ALICE Compass Pouch Hack – Accommodating the Baseplate Compass

ALICE is a friendly-sounding designation for an obsolete American military load-carrying system. It stands for “All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment”. Sure, it should be APLWICE (pronounced “Appleweece”) but I won’t tell if you don’t.

ALICE gear was made of a nylon packcloth, which was around 250D to 300D for the gear junkies out there. It was relatively light weight and it dried quickly after being wet. It was perfect for jungle use. Indeed I still have a couple of ALICE rucksacks as well as a few ALICE compass pouches and maybe a canteen cover or two stashed away. It’s all pretty common and has been superseded so ALICE gear can probably be found on ebay or in surplus stores for cheap.

The venerable ALICE compass/field dressing pouch is a bit of a crap design. Sure, it holds an obsolete American field dressing OK, but it fits compasses very poorly – even the Cammenga M1950 lensatic compass for which it was supposedly designed. The compass bounces around inside the case and the metal alloy belt clip on the back of the compass is ferrous. Everyone knows that ferrous metals and compasses don’t mix and a compass certainly should not be stored next to a clip which can affect the magnetic field of a compass. That leads to a compounding inaccuracy of the compass over time.

The compass pouch was not designed with baseplate compass pouches in mind. But since I wanted to securely carry a baseplate compass in one of these pouches, I’d have to find a way.

Standard ALICE compass pouch. My trusty old Swedish Silva expedition compass for scale.

Standard ALICE compass pouch. My trusty old Swedish Silva expedition compass for scale. The press snap is bronze and is non-magnetic.

Rear view of the ALICE compass pouch showing the metal "keeper" which just happens to be made of a ferrousmetal alloy and attract a compass needle. Bad juju.

Rear view of the ALICE compass pouch showing the metal “keeper” which just happens to be made of a ferrous metal alloy and attracts a compass needle. Bad juju.

Being a committed tinkerer who wanted to affix an ALICE compass pouch to the lefthand shoulder strap of my UL backpack, something had to be done to correct the many shortcomings of the ALICE compass pouch, and quickly.

Although a little longer than the Silva Expedition 5 model pictured above, my military Silva 4/54 baseplate compass still fits the ALICE compass pouch comfortably. It feels terribly unprotected so the pouch would need to be padded. Then there was the matter of the metal clip. I’d have to make one out of brass or aluminium or maybe even use plastic.

Components for the hack - ALICE compass pouch, piece of foam sleeping mat and a plastic clip (not shown)

Components for the hack – ALICE compass pouch, piece of foam sleeping mat and a plastic clip (not shown)

Dipping into the spares crate I found a piece of foam from an old fold-up German sleeping mat which I cut to the correct size and folded appropriately. After folding the foam around the compass it was inserted into the pouch. The compass was now beautifully protected from shock and from being scratched by the the press snap. Just had the belt clip to go.

 

Compass in the open pouch. Foam is held securely by the shape of the pouch and the compass can be extracted and inserted without risk of the foam working its way out.

Compass in the open pouch. Foam is held securely by the shape of the pouch and the compass can be extracted and inserted without risk of the foam working its way out. Note the drainage grommet has been removed from this pouch. It was sticking up and was in the way so I went after it man to man with a pair of pliers.

Case closed. The compass is very secure and well protected in this pouch after the hack.

Case closed. The compass is very secure and well protected in this pouch after the hack.

I was all ready to use a large zip tie or a plastic MALICE clip to replace the metal belt clip, but then I stumbled across a nylon Aussie ICLCEclip which is compatible with the ALICE gear out of the box and has no magnetic effect on compasses.

Problem solved - nylon clip on hacked compass pouch at left. Metal clip fitted to unhacked compass pouch on right.

Problem solved – nylon clip on hacked compass pouch at left. Metal clip fitted to unhacked compass pouch on right.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “ALICE Compass Pouch Hack – Accommodating the Baseplate Compass

  1. Hi,

    Funny, but I just picked up a Verner Mk VII in a thrift shop today. (Leather case is marked “4 Batt” which I believe was a Canadian arty unit at Vimy.)

    Thinking of restoring it a bit and wondering where you found Tritium paint (and why you didn’t use it on the Mk VIII you reno’ed).

    You have an interesting web site and I’ll be back to explore it more thoroughly in the near future.

    All the best,

    Jeff Apolinario

  2. G’day Jeff, thanks for stopping by.

    The Verner’s pattern prismatics are works of art, especially the earlier marks. I see yours came with the leather case too. Nice, I’m making a couple of those leather cases at the moment.

    Tritium comes in little tiny glass vials which are glued into place as necessary on the compass. They are a lot safer than the old style radium paint since the tritium vials are sealed. They are full of tritium gas and have a phosphorescent coating on the inside of the vial – The tritium gas glows, which then “charges” the phosphorescent paint and it keeps glowing for 10-15 years. Really cool stuff.

    I had looked at using Superluminova paint (phosphorescent and has to be “charged” with a flashlight before it glows strongly) on both the Verner’s Pattern and the WWII MKIII compasses I restored, but after thinking about it a bit more, I decided against it. I don’t tend to navigate all that much at night, so adding a strong lume to the compasses would have been a lot of extra effort for very little reward. Besides, my Silva 4/54B has tritium illumination and that’s a lot easier to use at night than a prismatic.

    Unfortunately I don’t know where you’d find tritium vials, but if you want strong illumination, Superluminova paint is available on ebay and elsewhere online. Aside from watches, people also use it on handgun sights and fishing lures,so it’s rugged enough for a compass.

    Cheers

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s