Austrian army backpack system

During the 80’s the Austrian army had a load carrying system that consisted of a large backpack that looked like a US army Alice Pack and a smaller bag that could be carried as a front pack or as a butt pack. Alternately the small bag could also be worn as a shoulder bag or a small backpack on it’s own. The bags are made from Nylon (Polyamide) and usually carried in combination with a pistol belt.

The idea from a front pack was copied in later years by the Dutch army. They had a small duffel generally known as the Rotota bag or soldiers handbag. This was also attached to the shoulder straps of a backpack. However the Dutch used plastic fast release buckles while the Austrian pack system uses metal hooks. Another difference is that the Dutch front-pack is carried on the chest while the Austrian front-pack is carried a little lower, on your belly. Perhaps this was done so the soldier has more space to handle a rifle.

The Austrian backpack and front-pack. Source:

The main pack
The main pack is very similar to the US Alice backpack. However big difference is that the Alice pack comes with a rigid external frame while the Austrian army backpack doesn’t have any back support. Another difference is the attaching points above the side pouches on the backpack. The Alice pack has a piece of webbing with eyelets. Equipment such as fields canteens, first aid kits or ammunition pouches can be attached by hooking through the eyelets or with so called Alice clips. The Austrian army backpack only has pre attached straps that can be used to attach a blanked or similar item.

Österr-Heeres-Rucksack (
The Austrian ”Alice Pack” with original detachable shoulder straps. Source:

The backpack has two drawstring closures at the top. This allows you to over load the pack a little bit or just give some more protection against the elements. Inside the bag is a big internal pouch. This can be used to wear heavier items more closely to your back or to insert items such as a magazine, foldable sleeping mat or piece of rubber foam in order to give the pack a little more back support. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with rubber.

The size of the main pack is approximately 50 cm x 39 cm x 19 cm.

The small Pack
The small pack is a lot smaller then the main pack. Approximately 35 cm x 11 cm x 39 cm. It is available with 2 straps to secure the cover lid and also with 3 straps. Both have attaching points for other gear at the sides, both have 2 belts under the bag for a bed roll or something else and both versions have the same attaching points for the harness and pistol belt at the backside. Perhaps one was intended as a butt-pack and the other as a front-pack.

Austrian Smaal Pack Duo 01
The two versions of the Austrian army small pack.

With a little creativity you can easily attach other straps to the small pack so it can be worn as a backpack or messenger bag.

Austrian Army small nylon bag
The small bag from the Austrian Army backpack system can be used as a backpack on it’s own.
Austrian Army Small Pack (3 straps)
The Austrian Army Small pack as a messenger / shoulder bag. Source:

At the back of the small pack is a 6 cm wide piece of webbing that has two clips that can be connected to a belt. These clips are made of plastic and look similar to the metal Alice clips from the US army.

Alice clips
The plastic Austrian belt clip (left) and the metal US Army belt clip aka Alice clip (right)

The plastic olive green clip has a small marking of Austrian weapon and gear manufacturer Glock and a number on it. Most likely the year of production. Glock is known for replacing parts that are commonly made of metal by parts made out of polymers (plastic). They did this also in their famous pistols. On the sides of the small pack is a piece of webbing. This can be used for connecting a field canteen or entrancing tool with the Alice clips.

Please note that in the following movie the shoulder strap is actually a cut in half harness.

As mentioned in the last video, the carrying straps are not the most comfortable. They are 6 cm wide. For a full size backpack this is quite a small area to spread out the load. Also the padding is not the softest. Since the carrying harness can easily we removed from it’s hooks it is also easy to attach other shoulder straps or a harness to the pack.

The pictures above are from the Austrian army Main pack mounted on the frame of a Swedish army LK35 rucksack frame. Source: Alternatively you can also use a (external) frame of an old (wasted) 70’s or 80’s backpack that you can find in second hand shops and thrift-shops. Since the original Austrian army harness is removable by opening the hooks you won’t do any damage to the backpack or straps.

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The main backpack from the Austrian load carrying system. Source:

More info:
3 Surplus European Backpacks You’ve Probably Never Used – But Should

Available at:

Large backpack (German website) (Dutch website)
Small bag (German website) (Dutch website)
Total system (German website) (Dutch website)

Published by dreweszuur


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