Rucksack Vs. Backpack (Learn The Differences Between Them)

The terms rucksack and backpack are often used interchangeably to refer to rugged bags with two shoulder straps and various pockets. However, these terms refer to two very similar but different types of bags. What is the difference between a rucksack and a backpack? Read on to find out the answer.

What Is A Rucksack? (Overview & Benefits)

A rucksack is a large and rugged bag used by the military and frequent travelers or hikers. From the German words 'ruck' or back and 'sack' or bag, rucksacks are known worldwide for their hardy and efficient designs.

  • Great for carrying heavy loads over long distances or extended trips
  • It contains a sizeable primary compartment that is reachable from the top
  • Cinch or tie system to close the top opening of the main compartment
  • Small pockets on the outside
  • Hip and chest belts for optimal comfort
  • Belts and loops are available for holding things like containers and sleeping bags
  • They are made of durable and robust materials

Some benefits of using rucksacks include:

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    Easy on your feet and back.
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    Perfect for frequent travelers.
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    Hardy enough for military use.
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    Come in a variety of large sizes to suit different needs.
Rucksack Vs Backpack

What Is A Backpack? (Overview & Benefits)

A backpack is an American coined term for a bag with a large main compartment, two shoulder straps, and few pockets. Packs come in various types and sizes, often made of waxed canvas, leather, or cotton, to suit different needs. Some features of backpacks include:

  • Large main compartment
  • Zip or foldover closure at the opening of the main compartment
  • Few internal and external pockets
  • Laptop pocket
  • Water bottle holder/s
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    Security when storing your things.
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    Easy to move.
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    A variety of designs to choose from.
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    Long-distance carrying for weekend trips and school or work commutes.

Rucksack Vs. Backpack (What's The Difference & Which Is Best?)

The differences between backpacks and rucksacks are easy to spot once you know what to look for. It can be hard to know which is best or what the differences are, but we have you covered and have looked into them for you.

Rucksacks are often bigger and more rugged than their backpack counterparts. They have a variety of external and internal pockets with a cinched or tied top opening. Rucksacks are better suited to carrying heavy loads over long distances and have various belts and loops to store items. While it is not unheard of for a backpack to have a hip or chest belt, these features are much more common in rucksacks. Technically speaking, rucksacks are a specific type of backpack, while backpacks encompass a variety of styles.

Backpacks are a smaller but a much more everyday item than a rucksack. While rucksacks are typically used in hiking, military, and other outdoor activities, backpacks are a much more everyday item. This is due to their smaller and more portable size, lower prices, and designs. There are many types and sizes to choose from that are great for commuters and weekend trips, which are more often taken than great adventures through the woods.

Which should you pick in the rucksack vs. backpack debate? That depends on your needs. If you are an enthusiastic outdoorsman who regularly takes long camping or hiking trips, a rucksack may suit you best. If you are a student, office worker, or someone who likes to stay over friends' houses for a night or two, a backpack may be a better fit. People tend to have both, with the rucksack being used for more extended travel trips and backpacks as a more everyday tool. Consider your needs and budget before purchasing a bag to find the right fit for you.

Rucksack Vs. Backpack

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the maximum load of a rucksack?

Thinking about the weight of a backpack? The maximum load of a rucksack depends upon its size and model. They are often measured in liters, which is the total volume the bag can hold at one time – use this as a guide. For example, a 45-liter rucksack can often hold around 100 pounds.

Is rucksack American or British?

Rucksack has German origins but is often used on both sides of the pond. It is unclear whether the Brits or Americans coined the term first.

What are backpacks called in the UK?

Just like in America, the terms backpack and rucksack are often used interchangeably in the UK. That may change depending on the local dialect, but interchangeability is common.


With the differences between rucksacks and backpacks highlighted, we hope you feel confident enough to find a bag that best suits your needs. If you need more bag-related tips and tricks, we have plenty of articles to help over on our website.

  • Updated November 2, 2021