Part II in our series on “The Je Ne Sais Quoi of French Surplus”
Can you call something your “favorite” if you find it uninteresting and humdrum but you still choose it over most other things? If so, meet my favorite daypack, the French “musette F1/F2.”
I guess I love this thing. It’s basic and boring, but based on my actual behavior, it must be my favorite, because I use it literally every day and take it into the field several times a month.
In about the Seventies, the French army replaced their simple canvas modèle 50, which they’d carried through their Indochina and Algeria campaigns, with the musette F1, made of a clever rubberized fabric to keep water out. In the late Eighties they issued a slightly enlarged version, the F2.
You can find both on the surplus market for a little as $20. Also available but far less common are Austrian rucks that seem clearly like improved homages to the F2.
For a 1970s design, these bomb-proof French packs ride pretty comfortably, sitting nice and high on the back. I can pack almost 40# (18kg) of bricks into an unmodified F1 before it grinds against my low back.
Though the straps can scarcely be adjusted, they have the golden ingredient for comfort: they are broad. Not padded, but broad. (I owe this discovery to Sgt. Šileika, the Lithuanian trail Yoda.)
All I can criticize the straps for is that you cannot adjust them for length. However, we fix that in just a few minutes. We just need to replace the original “quick” attach hook.
See, the pack was designed with the idea that first you’d put your right arm through the strap and then, instead of awkwardly slipping your left through another tight strap, you would just have that left strap flopping free and then re-attach it to the pack with a hook near your left hip. (This may even have been necessary to make it fit with the FAMAS rifle’s unusual sling.)
But that hook is impossibly clumsy and slow (at least for me), and you can’t shorten or lengthen the strap to cinch it up to your body.
Happily, you can change all that for $1. Cut that hook off and replace it with a “G hook” and a short length of 1″ (25mm) webbing. And, regardez! You have an adjustable strap. (Believe me, if I can do this, you can do this.)
While you’re at it, replace the buckles, which as one commenter writes at La Tranchée Militaire, “… are almost impossible to use because they give you so little room to pass the straps through,” and you have to thread/unthread two long straps through two slots each.
Instead, buy a pair of 25mm “split-bar” buckles. You can slip them right on and you don’t even have to remove the original buckles.
Finally, take my advice and get six “web dominators,” which are basically little bungee spools for loose straps flapping all over. You’ll want them because this thing has about 2m of extra straps, and unless you’re currently using them all to strap stuff all over the outside of your pack, you’ll want them out of the way.