The Swedish M39 Rucksack – Mods

by Woodsbum

The Swedish M39 rucksack goes almost hand in hand with the whole “bushcraft” craze. It is leather and canvas, a definite favorite among bushcrafthers, and holds just enough gear to allow for a comfortable weekend or day outing. It has straps to carry a bedroll or wool blanket. There are straps on the side to carry an axe. It even has a separate pocket inside that stores your cooking gear quite nicely without getting all sorts of soot on your other gear, assuming that you cook over an open flame as I do. All this in a simple, inexpensive, extremely sturdy little “pack”age (sorry about the pun…  been a long week already).

Swedish M39 Rucksack

Swedish M39 Rucksack

There are several short comings to this pack, however. Most of which revolve around the suspension and straps. The shoulder straps are adjusted by buttons that slip into slits that are cut into the shoulder strap itself. The bottom part of the shoulder strap is supposed to hook under the waist belt to give a more uniform ride of your pack when under heavy load. There is the problem. Not only does this button dig into your shoulder, but the clips to hook onto the waist strap are not long enough to reach for most normal sized people. The waist strap itself is made for someone with a 30 inch waist as well. This makes it impossible for people my sized to even use the stock system.

The frame that the pack uses has a riveted in leather lumbar strap. It also is made for a 30 inch waist person. To turn this pack into a comfortable system for the average American, the frame must be bent and tweaked. What I did was probably the easiest. I took a hammer and a block of wood to carefully bend the pipe frame into a more reasonable shape. You need to use the wood block as a forge and then open up the arch by hitting the frame at the apex. It will flatten out the frame and thus make it fit bigger people.

Flattened out arch of the frame

Flattened out arch of the frame

Be REALLY careful, however. The frame is a hollow pipe and does break if you are not careful. I have had to weld one already due to over jealous pounding on the frame.

To fix the crazy button shoulder adjustment issue some cutting and stitching is required. What I did involved stitching a D ring into the cut strap and then used the waist belt hooks to make quick disconnects. The same straps are used. Nothing new is introduced. The only difference is that the hooks that were originally designed to attach to the waist belt are now being used on the bottom shoulder adjustment straps. It is very clean and functional as a quick disconnect.

Quick disconnect for shoulder straps

Quick disconnect for shoulder straps

I also added some attachment points on the side so that I can attach a quiver. I can now put my takedown bow and arrows in my quiver then carry them attached to the right side of my pack. It also gives me easy access to my arrows for hunting purposes if using one of my traditional bows.

Quiver attachment points

Quiver attachment points

At the top of the pack I ran some hooks through the existing suspension straps. This provides me with a way to attach my pans, pots, cups, etc., or any other item that I want quick access to that has a carry strap or eye on the handle. As you can see in some of the pictures, I put a handled cup/ladle thing on mine. This is just big enough to cook about anything I would want along the trail.

Hooks

Hooks

Last, but not least, I also found that one of those spring stop clips on the internal draw string helps immensely. Of course I tie it up before I start hiking, but getting that knot tight is sometimes a chore without this plastic stop.

This is a highly recommended pack and if you would like to see some more detail in what I did to this baby, just leave a comment. If you have one of these packs, I think the pictures will explain about everything I mentioned without too much confusion. Don’t forget to check out some of my other gear reviews and mods while you are here.

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6 thoughts on “The Swedish M39 Rucksack – Mods

  1. Ken

    I too had to modify my Swedish M39 rucksack. Like you, I flattened the frame although I used woodworking clamps to squeeze it flat rather than hammering it. My other modifications were simply to have a local cobbler lengthen most of the straps. The leather loops on the side of the pack were originally meant to carry an entrenching shovel. I’ve found those straps are ideal for carrying a Cold Steel Trail Hawk, I suppose they’d be good for carrying a larger axe but I’ve never felt the need for anything larger when hiking or on an overnight. I had a matching pair of straps mounted on the opposite side for my camera tripod or whatever.

    I’ve discovered that I can handily fit a folded 8″ x 10″ lightweight tarp in between the bag and the frame and that the little map pocket inside the pack makes a good place to stow my camera. I threaded a loop of paracord through the unused loops in the leather yoke and use the paracord to hang the pack up when I’m not wearing it. I’m sure I could also strap something to the pack this manner if I wished.

    I find a myriad of little pockets just gets annoying after a while so the simple big bag approach suits me, I can just reach into the bag and find what I’m looking for by touch most of the time.

    I’ve contemplated replacing the paracord loop with removable leather straps but haven’t made up my mind about that yet. I suspect my next modification will be to make up a beeswax based waterproofing for the canvas.

    I don’t think I’d enjoy using this backpack with a heavy load unless I spent a lot of time training myself but I suspect the old school style suspension where the weight is on the shoulders rather than the waist will do wonders for my posture, if it doesn’t cripple me first!

    Reply
    1. Woodsbum Post author

      Hi Ken,

      I didn’t use clamps because I am MUCH better with a hammer than clamps. This being the case, I always grab a hammer and pull out the anvil. It goes back to my blacksmithing/farrier days I think. Clamps definitely would work and would be safer than a hammer for many like my son that seems to injury himself by almost everything but breathing.

      The straps are plenty long for my use so I haven’t touched them. My side straps also carry a CS Hawk at times, but I also have several axes that ride there quite often. One of my favorites is an old Swedish military axe that I picked up and restored. It’s an old HB. Maybe I will post a picture of my quiver I mount on the other side. Several configuration changes were sitting on my work bench when I finally just decided to do the clips…. Might end up putting straps on later.

      If you decide to waterproof, try playing around with SnoSeal. I have seen several smaller things (not as big as my canvas tarp failure) that turned out very nice. SnoSeal is also not nearly as big of a fire danger as many other mixtures I have seen.

      When putting in heavier loads, I have found that rounding the shoulders and leaning forward just a bit makes a huge difference. Especially while doing what I call the “mountain trudge.” You can roll your hips a bit more to lengthen your stride this way as well. Those that had to hump heavy rucks in the military know exactly the posture and gait I am referring to. I bet you could find some military hump videos and just emulate those.

      Reply
  2. Chris

    I am considering this pack as a day pack and up to two day bush/field pack, the one thing that does bother me is the leather straps have no padding ( like Frost river Expedition Summit pack ), to me the huge bug bear with canvas/ bushcraft packs is that no company makes a pack that is canvas/ leather/ brass with a suspension system like the M39 , I have used the floppy sack type packs like Duluth and FR, personally I hate a wet back and the pack against my body, maybe its just me, but many many people have the same intense dislike of that too, here in NZ a company called MAC PAC make really supremely comfortable packs with thick padded waist belts, air back breathable system and pockets for axe etc, but their pack material is a nylon type mix, again not a long term bushpack……..I am still searching for a great pack that will take up to 25 lbs and still feel like you don’t need to spend 3 weeks in a spinal unit at the end of a few days bushcrafting/hiking.

    Most Military packs are not comfortable and most soldiers hate the issue packs for good reason, too many end up with severe back problems, so I may do the M39 pack yet………more pictures would be great, BTW i am a 6feet plus guy …….with 52 inch chest does the M39 fit ?…..

    Reply
    1. Woodsbum Post author

      I have the same problem with packs and once I bent out the bottom part of the frame I was good to go. I use mine up in the hills while hunting, as a day pack with heavier gear/food/etc., and have used it for summer overnighters where the temps only dip into the 40’s with a hammock, tarp, poncho liner under quilt and wool blanket. It worked great. As for the straps, they are actually not as uncomfortable as you would imagine. Although they are not padded, they are wide enough to just ride and glide over your shirt/gear without causing hot spots or bruises. Mind you, I am in the PNW and hike through the Cascades so the pack has to slip around my body enough to allow movement without being so loose/floppy that it causes hot spots while climbing these goat trails around here.

      Again, don’t think you will be able to use the belt or just toss it on without losing a kidney. You will have to bend out the frame to get it where it fits around you properly.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    just to get back to you, I am going to take the plunge on buying a M39, there is a guy in Sweden of all places selling a bunch of them for USD 37.00 at the moment, I have also looked at this US site : http://www.swedishrucksack.com/, interesting side note, the US site has the M39 in Tan which is very appealing for desert environments like my homeland of Australia and the NZ South Island , I was not aware that the rucksack came in a two color variation , I will do the mods you have done and then post them on my YT channel, just finding them is getting harder and harder worldwide and even if a person finds them, the trick is geting one at a fair price and not paying the highway robbery rates that evil bay charges, if you are intested will post up the mods I do.

    Thanks best regards

    Chris

    Reply
    1. Woodsbum Post author

      I would love to see the mods you do. These rucks are just so lightweight, well made, and versatile that they are begging for modifications and updates.

      Tan, huh? I was also unaware that they came in that color. I have seen the darker green ones and a variant that was oilskin type canvas, but never tan. That will definitely require a look see.

      When you get your ruck all done, shoot me a link to your YT if you would.

      Thanks and good luck!!

      Reply

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