A Brief History of Military Backpacks and Rucksacks

History of Military Backpacks and Rucksacks
History of Military Backpacks and Rucksacks

Origins of Military Backpacks

The use of backpacks has been around long before Americans coined the term “backpack” in the early 1900s. Researchers have found evidence of backpacks being used as far back as 3300 BC (source). Initially used by hunters and gatherers to carry their harvest, backpacks have always been an integral tool to humans. Military backpacks were developed for the US in the mid 1800s, and were made with sheet metal. From that original design came the integration of military grade textiles and tactical backpack development.

The original military backpack was called a “rucksack”, and appeared around the American Civil War. Rucksacks aided infantrymen in the transportation of bulky weaponry and medical supplies. While they were effective, being made of sheet metal made them uncomfortable. Because of this, many soldiers often opted to roll their gear in a blanket and hang it off their shoulder.

Rucksacks also used wooden backings, which, combined with no padding and the weight of supplies, resulted in severe back pain. This resulted in hindered performance of soldiers, making the packs less effective. These backpacks also couldn’t organize supplies, as they only had a single pocket for all rations and weaponry.

Improving Backpacks

After the flaws of the original rucksack were identified, significant advancements came by rapidly. Most notably, the backpacks were made of fabric instead of wood and metal. However, these materials are still used in backpacks, but only as rigid supports. One of the most iconic advancements was the “Field Pack”, which popped up at the end of WWII. These bags included two khaki pockets, one to store rations or equipment, and the other for weaponry. These bags were made out of canvas for its durability, and easy and fairly inexpensive production.

Tactical style backpacks are a more recent development than people tend to think. Military grade textiles and fabrics are currently being researched and developed. Manufacturers are working to create stronger, more durable, (and even self healing!) fabrics all the time. Tactical textiles are manufactured exclusively using high performing materials that will enhance performance and provide industrial-grade durability to the backpack.

MOLLE, or Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, is the most recent standard for tactical troops equipment. MOLLE is an effective and customizable tactical standard that allows troops to pack more efficiently. At Fieldtex, we offer both MOLLE and PALS attachments for all of our custom military backpacks.

Wrap-up and Strap-up

To learn more about our Custom Military Sewing, Berry Compliance, and MOLLE compatible Tactical Backpacks and Pouches, Click here.

Knowing the history of military rucksacks and packs is important in that it formulates a standard that modern tactical backpacks must live up to; being aware of what works and what does not work can fully change the design of a pack and allow for exploration into the future of tactical backpacks.

Sources and Further Reading: MOLLE Use And Care Guide, REI Co-op‘s History of the Backpack