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what is the difference between backpack and rucksack ?

If you’re anything like me, you must have been under the impression that there’s no difference between a backpack and a rucksack. They’re two words for practically the same thing; a bag one wears over their shoulder to carry stuff around. Newsflash: They’re not! Yes, you heard it right (or read it right, in this case) that there IS a slight difference between a backpack and a rucksack.

I was just as surprised to find out that I was not alone here, and many other people like me had been wrongfully using both words interchangeably and had to dig around to understand the difference. But worry not. I am here to save your energies and do the explaining myself. So let’s head on, shall we?


Backpacks and Rucksacks are bags that help us carry all kinds of goods and chattels around, and the difference between the two depends on your taste, cargo, use and style. Still confused? Let’s break down things for you to make them properly clear.


What is a backpack?


So, what exactly is a backpack? Let’s start with the most commonly known and used pack of them all, a backpack. Even though backpacks may have been around since time immemorial, they did not always call them that. The Americans coined the term “backpack,” which gained so much popularity that nowadays, every other bag is called a backpack. However, there are certain unique features to a bag that makes a bag a backpack and differentiate it from a rucksack or any other type of bag.


A backpack is a bag one wears on their back, sporting two shoulder straps that have enough room to carry all your essential items whether you’re taking it to school, college or your office.

Yes, backpacks come in many colors, shapes and sizes, making them versatile for various uses.

Whether you need a bag for school or your college trip, a business meeting or a travel adventure, shopping or a short hike, you’re guaranteed to find something that will meet all your needs and some more.


An average backpack has a storage capacity of about 50 liters or more and comes with many internal and external pockets. They are made of sturdy materials like canvas, polypropylene, leather, or a combination of different fabrics, which commonly implies longevity, durability, water resistance, and tear resistance.

Most backpacks typically feature well-padded, adjustable shoulder straps, tote handles, and padded back panels for added comfort and convenience.

Furthermore, when it comes to the frame of the backpacks, they are generally classified into four types: frameless, internal frame, external frame, and bodypack. A frame can support an otherwise formless baggy pack and helps distribute the weight of the bag evenly across the whole body.

Many backpacks come with various travel-friendly features like a built-in USB port for charging your phone on the go, a trolley sleeve, anti-theft pockets, and anti-theft zipper closures, which make your bag extremely portable and secure. Most backpacks can be closed with a zipper, a buckle mechanism, or a dry-bag type closure.


We thoroughly explained what a backpack is. Let’s shed light on the specifications of a rucksack to explain the difference between a backpack and a rucksack.


Best backpacks for traveling


What is a Rucksack?


As far as the term “Rucksack” is concerned, it originates from the German word “rucken,” which means “back,” and the word sack means a bag. The word rucksack is a literal translation of the word backpack but has now become more of an American equivalent of a “backpack” in Europe. People from countries like Germany, Romania, Sweden, Netherlands or even Russia use the term when referring to a massive-sized rugged bag that you can use for daily use or travel.


A rucksack is a larger and more tough bag with many compartments and pockets built to carry massive weight. These bags typically sport hip and chest belts that make it easier for their wearers to carry heavy loads for a longer period without putting a strain on their back. As one would expect, they are made of sturdier materials than a backpack, like a durable waxed canvas or some technical material that adds points to their durability and longevity.

As these bags are built considerably large, robust, and rugged, people use these bags for camping, hiking, trekking or any other tough outdoor adventure.

Another important thing is that if the terms ‘backpack” and ‘rucksack” seem identical, the word “rucksack” is more frequently used in a military context as soldiers use these bags because of their rough and tough construction and heavy-duty material.

Best Rucksacks for travel

Backpack VS Rucksack


So is there a difference between a backpack and a rucksack? You can say, yes, there is. However, as mentioned earlier, the key difference between the two bags lies essentially in their functionality and what you intend to use the bag for. Rucksacks typically have a larger storage capacity of over 60 liters compared to an average backpack with a capacity of about 50 liters. Moreover, backpacks are more of a go-to conventional choice of bag-wearers worldwide. As they come in various shapes and sizes, anyone who needs a bag for school, college or office can find one according to their needs and wants.

However, Rucksacks are more like specialist bags used for tough activities that require more of a hard-wearing and rugged bag.


Similarities Between a Backpack and a Rucksack


  • You can use both backpacks and rucksacks to carry really heavy loads.
  • One can use both for travel or heavy-duty outdoor activities.
  • Both backpacks and rucksacks have more features, compartments and pockets than simple handbags or knapsacks.




Differences Between a Backpack and a Rucksack


  • Both bags have ample space, but rucksacks have additional compartments and pockets.
  • Rucksacks boast many military-specific features in comparison to backpacks
  • In addition to adjustable shoulder straps, rucksacks more typically feature hip belts and chest belts for carrying heavy weights more conveniently


Now that you know the difference between backpacks and rucksacks, you can easily tell that both bags can hold h

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