How to Pack a Knapsack
By: C.J.M. Aronhalt, Co. Clerk for 138th Reg. PA. Volunteers, Co. B
As we move toward and do more campaign style events it will be important to
minimize the amount of gear we take to events. As reenactors we tend to over pack, why? Simple, we don't carry it around all
the time, the most we normaly carry it is from the car to the camp site, if that. On average the common soldier marched 10
Miles a day, with 7 out of 10 guys carrying knapsacks. You would be suprised what you really need, and how much of that you
can carry, still be comfortable, do justice to those we represent, thus gaining better understanding of the life of the
Common Soldier, North or South, during the Civil War.
Remember these are just suggestions, you can pack your knapsack, whatever works for you.There
are countless other articles, first hand accounts, photographs out there that the reader is more than welcome to research
|Click to Enlarge
The things that the common soldier would have carried in their knapsack, and
suggested items to pack in your knapsack:
-Gum Blanket/Ground Cloth
-Extra Socks & Under Drawers
-Small Personal Items: (Housewife, Pocket Knife, Journal, Pencils, etc.)
-Rope/ Twine, Tent Pegs
M1855/1864 Double Bag Knapsack (aka The Soft Pack)
The most common knapsack used by Union Soldiers during the war is the Double
Bag Knapsack. Prices for Reproductions can range any where from $60.00 to $300.00. The knapsack has two bags or comparments,
hence the name, no frame, hence the soft pack aspect. One part has flaps for the tent, pegs, rope, blanket. The other bag
is for other items, shirt, drawers,etc. (remeber keep it to a minmal).
How pack a Double Bag Knapsack:
-Lay the knapsack out, open the bag with the compartment with the flaps, place the folded tent
(this has to be a shelter halve, not a full tent) with the rope/twine and pegs.
-Place the folded blanket in the same compartment, close the flaps.
-Put the Clothing Items, other small items the other compartment, close that part.
-Put the Gum Blanket in between the compartment, close the knapsack.
-If you choose not to bring your tent substitute the tent in step one for the gum blanket.
-While technically incorrect, you can carry your blanket on top your knapsack using
straps. The top of the knapsack is for the Rolled Up Great Coat.
-This pack can uncomfortable to wear some times, adjust it to your needs.
-Pecard's or some other leather dressing is recommended for the leather straps to soften
Pre-War/Militia Style Knapsack (aka The Hard Pack)
Another common type of knapsack, though more early war, is the Hard Pack.
Reproductions can range from $100.00 to $300.00. The knapsack has one large compartment, with two canvas flaps with ties,
a large painted canvas or leather cover (the canvas is more correct), and two or three straps to keep closed. Also, a
wood frame for nice box shape. You can store alot in knapsack, but be careful, one bad fall can break the frame, causing a
bit of a problem.
How to pack the Hard Pack:
-Lay the knapsack with the large compartment open, put the items you feel you need to pack
(Shirt, Socks, etc.) remember use every nook and crany.
-Close and tie the flaps, put the gum blanket & the tent, if you wish, on
the closed compartment
-Pull the cover over it, tighten the straps, roll the blanket, put it in the straps on top.
-First, this is my favorite type of knapsack, there is really no wrong way to pack
it, I find it extremely comfortable.
-If you choose not to bring a tent, subsitute the tent with the blanket, thus having nothing
Mexican War Single Bag Knapsack (aka the "Kibbler Knapsack")
This should really be last knapsack you consider getting if you do a Union Impression.
It was developed during the Mexican War, it was widely used before the war by Militias, but really only saw action during
the war in the Confederate ranks. It has a large painted canvas flap with four ties, a single bag, hence the name, closed
by three buttons and russet or black straps, and a strap for the chest.
How to pack the Mexican War Knapsack:
-First, put your clothing & personal items in the bag, button it up (Remember this is
part that will rest on your back so be mindful of what you pack, & how you pack it. Try putting your extra shirt along
-The large flap with the ties is designed for your blanket, however it doesn't work that
well, I suggest putting the gum blanket in there tie it.
-Put the blanket in between the compartments, close it
-There are two ways to use the straps, straight down or crossed. Crossing the straps makes
it slightly more comfortable.
-Use the Chest Strap.
-This is a very simple, functional knapsack, if it is used in our ranks it should be in
very small quanities.
How to Make A Blanket Roll:
-First lay the blanket out, fold it length wise once.
-Lay your Shirt, Socks, Drawers neatly in the blanket, take into account if you put a bunch
of stuff in there it will be bulky and unwearable.
-Fold and Twist the Blanket, Tie it, Sling it over your left shoulder. It's best to
have someone help you with this step.
-You can put your ground cloth/gum blanket on the outside of your blanket roll, do that
in the fold and twist step.