The History of Swiss Army Rucksacks

Swiss army rucksacks, with their distinctive flax & nettle canvas, are widely praised as some of the most sought-after military canvas backpacks of all time.

In this series of blog posts we will be exploring the history of the rucksacks and diving deep into specific examples from the range.

Vintage Swiss Army pack - desert

Flax & Nettle Canvas

The special flax & nettle canvas used in many examples of vintage Swiss Army packs was developed during WWII when the country was surrounded on all sides.

Fearing invasion by the far larger armies of the Axis powers, the Swiss camped out in the high Alps ready to defend from the heights. This meant all their stores and equipment had to be hauled up to the top of the mountains. To assist with this, the Swiss army developed a range of innovative load carrying gear and techniques.

Switzerland had to become self-sufficient in many things due to blockades. Cotton was unavailable to them, so necessity became the mother of invention and they created something even better.

Stinging nettle is a very high performance fibre with immense breaking strain beyond that of carbon fibre. The Flax provides waterproofing and suppleness to the material. Together they present a speckled appearance known as ‘salt and pepper’ orsalz & pfeffer.

Vintage Swiss Army Rucksack - Landrover

Leather and Metalwork

The vintage Swiss Army packs typically have tough forged anodised metal fixings, thick leather straps and metal buckles.

Some models also feature a full leather base. This protects the pack when put down on the ground, and all the leather is beautifully and incredibly robustly saddle-stitched.

Each pack is stamped with the leatherworkers name and their location (see below) in villages and towns all across Switzerland. The design and construction quality of these is so great that they last incredibly well.

Vintage Swiss Army Pack - Leather Maker Stamp


Structural Developments

Some versions of the Swiss Army rucksacks contain an internal aluminium frame. 

This includes our all-time favourite: the Swiss Army Mountain Pack.

The frame, together with a hip tension band, provides a curved shape which keeps the pack off your back.

These features, coupled with the overall ergonomics, makes for a very comfortable, compact pack. 

Swiss Army Rucksack Models

Our aim is to create a series of posts covering each of the Swiss Army military rucksack models.

Over time, as we build deep dive blogs into each version, we will add the links here.

Keep checking back for updates, or sign up below to our newsletter to be notified when we release a new article.

Swiss Vintage Mountain Pack - Leather & Canvas

Perhaps the best military canvas rucksack of all time and certainly the most sought-after.

Swiss Mountain Pack - Rubberised Canvas

This is the final evolution of the classic Swiss Mountain Pack before the design was replaced in military use by modern-era materials.

Swiss M91 Patrol Pack

Made in the same rubberised ballistic nylon canvas as the Swiss Mountain Pack full-size rucksack from the preceding era, this is an absolutely awesome, more modern-shaped tactical pack with some great features.

Swiss Army Rolltop Rucksack - Leather & Canvas

This Swiss Army vintage pack from the 1950s is an absolute wonder of Swiss design and craftsmanship in a truly beautiful but functional and robust mid-size rucksack.