It was quickly recognised in Vietnam that the existing M56 field, or ‘bum’, pack and sleeping bag carrier were woefully inadequate for troops spending extended periods in the field. It was therefore decided to introduce a new and much larger field pack to replace these two pieces of webbing. In reality Diggers happily discarded the sleeping bag carrier but used the small bum pack alongside the new larger field pack to increase their load carrying capacity even further. Following the end of the Vietnam war the Australians would continue to use and update the M56 pattern of webbing and today we are looking at a very late example of the large field pack, dating probably from the mid 1980s:
The large field pack has four compartments. At the top is a large compartment designed to carry clothing, rations and other items to sustain you in the field, this is secured with a pair of green plastic fastex clips:
Note also the horizontal strap on the top flap, used to hold the entrenching tool to the rear of the pack. Under this top flap is a nylon weather closure, secured with a drawstring to help keep the contents dry:
The top flap is also fitted with a grab handle and a small pocket to put an identifying card in:
Thebottom compartment is secured with three fastex buckles and was designed to carry the sleeping bag:
Note also the lengths of belt type webbing sewn across the pack, designed to allow extra water bottles and other items to be secureed to the rear of the pack.
Two side pockets were also fitted to allow smaller items, or things that might want to be easily accessible to be carried:
Turning to the rear of the large field pack, the two shoulder straps can be seen, well padded to help support the weight of the full pack:
By all accounts this was not entirely successful, and many Australian troops fitted a piece of string between the two shoulder straps to act as a rudimentary chest strap and help distribute the load. Two further horizontal pieces of padding are fitted to the rear to help with comfort, note also the original owner’s name and number written on in marker pen between them:
The large field pack seems to have been a successful design as when the 1988 pattern webbing set was introduced, the large field pack was largely copied, but in the new Auscam camouflage for the new set.