Late 1980s SADF Balsak

‘Balsak’ was the SADF nickname for a soldier’s kitbag. The word literally means ‘ball sack’ and it has been suggested that this name is because the old fashioned kitbag resembled the bag used to carry footballs at the sports ground- another earthier explanation for the nickname is easy to work out! Until the middle of the 1980s the ‘balsak’ was a standard soldier’s kit bag, slung over the shoulder and apart from its nutria brown colour, very similar to designs used by armies around the world. It can be seen here lying on the road whilst troops prepare to board lorried transport: 

By the 1980s, the SADF was looking to update this design to something more modern and so produced a long, large nylon holdall bag for troops, which despite its very different appearance retained the same nickname as its forebear: 

The bag has a pair of grab handles halfway along its length to allow it to be picked up easily: 

Anticipating the weight these might have to support, they are stitched to a large reinforcing patch inside the bag to prevent them from pulling off the main body of the bag with a full load: 

A single strap to allow the bag to be slung over a shoulder is also provided: 

The reverse of the strap was often used to mark a soldier’s name and number, as in this example: 

The bag has a long zip running up the full length of it: 

Like much 1980s SADF equipment, this bag was manufactured by Specifico of Bophuthatswana: 

This pattern of kit bag would continue to be used for many years, long after the army had adopted the Soldier 2000 camouflage for uniforms. Their large size would have made them a useful design, with plenty of room to put uniform and webbing inside for travel. 

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