It’s easy to find cheap packs and easy to find quality packs. It’s just not easy to find quality packs that are cheap. I put together a 3 pack system for about $300. Cheap enough for me at least. It’s based on the USGI ALICE pack system so the quality is there too. I saved money by using some used parts, shopping around, and sometimes putting up with crappy customer service. For my trouble, I have a versatile 3 pack system, cheap. It gives me a cargo frame, day pack, and an external frame pack. If you don’t mind all used pieces this kit can be put together for about $210. If you want everything brand new, plan on spending $375 to $400 – still cheaper than a single Kifaru…
Pieces and parts for a cheap and easy 3 pack system
You’ll need 2 ALICE pack frames and 2 packs. At least one of the packs needs to be a medium. The second can be medium or large, your preference. You’ll also need 1 set of ALICE shoulder straps and an ALICE pack frame cargo support shelf. Besides the ALICE pieces you’ll need 2 MOLLE waist belts and 2 sets of MOLLE shoulder straps. When you get the MOLLE shoulder straps, make sure they’re complete sets with both upper and lower straps. A MOLLE sleep system carrier is optional, and I also picked up a can of dessert tan spray paint for my cargo hauler.
I paid $91 for a Hellcat kit from Old Grouch’s Military Surplus. This gave me a used ALICE frame and pack, and new MOLLE waist belt and shoulder straps. (I never received the MOLLE sleep system carrier it was supposed to include after multiple contacts with customer service) For my second pack I went with a brand new USGI surplus medium ALICE pack and frame from Sportmans Guide. With shipping, it set me back $130. I bought the rest of parts from different vendors on Amazon – $19 for the cargo shelf, $22 for the MOLLE waist belt, and $30 for the shoulder straps. Add $6 for a can of spray paint from Home Depot and my total cost is $298.
Putting together the 3 pack system
The first thing I did was clean up the used frame that came with my Hellcat kit. After cleaning it, I spray painted it and the cargo shelf with dessert tan. Once the paint was dry, I followed these instructions and attached one set of the MOLLE shoulder straps and one of the MOLLE waist belts to the frame. This makes a nice pack frame that’s really nice for packing things that don’t fit inside a pack very well.
The second thing I did was remove the ALICE shoulder straps and waist belt from my new ALICE pack set. I left the pack attached to the frame and used the same instructions to attach my second set of MOLLE straps and waist belt. Finally I attached the MOLLE sleep carrier system. With a medium ALICE pack this setup gives you about 2400 c.i. in the main pack and another 1600 in the sleep system carrier. (If you use a large ALICE pack, main pack capacity is 3800 c.i.)
Finally, I took the ALICE straps from my new pack and put them on the used pack that came with my Hellcat kit.