A Swiss Army Bread Bag as a Common Man’s Haversack

by Todd Walker

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

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…

Sturdy Construction

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Now that’s manly!!

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.


Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Leather loop on the vinyl shell allows me to hang it with a toggle or tree branch

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.

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Leather belt loops adapted to carry my 16″ camp ax

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.


Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Compartments aren’t necessary but come in handy

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.

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Hardened pine sap collected in a tin can to make pitch glue sticks

Practical Comfort

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Dirt time with my bread bag. And no, I’m not throwing a bushcraft gang sign with my pinky finger!

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.



Stuff in and on the bread bag

The bread bag, along with my belt carry items, covers me in the essential equipment list. Here’s all the stuff scattered.

Vintage Swiss Bread Bag Makes a Common Man's Haversack

Either on my belt, or in the bag, I’m covered. Neck knife not pictured. Guess where it is?

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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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “A Swiss Army Bread Bag as a Common Man’s Haversack

  1. Pingback: A Swiss Army Bread Bag as a Common Man’s Haversack | TinderNews

  2. Chewylouie

    That is cool. I have been looking for a haversack for a while, too. Haven’t found one yet. About how heavy is is with the stuff in it that you showed?
    P.S. Have you gotten your garden planted yet? If so, could you do a post about what you do? This year I planted an organic garden for the first time (using compost instead of regular fertilizer), and I’m not completely sure what will happen, because it is an experiment.


    • With the 32 oz. bottle full and attached, I’m guessing around 5 pounds. Then my belt items might weigh 3 pounds – including my side arm. The cool part I didn’t mention is that I can attach the haversack to my ALICE pack – empty or full.

      DRG has a few things going in our garden. I’ve not been getting dirty planting yet. I’ll give you an update when we get it going.

      The compost is the way to go. We’ve got a compost tumbler I built that has black gold ready. Keep us posted on yours please.


      • Chewylouie

        I had never really thought about it be fore last summer. I was thinking about gardening and then I realized how much we depend on modern gardening conveniences like fertilizer, tractors and stuff like that. I figured if I was going to count on a garden, I better start doing it myself the old way. Thankfully, we have chickens to use to start composting. Problem is you can burn up you plants with it. I want to get some rabbits for fertilizer (and meat) because they’re dropping aren’t as strong. If you have done much research on rabbits you will realize they are about the ultimate survival/homestead livestock.


      • My dad raises rabbits, chickens, and goats. I harvest rabbit manure and use it in my garden beds.

        The thing about rabbits is they don’t have much fat. Ever heard of rabbit starvation? Even on a heavy diet of rabbit, one will starve without needed fats.

        Some of the best fertilizer I’ve used is old horse manure. I get it from a boarding stable. Excellent stuff!


  3. I have been looking for a haversack too. You can find a oilskin one here. I would have bought it but I don’t like logos all over my equipment. I am thinking of just making a wool one that can double as a pillow at night. I would use a haversack for collecting wild edibles. Presently, I use a cloth shopping bag, another very cheap alternative to a haversack for collecting wild foods: http://www.thepathfinderstore.com/pathfinder-haversack/.


    • Shopping bags are multi-purposed around our place too, Caroline. The PF logo is prominent on all of Dave’s stuff, for sure. One thing I’ll say about their gear is that it’s always tested in the field.

      My next item on my wish list is a 8’x8′ oilskin canvas tarp. It weighs more than typical backpacking covers but lasts a life time with proper use.

      If I find another deal like mine, I’ll save it for ya.


  4. Travis

    I’ve seen, and since began using for myself, people take a shemagh and wrap it around the shoulder strap and tie it in place to pad it. It works very well and gives you an extra piece of kit outside of your bag.


  5. william mcalexander

    I enjoyed the article on swiss army bread bag. I have used a u s army satchel, until it died. I have a german army satchel. The swiss bag vinyl cover detached makes a temporary water basin. Have a nice day.


  6. Joe

    I have one of these as well, probably the best one on the surplus market for this purpose. I have many other countries haversacks as well, and they do great. As far as functionality goes this has the most going for it. The vinyl loops where you placed for canteen are actually for the swiss mess kit to attach to the outside of the haversack. Great bag and article.


    • Thanks for passing on the knowledge, Joe. I was sure those straps had a specific purpose but wasn’t sure what.

      This thing is my go-to bag when I hit the woods for day trips now! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  7. Pingback: 5 Lessons on Self-Reliance at The Pathfinder School | Survival Sherpa

  8. Pingback: 5 Lessons on Self-Reliance - Patriot Rising

  9. animatio

    to add some more original usage details.
    these bags were meant to attach on top of the old swiss army rucksack. that what the leather latches are for.
    solders carried inside mainly 2 items. a water bottle/beaker combo (ca .7 l)

    and a a water kettle/ pan combo (ca 1 l)
    inside this kettle combo one could store whatever needed.
    i must know it, used it for a good 20 yrs in the army.(lots of survival exercises). the outer latches were mainly used to attach a watertight military poncho.


    • Thanks for added some history to the story, animatio! Great piece of kit.


      • animatio

        best of all – at the end of your regular service you could keep the stuff – rucksack, bag, bottle combo, pan-kettle combo for free. apart from this one might be able to find the items in switzerland in second and shops often for a few bucks nowadays, proofing how long lasting these things really are.
        btw the items were all made out of aluminum, so very light weight yet sturdy. easy to keep them proper and clean.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. omg! I bought a bag of this for $ 12 and I use it on my bike. I always wanted to know it history! Thanks for explaining! Hugs from Brazil.


  11. Pingback: Tesouros de Brechó | Camisa de Chita

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