Spare Time Activities/The handy rucksack

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Spare Time Activities: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

The handy rucksack

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You are probably making up your mind to do lots of hiking during the summer in order to qualify for your 1st Class Journey Test, or perhaps someone is reading this who is tackling that splendid Camper Badge, but whoever you may be, make the most of your time and hike whenever you can; there’s nothing like it, believe me. Your pack is perhaps the most serious consideration when going hiking, and there are such a lot of different patterns and types from which to choose. Some

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hikers swear by one kind and some another – but it is pretty generally agreed that the rucksack is a very satisfactory kind of pack and one which has stood the test of many years of use among chamois hunters and travellers generally. Also it is easy to make, so we will set to work to make the simplest form of rucksack; it is not in the least novel or original, but follows the old design, well known to old hands in the great brotherhood of the open road all the world over. First of all then, the material required: it must not be too heavy. You cannot afford to carry a single unnecessary ounce of weight on a hike, also it must be strong enough to stand plenty of strain and hard wear, and then it must be waterproof. Obviously the best type of stuff would be some kind of light canvas of the Willesden type, preferably in a khaki colour or some such neutral tint. You can still get army surplus green canvas very cheaply at any of the shops that sell that kind of thing, and this would do splendidly, though a khaki shade looks better if you can get it. Take a piece of canvas 38 in. long by 22 in. wide (diagram 1). Make a hem about 1 in. wide along the top. Take care to make a really strong job of this, because it has to stand most of the wear and strain. Then fold the material across the dotted line and sew it along the bottom and up one side, turning it inside out first, of course. This gives you a sort of flat canvas bag (figure 2). The next job is to sew on the flap. This is made out of a piece of canvas 8 in. by 6 in., shaped at one end and sewn on the back of the rucksack as you see in diagram 3. Having done this you make the holes through which the “puckering cord” will run. Make them about 3 or 4 in. apart, twelve holes in all, and either fit brass eyelets, or, if you are clever, work eyelets with a needle and well-waxed sail-maker’s thread. To do this you wind a few turns of twine round the edge of each hole and then sew neatly round with a simple “over and over” stitch. The sketch (figure 4) makes this clear. After that you might make the slings. For these you can use leather or webbing straps about 2 in. wide. If you have them narrower they are very uncomfortable.

Figure 1 shows the length of material required. It is folded, and sewn up at the bottom and along the side, making a kind of bag. Sew on the flap, make the holes for the cord, and stitch on the straps. Figure 4 shows you how to sew round the eyelet holes. Nowadays you can get old army webbing slings very cheaply and they answer admirably. You will see from diagram 3 that you sew the short 6-in. lengths very securely to the bottom corners of the rucksack. Then you attach the upper adjustable part to the centre of the top of your pack by simply running your puckering cord first of all through the hem made in the ends of the slings. Figure 5 shows the method of adjusting the slings. It is a good plan to have a little strip of wood (you can see where to put it in the second illustration) with a couple of holes bored in it inside the rucksack at this point in order to take the strain and prevent the cord pulling through. The puckering cord is securely knotted on the inside of this wooden strip, then laced round through the eyelets. You can please yourself about pockets, but they are jolly useful to hold your map and note- book and other small odds and ends. The ones shown in the diagram are just ordinary patch pockets, 8 in. by 7 in., with a flap secured by a small strap and buckle. If you prefer it you could use loop and toggle or even button fastenings instead of the buckles. Now if you pack your rucksack full of hiking gear you will see how comfortable it is. The weight rides nicely on those big bones at the bottom of your back, and the whole thing is slung from the centre, so that there is no strain on your shoulders. With such a pack you can swing along all day if you have been wise enough to leave all unnecessaries at home when packing it. If you want to possess a more roomy pack, which is certainly an advantage, make the back and front in two pieces, and form the two sides and bottom by inserting a strip, say 6 in. wide, beneath front and back. This is the type the Scout in the sketch is wearing, and is surely the kind of rucksack R.L.S. had in mind in his delightful essay on Walking Tours, which you must read some day. Talking of books, have you read Stewart Edward White’s The Forest? If not, save up is. 6d. and buy it; and then if you don’t make a rucksack and sally forth a-hiking you are not the fellow I take you to be.