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(Scroll down to read item description/condition below story)

As college freshman Joel Sheetz stood in line at the university book store, he realized it was time to retire the old backpack that had served him well in high school. For one thing, he was going to have to carry a lot more books, plus his laptop, not to mention some extra clothes and of course some snacks and energy drinks. But looking around at the crowd of preppies, hipsters and hippies, he realized he was going to have find a bag that you couldn't find at Target. Something that said, "Joel Sheetz...rugged individualist...ready for adventure...ready to tackle the world." He shared his dilemma with fellow student and good friend, Riley who was standing in line behind him.

"Dude, go to the Lemming." Riley said.

"What? The Lemming?"

"Yeah dude, you need to checkout LeapingLemming.com. They've got some sweet vintage military bags, jackets and stuff." Riley responded as he slurped the last of the foam from his mocha latté.

Joel thumbed in the url on his I-phone and within minutes, he found just what he needed--a former East German Army rucksack that screamed, "JOEL SHEETZ". He finished placing his order with the Lemming just as he stepped up to the register to pay for his books.

Joel turned back to Riley, "Dude, you were right, I guess I'm a lemming now."

"Joel, we're all lemmings in this college bookstore line, you're a Leaping Lemming...that's something different altogether." The oft philosophical Riley responded.

Well even though Joel scored one, the Lemming still has a few more of these super cool ex-East German army rucksacks ready for repurpose as civilian backpacks, book bags, diaper bags, brief case, etc. We've also seen them adapted for use as a bicycle pannier (Convo us if you'd like to see photos of them used as panniers). This bag is from the 1980's and looks as it was never issued. It is olive drab with a unique vertical stripe (rain) camo pattern. Made of a heavy-duty cotton canvas on the outside and lined with a rubberized material on the inside makes it highly water resistant. It is12" (30.5cm) wide, 11" (28cm) and 5" (12.5cm) deep. The main exterior flap secures with two metal cinch straps and also includes an ID window. The inside of the pack has one large compartment (big enough to fit a smaller 11.5" wide laptop or netbook) with 3 top crossover flaps with cinch strap that can be used for added weather protection should you desire. Besides that, the entire interior of this rucksack is lined with a water-proof material which can be extended up and folded over to give you virtually water-tight protection for the items in the pack. The .75" (2cm) wide gray colored shoulder/carrying strap is made out of sturdy webbed nylon and has heavy-duty clips. The straps can be removed completely and the bag can be used as brief case (has sewn-in handle on top flap) or you can reconfigure the straps if you prefer a different setup. The straps also feature additional D rings for clipping on other gear, attaching to bikes, etc.

This bag is in like new condition and has been in storage most of it's life. We found no rips, holes, tears or stains to the fabric. The hardware is free of any rust.

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Greg Boydston
Dee Ann Boydston

Army Surplus Backpack - Rucksack Repurpose as Book Bag, Brief Case, Bike Pannier, Stuff Hauler


  • Vintage item from the 1980s
  • Materials: cotton canvas, vinyl, nylon, metal
  • Only ships within United States.
  • Feedback: 932 reviews
  • Favorited by: 340 people