Mystery Ranch Page 2 Page 3


NICE Frame

5/28/04 - New from Dana Gleason's Mystery Ranch in Bozeman, MT, is the NICE (Nylinear Individual Carrying Equipment) ALICE-bag compatible frame. Mystery Ranch now has a Military Production line, which expands beyond the BDSB pack that Dana has been producing for some elite units in the U.S. military. Dana Gleason (founder of Dana Designs) is well known in the backpacking industry for his expertise and innovative pack designs, some of which are licensed by Kelty.
The NICE frame utilizes features from Dana's Outamatic fit sytem/design with a 'Nylinear Main Frame' which utilizes "flexibly joined carbon/fiberglass stays with a (cordura) skin that defines their shape and stiffness". The NICE frame flexes with your body, but does not sag under load. The NICE frame measures 12.5" x 21" and weighs 4 lbs 12 oz and is shown in comparison to an ALICE frame below. This one's the brown frame - it's also available in 3-colour desert and OD.

Front view of NICE frame and standard ALICE frame

Back view

Side View

Back view showing frame stay grid configuration
The Outamatic system consists of the Framesheet, Mainframe and Lumbar Wrap. The framesheet slides/adjusts up and down inside the mainframe to fit a wide range of torso lengths. A lightweight single 2024 T-4 aluminum stay helps shape the polyethelene-stiffened framesheet, and is removable from its sleeve. The lumber wrap support/waistbelt consists of a center pad with kidney pads on each side, and adjustable waist pads. The waistbelt portion is attached to rigid plastic 'wingtip stabilizers' and can be adjusted for angle, and switched out for different sizes. The padding is substantial - it's the 'cush' version found on the civilian MR packs. The lumbar wrap pad extends from the mainframe about an inch, creating an airspace between your lower back and the frame. Two rows of PALS webbing allows pouches to be attached to the waistbelt. Contoured/padded shoulder straps round out the system, with ladder locks instead of QR buckles (are QR buckles needed? That's a subject for discussion).

The Outamatic system

Removable stay from framesheet

Lumbar wrap system

The ALICE pack attaches to the NICE frame in exactly the same way as it's attached to the standard frame. The frame slips into the rear sleeve on the pack, and the shoulder lift strap buckles exit the top opening, and buckle to the framesheet. Two side straps secure the pack to the frame at the bottom. The NICE frame has 2 horizontal and 2 vertical compression straps (I forgot to use the vertical straps in the pics below - the top compression strap buckles are hidden behind the pack). Shown below is a medium ALICE pack mounted on the NICE frame. The NICE frame basically gives the old ALICE pack (or any ALICE frame compatible pack) a state-of-the-art, modern, internal frame system. The flexible nature of the NICE frame should also eliminate broken/cracked ALICE frames for those users who don't baby their equipment.

Rear view of ALICE pack on NICE frame

Side view

Top view

Front quarter view

Load Carrier Accessory

Yeah (you might say), the NICE frame is cool, but what about those who used the ALICE frame as a load carrier without the pack? Have no fear. A load carrier is available seperately as an add-on accessory for the NICE frame that allows the user to carry all sorts of large and bulky objects. The load carrier is a padded panel with a grippy, rubbery polymer mesh lining (the black material in the pics), that prevents shifting of the cargo once strapped in. Two mesh 'wings' can be deployed that wrap around the sides for more security. The load carrier slides in behind the lower and middle horizontal frame stays and attaches to two fastex buckles in the back of the frame (below a row of PALS webbing). Those two straps can be lengthened or shortened to move the load carrier up and down so it can wrap around different sized loads. When not in use, the load carrier folds up into a neat, flat package, which stows behind an ALICE pack.

Load carrier with vertical compression straps, and side 'wings' that attach to frame

Load carrier length is adjustable

Load carrier stowed

For illustrative purposes, I strapped a box into the load carrier. Usage of the side wings is optional, but recommended when applicable. For narrower or flatter objects, the wings can be folded away and the side compression straps attached directly to buckles on the carrier. The two vertical compression straps can be crossed for added security/stability.

Side wings used

Side view

Vertical compression straps crossed

This is an inital review - I'll update it when I get a chance to load it up and do some workouts with it. Walking around briefly with a 35 lb load in the carrier gave me an inital feel for how well it rides. The belts ample padding doesn't get in the way when squatting or taking a knee. Shoulder straps feel very comfortable and are properly contoured. The weight feels like it's borne mostly by the center back pad and the hips, with the shoulder just adding stability.
This is a piece of quality, durable kit. Construction and materials are all top notch. For all you ALICE users, there's a new frame to consider.

6/19/04 - I've now spent more time using the NALICE frame and load carrier with 35-40 lbs in it. Love the load carrier - it holds the load securely with no shift at all (hell, it's got enough compression straps). I like being able to put the load higher or lower. Initially, I was afraid that the lumbar pad would be a source of a hot spot, but after using it for a while, it isn't. The airspace between the main frame and my lower back is noticeable. I'm still sweating all over, but there's less of a contact patch over my entire back. By loosening the shoulder straps slightly on downhills or level ground, and by just walking straighter instead of leaning forward, I can decrease the contact patch to just the upper back and shoulders and get a bit of relief. I get no shoulder ache or discomfort whatsoever.



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