Swedish Army Rucksack

Is this not the Brooks B17 of rucksacks?

Lately I’ve been enjoying riding the bike in its unladen state, as I’ve referenced in recent blog posts. A good portion of my commuting and recreational riding takes place off road, either on canal towpaths or woodland trails and the sprightly feel of an unladen bike on rough ground is hard to beat.

Previously I’ve been a champion of the ‘let the bike carry the weight’ philosophy and a daily saddlebag user to boot. But lately I’ve hankered after something different. The trouble is, I carry a laptop and video camera on my daily commute, so some sort of capacious bag is essential. The problem is most backpacks are high-tech, nylon items which don’t really sit well with Resurrectio’s staunchly traditional looks. Thus my search began for a ‘country bag’ to match my country bike.

I’ve always liked the looks and rugged utilitarianism of military gear, so I began my search on army surplus websites. Pretty soon I stumbled across a rucksack that blended perfectly with my country bike’s honey leather and green colour scheme.

The bag in question is an M39 Swedish Army rucksack, produced, as its name suggests, from 1939 until around 1960 . It’s a 35 litre canvas bag with one main compartment, closed with a leather drawstring and a storm flap. The bag features a lightweight metal support frame, painted in olive drab and a wonderful honey-coloured harness system made from saddle leather.

Rear view of the bag showing the beautiful and elaborate back system

The bag is supremely comfortable to wear; the broad, flat leather straps and lumbar support taking the weight, while the frame keeps the bag away from the back, making for a largely sweat free experience. The bag’s main compartment will swallow my laptop and camera with room to spare, while the smaller internal pocket is the perfect size for my bike tool kit.

It’s great to find a vintage item like this which is just as functional now as it was when it was made, way back in 1942. I’m lucky to have found an example in pretty much unused condition – I suspect that my bag has never seen service and must have been stored well to be in such remarkable condition after 69 years.

And the price for this wonderful, evokate ‘Brooks B17 of rucksacks’? £5.99 plus postage, from a popular auction site.

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10 thoughts on “Swedish Army Rucksack

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Hi Chris – I know what you mean – when I first received the bag it looked like an instrument of torture but trust me, its the most comfortable rucksack I’ve used. Once it’s adjusted properly, your lower back takes most of the weight. I suppose it’s another way that it compares with the Brooks saddle – those who’ve never tried them assume that they’re hard and painful – but us country bikers know different!

  1. The Velo Hobo

    The very fact that items like this survive for decades is a testament to traditional materials. I’m more convinced now that duck cotton and leather straps will outlast Velcro and nylon. Old worn leather and canvas bags have character. A beautiful bag. Jack

  2. A beautiful bag & an absolute steal!

    It’s a bit of a coincidence this – I was talking with a cycling friend a few weeks ago about cycling capes – he suggested army surplus. Having read this I might have a look around for one now :>)

  3. Geoff

    Ian….err, that’s a double coincidence. I have a mate in the army who years ago introduced me to the army poncho. I’ve been scouring military surplus websites of late as it recently dawned on me that it would make a great cape for the bike. I had a cheap yellow plastic one when I were a lad which got a lot of use on CTC Sunday runs. Seem to be out of fashion now, can’t think why as they were pretty good (apart from in hurricane winds when they’ll blow over your face and lead to certain death).

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Not sure – I can imagine they’d be good for coiling rope around or hanging freshly shot game from! Meanwhile, back in the humdrum of my days, they are for getting caught in the revolving glass doors at work!

      1. Karl Tomlinson

        Funny you should say that- I use mine to accidentally gouge holes in door jambs, much to my wife’s delight. By the way, how do you know your is from 1942? Is that a guess, or is there a date stamped on it somewhere?

      2. theeverydaycyclist

        Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you Karl – it’s stamped in black ink on the reverse of the canvas. Every time I pick it up I marvel that something this old can still be in everyday use, carrying my laptop to and from work in safety, comfort and wonderfully anachronistic style. Also, ditto on the door jamb gouging. I also got wedged in a train door the other day – it works like the arrester hook on an aeroplane.

  4. marihno

    I also have the pleasure of owning a sack as your mine was made in 1938.
    Im yet to use it on my roadbike rides here in America California to be more precise! I use it for hikes and when i go antique hunting at the local
    antique markets. I think that old engineering was and still is ahead of our times! Please let me know about more items , I have a dealer here at the states that has a good stock of duch, sweedish and french surplus items we can interchange ideas! Greetings and have a great ride!

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