A Bundeswehr backpack as a best friend

The summer of 2003 was exceptionally hot. It was called hot summer, record summer, or the superlative: summer of the century! The high-pressure area “Michaela” made the whole of Germany sweat, the values kept climbing, soon even exceeding the 40-degree mark. “It was hot as hell, from May to September without a break,” remembers singer and guitarist Rainer Gärtner, better known by his stage name Impala Ray.

He had just finished school that year and had to do military service in the Bundeswehr over the summer months. He wasn’t afraid of the daily drill and he was pretty sure his physical fitness would be enough, despite the heat. He was more afraid of the “guys” he would meet there. But it quickly became clear to him: “These are all super cool guys.” Each of his roommates had their strengths. Gärtner was the long-distance runner, a buddy was super smart and always in charge of navigating the wilderness, others took his rifle and backpack from him. “We complemented each other well,” says Gärtner. And so the summer of the century became one that he still likes to think about to this day, especially since he has kept a memento of it.

Because Rainer Gärtner never gave up his own backpack. At the time, he walked with him for hours, vowing to himself: “When this is all over, you’ll take the backpack with you as a souvenir.” And he did – albeit with the help of a little white lie. After his time with the Bund, he pretended to have lost it. He then had to pay ten euros – and the matter was settled. At that time he did not know how valuable the backpack would one day be for him. Today Gärtner claims: “He knows me better than my best friend.”

Favorite thing: Inconspicuous, but practical: This backpack reminds Rainer Gärtner of many positive moments in the army.

Inconspicuous but practical: This backpack reminds Rainer Gärtner of many positive moments in the army.

(Photo: private/oh)

It doesn’t matter whether Gärtner is in a Matatu, a shared taxi, in Kenya or in the jungle of Malaysia, hiking in the Alps or playing gigs with his band: the Bundeswehr backpack “really accompanies him on every damn trip” and already has a lot of it world seen. “Nice and not so nice things. Somehow my life is in this part,” says Gärtner. It is simple and robust, and to this day it still looks the same as it did back in the summer of 2003. The most practical thing about it: its integrated foldable sleeping pad, which also serves as a back pad. He can sleep anywhere or do a spontaneous yoga session. A sleeping bag can also be transported on it, as was the case on the journey through Kenya.

The backpack is only half a meter high, has one large and two small side compartments; due to its green-brown camouflage color it is not particularly conspicuous. With the help of the “rolling process” a whole lot fits in. For example, when he’s at festivals with his band over the weekend, he puts greaseproof paper in his shirts and then rolls them up and packs them in his backpack. So they stayed wrinkle-free. He learned this practical trick during an appearance on the ZDF television garden.

Once Gärtner had left the rucksack after a performance and only noticed the loss the next morning. The organizer sent the piece back intact, but filled with food from the backstage area. The rucksack survived the journey, only the smell of the fermented milk that Gärtner had ordered for his performance diminished the joy of seeing them again. To this day, his band says: “Ray, do you have your milk with you again?”

In his Munich studio, which is also his apartment, Gärtner aka Impala Ray is currently recording new songs “around the clock”. You can look forward to many surprises, he says, “it will be freaked out”. He wants the audience to feel like they are on a road trip with best friends to the most beautiful places in the world. Next year he will go on a concert tour again – he is sure to have a companion.

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