RD-54 Backpack – Background and Details (Soviet A`stan Gear #2)

With this post I`d like to continue my series about Soviet Afghanistan gear. Let`s talk about another very iconic Soviet piece of equipment: the famous RD-54 backpack! The pack is, as simple as it is, an amazing piece of kit and originally developed for the Parachute Landing Troops (VDV). (Click all following pictures to enlarge!)


Here is one of my three backpacks I own. This one is pretty used and shows a bunch of marks and repairs.



Main compartment approx. size: 27cm x 22cm x 10cm
Left/right compartments approx.: 27cm x 8cm x 10cm
Weight: 1,3kg

This jumpable paratrooper backpack was part of the special paratroopers`equipment and besides other storage cases and bags, a very important part of the combat kit in total. Let`s take a look at some instructional drawings from back in the day:


Here you`ll get an idea how the RD-54 is used in different situations: 1, 2 and 3 shows the backpack worn in ground operation (as patrol pack), while 4, 5 and 6 illustrates a jump/airborne layout. The main difference is a lowered position of the pack while jumping, so the soldier gets space wearing the D6 parachute and can securely transport his shovel (on back, upside down).

The shovel`s handle should be put in the compartment located on the right shoulder strap (see below #2 – left side: the rectangular shaped “box”). Other parts: #1 rucksack; #3 double AK magazine pouch; #4 double hand grenade pouch; #5 shovel cover for belt wear.

Many people (without researching the topic) don`t know what this little flap-style pouch was intended for, because it is completely useless if the RD-54 is worn in ground configuration. It sits very high, is a bit bended and upside down – nothing like a traditional kind of pouch and useless in any case. It only makes sense if the RD is worn in “low riding” style, because then you`ll have the chance to insert the handle.



The illustrations show that the pouches are worn with/on a belt (pouches have belt loops on back). This was theoretically a good thing if jumping out of a plane (everything secure in place), but when you touched down it was senseless. The weight of the pack pulls up your belt and if you`ll like to get something from the pack, you`ll have to open your belt and remove everything with it. Think about it as using a modern backpack fastened to the back of your plate carrier (with all the pouches, antennas, drinking tubes, weapon sling, etc.) – totally lame! So everything “connected” made no sense and soldiers started to use the pack without mounting the pouches to the belt. Doing so, the pouches became useless and almost every Soviet trooper in A`stan removed them:


Caution: If you`ll see an Airsoft player/reenactor wearing the RD-54 adjusted to the belt, he will be a n00b or a lazy mother****er that has not done his homework! 😉 😀

Let`s enjoy an oldskool pic from 1960. The soldiers is wearing the pouches not “correct”, too! 🙂 The belt holds the pouches in place, but they are not used with the loops, only worn over the straps and “squeezed” in place…


Yes, the backpack looks quit oldskool-ish but offers all kind of modern features. The overall material is some kind of treated cotton with waterproof/water repellent characteristics. The main compartment has a sewn in metal frame to guarantee stiffness and shape. The shoulder straps are comfy and padded to prevent rubbing. There is a nice sternum trap system, curved buckles for adjusting the length of all straps, two half-ring to attach carabiners to and several pairs of sewn in lace-ties (each compartment features one pair) for fixing gear to the outer backpack. If you check the photographs and illustrations, you`ll come across these “grommet holes” that look like typical “water release openings” known from most US gear. This was my first thought when I got the pack, but after some research I found out that these are reinforced openings for the lace-ties – a clever system! (Check the picture below: the soldier`s RD-54 in the foreground has lace-ties hanging out of the “reinforced lace-openings”:)


And now a few detailed pics for reference!

Sternum strap:

Buckles and rings on shoulder straps:

Factory stamp and hole for lace on bottom:

A typical ruff repair of the main flap:

Many soldiers also marked their RD-54s with pens or even some kind of etching process:


The inner top of the magazine pouch offers a second layer of material (only one of my three RD54s does have such a feature – a rare thing?):

A tiny, pinkie sized pouch for grenade fuzes from inside of each side compartment:

The pack has a nice working closure system: three triangular shaped flaps with button/loop closures, topped with a large flap. This seems odd, slow and dated but does the part! This system offers many possibilities to half-close the pack it needed. While today you`ll have only one zipper for main compartments, here you can work with different layouts to find the perfect solution.


On the right side of the rucksack you`ll find a green, laminated (factory?) label. Many packs lack this, because they were removed or simply torn away in the field.



The pack seems rather small but offers enough space to get all your needed gear with you. According to the official manual and reports from soldiers in the field, this is the way to pack your RD-54:

Start with the main compartment: food goes on the bottom, than mess kit, extra ammo, chemical protection medications, towel, soap, spoon. The canteen can also be placed into the middle compartment and it is also recommended to place more extra ammo inside of the mess kit (depends on situation). Than pocket on the right: content depends on soldier’s specialty, e.g. an anti tank grenade, a rocket for a RPG, extra machine gunner ammo or demolitions expert charges. The standard canteen can also be put there. The manual doesn’t tell anything about the left pocket on ground operation, but it is said that the “plash palatka” (Soviet poncho/tent) is stored there. On the other hand, I`ve never seen this in pics and I can`t think of guys trying to squeeze the huge plash into that tiny pouch. 😎

Soldiers have been seen carrying small(er) radios not only in dedicated radio-bags, but also in RD-54s:


Thinking about sleeping bags, jackets and ponchos, almost everything has been seen strapped to the outer RD parts!



I have no scan of the field manual at hand, but here is some official paperwork that comes with the RD-54:



I was using an unaltered and a modified RD-54 in two Airsoft games and on a few occasions of daily life. The pack was much more comfy than I expected and weight distribution was quit OK. Wearing this thing over several hours was no problem and I like the small dimensions making it easy even in rough terrain. The only thing is the length of the shoulder straps which seem a bit on the VERY short side – almost snug for bigger people like me. But overall – two thumbs up!

So this was part one (of two) regarding the RD-54 backpack. Coming up next: RD-54 field modifications and different versions!

~ by geardoshit on May 16, 2015.

One Response to “RD-54 Backpack – Background and Details (Soviet A`stan Gear #2)”

  1. Great info! Thanks for taking the time to put this stuff on line.I am learning more about this ruck sack since I see a lot of them here in Moscow.

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