This piece courtesy of Tom Aldwinckle who also supplied the photos.
The two styles of snapsack illustrated are both based on the `duffle bag` type that would be worn across the back, with a strap or cord going round the chest. It is believed the snapsack was a basic item of military kit, to carry victuals and any spare kit such as shoes or shirts.
The New model snap sacks were made out of leather, costing 8-9d at the time. For the leather example thin soft leather of suitable colour is used and a tube is sewn out of it. Always face the `buff` side of the leather out. Rather than a complicated end piece getting sewn in at the bottom, both ends are secured and tied with cords. The top end is made easier to open by using cords threaded through a series of holes. The bottom end is tied with cords and made so that the cords cannot come off. This item has a leather strap made from the same piece of leather as the body. Again the buff side of the leather is the face on show when worn.
Another version uses canvas or linen and troops in Ireland were often sent bread `sewn into bags that could then be used as snap sacks`. Using a linen bag that has a corded draw string at the top, the bottom can again be tied as a bundle using the cord from the top opening. Worn across the shoulder, this type of bag can hold a surprising amount of gear. To assist with weather proofing once made the whole item was soaked in linseed oil and allowed to dry – which takes a surprising amount of time to dry (around two to three weeks) hung in a shed as the linseed does drip.
The snap sack is a very versatile piece of equipment. At times I use one to carry a fully authentic set of cheese, bread and beer, plus spare shirt etc. Very lumpy items inside the snap sack can be uncomfortable, and ideally the load follows the curve of the bag across the back.
Tom Aldwinckle 29/12/10