USMC ILBE Gen 2 Assault Pack review

When things go fully blown you must have 100% trust in your gear. The United States Marine Core knows first hand the cost of using gear that can’t stand up to the rigors of daily Marine life. Who knows what you’ll need your pack to carry and what kind of situations you’ll be dragging it through.

With this in mind the USMC ILBE Assault Pack was born. This pack is tough as nails and features a number of battle hardened design elements. It’s also the standard pack issued to the United States Marine Core.


The 2nd generation ILBE pack replaced the ALICE pack back in the early 2000’s. These new packs were designed with enhanced load bearing features and included other core design elements like MOLLE and external compression straps. Currently the 2nd gen pack is issued to all of the USMC.

Specifications and features

  • ILBE (Improved load bearing)
  • Waist and chest straps
  • Drag handles
  • Side pouches (designed for mortar rounds)
  • Compression straps (lots of them)
  • Molle webbing
  • Detachable Assault Pack (hydration compatible)
  • Nylon

Detachable Assault Pack

The detachable assault pack

Aside from the massive main compartment, the ILBE has a detachable assault pack designed for small gear and a hydration bladder. This is useful in situations where you don’t want to lug the entire pack around. You can detach the assault pack and carry only the essential items needed for whatever you are doing. The pack clips on and off very easily.

Waist and chest straps

The 2nd generation ILBE includes a number of features designed to make the pack more load bearing. A set of detachable waist straps come with the pack to properly distribute the weight of your load. If you’ve ever hiked without waist straps you know how useful they actually are. They do a great job at setting the bulk of the weight around your hips where you have more strength. The chest straps further serve to decrease the amount of weight on your shoulders for proper distribution.

MOLLE webbing

Molle webbing is all over this pack. With the Molle you can attach compatible pouches for increased load capacity. Molle compatible pouches are relatively cheap and extend the functionality of any pack with the webbing. While this pack can certainly carry more than enough gear, it’s sometimes convenient to have the more important items attached to the outside where you can easily get to them.

Versatility and design

Between the compression straps and the Molle you can choose to get very technical and creative with how you pack your gear. Longer items like walking sticks, sleeping bags and tents can easily be strapped to the externals of the pack. The buckles on the straps are extremely durable and cinch down even large bulky items. The two side pockets located at the bottom of the pack can be used as rifle holsters for the butt of your weapons or slots for hiking sticks.

Personal Review of the USMC ILBE Assault pack

My personal opinion of this pack is strong. It’s perhaps the strongest backpack I’ve ever come across in my testing. Coming straight from the military you can see why this is the case. When the U.S. military decides to do something they don’t mess around and they think of everything.

This pack makes a great tactical backpack and it’s versatile enough to be used in many different environments. It functions very well as backpackers pack. I like to set up camp and then use the assault pack to explore with a few basic things including a hydration bladder.

There isn’t anything this pack couldn’t do and it’s extremely durable. The Nylon is super thick and would take serious force to tear any of the material.

I do think this pack is overkill for most people. Unless your planning on prepping for a full blown SHTF situation or taking off into the wilderness for a long length of time, there are probably better options out there.

But, If you want a pack that will stand the test of time and handle everything you can throw at it, the USMC ILBE Assault pack is the one for you.

It will outlast you and your future generations.

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