In 2018, I began developing a new backpack based on the Gebirgsjäger military rucksack. This new version was re-envisioned, of course, in kraft paper.
Designed for German alpine troops, the original Gebirgsjäger is recognized as a classic bit of military gear. In recent years, it’s been replicated and manufactured in China, with original packs harder to find.
I bought my first Gebirgsjäger rucksack as an undergraduate art student, and then sold it nearly two decades later to a mate in Sydney after traveling with it all over the world. It had barely aged.
About a year ago, I purchased a second from (the famous) Jim Korn of Kaufman’s Army & Navy in Hell’s Kitchen. This one became the source material for my re-envisioning process.
Why is the Bundeswehr rucksack a classic? Here are three of my favorite features:
Firstly, (thanks to some clever stitching) the side pouches allow for skis or poles to be inserted vertically behind them. Not a common feature on a civilian pack, but maybe it would be of use when returning from the Home Depot with a pair of baseboards.
Secondly, the internal sleeve at the rear of the pack accepts a folding sleeping mat which also doubles as back support when inserted. This seems a spiritual predecessor to the now hip FjällRäven Kånken, which was originally designed for students. The Kånken No.2 includes a siting pad placed in a similar position.
Thirdly, the overall style is similar to the packs my G.I. Joes used to hump around the battlefield of my bedroom floor in the eighties. And that’s pretty dope.
In July of 2018 I took the first prototype of a paper version with me to Bali for a bit of field testing.
It was a good first outing, and provided some useful insights. My plan is to refine the pack in the next few months, and then give it a second field test over four weeks in August while patrolling on my Santa Cruz Chameleon in SE Asia.
I also drafted four lines that explain what the pack ultimately represents in its re-envisioning:
It’s not about what you have, but what you leave behind.
It’s not about seeking comfort, but embracing the tension.
It’s not about getting somewhere else, but being where you are.
It’s not about what’s currently trending; it’s about what is ultimately timeless.
Updates to come.