Sunday, November 2, 2014

A German-Swedish alliance..... with a Dutch twist

Tale of an unlikely framed rucksack coming into being...

Ever since I first discovered Scandinavian framed backpacks or rucksacks (when is it what?) I was hooked by this system. It felt so comfortable carrying a backpack this way, even if it took some getting used to. However my favorite backpack is the German 1950's-one which does not have this feature. At least the one I own doesn't, but there are separate frames for this backpack. These socalled Bundeswehr Rucksacktragegestell are occasionally available online but at ridiculously high prices and then shippingcosts from Germany here are not even included!


Since then I have tried several Scandinavian framed backpacks, but they all came short in one way or another. The layout was cumbersome, the sidepockets too narrow or the frame not comfortable for my back. So I have been thinking about how to get a frame for my German backpack. I had this antique and unfixable backpack, but its frame proved to be too small and the same goes pretty much for every steeltube backpackframe I have.
I also had a couple of those incredibly cheap aluminiumframed nylonbackpacks you find in pretty much every secondhandstore around. And that's what they are to me; cheap, synthetic crap Haglöfs knock-offs from the seventies or eighties with immensly large frames. They reach from your butt up to the top of your head. Hardly ideal when moving though brush and undergrowth. It might be usefull, when travelling over open ground, keeping the sleepingpad from bumping into the back of your head, while stumbling over rocks and such. Can't think of any other use or advantage....
We were given those we had... A deep green one and a bright red one. The red one's frame was bent and twisted and the green one... Well, I never really bothered looking at it after I saw that some of the seams har torn open. Sewing it up properly would be a challenge, given the thin nylon fabric. That is untill I started cleaning up the area that was to become mine. The red one I took apart. The frame had a steel loop fastened onto it with hoseclamps and all that will go into the metalwaste container, the bag itself in the trash and I salvaged what fastenings I saw fit; some D-rings and straps. I did the same with the green one, but paid a little more attention to the frame this time.
And then it hit me! I had a *bling*-moment... Maybe... just maybe....
I started fiddling around with the frame and German backpack and within half an hour I had what looked to be a workable solution! I could carry the backpack on the frame and it was relatively comfortable! True, it was empty and it needed some adjusting and such, but still! I put in the German poncho, just to give some weight to the pack and it looked even more promising.
The main issues were metal clasps and fittings rattling against the frame and the front fastenings were too low placed, so the straps were fully extended and no longer adjustable. And the bare aluminium frame itself was far too visible as well. So there were some issues to solve; making the frame less visible and silent, plus adapting it so the pack fits.
I used some of the spareparts I salvaged earlier to add to the combination; a small strap with a hook as a sternumstrap, another strap to connect the lower cornerfasteners of the pack together, so the bottom end was fastened to the frame. Things really were looking good now!
Now all I needed was a wastebelt. I had the matching clasps and I tried attaching several belts. None worked however. The military belts I have are either too wide and thick or too narrow and thin. A leatherbelt would not do either, because they do not have the quick-release buckle. I might end up buying an original German one for this combo. That would fit and have a quickrelease....

A picture comparing the frame after shortening it. The top reaches just over my shoulders now.
The blue backpack is an example of those cheap ones I mentioned. It extends over my head! I bought that for my daughter for when she has a hike with the scouts. It'll hold all her stuff in several separate compartments, including a sleepingbag, is relatively lightweight (3kg) and was dirtcheap (15kr)                                                                  

But how to deal with the frame? Those long extension on top just had to go, so I took a saw and dealt with them fast and easy. The endcaps were reused.
Now the bare-metal-issue.... Paint would make it less visible, but would war off and not deal with the noise-issue. Covering the frame with something would.... Liquid rubber? No, not available, too expensive and not really within my way of thinking. Cloth maybe? But how? Sewing? That idea did not appeal; measuring, cutting, sewing.. It would take forever. Then my eye caught the basket with excess cloth. Stuff I spared from previous projects including pieces of camouflagefabric, mainly German flecktarn, but also US woodland and British DPM. Nah.... too military. But there was also a roll of olivedrab cloth. The one that was left after my heated wintertent-project. As I unrolled it I figured I could cut strips from it and wind that around the tubes. A dab of glue and start- and endpoints and maybe fixing it in place with acrylic laquer of some sort. That would be relatively fast, easy for sure and fix the issues of visibility and noise. The laquer would hold everything in place and provide protection from the elements!

So I went to work, grabbed the roll of cloth and figured I might as well tear strips from it instead of cutting it with scissors. Would be faster and probably just as "straight", maybe even better.
I tore 2 strips about 4cm wide and a good 70cm long and started dryfitting them, figuring out how and when to best wrap them around the tubes. Around the thicker outertubes this width worked well, but on the much thinner inner ones that did not work. I made some new ones about 1,5-2cm wide.
I wound the strips from bottom to top, so I would create a roofshingle kind of sequence which would shed water better once lacquered. I marked the frame with numbers, so that I knew in what order I'd have to work. First the lower thin ones, then the higher ones. Next would be the horizontal crossbars, then the vertical ones and last the bottom one. The latter one was wound with more overlap, since it would have to stand more wear and tear and might be worn down faster. I added a second layer on the top one between the outer and inner tubes, for the same reason. The buckles of the rucksack would rest there.
After this was done I coated the frame with clear mat lacquer from an old spraycan I had found. I actually would have preferred to use a tin and a brush to soak the cloth properly, but one has to work with what is available. I was not too impressed with the results though. It would shed water up to a certain point, but the cloth is not covered as I would have liked. So I'll have to redo that properly.

To be continued!!


  1. I had one of those German rucksacks years ago and somehow let it part company with me. In theory, it was just about the right size for a lot of purposes, but theories almost never stand up to the practice of "wanting." The one I had, I seem to recall, came with straps that looked like British P-37 webbing.

    Of all the packs I own or have owned, an old U.S. Army mountain rucksack made in 1942 is easily the most comfortable one to actually carry on my back. But it's awkward to load and anything but lightweight. I've seen them referred to as "Norse packs" in some old publications. They were originally made in several variations before the final version was settled on and a 1950 version continued to be used well into the 1970s, although it was not widely distributed. I never saw one when I was in the army in the 1960s.

    "Rucksack" I think translates as "back pack." The French term is "sac à dos," although that's not what they're called in the French army.

    That BW rucksack seemed to be unusually noisy, too, with the buckles, but that was probably all in my head.

  2. So you see it all comes down to personal preferences and fit.
    The buckles can be noist yes, so I am looking for solutions to that. A strip of tape just might do the trick.
    Got any pictures of that pack of yours??

    1. Photos are beyond my technical ability and anyway, that pack passed through my hands years ago. While I did mentioned the buckles were a little noisy, that was hardly a serious problem. I still have a Swedish rucksack (M39?) on which the leather shoulder straps squeak like crazy. I've decided not to let something like that bother me.

      I thought that covering the frame with tape was a good idea.

    2. I actually meant your current US backpack.
      Yes, the straps on a m39 can squeak quite bit.

    3. And for some reason I never get a notification when you reply, hence the long response time.