Over the last few months I’ve been acquiring some old school kit and trying it out in the field. There are several differences between the old fashioned stuff and the modern – it’s often much cheaper, it was built to last, and it’s often much heavier. The Czech Model 67 bedroll is a perfect example of a heavy, tough, utilitarian piece of kit.
I paid approximately 12 GBP for the bedroll from a Slovak online army shop. It was unissued but stank from long term storage. Other than the smell which went away after I’d washed the woollen blanket and cotton hygiene sheet, it was in immaculate condition. The bedroll has three pieces (you can see where the new American modular sleep system design came from): an outer bivvy bag, a woollen blanket and a cotton liner. The outer bag is nylon, waterproof on the ground side and water resistant on the upper; it has two zips. The woollen blanket is either mixed fibre or artificial, I’m not sure which. The bright blue cotton liner is of a thick, coarse weave. All three parts button together (a very long process).
The complete bedroll is heavy and bulky and was designed to be carried across the back with its own shoulder straps. For short hikes or transported by vehicle it’s ideal but I wouldn’t like to walk for days with it on my back.
I spoke to a friend who was a conscript in the Czechoslovak army under socialism (pre-1989) about how the bedroll was used. Rather than it being just a field-use sleeping bag it was basically a mobile bed, with the conscripts using it in the barracks and in the field. Basically the same principle as the old Roman Army bedroll.
As I’m not as hardy as the average Slav, who seem impervious to the bitterly cold winters we get out here, I added a couple of extra items to make it more suitable for 4 season use. Between the ground-facing outer layer and the woollen blanket I inserted a reflective metallic sleeping mat, and I inserted a 2-season Ultralight sleeping bag between the cotton layers. For extreme winter 5-season use, I will carry a 4 season sleeping bag and use that in its place. With its current set up, I can still roll the whole thing up and fasten the buttons.
I’m amazed at the bedroll. I’ve used it on numerous occasions, both indoors in cabins and at my house, and outdoors, and it hasn’t failed to keep me warm when the temperature hovers below zero. Interestingly, I never feel too hot or too cold in it. This winter i plan to try it out with a thicker sleeping bag inside in the snow, plus I’ll insert the whole bedroll into a British Army Goretex bivvy bag. For those not wanting to pay hundreds for a modern sleeping bag or wanting to go old school, I’d recommend it without question.