Monday, June 8, 2015

Frost River Ilse Royal Jr. Bushcraft Pack & Bucket Modification

In my last couple of posts, I have been referring to  my "new bushcraft pack".  Well, I figured I ought to show it off and explain a little bit about the pack, why I chose it, and my impressions after receiving it........ in short, a bit of a review with my thoughts and musings about it.  So here we go!

I have a number of vintage military rucksacks, but I was hesitant to break them out for field use, and I was really interested in something that was new made, very rugged, and yet kept that "old-shcool" style and charm.  After a ton of research on line, and reading a ton of reviews and narratives, I finally settled on the Frost River, Ilse Royal Jr. Bushcraft Pack.

Frost River Ilse Royal Bushcraft Pack

I was very impressed with the company's philosophy and dedication to 100% made in the USA products.  When I say 100%, I mean just that...........  The Frost River Story and Philosophy

US made oilskin canvas made by Martexin
US tanned leather from  SB Foot Tannery, the makers of the leather for Red Wing Boots
Hand riveted and hand sewn by US workers in the Frost River workshop
100% solid brass hardware and rivets 

These packs are new-made to old shchool patterns and levels of quality that you just don't find in many companies these days.  The pack patterns are the tried and true styles that were refined in the fields and forests of America over 100 years ago.  A few refinements were made, but all-in-all, these packs are the same as their frontier ancestors!  They are "lifetime quality" and I expect to use this pack for the rest of my life and then pass it on to the next generation............ they are built to last, and last, and last, and are very repairable, just like the old packs.   In fact these packs are usually, "made to order".  When I ordered my pack, I was told that there would be a 2 to 3 week lead time before shipping so the pack could be made!  Someone actually held my order in hand, and then proceeded to cut and assemble the raw materials into MY pack!  Very cool!

With all of that said, I did have one disappointment when I received my pack.  When I first pulled the pack out of the package, I immediately knew I was holding my "dream pack".  When I looked a bit closer, the first thing that I noticed was that the non-load bearing  rivets looked great on the exterior side, but on the backside, they were sharp and "cheaply" mushroomed over "tube rivets".  The heads and shafts were sold brass, but the back portion was a hollow tube. These are what are called "semi-tubular rivets".

The "mushroomed" portion was sharp, with split metal "petals"....... and it looked bad....... it just looked cheap and not something I would ever expect on a pack at this price point or quality level.  Personally, I would never let anything like this leave my shop!  The rivets were "adequately" doing their intended job and were back-ups to the stitching, but why bother if they look so cheap and have sharp backs that can snag and cut?  

I believe that this type of semi-tubular rivet is meant to be set with a special punch that rolls and mushrooms the tubular end into a smooth, circular, "eyelet" type backing that works as the "mushroom" back.  These are not meant to split and tear out when they are installed!

For a few cents per rivet more, and probably for the same amount of assembly time, the job could have been done right.......... and that is exactly what I did for them.

The rivets on the left are my "replacement rivets", the right-hand rivets are the Frost River "load bearing" rivets.

I drilled out and removed all of the "mushroomed and split" rivets and replaced them with my own solid aluminum tinners rivets with brass washers. 

It took about half an hour to do the full job, and it was infinitely worth it!  Now the pack looks the way it should and is a "lifetime pack".  This is one improvement I would recommend to any new Frost River pack owner.  I have been a long time owner and user of Filson products, and you would never expect to see, and I have never seen,  this cheap riveting on their packs!  Frost River really dropped the ball on this area!  I am glad I had the rivets and the skill to make the rivet upgrade myself.

I will give them credit for the load bearing rivets.  These babies are beasts!  Big, heavy and solid.  Installed correctly and meant to last more than a lifetime!  This is what I expected on ALL of the riveted areas!

I also constructed an internal bucket to give the pack some rigidity and shape when hauling loose loads.  This is very reminiscent of the old pack baskets.  I used a plastic office trash can, and cut it down to fit.  As you can see from the shape, I made it with a long back, and a lower bucket-shelf.  

I sanded and rounded all of the sharp edges with sandpaper and then added a piece of solid cell camp-pad foam to the back.  The foam is attached with Velcro so it can be removed easily and will not slip when the unit is installed in the pack.  I used the super-sticky, peel-n-stick Velcro strips.  I used a heat gun to soften and reshape the lower portion of the bucket so it better fits the shape of my lower back.

I also added a vintage Mosin Nagant ammo pouch to the upper side side cinch strap.  This works perfectly to hold my head lamp in one side, and my car keys in the other.  These old pouches are made of "pleather" which makes them very weather resistant and nearly waterproof, and they match the pack style and colors! I have a second pouch that can be added to other side as well, if needed.

One very cool feature on these packs is the "axe tube" that lets you carry your hatchet or axe easily.  When the axe is slid into the tube, it is held securely by the pack flap that will cover it.  Here it is with my restored 1950's Boy Scout Axe (more on that in another blog posting!).

I purchased two of the bedroll straps from Frost River when I ordered the pack so I would have at least one set of matching leather straps for the bottom of the pack.  These are definitely "bedroll straps" long enough for a blanket roll, or my rolled zeltbahn tent, but not long enough for a sleeping bag. (also had to replace the rivets on these straps!).

The Frost River straps are in the foreground, not installed.

An now to finish things up, here is an album of Frost River Ilse Royal Jr. shots....... enjoy!

Padded shoulder straps.  Closed cell foam glued to the harness leather and covered in elk skin!

Frost River straps on top, Czech Army straps on bottom.

1 comment:

DW said...

Hope to see this used on an nice rainy hike.