MOLLE (pronounced as the name, Molly) stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. This is an accessory attachment system developed by Natick Labs and deployed in 1997.
This proprietary technology was designed to take advantage of the PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) already in place on military gear in the United States.
The MOLLE system is used by the military, law enforcement, and survivalists around the world. This system was rolled out to military units in 1997 and gained some light criticism after 2001 with the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since then some problems have been rectified and the system is the standard Access Attachment System (AAS) used mainly by ground troops in the United States, United Kingdom, and some NATO nations.
Table of Contents
- What Is MOLLE?
- What Is the Difference Between MOLLE and PALS?
- What Is the Difference Between MOLLE and ALICE?
- How Does MOLLE Work?
- Who Uses MOLLE?
- What Are the Benefits of MOLLE?
- What Are MOLLE Pouches?
- What Different MOLLE Pouches Are THERE?
- How to Attach MOLLE Accessories and Pouches?
- Key Takeaways
What Is MOLLE?
MOLLE is a convenient accessory attachment system for carrying tactical gear using extensive attachment points, straps, snaps, and other fasteners. The system allows the attachment of modular components in a variety of locations to PALS webbing in a grid on the back or side of the main pack or the front of a vest.
Accessories to be added to a pack have straps with a fastener at the bottom. These are threaded (woven) through strong 1.5-inch wide PALS webbing to attach to the main unit and then snapped or otherwise fastened together for the final connection.
The attached accessories are locked in securely but can be rearranged or easily replaced to enhance comfort and efficiency as desired.
What Is the Difference Between MOLLE and PALS?
PALS is the strong nylon-sewn webbing grid in rows on the main pack or vest that allows accessory straps to be threaded down through it to attach tactical accessories like pouches and water bladders. PALS came first and was used with some success until Natick Labs developed their proprietary attachment system which works with PALS.
Natick Labs allows designated manufacturers to produce MOLLE accessories. The system was created to take advantage of the PALS webbing by adding straps and more webbing on accessories to allow weaving of the straps between them, resulting in considerably increasing the strength of the connection.
What Is the Difference Between MOLLE and ALICE?
ALICE (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) was the previous system implemented in the U.S. Army in January 1973 to replace the ILCE (Individual Load-carrying Equipment) and the MLCE (Modernized Load-Carrying Equipment) systems.
PALS and MOLLE have replaced this with a dynamic and much more efficient arrangement of gear on the frame and main pack.
With the ALICE system, there was one main pack into which all accessories and gear must fit. These packs were sometimes so stuffed with items that the zippers broke. This was a frequent complaint. Small side pockets added some functionality but were severely limited in what they could hold.
A limited amount of gear and space meant hard decisions had to be made about what could and couldn’t be carried. Another big drawback to ALICE was that it became difficult to access items when needed quickly because they were buried in a big pack.
The greatest advantage to the MOLLE system is that it gives you total control over where gear is on your pack. It’s so much more convenient to have a pouch or something you need on the outside of your pack where you can instantly access it than it is to dig through your bag to find something.
Another notable improvement in the MOLLE system is the ability to stack modules on top of other modules to create even more space. The entire system is built around customizability and efficiency in storing and retrieving essential items.
How Does MOLLE Work?
To attach an accessory to the main pack you first choose where exactly you want the module to be located on the pack. Balance, ease of access, comfort, and even using a less important module as protection for other more important modules are all taken into account when choosing an attachment location.
Once you know where your accessory is best located, you’ll simply unsnap the straps on the accessory and thread them down through the first (highest) hole in the PALS webbing.
It’s important not to thread the MOLLE straps straight down through all holes in the MOLLE webbing on the main unit to the bottom because that defeats the system. It will still hold to some degree, but your accessory will flop around during movement.
You must weave the straps. The strap first passes through the hole in the pack, then through the hole in the accessory, then back through a hole in the main pack, then back through a hole in the accessory. This weaving of straps between both connection points securely anchors the accessory and main pack together.
Accessories stay securely fastened to your rucksack, pack, or vest because the weaving of the strap takes the pressure off any one area and spreads it out. The pack moves as a whole unit even with many accessories deployed.
Who Uses MOLLE?
This well-designed system is used by people all over the world, not just by the U.S. and U.K. militaries and NATO armed forces. Others who use it are your local law enforcement officers like the police force or SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, park rangers, rescue teams, preppers, hikers and campers, climbers, spelunkers, firefighters, and the list doesn’t end there.
Most of us could come up with a reason to have a gear bag with MOLLE technology. Couldn’t we?
If you need to get some proper gear, three of the best-approved sources are Specialty Defense Systems, Armor Holdings, and Eagle Industries.
What Are the Benefits of MOLLE?
Using the strength of PALS which was already in place, MOLLE chose to integrate that into their technology instead of outright replacing it with a different way to attach modules.
The strength of MOLLE and PALS are now combined to create a vastly superior arrangement in the following ways:
- Standardization, reliability, and ease of operation.
- Flexibility – choose from many more items that can attach to your pack.
- Ease of storage and retrieval – instantly know where your crucial gear is.
- More space – now add gear to the outside of your pack, not just the inside.
- More efficient arrangement of gear.
- Increasing pack space by stacking modules – once you cover your available MOLLE webbing, add more to existing accessories by adding another layer.
What Are MOLLE Pouches?
A MOLLE system pouch is a type of accessory used to store general or specialty items that you can attach to a vest or main pack. Pouches can be large or small, horizontal, or vertical, have unique shapes, and match colors or patterns.
They can also have varying degrees of depth depending on what is to be stored in the pouch. Some pouches are split inside into separate compartments. Some have extra padding or are waterproof, even submersible.
Strong straps hold the pouch securely in severe conditions and situations. All attachments are under the pouch where it cannot easily snag on something and be pulled open. This interlocking technology has been proven to be very reliable even in wartime.
OUR TOP PICKS FOR MOLLE POUCHES
What Different MOLLE Pouches Are THERE?
There are many types of pouches sold by authorized manufacturers and also by companies who copy the system to sell their own sometimes unique modules you cannot get elsewhere. There are hundreds of MOLLE pouches and accessories you can buy.
Here is a short list of some of the more popular pouches:
- Flashlight pouches
- 2-way radio and mobile phone pouches
- Magazine pouches to hold any caliber ammo
- Firearm holsters
- EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) first aid pouch
- Knife and tool pouches
- Map pouches
- Drop pouches
- Admin pouches
- Hydration bladder pouches
- Water bottle pouches
How to Attach MOLLE Accessories and Pouches?
- Step 1. Decide where the accessory should be placed and ensure there is space on the webbing for the number of straps on the accessory. Some pouches are aligned vertically and others, horizontally.
- Step 2. Unsnap the straps on the accessory you want to connect to the main unit.
- Step 3. Thread each strap through the first (topmost) hole in the PALS webbing.
- Step 4. Next, thread each strap back through the top hole in the webbing on your accessory. Repeat threading the strap through the webbing while alternating back and forth between the accessory and the main pack until there is no more space on the strap. This creates a weave that is very strong and durable because it is attached at many points.
- Step 5. Snap, button, or fasten the strap to secure it to the main pack.
- Step 6. Check to ensure the strap is attached properly. Give it a hard tug, it should not detach.
There are hundreds of accessories to help you attach anything you need to your main pack or vest. Buy authorized gear if possible, it will last the longest in most cases.
Military, law enforcement, and tactical units need an efficient and flexible modular system for attaching gear to a main pack or vest. MOLLE and PALS are essential upgrades from the outdated ALICE system. This year is a great time for an upgrade.
Written by Vern Lovic
Vern Lovic is a veteran of the United States Air Force. Stationed at Hickam Air Force Base where he served in the heart of the Pacific (PACAF) on Oahu, Hawaii. For the last twenty years he’s done hard time in Thailand jungles teaching visitors and locals how to manage their deadly venomous snake population. Read bio!