In the late 1990s, the army replaced it aluminum frame infantry backpacks with a modular system (with more plastic than metal) called MOLLE. Then came Afghanistan, Iraq and lots of complaints that MOLLE was too complicated and fragile to be useful in a real war. Impressed by the MOLLE concept, the marines had tested and adopted it several years ago. But marines had the same problems with MOLLE that army troops had. While the army is still debating what to do with MOLLE, the marines went to outdoor equipment manufacturers before the Iraq campaign and asked for something better. They settled on a commercial system, Artic-X, which is sold to hikers and is very popular with mountain climbers. The new system has an internal frame, two side zippers and a smaller patrol pack. It's much simpler than MOLLE, which was "modular" only because of numerous pockets and straps. It will take five years to replace all the MOLLE packs, and the marines will begin by buying 30,000 of the new Artic-X packs in 2004.