Vietnam Rucksacks - 101

CC’s Vietnam Rucksacks 101

*** (One Sixth Scale's Review Competition Winner - Submitted by Casual_Collector) ***

(Left to Right (front view, loaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

Vietnam-era 1/6 gear is rare for a reason – few manufacturers have ventured into the market and those that have rarely produce Vietnam gear for long. However, some companies, most notably DML, Toy Soldier, and Hot Toys, have produced excellent period-accurate pieces. Of these, some of the most expensive – and sought after – are rucksacks.

Three of the principal rucksacks used by the American forces in Vietnam are the ARVN rucksack, the lightweight rucksack, and the CIDG (also known as CISO or indig) rucksack (pictured left to right). Each rucksack was widely used during the conflict and for certain purposes. I will try to explain the rucksack’s use as I review each rucksack.


 
(Left to Right (rear view, loaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

The Hot Toys ARVN rucksack was first used on the SEAL M60 gunner back in the mid-2000’s, and has reappeared as part of the Hot Toys Platoon line-up. This is a truly beautiful piece: The rim of the rucksack’s main pocket features grommets, the side pouches can be pulled back to strap gear, and the back has a large x-frame – just like on the 1:1 version. The fabric and webbing looks nice and feels solid. Overall, it’s a very well put together piece and of a very high quality.

Historically, ARVN rucksacks were primarily used by U.S. units as an alternative to butt packs before the arrival of the lightweight and tropical rucksacks. The rucksacks tended to be uncomfortable for wear by Americans because they were designed for the shorter Vietnamese and the top flap tended to get caught on branches. However, they were prized for their space – a factor that led to their use by line units, Marine Force recon, and in Army Special Forces units as an alternative to the smaller CIDG rucksack.


 
(Left to Right (front view, unloaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

The Toy Soldier lightweight rucksack appeared with the Paul Longgrear figure. This particular rucksack is a P68, a model 1968. There is some debate on OSW over whether the rucksack is accurately to scale, but it looks good to me. Like the HT ARVN, there are a lot of little details to it: There are several bits of webbing with grommets attached to hang equipment from the ruck itself, straps to secure gear, and the pouches can be pulled from the ruck slightly to slide gear between the pouch and the rucksack. The rucksack comes configured as they were first issued – attached to the bottom of the frame. However, as more and more soldiers were issued the lightweight rucksack, it was found that strapping the pack to the top of the frame distributed its weight better. This latter method is also how I have strapped my rucksack here.

The frame is the true gem of this rucksack though: It’s very well done and a fairly solid piece. Bits of webbing are strapped to it, like in 1:1, to both secure the rucksack to the frame and so that GI’s can hang equipment from it (also like in 1:1). The frame is also suitable for use by radio operators carrying a PRC-25, who used the same frame to carry their radios. However, the frame is also a huge liability – these things break VERY easily. There are many reports on OSW’s forums about these frames breaking with the slightest drop – my own frame has broken in no less than three places. So, all-in-all, though it’s a remarkably detailed piece and an essential one for most “grunts” in the U.S. Army, it’s a very breakable piece that should be handled with care.

Lightweight rucksacks were universally used in Vietnam because of their carrying capacity, greater than any other rucksack issued by the Army. However, their size also made them a potential liability for the Special Forces and LRRP’s, who tended to travel light. As a result, they saw little use with either unit unless their mission required a heavier load to be carried.
 

(Left to Right (rear view, unloaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

The last rucksack is my favorite – the Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack. The CIDG rucksack was almost exclusively used by U.S. Special Forces and their indigenous mercenaries. The CIDG rucksack was based off a captured NVA design redesigned by the CIA in Okinawa. The actual rucksack is much simpler than either the ARVN or lightweight rucksacks, with few grommets or straps to attach equipment to the rucksack. However, it is to scale and well put together. The fabric’s tough and of good quality, and the stitching is superb. There are three front pouches, a main pocket, a rear slot (useful for sticking a machete into, a trick Special Forces troopers would use to prevent back injuries), straps on the top flap to secure equipment, and a pair of side straps to secure the pack firmly against the figure’s back. All of this looks accurate to scale and to the original design when comparing the rucksack with 1:1 examples. However, there are two issues I have with the rucksack.

Firstly, these rucksacks are even rarer than the lightweight rucksack. ARVN rucksacks are fairly common, lightweight rucksacks are uncommon on eBay, but the only place I’ve ever seen CIDG rucksacks are on OSW (they’re almost always grabbed up within a day or less, even “bad” examples) or as part of a $120 figure. If you’re trying to make a figure in the name of accuracy, good luck finding one. Quibbles aside, the only other issue I have with the rucksack is that the straps come loose very easily. It’s hard to position the rucksack properly so that it hangs like actual examples do. However, with some maneuvering, it can be done.

Needless to say, if you want to make an American Special Forces bash and can find one, the TS CIDG rucksack is truly the way to go.

That wraps up my review, I hope everybody learned a little something about rucksacks and how to use ‘em, see you all on OSW!


 
(Left to Right (side view, unloaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

 

(Left to Right (bottom view, unloaded): Toy Solider Lightweight Rucksack, Hot Toys ARVN rucksack, Toy Soldier CIDG rucksack)

JOIN. LIKE. FOLLOW.

Connect with us via Facebook®