Vietnam Era Lightweight Rucksack

The Lightweight Rucksack of the Vietnam era was developed as a replacement or supplement to the famous M1956/M1961 field packs (butt packs). The old butt packs did not have enough storage space for a longer movements so the solution was something of a cross between a Mountain Rucksack/Packboard and a butt pack. They really did quite a good job as the only major changes during the life of the rucksack from prototype to replacement was changing from a welded frame to riveted and adding a middle back strap. The ruck really lives up to the lightweight name. I don’t have a scale but even with the frame, cargo straps and a bunch of stuffing for pictures it feels about the same weight as a typical school backpack empty. Modern high end packs would have trouble competing with it in my opinion. But the penalty for that feather weight is a lack of durability. Sharp objects can puncture the this Nylon material and the aluminum frame can be bent or broken if handled to roughly or dropped. The overall design was obviously sound though as you can clearly see the linage of the famous and long lived ALICE back in it.

This particular rucksack is a P65 or 1965 pattern (in collector speak as the military didn’t differentiate) This is the most common variety. The first pattern “P62” was experimental and the second “P64” only lasted about a year. The difference being the switch from a welded frame a riveted one. You can see they still had the butt pack style in mind during creation as the default position for the bag is on the bottom of the frame. It does leave room for bulky or heavy items like mortar rounds or ammo cans to be carried up above though.

Here you can see some of the attachment points on the sides and upper part of the bag. The straps at the bottom are side securing and canteen securing straps. The one that is in a loop is the canteen strap and was meant to keep it from flopping around. The other strap with just the buckle visible is to tighten or secure the sides of the bag to the frame. The two outer pockets under the upper attachment points are tunneled as well so you can slide long items behind them.

I currently do not have the correct should straps for the rucksack so took a vote between Alice straps and Frankenstein M1967 suspenders and the suspenders won. So don’t pay too much attention to them. You can see thought the upper and lower back straps where the rucksack frame would rest against the wearers back. The later 1968 patter would have a middle one added. The one downside to using the rucksack was that it covered the back of the web belt not allowing any pouched to be carried on the back. These were also issued with a waist strap but those were usually only used for cargo and not the actual waist.

Still waiting to find some authentic shoulder straps. Using some M1967 suspenders in the mean time.

Here is a closer view of the top with the three cargo straps and hanger areas. There are two long cargo straps and one center shorter one. The hanger sections are pretty clever as they will accommodate both M1910 and M1956 sliding keepers. To help with the M1910 the are held with a snap at the one end to allow you to easily thread the hanger then re-snap it. The metal loop or tab on the right was mainly for carrying the rifle slung to the pack for artic operations, but can be used for hanging anything. Check out my other article on the Rifle Butt Pocket and Strap Assembly for more on that.

Here you can the curvature of the frame

The cinch closure is an interesting two part affair. The block is there to hold up the opening

The markings under the lid are mostly rubbed off by this point.

Here is the “map” pocket in the lid.

Some directions for using the rucksack are also sewn inside that pocket

Close up of the top half

Close up of the bottom half.

One thing I do find odd is that on the three outer pockets the straps are stitched at the end to prevent them from opening all the way. I am dubious of the usefulness of this as it seems to only make it harder to load and unload the pockets. I have seen examples without the stitched end which may have been previous owners cutting them off. I probably would have done the same as it is rather annoying.

The Lightweight Rucksack also had a cargo shelf that was issued out at 3 shelfs for every 10 rucksacks. (Except for Special Forces were it was issued with all) As useful of an item as it seems the shelf is rather finicky. It just loosely sits on the frame and if the straps are not run through the slots as shown then it is liable to just fall off if there is not a load on it. Typically you will see these being used to carry radios, as it it almost easier to just not use it for other items. You can also remove the bag portion entirely and and put the shelf on the bottom bar to use the frame like a pack board. Partly why the cargo straps are so long is to reach from the bottom all the way over the cargo to the top buckles.

Here it is carrying an ammo can. I used the center cargo strap to holt it sideways and the two long cargo straps in the regular position.

Using the shelf also make the pack sit lower. At least I found that I needed to adjust it slightly lower to fit better.

For further reading check out the other posts;
High Mounted Lightweight Rucksack
Vietnam Rucksack Setups
How to Mount a Lightweight Rucksack High on the Frame
Rifle Butt Pocket and Strap Assembly

I’d like to thank Shawn at for making this happen. Without his help/generosity it would have taken me a lot longer to come up with one of these.

4 thoughts on “Vietnam Era Lightweight Rucksack

  1. Pingback: Rifle Butt Pocket and Strap Assembly – Geared Up

  2. Pingback: Vietnam Rucksack Setups – Geared Up

  3. Pingback: High Mounted Lightweight Rucksack – Geared Up

  4. Pingback: How to Mount a Lightweight Rucksack High on the Frame – Geared Up

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