by Todd Walker
First, let’s get some history and terminology out of the way.
WTH is a Swiss Army Bread Bag!?!?
Don’t feel bad, I had no clue until recently. I found this bag hiding in an antique store and brought it home for $8.56! I’m always thinking like a possum when it comes to vintage gear and old tools at common man prices.
Once home, DRG and I launched an immediate search on the internets for pictures identifying my new ‘old’ treasure. We looked up the name stamped on the substantial leather strap. She finally found a bag matching the description on eBay.
I felt like I’d just won the lottery. I paid half to 2 times less than what we found online.
Swiss soldiers were issued this style bag for bread rations from the 1940’s to the ’80’s. Measuring 10″ long x 10″ wide x 4″ deep, it’s made of heavy-duty canvas, saddle leather, metal rivets and studs, and sports a soft vinyl cover for rain protection. The stress points are double stitched to hold up to abuse. The sattler’s (German for exclusive leather craftsman) maker’s mark is stamped on the leather strap securing the canvas to the outer shell. My bag was made in 1969.
Why add a haversack to your gotta-have-gear list?
The quick answer: It’s reeks of manliness and has a killer blue-collar attitude! Unlike high dollar preppy pouches showcasing expensive logos hanging from shoulders at chic coffee houses, you want to be seen with a manly haversack.
Besides encouraging manliness, a haversack gives you options when roaming field and stream, backpacking, camping, or scouting game trails. By the way ladies, DRG now has haversack envy. Not sure if Coach makes a bushcraft haversack – but they should – in earth tones!
A haversack is a small bag with a single shoulder strap designed to carry extra provisions. Wikipedia reports that the term ‘Haversack’ originated from its use in carrying ‘Havercake’ or Hafer, the German word for Oats. A rough bread made of oats and water was a staple of the textile district working poor (common man/woman) in England. Havercake was carried in haversacks for meal time. In the past, soldiers used haversacks to carry 3 to 4 days of rations and extra supplies.
For self-reliance purposes, a haversack allows you to detach from your larger pack or base camp and still carry essential items for self-reliance. It also serves as an accessible container for resource gathering while scouting territory or taking day hikes.
I’d like to own a traditional 18th century long hunter haversack but my budget won’t allow for an expensive, custom-made bag. Think I’ll just stick with my common man bread bag for now.
Characteristics of a Good Common Man’s Haversack
Whatever you re-purpose for your common man’s haversack, it should have the following traits…
Military surplus items are excellent common man options. They can be had inexpensively and are made to last. Even heavily used items have life left in them. Or you can make your own from waxed canvas or other sturdy material.
My bag also has two more leather loops with studs I use to carry my camp ax. These loops were added by the sattler to enable soldiers to attach the bread bag to belts for hip carry.
Notice the two vinyl straps on the shell pictured above the ax. My Pathfinder Bottle Cook Set attaches there with a molly strap. This frees internal space by having my container on the outside of the bag.
The canvas bag has two compartments. I use the larger area for essential gear (5 C’s of Survival), and the smaller section for collecting resources like fire tinder or pine sap. I also added a foldable cotton sack for extra resource gathering.
Just like selecting a pistol or knife for concealed carry, if it’s not practical and comfortable, you’ll leave it at home. I discovered a modification I need to make on the bag. The thin shoulder strap digs into my shoulder. I know, right!? Man-up! But why not make it as comfortable as possible.
I’m thinking of a custom, padded paracord strap like I made for my rifle sling. Any suggestions on mods are welcome. Maybe leather.
The bread bag, along with my belt carry items, covers me in the essential equipment list. Here’s all the stuff scattered.
If a bag is too large, I tend to over pack. I loose gear weight with my haversack by packing only these items: cutting tools, combustion, cover, container, and cordage. Oh, insect repellent is pictured. I found 3 ticks crawling on my skin even with bug juice applied.
Getting dirt time with a haversack promotes the idea of carrying only essential tools to train for self-reliance. Minimalism forces you to practice the skills needed to effect survivability.
If you’re interested in a Swiss bread bag, search a few online sites. The cheapest I found was 15 bucks. If you’re as fortunate as I was, you may find one at a local antique store or yard sale.
Do you have a common man haversack? Mind sharing with us?
Keep Doing the Stuff,
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Thanks for sharing the stuff!
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