Knapsack Packing 101
A good number of members of the 64th have started carrying knapsacks over the last year. This is good as the current thinking is that knapsacks were carried in the field all through the war almost as commonly as bedrolls.
As the 1st Illinois Battalion has now standardized the method of packing them we should start packing ours to match. In this way the overall look of the Battalion will be maintained.
Just about everyone has picked up a 53/55 model soft pack so this is what we will discuss here. Those of you with other types will have to make some minor adjustments to the directions given here.
There are four parts of the pack that are used for storage;
Start with the Box. First fold smoothly any clothes you wish to carry. Smoothly is the key as what you put in hear first is what will rest against your back all day. Next put in your shelter half, guy rope and three, or four, depending on your model, tent pegs. Put the pegs towards the top of the pack so they won’t dig into your lower back. Those of you with heavy canvas tents may have to pass on this. Some of those tents may not fit into the pack. Last comes your blanket. Take your time learning how to fold your blanket to fit in the Box. It should fill it completely side to side, top to bottom. Press everything down and fasten up the straps. The Box should now look like a box with squared up sides and corners. If it doesn’t then keep trying, without a good shape here nothing else you do will give the pack a good firm look, not to mention riding comfortably after a couple hours march.
The Envelope is where you are to keep any dry rations that won’t fit into the haversack. This is mainly the hardtack and maybe coffee. If you’ve ever tried to pack a full three days rations into the haversack, it can’t be done. Most guys use this space for personal items but have a care. It’s easy to fill this space up with books, photo’s, and games, until there’s no room for the food. I know you want to show these things off to the public during inspection but get together with your pards so when the spectators come down the line everyone doesn’t have the same thing on display. How many decks of period cards will they want to look at?
Your Gum Blanket is folded and put in the fold and the pack is buckled up tight. You will see why the first time it starts raining during a march. Just reach around and pull your poncho out the side of your pack and put it on. With cooperation this can be done on the march without stopping.
The Top of your pack is where your overcoat is to go. Most guys think this is for the blanket but its not. In fact the straps for the top of the pack weren’t issued with the pack but came with the overcoat. This is not to say that blankets weren’t stowed up there, they were, and during cold weather we do it as well but don’t get into the habit of placing your blanket on top in lieu of inside. Keep in mind, on top means it gets wet right away in any kind of rain, inside and it will stay dry in all but a heavy rain.
For those of us just looking for something to do this winter, practice packing your pack the right way until it’s second nature might be a good way to pass an afternoon.