A first look at the Swedish LK-70 rucksack

Although I really enjoy owning and using outdoor gear, I try not to amass too much of it. I’m definitely not a minimalist, but for whatever reason I just can’t stand having too much stuff, and that includes outdoor gear! Having said this, if I do recognize a legitimate gap in my arsenal of woodsman’s toys, I won’t hesitate to fill it with a rugged, dependable, multi-functional item of value.

I don’t get a chance to take longer trips that often, but it is something I’m trying to do at least once a year. This being the case, I decided it was time to purchase a backpack with a larger capacity for longer trips during any season and for extended periods of time. Having recently been impressed by the build quality and overall design of the Swedish LK-35 army rucksack, I decided to purchase its big brother, the LK-70, from Finland’s best-known military surplus and outdoor store, Varusteleka.

Image linked from Varusteleka

As you may have surmised, this is a 70-Liter (4,270 cu in) pack. It has an external frame very similar to that of the LK-35, differing mainly in the area of size. While there is a newer nylon version of this pack, I purchased the more traditional canvas and leather version. You know, it’s just how I roll. 😉

A few specs:

  • Pack material: canvas with rubberized bottom, frame side and top flap, leather straps, metal buckles, nylon pouch extensions
  • Pack capacity: 70 liters (at least; possibly more considering the pouch extensions)
  • Pack design: 1) very large rubberized top flap with two pockets for flat or small items, 2) large main compartment with pouch extension and drawstring closure, 3) two long side pouches with pouch extension, drawstring closure and top flap, 4) one rear pouch with pouch extension, drawstring closure and top flap, 5) space for skis, an axe etc. between the long side pouches and main pouch with leather straps to secure these items in place, 6) external attachment points for bedroll, sleeping pad etc.
  • Frame material: external tube-steel frame
  • Weight: 3.5 kg/7.7 lbs.

Image linked from Varusteleka

Out of the box, this pack had a pretty strong mold smell (not uncommon with military-surplus items), so I aired it out outside for a while and then washed it with soap and water and hung it up to dry. This took care of the majority of the odor.

Then I loaded it up with a bunch of gear, exercise weights and other stuff totaling 21.5 kg/47.5 lbs to do a little weight test (by the way, it’s usually advisable to try packs on at the store with weight in them before you buy them, but I had a good feeling this one would work out thanks to my experience with the smaller version). This is more weight than I’d take in most cases, so I thought it’d be a good test weight. After adjusting the straps and pack position a bit, the LK-70 proved to be quite comfortable. The external frame kept the pack sack off my back, which allows for excellent airflow. I quickly climbed on and off a few chairs to get an initial feel for how the pack carries, and it didn’t seem to wobble or shift at all.

Having paid only 55 Euros/$71.50 for this pack and considering that it’s decades old, I didn’t expect it to be in perfect condition. Again, this goes with the territory of military-surplus gear. There was a small cut through the leather part of the waist belt, so I took a few minutes to sew it up. It shouldn’t be a problem at all. Also, the pack will need to be waterproofed with either wax or a modern waterproofing agent and the leather straps should be oiled before I take it out into the field. Other than this and the rectified mold odor, there really isn’t anything to complain about, especially considering the price. Given the basic nature of the design, some comfort modifications may be in order in the future. We’ll see.

I don’t want to jinx myself by saying too much, but plans for an extended outing in a northerly direction are in the works and I’ll be bringing this pack if it stands up to preliminary field testing. 🙂


13 comments on “A first look at the Swedish LK-70 rucksack

  1. Duncan says:

    That’s a great looking pack. If I hadn’t just bought a “new” LC-1 USGI pack, I’d definitely consider purchasing one of these. And i totally agree on the canvas and leather. It’s hard to go wrong with “old school cool.” Great post as always!

  2. looking forward to seeing how it holds up on one of your extended trips.

    As far as extra outdoor gear goes- it looks like you did not go wrong.

  3. Ron says:

    Sure is a decent looikng pack!
    From what I read was it’s main drawbackarea the carrying comfort and the serious lack thereoff. Many accounts of Swedish exservicemen say so. I also tend to steer away from pack with zippers, based on my own experiences.
    I am looking forward to seeing your findings.

    • Well, everything’s relative. Do you know how much weight they were carrying? Seems troops are often hauling around pretty heavy loads, much heavier that I’d carry on an outdoor outing. ANY pack can be uncomfortable if the weight is too high, after all.

      There are only two small zippers on the pack (for the small pockets in the top flap). I don’t see myself using those pockets often, as I tend to keep smaller items and maps in my pockets, belt pouch etc. Overall, the pack has a simple and sturdy design.

    • Mårten Karlsson says:

      Well, as far as the lack of carrying comfort you really have to take into account that the load out for a soldier needing the LK-70 back pack was 55 kilos (about 120 pounds). This was issued mainly to troops expected to infiltrate enemy lines and stay for an indefinite. The rest of the troops was issued the LK-35 and a secondary bag that was supposed to stay at the rear.

      Having said that, if the army fell into dissaray all Swedish soldiers where supposed to melt into the woods to fight a gerilla war until the enemy was routed from the country. Then the LK-35 was what you had. The standard pack list was so large that you had to compress the contents by using your feet to push down while holding the bag with your hands. Many are the backs broken by the LK-backpack system and the “White Lightning” birch wood skiis. The smell you smell when you buy them used isn’t the result of mold but the remnants of the fire and brim language of the many Swedish conscripts that has worn them before you.

  4. OutdoorEnvy says:

    great looking pack. Looking forward to how it does for you. I’m almost hoping it’s not so great, so I don’t have to track one down stateside.

  5. OZme says:

    That is a Nice pack and I have thank you for recommending me.
    Look forward to see it in action!

  6. […] army LK-70 rucksack previewed here. This 70-liter pack has more than enough room for the gear I’ll be bringing. It’s an […]

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