Canvas sewing - Back pack project questions

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Apr 14, 2021
9
7
19
Iran
Hi,
I'm kind of new to bushcrafting and don't own a proper sack/backpack and haven't found any quality canvas backpacks at least not with reasonable pricing. I was hoping if someone could give me an insight on how i would approach making my own back pack.

Do i use sewing machine? And if yes, does a normal sewing machine get the job done or do i have to use a industrial sewing machine?

Which kind of canvas works best for a sack?

What strings do i use and how do i frame it?

Is it possible to mount it on a exterior aluminum frame? Or is it just dumb?

Thank you very much.

(P.s: i live in iran so military equipment aren't really an option because manufacturers are government owned and don't serve to the public)

(P.s #2 this isn't just about a backpack because i intend to use the knowledge to customize a tarp and a sleeping system.)
 
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C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,616
1,556
Bedfordshire
Hello and welcome to our forum.

I am one of the forum moderators and moved your thread from Sleeping to the DIY section, could have put it in Kit - Carry, but you are asking about making, so this seemed better.

Lots of questions! I am sure lots of folks will answer.

It would help to know whether you are mostly interested in something to carry over-night camping gear (large, single bag) or something for a day out (smaller, maybe more organization for small things). Pack style and materials can vary a little.

I will offer some of my opinions.

Sewing machine is SO much easier to use than sewing by hand. But, sewing by hand can be useful in local places where there isn't room for the machine, or the fabric is too thick.

Industrial vs home sewing machine, some industrial machines are meant for sewing very thin fabrics, tents and silk dressing gowns are sewn on "industrial" machines ;). A heavy duty sewing machine absolutely helps with sewing heavy pack fabrics. Simply sewing two pieces together isn't usually a problem for a home machine, but places where you attach straps or two seams intersect you can get a lot of thickness. I have sewn some bag like things using 500d and 1000d Cordura nylon and 1 inch nylon webbing, and managed on an old home machine (Toyota Atlantis 302), but it wasn't ideal. I had to use normal thickness thread and a 80 needle. Really had to plan so I didn't stack material too much. Older machines tend to be stronger, fewer plastic parts, but you can start to run out of room under the foot.

I haven't made a full pack, but I think it will be easier for you to make an internal frame. If you look at how Hill People Gear do it, they have one or two aluminium "stays" bent to the shape of your back inserted into sewn channels, possibly with a thin plastic "frame sheet" in another sewn pocket. These can all be removed if needed. No need to figure how to attach pieces of the frame together as you would if it was external.

Haven't used natural canvas for a big bag, but I know others here have so will leave that to them.

I have made some tarps in light material, and some sleeping quilts with synthetic insulation. While sewing is sewing...heavy pack material is different from thin materials.

Other ideas.
Have you looked at the Roycroft Pack Frame? Invented by Tom Roycroft and then popularized by Mors Kochanski. Not so much a sewing project, and definitely external frame, but a clever "bushcraft" solution.

The idea of the Moonbow Gearskin frameless pack. I made a small version of this, intended as a day pack. It really needs a foam sheet to give it some shape, and I didn't use one, so never got the best out of it. I replaced it when I made my own version of a British PLCE side pocket/yoke system using 500d Cordura and some purchased shoulder straps.

Ray Jardine backpack design. An ultralight frameless pack, but well tested and lots of information out there.

Are you able to access Youtube?

Best wishes

Chris
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
I don't know if there is some kind of weapon embargo against Iran for old but serviceable military rucksacks.
Should you know somebody who lives in Germany he could buy for you one of these rucksacks and bring it to you during the next holydays. I doubt that any airport will sort out such a rucksack if it's used as holyday luggage.

As you see, cotton rucksacks are sold used very cheap in Europe. That's a German shop here, but the best offers, the lowest prices are Italian army equipment.
Perhaps you can get it even cheaper in Italy or Greece and lower the shipping costs too.
If you are interested I could search for you in Italian web shops, as I speak a bit Italian. The communication with them you surely also can do later in English. Nowadays most Italians speak English too.

In Greek shops I can't search because I am unable to read it.

The first model here in the following list is the rucksack pattern that was used by the Russian army during the second world war. As they conquered Berlin in the end, there is obviously nothing wrong with this simple design. You just need to keep your packing list as short as possible in order to keep the weight as low as possible, but that is intelligent anyway.

That means if you can find a simple cotton sack in the right size you easily can modify it by hand to get such a well working rucksack.
The straps at the sides are meaned to attach a rolled blanket in horse shoe shape around the rucksack.
That is somehow old fashioned but it works very well. Like this you lower your load on the shoulders, because the rucksack is light and small and the wool blanket around it contains itself and doesn't need an extra bag.

In your position I would try at first to follow this way, because if you can find such a cotton sack it's the easiest and cheapest way you can do it.




These Rucksacks here are a bit more expensive, but if you know someone who lives in Germany he surely can buy it for you. That's approximately the value of one working hour of an engineer in Germany, and most Persians I met in Germany had very well payed jobs.



If there are no insulation mats available in Iran, what I don't know, as I never visited your country and usually don't talk about camping with my Persian friends, you can replace it with a sheep hide. You just need a plastic foil sheet (1 x 2 m) to put it under it to keep it and yourself dry.

A large wool blanket you surely can find.
A metal mug you surely will find too and also a pot of 750 ml to 2 litres capacity.
Optimal for 1 person is 1 litre, for two persons 1,8 to 2 litres are perfect. If you can't find a pot that already has a bail to hang it over a fire you simply can drill holes into the sides and make from a thick steel wire your own bail.

In shops that sell tools and material for building sides or farms we find everywhere easily cheap tarps with grommets in the corners and around the edge. They serve very well as some kind of tent. The best regular size for bushcraft use is 2 x 3 metres. That is approximately the size that the British army gives the soldiers. These waterproof sheets are very cheap and work very well. They are also lightweight.
They just aren't optimal to fold and roll them together. That's why there are more expensive ones on the camping equipment market. But it really doesn't matter. You can use such a cheap building site tarp.


People discuss in internet forums the equipment that is offered in our shops, because it is offered. But you don't need that all to have fun in the woods!

You can take what you find, and old civil equipment works well. Especially the very old things from our grandfather generation were still made to work in an archaic environment.
I can find at every flea market enough old civil things to get very cheap a very good equipment together.
 
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Apr 14, 2021
9
7
19
Iran
Hello and welcome to our forum.

I am one of the forum moderators and moved your thread from Sleeping to the DIY section, could have put it in Kit - Carry, but you are asking about making, so this seemed better.

Lots of questions! I am sure lots of folks will answer.

It would help to know whether you are mostly interested in something to carry over-night camping gear (large, single bag) or something for a day out (smaller, maybe more organization for small things). Pack style and materials can vary a little.

I will offer some of my opinions.

Sewing machine is SO much easier to use than sewing by hand. But, sewing by hand can be useful in local places where there isn't room for the machine, or the fabric is too thick.

Industrial vs home sewing machine, some industrial machines are meant for sewing very thin fabrics, tents and silk dressing gowns are sewn on "industrial" machines ;). A heavy duty sewing machine absolutely helps with sewing heavy pack fabrics. Simply sewing two pieces together isn't usually a problem for a home machine, but places where you attach straps or two seams intersect you can get a lot of thickness. I have sewn some bag like things using 500d and 1000d Cordura nylon and 1 inch nylon webbing, and managed on an old home machine (Toyota Atlantis 302), but it wasn't ideal. I had to use normal thickness thread and a 80 needle. Really had to plan so I didn't stack material too much. Older machines tend to be stronger, fewer plastic parts, but you can start to run out of room under the foot.

I haven't made a full pack, but I think it will be easier for you to make an internal frame. If you look at how Hill People Gear do it, they have one or two aluminium "stays" bent to the shape of your back inserted into sewn channels, possibly with a thin plastic "frame sheet" in another sewn pocket. These can all be removed if needed. No need to figure how to attach pieces of the frame together as you would if it was external.

Haven't used natural canvas for a big bag, but I know others here have so will leave that to them.

I have made some tarps in light material, and some sleeping quilts with synthetic insulation. While sewing is sewing...heavy pack material is different from thin materials.

Other ideas.
Have you looked at the Roycroft Pack Frame? Invented by Tom Roycroft and then popularized by Mors Kochanski. Not so much a sewing project, and definitely external frame, but a clever "bushcraft" solution.

The idea of the Moonbow Gearskin frameless pack. I made a small version of this, intended as a day pack. It really needs a foam sheet to give it some shape, and I didn't use one, so never got the best out of it. I replaced it when I made my own version of a British PLCE side pocket/yoke system using 500d Cordura and some purchased shoulder straps.

Ray Jardine backpack design. An ultralight frameless pack, but well tested and lots of information out there.

Are you able to access Youtube?

Best wishes

Chris
Hello Chris,
Thank you very much for your insightful message.

I'm moving to northern parts of Iran in a few months for college and there are some vast rainforests there, and i love wtaying in the woods for long periods of time. Currently i use my father's old backpack which is one of those big 80L camping backpacks and is just too big for my purposes.

That Roycroft pack frame is really interesting, that's kind of how i imagined having a aluminum frame, but the actual use that i had in mind was to use it as a chair too.

And you mentioned the old sewing machines, we have an old Singer sewing machine and it works! I probably end up using it for the whole project.

Yes I'm watching sewing videos on YouTube, i hope i get to share the final results here (on DIY board ofc ;))

Again, thank you.
 
Apr 14, 2021
9
7
19
Iran
I don't know if there is some kind of weapon embargo against Iran for old but serviceable military rucksacks.
Should you know somebody who lives in Germany he could buy for you one of these rucksacks and bring it to you during the next holydays. I doubt that any airport will sort out such a rucksack if it's used as holyday luggage.

As you see, cotton rucksacks are sold used very cheap in Europe. That's a German shop here, but the best offers, the lowest prices are Italian army equipment.
Perhaps you can get it even cheaper in Italy or Greece and lower the shipping costs too.
If you are interested I could search for you in Italian web shops, as I speak a bit Italian. The communication with them you surely also can do later in English. Nowadays most Italians speak English too.

In Greek shops I can't search because I am unable to read it.

The first model here in the following list is the rucksack pattern that was used by the Russian army during the second world war. As they conquered Berlin in the end, there is obviously nothing wrong with this simple design. You just need to keep your packing list as short as possible in order to keep the weight as low as possible, but that is intelligent anyway.

That means if you can find a simple cotton sack in the right size you easily can modify it by hand to get such a well working rucksack.
The straps at the sides are meaned to attach a rolled blanket in horse shoe shape around the rucksack.
That is somehow old fashioned but it works very well. Like this you lower your load on the shoulders, because the rucksack is light and small and the wool blanket around it contains itself and doesn't need an extra bag.

In your position I would try at first to follow this way, because if you can find such a cotton sack it's the easiest and cheapest way you can do it.




These Rucksacks here are a bit more expensive, but if you know someone who lives in Germany he surely can buy it for you. That's approximately the value of one working hour of an engineer in Germany, and most Persians I met in Germany had very well payed jobs.



If there are no insulation mats available in Iran, what I don't know, as I never visited your country and usually don't talk about camping with my Persian friends, you can replace it with a sheep hide. You just need a plastic foil sheed to put it under it to keep it dry.

A large wool blanket you surely can find.
A metal mug you surely will find too and also a pot of 750 ml to 2 litres capacity.
Optimal for 1 person is 1 litre, for two persons 1,8 to 2 litres are perfect. If you can't find a pot that already has a bail to hang it over a fire you simply can drill holes into the sides and make from a thick steel wire your own bail.

In shops that sell tools and material for building sides or farms we find everywhere easily cheap tarps with grommets in the corners and around the edge. They serve very well as some kind of tent. The best regular size for bushcraft use is 2 x 3 metres. That's is approximately the size that the British army gives the soldiers. These waterproof sheets are very cheap and work very well. They are also lightweight.
They just aren't optimal to fold and roll them together. That's why there are more expensive ones on the camping equipment market. But it really doesn't matter. You can use such a cheap building site tarp.


People discuss in internet forums the equipment that is offered in our shops, because it is offered. But you don't need that all to have fun in the woods!

You can take what you find, and old civil equipment works well. Especially the very old things from our grandfather generation were still made to work in an archaic environment.
I can find on every flea market enough old civil things to get very cheap a very good equipment together.
Wow such a well written guide, thank you.

I haven't really thought about it that way i was thinking of making something from scratch.

There is one piece of equipment that is accessible for soldiers to buy (some buy it because government provided ones are in a bad shape), it's called "Solitary Sack" it's essentially a canvas sleeping bag that is used as a backpack.

I guess if i could get one of those i could modify it as you mentioned.

About buying from online shops I'm afraid that there is a fee in Iranian borders which has to be paid if the goods you're importing are made in iran, so because backpacks are made in some capacity in iran, i would have to pay a fee because I'm not supporting national businesses(doesn't matter how bad the national product is). This fee sometimes doubles the money that one would pay for something.

For example for a car i would have to pay 170% of the initial price, 100% to the manufacturer and 70% to border control.
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin

That's a german second world war rucksack here but the Russians carried similar equipment in a similar way.

Off course we don't carry a second pair of boots around and no shoe brush for recreational hiking and camping. Instead of it I fold spare clothing to the right size and put it into the rucksack next to my back to make it comfortable.

You can roll the blanket similar like the coat in this video. You don't see the open edges in the end, you fold the blanket to size by folding the sides in. In the end you have the folds pointing down.
I currently don't find a good video how to do it correctly, but I can look for it later.


You can use a simple plastic bag to waterproof your equipment. You just put it at first into the rucksack, put your equipment into it and twist it a bit before you close the rucksack.

The plastic sack should be a bit larger than the rucksack.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
I tried to write you here a well working packing list for use for the warmer month. That are the things you should try to get first.
Nothing special is needed. You just need to cover all needs technically.

Rucksack
It is used as pillow too, during the night containing the

Jacket

Tarp

Cordage

6 metres should be enough.

Sheep hide
Perhaps a large plastic bin liner as ground sheet or something like that. To collect twigs and put them under the sheep hide is pretty time consuming, but possible.
If it's hot you don't need the sheep hide and just sleep on the plastic sheet.

Wool blanket
pretty large, roll mounted in horse shoe shape around the rucksack

Little bag
containing the following:
- Spare underwear 1X
Breefs and T-shirt
- Woolen spare socks 1X
- Swimming shorts 1X

Water bottle

Mug with handle


Pot

1 or 2 litres, put it into a cotton or plastic bag, because it would make your other equipment dirty. A smaller pot is better to pack and less disturbing.

Cooking chaine
Approximately 1 metre, short and light with 2 open hooks in the ends.
Just a big wooden hook works too.
You hang with it your pot under a tripod.

Spoon
A usual stainless steel spoon from the flea market.

Cotton Handkerchief
Several times folded usable as pot holder and pre filter before water purification by boiling.

Belt knife

Matches or 2 Cigarette lighters


Candle

as fire starter. A few drips of wax on the twigs help a lot!

Toilet paper
Also for cleaning the pot a bit.

Wash kit
tooth brush, tooth paste, soap in a container, razor, small towel or better square cotton sheet that could be used as scarf or folded triangular to support a broken arm.

Topographical map
1:50 000

Compass

Head torch

For emergencies perhaps.
I didn't carry one for decades.
Fire, fat wood and candles work too.

Food
The pot works as mouse proof container outside the rucksack and seperated from it during the night.
More food you can store in a bread bag, that you can hang high at the tent pole, that mice can't reach it.


ON THE MAN:

Hiking boots

Woolen
Socks

Underwear

Trousers or Shorts

Belt


Purse
/ wallet
As simple and light as possible.

House keys
Attached with cordage to the belt.

T-shirt

Shirt

Buttoned long sleeved shirt with two pockets and flaps over it.

More you don't need.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
You even don't need a rucksack.

Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival are two sides of the same medal.

The more you know, the less you carry, and the better you are, the less equipment you need.

Instead of watching videos about equipment somebody tries to sell us, I recommend to everybody to learn how things can be done without bought equipment or with a minimum of simple equipment.

That's the real old school way to do it.



 
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Apr 14, 2021
9
7
19
Iran
I tried to write you here a well working packing list for use for the warmer month. That are the things you should try to get first.
Nothing special is needed. You just need to cover all needs technically.

Rucksack
It is used as pillow too, during the night containing the

Jacket

Tarp

Cordage

6 metres should be enough.

Sheep hide
Perhaps a large plastic bin liner as ground sheet or something like that. To collect twigs and put them under the sheep hide is pretty time consuming, but possible.
If it's hot you don't need the sheep hide and just sleep on the plastic sheet.

Wool blanket
pretty large, roll mounted in horse shoe shape around the rucksack

Little bag
containing the following:
- Spare underwear 1X
Breefs and T-shirt
- Woolen spare socks 1X
- Swimming shorts 1X

Water bottle

Mug with handle


Pot

1 or 2 litres, put it into a cotton or plastic bag, because it would make your other equipment dirty. A smaller pot is better to pack and less disturbing.

Cooking chaine
Approximately 1 metre, short and light with 2 open hooks in the ends.
Just a big wooden hook works too.
You hang with it your pot under a tripod.

Spoon
A usual stainless steel spoon from the flea market.

Cotton Handkerchief
Several times folded usable as pot holder and pre filter before water purification by boiling.

Belt knife

Matches or 2 Cigarette lighters


Candle

as fire starter. A few drips of wax on the twigs help a lot!

Toilet paper
Also for cleaning the pot a bit.

Wash kit
tooth brush, tooth paste, soap in a container in, razor, small towel or better square cotton sheet that could be used as scarf or folded triangular to support a broken arm.

Topographical map
1:50 000

Compass

Head torch

For emergencies perhaps.
I didn't carry one for decades.
Fire, fat wood and candles work too.

Food
The pot works as mouse proof container outside the rucksack and seperated from it during the night.
More food you can store in a bread bag, that you can hang high at the tent pole, that mice can't reach it.


ON THE MAN:

Hiking boots

Woolen
Socks

Underwear

Trousers or Shorts

Belt


Purse
/ wallet
As simple and light as possible.

House keys
Attached with cordage to the belt.

T-shirt

Shirt

Buttoned long sleeved shirt with two pockets and flaps over it.

More you don't need.
Amazing guide sir, thank you it helps a lot
 
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Roughneck

Full Member
Mar 17, 2021
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Chelmsford
Hi, Welcomed to the site :)

I recently acquired a sewing machine which I serviced back to life, and it is like new.

So when you decide to sew your Potential Rucksack for your Kit, and you are sewing through THICK materials, from my experience I used used Quality Leather Needles. I'm my no means an expert but having tired different needles I found that the Leather Needles worked better and had a better finish. If you can change the foot plate that can help.
When starting on thick materiel I also found turning the wheel by hand was better as you have more control. But I would strongly suggest practicing on some offcuts to get the tension right before committing to the actual project.

GOOD LUCK !
 
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Tengu

Full Member
Jan 10, 2006
11,490
808
48
Wiltshire
Hi, and welcome.

You certainly live in a wild and interesting (and varied) part of the world.

Do you have a big outdoor industry in Iran? I am told the skiing is good.
 
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MrEd

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Feb 18, 2010
1,901
790
Surrey/Sussex
www.thetimechamber.co.uk
I have sewn heavy canvas up to 3 layers thick on my old singer with a 16/100 or 18/110 needle and no69 thread, that’s about the heaviest thread you can use in a home machine, and if you use bonded nylon it’s very strong, I double sewed and bar tacked stress points and it’s held up well (it’s a trailer tarp I made)

it wasn’t overly easy, I had to get the machine going ‘by hand’ and then feather the speed - too slow and it stalled, too fast and the stitches weren’t great due to needle deflection from the thick material. It worked though but as mentioned above, careful planning as I could only go through 3 layers maximum.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
Is that here affordable or horribly expensive?

It's non adjustable. How tall are you in centimetres?


 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
The links above show equipment that I know or even own. I own a lot from this shop. And I had a look at all and everything they offer that could be interesting for Bushcraft.

I did spend more than one day in their shop in Montpellier where they have all that they offer in the internet. And surely altogether two weeks in their shops in several towns in Germany and France.

And I bought and tried out a lot of it.

As I wrote before, you don't need special equipment to have a nice time in the woods. But it looks as if you have nearly the same access to equipment as the average French bushcrafter.

I guess, that they surely earn more than you. But the acces situation to outdoor equipment in Iran doesn't look so bad as I thought in the first moment.

That doesn't change my opinion, that equipment from the flea market can be even better than new stuff.
 
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Hi,
I'm kind of new to bushcrafting and don't own a proper sack/backpack and haven't found any quality canvas backpacks at least not with reasonable pricing. I was hoping if someone could give me an insight on how i would approach making my own back pack.

Do i use sewing machine? And if yes, does a normal sewing machine get the job done or do i have to use a industrial sewing machine?

Which kind of canvas works best for a sack?

What strings do i use and how do i frame it?

Is it possible to mount it on a exterior aluminum frame? Or is it just dumb?

Thank you very much.

(P.s: i live in iran so military equipment aren't really an option because manufacturers are government owned and don't serve to the public)

(P.s #2 this isn't just about a backpack because i intend to use the knowledge to customize a tarp and a sleeping system.)
Good day Eli.
My knapsack started off as a haversack many years ago, my wife made it for me. I found it did not do what I wanted, so I converted it into a knapsack. I did the same for two of my sons, using second hand cotton haversacks made in China. I do not carry a lot of gear, I don't need it, so my knapsack is probably smaller than a modern pack.
EQUIPMENT-2.jpg
Knapsack-straps-005-REDUCED.jpg
Knapsack-straps-003.jpg

I used linen thread & did the stitching by hand.
Regards, Keith.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,028
1,183
Berlin
I find the idea to make a rucksack - sleeping bag pretty interesting, by the way, as it saves a lot of weight.

As long as cotton and linen rucksacks were in civil and military use everywhere, it was usual to put the feet into the rucksack during the night.

We used during the summer in southern France east German cotton tent sheets as sleeping bags and it worked very well. They are 185 x 185 cm, that means they can be folded as a 185 x 92,5 cm single layer cotton sleeping bag.

I liked it very much! It was in hot-dry weather conditions more comfortable than anything else.

Should that Persian rucksack-sleeping bag be relatively cheap, I would buy and try that first.

I would sew or buy a simple draw string closure cotton bag that fits well inside of it and contains my spare clothing and use that as a pillow.

If you talk to soldiers about their personal equipment you generally have to pay attention: it is always bad and uncomfortable, and the others have better stuff. It doesn't matter which army.

But usually it isn't the equipment. The armies usually really try to give the soldiers the best they can efford.

The point is, that the training is uncomfortable, and because they are training, they carry far more than they would do in a combat situation.

If we use the same stuff for recreational hiking and camping we find it all surprisingly well working and comfortable. -- If we just carry what is sensible, and nothing more.
 
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Apr 14, 2021
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Iran
Is that here affordable or horribly expensive?

It's non adjustable. How tall are you in centimetres?


It is a bit expensive in general, and I'm qn student so these are not really an option for me right now.
I'm 180cm.
I contacted a friend and he said that he has his Solitary Sack that i mentioned before, from his mandatory military service, and he has a good price too, I'll post a pic if i go through with it.

And about flea markets, i actually found an entire ecosystem on second hand bushcraft and even some military equipment in tehran, it's called Qazvin square and apparently soldiers that finiah their service go here and sell their equipment or the new ones buy from them, i don't live in Tehran so i didn't really know this.

If you wanted to I'd be more thqn happy to get a Solitary Sack and send it to you when i go there.
 
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