Product Review: Vintage Style Canvas Rucksack

by Sam Gravestock

Put any gear freaks together in a room and sooner or later will come up the conversation arguing the merits of modern materials and more traditional or vintage materials.

I personally stand with a foot in both camps, I like the weight saving merits of modern materials from a purely practical point of view but the aesthetics of vintage materials speak to me much more. Half the reason I find myself outdoors is to enjoy the sensory stimulation and if equipment can be a part of that stimulation (not like that!) then so much the better.

Vintage style canvas rucksack
Vintage style canvas rucksack

The vintage style canvas rucksack is something that both stimulates but also offers practicality so the best of both worlds.

The vintage canvas pack has a capacity of approx. 30 litres so it is small enough to use as a day-to-day pack(it's currently being used as my work bag), it can carry more than enough than a day's walking or wood wandering and can with suitable thinking and equipment selection, carry sufficient for an overnight camp.

Roomy exterior pockets
Roomy exterior pockets

The vintage canvas rucksack has three pockets on the outside of the pack. The side pockets can hold an ammo pouch flask for instant tea fixes. It can also hold a US-style water bottle (not at the same time as the thermos mug) and the central pocket has enough room for a stove, brew kit and so on, or alternatively a waterproof or winter warmers like hat, scarf, etc. However, in my view there is a better place to store winter warmers (I know strange to be thinking of winter weather writing this in July but planning ahead to the next season is always a good practice).

Sewn into the inside of the lid flap is a pocket sealed with velcro that has sufficient space to fit hat, gloves, scarf, hand warmers in without affecting the way the lid fits once shut.

Inside the main body of the vintage canvas pack is another velcro sealed pocket that is directly against the back of the pack. This pocket can be used to put a sit mat or folding sleep mat to provide padding to the spine as the vintage canvas pack has no padding, relying instead on the user's packing to pad the load suitably. When using the pack as a work bag I use this pocket to hold my notebook and an A4 writing pad. Both fit in with enough space for a novel to read as well.

The outside pockets and pack lid of the vintage canvas pack all shut with metal buckles. The straps also have metal tips at the end to prevent fraying. These buckles are quieter than velcro and so this pack is particularly good for wildlife observation or use as a tracking pack. The only downside to this merit is that the buckles are reflective so need some treatment to dull them down; they can also make a jingling noise if not secured shut again once you have taken your brew out.

The main compartment of the vintage canvas rucksack uses a drawstring to hold the contents inside it. Once the drawstring is loosened the main compartment is fully open so you do not have a tiny space to attempt to remove items. Another merit of this fully opening main compartment is you can see into it so finding a piece of equipment is not a game of lucky dip or hunt the head torch (could be an interesting game especially at night).

Shoulder straps
Shoulder straps

The vintage canvas pack has only two shoulder straps, however as the pack is only 30 litre capacity I do not find the absence of a chest strap nor waist belt a problem. Should I wish to carry a load that requires these features I have other packs to use (my significant other would say I have more packs than she has handbags - she may well be right).

The shoulder straps are attached to the pack using two metal buckles. This allows a more comfortable fit than similar packs which attach the straps directly to the pack. In my opinion this causes more stress on the stitching and also draws the shoulders back uncomfortably backwards. Again the buckles are metal and reflective so depending on what you intend to use the pack for you may wish to dull these. The straps themselves are broad enough to be comfortable and not dig into the shoulders causing discomfort or numbness in the arms and hands. The straps of the vintage canvas pack feature padding to further prevent discomfort.

The vintage canvas pack has a grab handle on the top of the pack to make moving it easier when not wearing it.

Handy grab handle
Handy grab handle

The vintage canvas pack also features attachment points sewn onto the lid of the pack and on both sides behind the side pockets. With a little experimentation I have found you can attach a 58 pattern poncho roll onto the lid allowing you to carry your poncho readily available for a quick shelter or to continue your journey in less clement weather - something to make allowances for given the monsoon season we are experiencing this summer.

With the mention of rain I feel I must say that the vintage canvas pack is made from 100% cotton so it is NOT waterproof - it is water resistant but not waterproof. It can cope with showers, mist and drizzle but heavy rain will find its way into the kit stored within unless you practice good skills and have everything stored in dry bags, survival bag or even good old bin bags.

I have had this pack for a month now and used it every day - the best way to test something is constant use in my experience. In this time only once have I found it uncomfortable when I chose to use it to carry back a reasonable shopping trip's worth of groceries (the contents of which I shall not bore you with but trust me it was a significant weight) - but this was my own mistake for trying to use the pack when it wasn't suited for the purpose.

The vintage canvas pack is a great rucksack and one I foresee being used for many years to come, although perhaps not as a shopping bag.

You can buy the Vintage Style Canvas Rucksack directly from this site.

August 2012