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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:14 pm 
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I've been a big proponent of the USMC ILBE pack. whatever the gripes real grunts have with it (not working well with body armor, losing stuff at the bottom ect.) don't really apply to me. getting a civilian style pack at surplus prices is a great deal for me. I've bought 3 in fact.

but I will be the first to admit that ILBEs are HEAVY. like kifaru heavy, but without the durability or awesome features that make the weight worth it. also they went a little overboard on the straps, four compression straps per side? I guess I've never packed mortars around so I don't get to criticize.

Awhile ago I embarked on a mission to lighten the ILBE. I had one sitting around I only paid $30 some odd dollars so I wasn't afraid to cut it up a little. here is a pic of the stock ilbe for reference:

Image

I circled some of the bits that are easy to overlook, buckles for attaching the assault pack (I never got around to buying one and sure wouldn't want to mount it that far from my back), side grab handles, and the diaper-flap/ beaver tail thingy rolled up under the upper molle panel. also if you've never checked out an ILBE in person you might not know that all the zipper pulls have chunks of hose around them to make them easy to grab with gloves or mitts. not a bad feature, but heavy.

ok, lets start at the bottom:

Image

most people are afraid to permanently attack their gear, but if you want to drop weight you have to be decisive. I cut off all the molle on the bottom panel and took out the tri-glides holding the buckles on (the stock pic I showed you is a newer one without these) and sewed a loop. I also chopped off the beaver tail flap, I used it occasionally but I decided it could be replaced with a little shock-cord on the upper molle panel. you can also see on the right side were I chopped off the assault pack mounting points.

Image

moving up I removed the top lid straps and the snap to hold the beaver tail. I also removed all the buckles and straps that the beaver tail mounted too (3 total). removing the top lid is one of the oldest tricks in the book for shedding weight, especially true when you have a lid as heavy as the ILBE!

Image

the sides are were most of the magic happened. you can see I removed the dumb little half-compression strap off the bottom. I was tempted to delete the middle one too, but some things I mount on the side don't quite reach the top strap. I also replaced the top ladder-lock with a quick-release for convenience.
all that molle you see on the side of the stock ILBE is actually on a separate panel that makes a kind of slot-channel that I never used at all as it was narrow and robbed interior volume if you used it. I also never mounted pouches on the side because it interfered with lashing things on the side.
you probably can't see it but I also removed the tubing from the zipper pulls.

Image

you might also notice those coyote panels on the stock ILBE, those are rugged hypalon/rubberized-nylon reinforcements. look cool and make you feel like your pack is tougher but I decided 1000d cordura is plenty tough for anything I dish out.

Image

hard to see but the only mods I did to the back panel was to delete the top lid mounting buckles and the side grab handles. I experimented with removing the frame sheet but the lumbar pad and straps don't mount well without it. I'd like to experiment with a lighter hip belt as I don't find the ILBE belt very comfortable anyway (I'm too bony).

Image

Inside: take out any radio pouches, dividers, buckles and straps. once you have a slick tube all the way down you will thank me. do any organizing with light weight stuff sacks or dry bags.

Image

you might have wondered why I left the top molle, but I have actually used it. it is the right size for a sustainment pouch which is one of the only molle pouches I think has enough volume to warrant the weight. these are a handy size for raingear, tarps or a cook kit.
I'm debating cutting out all but the outermost channel though, we'll just wait and see.
you can also see were I cut out the top assault pack buckles.

so what is the final result?

Image

at the end of the day you still have a 1000d sack, so it's not gonna compete with true lightweight packs but it's a step in the right direction.
even without the weight savings I think the pack is much more usable and less awkward without all the extra strap and buckles. If it wasn't so much work I'd consider sewing the zipper cover down and cutting out both zippers. they are quite heavy and I never use them anyway.
next I might cut out the storm collar and replace it with a lighter sil-nylon.

I don't have a good enough scale to get a solid number on weight savings but I'm pretty sure it can be measured in pounds and not ounces. I'll try to get at least a close estimation by the end of the week. sorry for all the build-up with no data...
*UPDATE* crappy spring-scale is in the mail. should have numbers soon.

so anyway, fear not, all of this was done with scissors, a seam ripper and repair buckles, anyone can do this at home. well worth it. don't be afraid to make your gear your own.

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Last edited by RonnyRonin on Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 5:36 pm 
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Nice write up ron! Gave me a few ideas...never really look at yer gear from that angle.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:24 pm 
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Pretty ingenious! I've always been afraid to cut mine up. I'm looking forward to seeing how much weight you have cut off!

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 4:24 pm 
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bathroom scale estimations put the weight difference at 2 pounds (accurate to 0.1 lb more or less). still waiting on the spring scale for the official weigh-in.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:22 pm 
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Nice job, always glad to see someone willing to do some modifications on their gear.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:53 pm 
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spring scale arrived today, bathroom scale was pretty close, scale said exactly 1 kg (2.2lbs for us standard folk). I did swap out the snow collar for a lighter one as well, the aluminum stays and hipbelt could get swapped out for lighter ones but that goes way beyond simple at-home mods.

so...the stock ILBE weighs in at 8.3 lbs and the lightened ILBE weighs in at 6.1 lbs. so while two pounds doesn't sound like much it is a 25% weight reduction, with no real sacrifice in load carriage (at least on the suspension end).

unfortunately I am loaning this pack to my brother traveling in australia right now so I can't test is too thoroughly, but when he gets back I'll have to start playing with it. this might be my new BOB as it is now close to the same weight as my North Face pack with about 10 more liters in internal volume.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:16 am 
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Outstanding mods. :clap:

I just got my ILBE a few weeks ago and thought about what it "didn't" need and it looks like a lot
can go the way of the DoDo Bird, but thought I'd use it extensively before hacking anything off.
I'd hate to need it and not have it. I notice the webbing in places that I feel I'd never use.

I weighed my ILBE at 8lb 10oz without the radio pouch.
I just ordered a radio pouch which should be in tomorrow.
I'll re-weigh it then and see what the total is.

As I saw your pack losing weight, I said to myself:
"Oh, he's turning it back into a Bora 95!" :lol:

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Thanks for the thread. I was curious as to how much I could lop off and what the savings would be.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:56 am 
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Definitely learn wh each thing is before hacking something off. The donning handles and the remora flap are the two i'd keep myself, and likely the stow-straps on the side as well.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:22 am 
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Good post. I have not spent much time with my ILBE but I got it complete for $40 (missing 2 buckles, but otherwise in good shape, if a tad salty). I wouldn't cut off any of the buckles until I really spent time with the pack, but the ILBE seems lighter than the ol' Hellcat anyway :awesome:

Had to repair a broken zipper on the lid but otherwise not too bad. Considered making a slick lid for it that is just a top cover with buckles and maybe a map or interior mesh pocket, and to keep water out of the pack. Lucky for me my favorite online fabric/gear greeblies place carries some 1000D cordura MARPAT with the EGA. Might make this a winter break project!

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:35 am 
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AKFTW wrote:
Good post. I have not spent much time with my ILBE but I got it complete for $40 (missing 2 buckles, but otherwise in good shape, if a tad salty). I wouldn't cut off any of the buckles until I really spent time with the pack, but the ILBE seems lighter than the ol' Hellcat anyway :awesome:

Had to repair a broken zipper on the lid but otherwise not too bad. Considered making a slick lid for it that is just a top cover with buckles and maybe a map or interior mesh pocket, and to keep water out of the pack. Lucky for me my favorite online fabric/gear greeblies place carries some 1000D cordura MARPAT with the EGA. Might make this a winter break project!


Yeah. I had one of the baddest Hellcats you'd ever see and I still like it, but it's been
"decommissioned" if you know what I mean and my ILBE is my main pack for now
(that is, until I get an Eberlestock Terminator or Destroyer to play with next).

:wink:

As for repairing the zipper (if there is a next time), might as well just order another lid
and convert the lid with the broken zipper into some accessory pouch OR cannibalize it
for parts (especially the material that can be used for patching the body of the pack).
It'd be far less time-consuming and the replacement zipper might cost same as a lid.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:47 am 
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I actually did not have to replace the zipper, I just sewed a little patch over the broken part of the teeth so the zipper meets in the middle, but otherwise functions ok. However, the lid is obnoxiously huge so I will probably just make a pack cover that uses the same buckles to interface. I can see the lid being a nice "essentials bag" if you want something to bring into your tent with you though if you plan to leave the pack outside.

Are there any lower-profile options for the belt? It's wayyy too big for me and even with the buckles fully cinched down it's not providing any support really for my waist, kinda just floats there.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:51 am 
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AKFTW wrote:
I actually did not have to replace the zipper, I just sewed a little patch over the broken part of the teeth so the zipper meets in the middle, but otherwise functions ok. However, the lid is obnoxiously huge so I will probably just make a pack cover that uses the same buckles to interface. I can see the lid being a nice "essentials bag" if you want something to bring into your tent with you though if you plan to leave the pack outside.

Are there any lower-profile options for the belt? It's wayyy too big for me and even with the buckles fully cinched down it's not providing any support really for my waist, kinda just floats there.

You need a smaller belt size then. I think any of the arc'teryx large pack belts work, but I'm not the expert.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:58 am 
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Like this? http://www.ebay.com/itm/GEN-2-USMC-DIGI ... 5aec3d3e13

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:02 am 
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AKFTW wrote:
I actually did not have to replace the zipper, I just sewed a little patch over the broken part of the teeth so the zipper meets in the middle, but otherwise functions ok. However, the lid is obnoxiously huge so I will probably just make a pack cover that uses the same buckles to interface. I can see the lid being a nice "essentials bag" if you want something to bring into your tent with you though if you plan to leave the pack outside.

Are there any lower-profile options for the belt? It's wayyy too big for me and even with the buckles fully cinched down it's not providing any support really for my waist, kinda just floats there.


Oh, then that's nothing. I've seen the zippers go for $10./new, but the entire lids are only $20./new.
I heard that the problems with the zippers (and buckles) was more prevalent with Gen I Packs.

Actually, that's exactly what I plan to do with the lid. I'm going to make it a mini-kit (w/shelter and all).
If I ever chose to step away from my pack or if I had to drop my pack to E&E, I'd pop off the lid, hide
the pack (to hopefully come back for it) and haul tail out of there with the essentials. It can be worn
as a shoulder bag or configured into a back pack almost. You might also try an Arc'Teryx lid and see if
that works.

I've heard about some owners replacing the belt with Arc'Teryx Bora 95 models. That should do the trick.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:06 am 
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Mine is a Gen 2 and has the coyote parts instead of black. Honestly it looks more like AOR2 than MARPAT now due to fading, lol :lol:

Yeah I will keep the lid for sure and just get a set of repair buckles to make the rain cover lid with some of the fresh 1000D EGA MARPAT from Rockywoods. I think using it as an E&E kit is a great idea, a poncho, food, and some basic survival gear would be good to have in there. It sure is versatile though- I have even run a belt through the Molle and used it as a buttpack before! :clap:

I'm looking forward to doing more camping out when we travel to national games this coming year, and of course for HSP Summer/Mountain out in Colorado this summer! Hopefully getting a Kifaru Woobie and a Catoma EBNS for solstice acquisitions to help out with that.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:55 pm 
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I turned my lid into a lumbar pack, just sew "wings" onto the flaps that dangle down each side of the packbag (right outside the pocket itself if that makes any sense) rides really well without the extra bulk of a detachable belt.

as for hip belts, I have arcteryx bora belts 2 ILBEs (as well as the shoulder straps on one) I get them for dirt cheap from REI (I assume when someone buys a pack without trying it on and then swaps belts later) if anyone needs one I can rustle up a spare.

on my main ILBE I'm using an old mountain-smith belt that fits my skinny hips a lot better, the bora belts tend to ride up in the front on me.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:19 pm 
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Inspired by RonnyRonin, I decided to perform some ILBE surgery myself. Here are the results of my experiments...

Of course, see above for what the pack looked like before.

Image

You can see I deleted the lower layer of PALS, as well as the beaver flap.

Image

I also removed both rubberized-nylon panels from both sides, as well as the PALS panel and one of the straps. I left three straps on the side to allow for holding any random stuff down that I might need to hold against the side of the pack.

Image

In this close up of the bottom front of the pack, you can see I actually cut all the thread vice the straps at each attachment point, it allows for a smoother look.

Image

Unlike RonnyRonin, I decided to keep the lid - I'm a fan of them and like to keep random small things in there. However, I did trim the inside PALS and straps off the lid. You can see an original below:

Image

All in all, about 3 hours of work, and I probably saved about a pound or so.

Edit: Fixed the images... stupid photobucket...

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Last edited by sjolly75 on Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:03 pm 
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Nice SJolly!

Can you toss it on a scale and see what it came out to?

:mrgreen:

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I'll have to see if I can find a decent scale - I'll try something tomorrow and let you all know.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:39 pm 
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Thanks. :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:01 am 
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Wow! sjollys' looks better then mine, nice job! good to see I'm making an impact!

on a side note, I actually bought a arcteryx bora 80 at an REI returns sale (couldn't pass it up for $80) and you know what I found? its FREAKISHLY heavy as well! damn close to 8lbs empty. it does get you another 10 liters(ish) and 2 extra inches of frame, but man is it heavy. my large alice with metal frame and improved suspension is only 6.6lbs.

the hunt continues!

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:10 am 
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The ILBE packs are probably the best surplus items to come out of DRMO ever.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:33 am 
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Can't cry getting an Arc'Teryx for $80.! Good score!

On the other hand, if you limit your load to 45, the best pack for the money IMO (if you want to go "light" that is) is the
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60. $280., but it comes in at 2lbs 14oz w/o the lid and 3lbs 5oz w/lid. Plus, it's built pretty hearty.
Plusses: You won't look like a bag of Skittles (nice earth tone colors scheme) and it's tough enough.

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I will get that GG Blaze, I will get the Eberlestock Terminator
(maybe the larger Terminator XL) and I will keep my USMC ILBE
because there's no reason to get rid of it.

Granite Gear Blaze for a light pack (notice I didn't say "ultralight"
because I'm not with ultralight stuff), The Terminator for a 3 Season
pack and the ILBE for a Winter pack for the extra space.

If I get another Winter pack, it'd be the Eberlestock Destroyer V69.
BUT, the ILBE stays with me no matter what.

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