and buckled up around my chest . . . . . .

But there's something about the ALICE which attracts backpackers, probably the awesome and fantastic shoulder straps with the thick foam cushioning and the unneeded quick-release buckles.  You always know you're wearing an ALICE (w/o a frame) when you hands start swelling up and you get a nice neck-strain-induced headache.

MYSTERY RANCH:  Here's where Mystery Ranch comes in, if you want rugged---at a price.  Top notch seams and butt-tough fabrics.  I just sent off my six year old G6000 pack for a tune-up and got it back with a new shoulder yoke with new shoulder straps and hipbelt straps as mine were getting worn.  Cordura straps. Everybody knows by now how tough the MR packs are, and they have actual people you can talk to (like Tim) who know what they're doing and back it up.

BTW, one time I was backpacking along Slickrock Creek and saw a guy wearing a GI duffel bag "with wings", or shoulder straps, as below.  I never tried such a "pack", but I do know what it's like to hump tremendous loads with such a pack with just one strap---hellish.


army-duffle-bag1.gif

4:16 a.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

Well, for starters, everything that was on that page you linked is trash. Or otherwise worthless junk.

That being said, I am prior military and am a firm believer in durable, tough, long lasting gear. There comes a point however where comfort and price meet.

For example: An ALICE pack. Great pack, that will hold any amount of weight your body can physically carry, and is tough as nails. Con of an ALICE pack is comfort. It is hands down probably the most uncomfortable pack in the world, or at least top 10. But, you can get an ALICE for 30$ or less typically.

Next example: The new ILBE pack for the marines made by Arc'teryx is a super tough pack, but costs upwards of 700$ brand new. However with some patience you can find one on ebay for 300ish. It's hard to find one in perfect condition with all parts for less than 400$ though. In a few years that will slowly change though. The ILBE is designed by a major commercial backpacking brand, and is based off of the Bora series packs just reinforced to carry 120lbs. And this pack IS comfortable to wear. Downside? It weighs like 8 lbs.

So, those two examples show two military packs that are excellent quality, but two different worlds apart technology wise. Now the questions you really need to ask yourself is if your going to need to carry anywhere near that much weight. Even going out for a 2 week stretch without resupply my weight is not over 65 lbs,  my normal weight is 30-40lbs for a few day trip. Do you really need to carry anywhere near 100-120 lbs?

My pack of choice right now is the Osprey Aether 70. The most comfortable pack i have ever used, i mean blows every other pack out of the water comfortable. And it weighs 5lbs 6oz. I was strongly considering buying an ILBE but i was outbid on ebay so i decided to save myself anout 150$ and buy the osprey. So not only did i save money, the osprey is almost 3 lbs lighter, and is super super comfortable.

The main reason i wanted to get the ILBE is for hunting, but i would have used it as my backpacking pack also.  When you add up the weight of all your backpacking gear, rifle, little extra ammo, tree stand etc it adds up, and of course packing out the meat. So if your going to be using a pack in that way then yes a military pack makes perfect sense.

If your not using it for what they were designed(carrying heavy heavy loads) then you are A)wasting your money unless you get a killer deal. B) carrying an extra 2-3 lbs of pack for nothing

So what are you doing, backpacking, or something else? A good quality pack from a quality manufacturer will be just as durable and well built as a military pack but just with lighter weight materials. This is not a disadvantage, this just means dont drag it behind a truck. I don't baby my gear, and it holds up fine. Besides, if it ever does break/fail the manufacturer will replace it or repair it for free. You get what you pay for, so if you buy a bottom of the barrel pack (not to throw any brand under the buss, but like Alps for example) and it falls apart at the seams after awhile then you shouldn't be surprised. Buy quality or your wasting your money. It's one thing if your on a super tight budget and are willing to do repairs to gear just to keep at the sport. But if your genually interested in backpacking do yourself a favor and buy quality gear the first time around if you have the funds to do so.

I hope I gave you some of the information you were looking for.

 

 There isn't much of anything I can add to this. I use an Aether 70 in magma. If this pack fits you the way it is supposed too... It will be the last pack you buy unless you need a 85.

Even if you can pick up an older model(w/o j zipper on the panel) its still a bomber pack. The only thing I would do is swap the standard Iso hipbelt out for the Bio(unless the belt is sewn)... Thats just me.

Tipi- that duffel... well, lets just say I cracked a beer as soon as I saw it. Alot of memories for me my friend.

TheRambler- Spot on my friend.

10:22 a.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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pFree, what non-military issue packs have you checked out?  There is a long list of top quality, design advanced, technology advanced packs out there that are AT LEAST as tough and durable as anything the military has used.  Maybe you've been looking at the popular ultralight pack variety?

I've known people who like surplus.  They have a romance with it, and there is nothing anyone is going to say to dissuade them from that relationship.  I get it.  That whole thing isn't lost on me.  However, that romance comes at a big price in the areas of comfort and overall enjoyment.  Like the others have said, why be uncomfortable or lug around pounds of extra weight for nothing?

Dana Design, Osprey, Gregory, and Mystery Ranch all make packs that are every bit as durable as anything the Pentagon contracted, and they're all probably 10Xs more comfortable and better designed.

4:01 p.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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When I first started hiking / camping as a teenager I used stuff I bought from the local military surplus store. I didn't know any other place to buy stuff besides Kmart and so surplus was the obvious choice to me.

Thirty years later and I still remember the little green cotton canvas "torture device" pack I had with the metal x frame in the back (in my back), it was a small top loading pack with two pockets on the very front and a single top flap I think.

Later I made a frame for it with the legs from an old aluminum lawn chair to get it off by back. After that my parents had only three lawn chairs but I had a more comfortable pack.

I even bought canned rations and a P-38 and I thought I was high tech.

The packs I have now are from Kelty, Lowe Alpine, VauDe, and Osprey. I bought them all used and adjusted them to fit me.

4:35 p.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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I love small mil spec / surplus shoulder bags, gear bags, etc, for organization, tools, stuff like that. But for backpacking? I think The Rambler has summed it up pretty darn well.

I have a High Sierra pack that was pretty inexpensive, but reasonably durable and failry comfortable. It was the most I could spend when I got it, and am happy with it. Should last for years to come, though I don't imagine it will last forever, so to speak.  I also have the Sierra Designs Revival 65, which I am really happy with. It is definitely not as rugged and durable is some aspects, but it has a high level of comfort, is light, and sports a degree of finesse in design and manufacture that does not exist in a Milspec pack . I just finished a thorough review of it here on Trailspace (it is featured on the home page right now)

I would definitely not limit yourself to military packs, they are designed with a very specific purpose, which they accomplish quite well, but they don't serve backcountry trekking very well.

11:53 p.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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THE reason most if any former troops have an Alice pack is being sentamental. As I like to refer to the BEASTS. Yes I carried one for 6 yrs with Light infantry to heavy Armor. They are built for one purpose Like from Sage to Snow said to agrivate you to no end. The purpose is to carry a heavy burden tactically, not for comfert. Drop the pack when you engage your enemy with the quick release pins. Best way to describe them is outdated! The military has been working since 1987 with well known manufacturer's such as Kelty, Mystery Ranch and Arc"treyx to approach their issue's and it hasn't been a true fit. Add in the "garbage" Molle gear with plastic Frame. Like Rambler stated if for backpacking or hiking go with a commercial product that fit's your needs and price range. Also if that Military gear does have a issue how do you repair it? Where do you get replacement piece's? There's always a maintenance issue with any gear at some point. Haveing a warrenty your not out twice for gear!

By the way I still have a Large Alice pack I use on occasion for carrying junk to a bouldering site. Tippi I also have my duffle bag thats still painted with my SS and Name..LOL I use it in the gear closet for climbing gear and misc items.

1:43 a.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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I prefer camping/expedition orientated over Military adaptions

10:02 a.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Like Dennis, I must admit that I also use the winged duffel to slog my gear from the parking lot to the crag for sport climbing.  It was too cheap to pass on, tough as nails and its only a half mile max to the farthest crag.

But for backcountry access, forget it.

12:46 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Editor's Note: I have removed the commercial retailer links in the original poster's messages.

1:52 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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YES !

"Group Hug" time w/ Alicia ....

                                                    ~r2~

9:03 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Robert Rowe said:

YES !

"Group Hug" time w/ Alicia ....

                                                    ~r2~

Thanks!

10:06 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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The Alice pack tortured me for 10 years while encamped with Uncle Sam.  Straight leg 11B.  I still have it.  I attached it to an old camp trails external frame.  It works pretty well.  It is as tough as nails.

I use it as a training pack now, and a loner to new Boy Scouts that hike with our troop that have not bought equipment yet.  I died & went to heaven when I bought an Osprey Argon 70 (Ebay $140.00 barely used). Its a little heavy, but I sure don't notice.

9:30 a.m. on July 30, 2011 (EDT)
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I personally like my Gregory Z55 for my normal hiking but I did get a great deal on the ILBE (by Arxteryx).  I looked into them after reading about them on here.  I liked the way the pack was setup and able to carry heavy loads.  Yes, it is heavy, but there are several things you can do to shed around 2-3 pounds from it.   The zipper pulls are HEAVY duty 3-4inch rubber tube---those can go.  The HEAVY duty rubber tube covered "side-carry" handles---those can go  There is so much extra webbing for "lashing" additional gear on using the MOLLE system, that you can cut about 6-8inches of extra webbing off too (if you wanted to).  The pack really is nice, it has a nice lid with lots of storage, nice "flap" on the back which can hold tent or bag or camelback.  There are two elastic side pockets for water bottles, which are durable enough to stick my trekking pole tips in without tearing the fabric..  The shoulder straps and hipbelt make this thing very comfortable to wear.  I usually pack heavy or overpack....even though I use a lot of light weight gear LOL....so this pack carries those loads very well, something to keep in mind for the "everything except the kitchen sink packers".

11:05 a.m. on July 30, 2011 (EDT)
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mystery ranch makes backpacks for the military.  the non-military versions are a little different and somewhat lighter-weight.  the recreational versions aren't "light" compared to most backpacks (100 liter expedition bag is nearly eight pounds, 38 liter large daypack is nearly four pounds), and they are expensive.  But, they are very comfortable, even crammed full and overweighted.  they're also extremely durable. 

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