When it comes to affordable pack options, most folks favour surplus military rucksacks because they are usually good quality and relatively inexpensive, though this often comes at the cost of comfort and weight. The medium ALICE pack, though popular here in the States, weighs in at around 6 pounds 8 ounces/ 3 kilograms (with the frame). My Swedish army LK-35 isn’t much better at 4 pounds 12 ounces /2.15 kilograms, and most of that is from the steel frame. The shoulder straps have hardly any padding, and even though they are wide, they do cut into the ribs after awhile. There is also no waist strap. Because of these flaws, a long trek with a full pack will quickly become a wearisome experience. Some modding is in order, so let’s get started :).
For this project, I will be ditching the shoulder straps and frame on my LK-35, and replacing them with salvaged parts from my brother’s godfather’s old rucksack (on right in below photo). The fabric is worn out after years of use, and rodents have gnawed little holes inside during the time the pack was stored in the garage, but the frame, shoulder straps, and waist strap are still in good condition.
It’s a much lighter frame (made out of hollow aluminum tubing), and measures 14.5 inches/37 cm wide by 27 inches/68.5 cm long, a bit larger than the one on the LK-35 . The shoulder straps are padded half an inch/1.3 cm thick and should make things much more comfortable. I found that the brown waist strap is little too large for my skinny body, but it can be taken off and saved.
And we’re finished! Getting the two smaller loops at the top of the LK-35 onto the frame took some coaxing with needle nose pliers, but it fits. I also saved one of the LK-35’s frame webbings and attached it to the bottom portion to protect my lower back.
For a waist strap, I didn’t have much on hand other than this 2 inch/5 cm webbing belt. It will do just fine for now until I find something better. I can also remove it when I’m carrying a light load.
Out for a 7.5 mile hike with a 20 pound/9 kilogram load-out…the modified rucksack performed very well :). No aching muscles or back strain thanks to the padded shoulder straps, waist strap, and back support webbings.
So how much weight did I save?…according to my scale, 1 pound 8 ounces/.7 kilograms (including the waist strap), so the new overall weight is 3 pounds 4 ounces/1.5 kilograms. You could probably save a few more ounces by building a PVC frame, which won’t cost more than a couple $.
I know some people may ask why I bothered shaving-off a pound and a half – a few might say that I’m a “sissy”. Well, the reason I made this adjustment is because I want to maximise my comfort. It’s all too easy to become burdened with excess kit or to not figure the weight of the gear you take along, and end up feeling like a miserable pack mule a few miles in, when a lighter outfit would make for a much more enjoyable time outdoors. I want to enjoy myself as much as possible…otherwise, what’s the point of going out?