The ALICE pack is what it is. A surplus military pack... but still very well regarded by folks who have actually spent years and thousands of miles wearing them. Me for instance.
Every time I read some drive-by comment about how much they suck... I know the person either made up the remarks or spent very little time humping them. A few Basic Training road marches and a few FTX movements (Field Training Exercises) with a pack that spent 99% of its time in a storage locker. Never really broken in or adjusted to the wearer and the rest of his combat gear.
Is it a gossamer cuben-fiber dream to carry? Hell no, but myself and every man I worked with managed to make that pack work across many a hard mile without too much complaint. Or difficulty. Maybe I just have a different definition of discomfort than most...
I routinely carried that pack design across 5 continents for 30+ years. So did everyone I worked with. It was my 3-season weapon of choice. In winter or mountainous climes, I tended to go with my Lowe Alpine Expedition or LOCO packs. Or my Gregorys. But for most other places and scenarios, the ALICE Large was the one I jumped in. And took to war. Or swam with into beaches. Patrolled with. Humped aerial resupply loads with. The one I lived out of while walking across quite a bit of Planet Earth.
Walk into any present day (2020) US Army Special Forces ODA Team Room or Navy SEAL Platoon Bay and you'll be amazed at the number of ALICE Large packs still employed by experienced guys... young and old. People who are already issued very expensive Mystery Ranch, Eberlestock, Lowe Alpine, and Gregory packs. When people leave $700 packs back in the team room in favor of personally purchased ALICE rucks that cost well under $100... that's called a Clue.
The mere fact that a 48 year old design is still a favorite among folks who seriously depend upon functional packs is telling. It's a working pack, not a comfort item. 62 liters of 100+ pound load hauling with an external frame for pack board use.
Across nearly 35 years of humping/jumping/swimming/skiing a Large ALICE (all of it while serving in either a Ranger Battalion or Special Forces Groups), I managed to break exactly one frame. Rode it in to a muddy tank trail, during a night time thunderstorm, down in Ft McClellan, AL. Air Force missed the CARP drop zone and dropped us very low. No time to lower ruck. I spiraled my canopy into the only opening that wasn't forest. When I touched down, I pranged into about knee high mud, and snapped my frame tubes in half... on both sides. My PLF points of impact looked like Feet, Knees, then nearly Face as I bowed over the ruck. Essentially a Stand Up Landing into a mud pit. Other than that instance, one of the more durable external framed packs I've ever used. OTOH, I'm pretty sure I'd have broken any external frame (of any design) on that particular landing.
Upgraded with modern shoulder straps & hip belts, the old tick is as comfortable to carry as many more modern packs. Not all, but many.
The thing is inexpensive to buy; modular for easy disassembly, major parts replacement, & practical field repairs; carries immense weight for its size without straining; is shaped to wear with fighting gear; offers subdued tactical coloration; is very durable & tough; and well arranged for gear access...especially in the dark.
I repeatedly read posts about how heavy the ALICE pack is. Usually completely fabricated numbers.
Actual Weight statistics for ALICE rucks:
The issue ALICE Large (3800 cu in / 62 liter) pack bag weighs 3 lbs, 1 ounce.
The issue ALICE Medium (2350 cu in / 38.5 liter) pack bag weighs 2 lbs, 12.8 ounces.
The issue ALICE LC-2 aluminum frame weighs 3 lbs, 12.8 ounces.
ALICE Large pack w/ frame = 6 lbs, 13.8 ounces. Slightly (2.2 oz) under 7 lbs total.
ALICE Medium w/ frame = 6 lbs, 9.6 ounces total. Slightly (1.6 oz) over 6.5 lbs total.
BLUF: It's a 6.5+ lb, 62 liter, overbuilt workhorse that will reliably handle portage loads into the 110 lb range. Meaning that it doesn't even break into a stitching sweat with 60, 70, or 85 lb loads.
Compared to commercial packs with roughly the same cubic volume and roughly similar heavier duty fabric build (as opposed to ultralight construction), the Large ALICE comes in at about 1.5 to 2 lbs heavier by way of comparison. But will haul twice the load for about 1/3 the price. Or even less if you find one on sale. And it won't get you shot because you're walking around with a huge brightly colored Skittle on your back.
Which makes it perfectly performing surplus for the occasional hiker or hunter. Or the prepper who wants a bombproof emergency load hauler for a BOB. Or the person who needs to equip several family members without busting the household budget. Or the person who doesn't have a lot of disposable income to begin with, but needs a proven and dependable backpack for very little money.
Naturally, folks who spend time knocking out lots of recreational miles will tend to gravitate to more comfortable packs. And lighter packs. Me included. Naturally, you can lay out good cash for featherweight gear and take to the trails wearing a 2-3 lb pack. But you won't be using those to haul heavy bulk supplies, quartered elk, 10 days worth of rations and bivouac gear, backpack radios, fuel cans, scavenged loads, or for armed wear with a combat harness and a long gun. Things you might need to do in a non-recreational context.
I own quite a few packs. Small to monster sized. Some are pretty expensive. I own 95 & 103 liter winter expedition packs. 50-80 liter hiking packs. Smaller climbing & hunting packs. GHB packs. Day packs. Assault packs. Ski touring packs.
My 7 day / 3-season BOB, thoughtfully packed for some (admittedly) unlikely day of emergency need? My old ALICE Large. The actual one I carried in Iraq & Afghanistan.
If you want to focus on purely comfortable recreational hiking, by all means, buy something for feather weight travel that better suits such a focus. But for tough times or uncertain scenarios, that old military succubus is still a safe choice.
Horses for Courses. It's an affordable military surplus option that still delivers the mail.