The special flax & nettle canvas was developed during WWII when the country was surrounded on all side and 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 everything had to be hauled up to the top of the mountains and the Swiss army developed a range of innovative load carrying techniques and equipment. But Switzerland had to become self-sufficient in many things due to blockades and cotton was unavailable to them, so they went and invented something even better! Stinging nettle is in fact a very high performance fibre as it happens with immense breaking strain beyond that of carbon fibre even as well as other useful properties. The Flax provides the waterproofing and suppleness and together they present a speckled appearance known as ‘salt and pepper’ or ‘salz & pfeffer‘.
The Mountain Pack pack has tough forged anodised metal fixings, thick leather and metal buckles. An internal aluminium frame provides a curved shape which keeps the pack off your back together with a hip tension band, and with these features and the overall ergonomics this is a very comfortable, compact pack. A drawstring system seals off the top of the pack and there’s a single large outer pocket. A full leather base 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. We recondition them in our workshop with various treatments for the metalwork, leather and canvas including organic beeswax and flax oils for the special flax and nettle canvas, which takes the dried out grey canvas back to it’s original working condition and military colours. An amazing and iconic pack, and getting rarer and rarer.
- Reconditioned 1950’s Swiss Army Mountain Infantry pack (right) shown next to the later 1980’s ballistic nylon version
Swiss Army Ski Troops using these vintage packs – still from a 1962 newsreel:
I bought one of your Vintage Swiss mountain rucksacks earlier this year – I used it tramping over the English countryside over summer – it’s worked a treat and is easily one of the most comfortable backpacks I’ve used!
“Just wanted to express my appreciation for the wonderful vintage Swiss army mountain pack which you kindly arranged to be delivered so quickly. In the flesh, it is even more aesthetically pleasing, well-thought out and admirably robust than I gleaned from the excellent photos on your website – it is also beautifully restored whilst maintaining a patina which enhances the workmanship and quality of materials used.
I didn’t mention when we spoke that the pack will immediately be seeing ‘action’, accompanying me and my family on a tour round Europe, the first leg of which is by train down the Rhine and through Switzerland (to north Italy), slicing through the Alps for which it was made and passing not far from Fribourg where my particular pack was made in 1957.”
Just letting you know that I received the vintage swiss mountain pack and bedroll yesterday evening and they are absolutely perfect! Just what I was looking for, very robust yet compact and sleek, great gear that will last a long time, rare and wonderful things in the age of plastic and built-in obsolescence. Thank you so much for all your help and enthusiastic explanations.
The vintage pack was delivered today. It is even better than I hoped! A nice one indeed. Thanks again,