In the early 1980s the South African Defence Force updated its uniform and equipment based on operational experience, introducing load bearing vests, chest rigs and a large, framed rucksack, all collectively known as the ‘Combat Webbing, Pattern 83’. The manual, that was published in 1985, described this rucksack as a ‘field pack’ and offered this description:
The field pack is designed to provide a large carrying capacity and is intended primarily for operations extending over long periods with little or no logistical support.
The pack was designed to be used with a metal support frame, however these are particularly heavy so most examples found in the UK do not have the frame with them. On service the frame was typically, but not universally used so this is not the end of the world from a living history perspective. The field pack is a large nutria-brown rucksack made of tightly woven cordua nylon:
The following diagram comes from the manual and explains all the parts of the pack:
The pack has a large top flap with extendable straps to the buckles to allow items to be placed under the flap and secured down:
Further straps are fitted under this top flap to secure items such as roll mats or sleeping bags:
The pack is divided into two large compartments, an upper and lower, with a zip around the centre to allow access to the lower compartment:
The manual suggested that light items such as clothing be stored in the upper section, with heavy items like ammunition in the lower half. It was recommended that the usual load should be around 20kg, but 35kg could be carried if required. On the sides of the pack are fitted four zipped pockets, two at the base of the pack:
And another pair above them:
These were designed to carry water bottles, water being essential for any operations in southern Africa. The rear of the pack has padding to help make it more comfortable, together with a waist strap and the straps to hold it on the shoulder:
The waist strap has a two-part buckle that slots together and can then be tightened to help support the weight:
Loops are fitted to the top rear of the pack to allow the steel frame to be connected to the rucksack:
This particular pack was issued before it entered the surplus market and has had the user’s name ‘DJ Docktor Funky’ marked on in black marker:
These packs were a marked improvement over the designs that preceded them and the fact they are still used and issued nearly forty years later (and still in nutria brown) shows what a well thought out and enduring design the field pack has been.