The French army F1 backpack was in use till the mid 90s. Nowadays you can still find them in many (online) army surplus shops. Main reason for that is because they are extremely durable and made out of tough heavy duty materials. This backpack is super strong and won’t disappoint you.
The French army F1 backpack is compared to a modern lightweight backpack a bit heavy (2,2 Kg) and a bit uncomfortable. Actually it is more a very luxury duffel bag. For example; it doesn’t have side pockets and it has grip handles on both sides. Besides that you can also wear it on your back.
Fully expanded it has a huge storage volume. Some sources claim it is 65 liter while other mention even 80 liters. There are two different closing cords. This allows you to use the backpack in normal mode or in fully expanded mode. Where the Polish (puma camouflage) backpack is equipped with two sets of closure buckles to assure closing at different heights, the French F1 backpack uses extra ordinary long closure straps to close the pack at all possible heights. The shoulder straps are padded but not with the softness of a modern backpack or rucksack. There is a hip belt but this is a very minimalistic belt. Most people will attach both sides of the hip belt to another point of the bag and not use it. The bottom of the pack is covered with a thick rubber that comes 20 cm of the ground. This will prevent your stuff from getting wet when you place the pack in a damp underground or a small puddle of water. Behind the rubber is a small pocket that is sealed with Velcro. This can be used to store a padlock and the ends of the very long closing straps. The covering lid with a top pocket also has a rubber lining to protect your stuff from the rain.
Closable with a padlock.
Another great feature of this backpack is that you can close the top with a pad lock. To do this you have to remove the upper binding cord and replace it with a extra high padlock. This will make it a lot harder for thieves to steal from your bag. Especially in buses between the city center and the ferry pier to the harbor and on long distance buses to the southern islands theft is very common. Usually the luggage handling personnel works together and hide one small guy in the luggage compartment under the bus.
Just like most military surplus backpacks it is possible to upgrade them with parts from other backpacks. One of the possible upgrades is to attach the shoulder straps of a modern backpack to the D ring on top of the backside of this backpack. Since the original straps are very small it is possible to wind them through most buckles that will come with a the well padded shoulder straps of an old backpack. The original shoulder padding can be attached with duct tape over the extra soft and longer backpack straps.
Another thing that is easily be done is removal of the 3 rubber inserts. They are there to give the bag some extra structure. However they can poke annoyingly in your back.
As mentioned the Polish army backpack with puma or frog camouflage is somehow comparable with this backpack. Another back that might be the starting point for designing the French F1 backpack is the WW2 US army jungle pack. This was a much bigger backpack than normal and uses extensively by the USMC in their battles against the Japanese in the Pacific. Especially when you look at the olive green version of this pack instead of the pacific jungle camouflage version you’ll notice the similarities. One single compartment with a closure top lid that has a pocket with a zipper. Both packs also have small straps attached to the shoulder straps for carrying extra equipment in front of you.
www.militaria4you.com (Dutch military surplus website)