What is a Rucksack? Rucksack vs. Backpack vs. Knapsack
When it comes to bags we carry on our backs, the differences between backpacks, rucksacks, and knapsacks may elude you, as people use the terms interchangeably. However, such differences exist, albeit discrete. So, what is a rucksack, and does it sport some unique features? Today, we will solve the endless debate regarding rucksack vs. backpack vs. knapsack and give you a better idea about these products. Spoiler alert: a rucksack is a backpack with some twists. Before we begin, you need to understand these items' names stem from the cultural differences between countries and continents. So let's break things down, shall we?
What is a Backpack?
We will start with the omnipresent backpack, as it is an item present all over the world. We would go as far as saying that there is a backpack in every home – at least in those with kids, young working people, and sporty adults.
The simplest definition of a backpack is the following: a pack we carry on our bags, featuring two shoulder straps, and sporting enough interior space to hold our items for a day or even a weekend trip.
While Americans did not invent the backpack, they did coin the term. "Backpack" is a popular label that we all use to describe other types of "pack carried on the back," such as kids' schoolbags, book bags, even drawstring bags, etc.
In case you have heard the word "daypack" used instead of "backpack," you should know that daypacks are also backpacks but with smaller sizes and capacities. For instance, if the average backpack has around 50 liters or more, the daypack has about 30-40 liters. For more information on choosing the right backpack depending on your needs, check out this guide!
To conclude, when you think about a backpack, you consider those average-sized bags people wear for school, tech backpacks to take to work, weekend backpacks you pack when you plan a two-day trip, or sports backpacks you pack for a full day of hiking, etc.
Backpacks' Critical Features
Here are the most crucial features of backpacks that differentiate them from rucksacks and knapsacks:
- Term use: United States of America
- Term origin: United States of America
- Size: Medium to large sizes – capacity of 50 liters and above;
- Straps: Two adjustable shoulder straps; the ideal, true-to-form backpacks also feature hip belts that transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips for more comfort.
- Uses: daily life, school, work, short trips, short hikes, shopping, etc.
- Design: rectangular/square shape, a wide variety of colors, a wide variety of materials (canvas, polypropylene, leather, a combination of fabrics, etc.), laptop sleeves, headphones exit ports, dedicated compartments for tablets, e-books, and other gadgets, etc.
What is a Rucksack?
The significant difference between backpacks and rucksacks is their size/capacity and looks. Rucksacks are larger and feature more compartments and pockets to carry significantly heavier loads. They also feature hip belts and chest belts to help wearers carry them for the long run without stressing their backs. In essence, the answer to the "what is a rucksack" question is this: a rucksack is a more rugged, larger backpack built for outdoor endurance.
The term "rucksack" comes from German, and it means a sack you carry on your back. Now the word is the American equivalent of "backpack" in Europe. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, and even Russia use the word "rucksack" to describe a sizeable and resilient bag people carry on their backs for daily use or travel.
In the United States, the rucksack is a bag worn by the U.S. military, hikers, campers, globetrotters, etc.
Rucksacks' Critical Features
When used correctly, the term rucksack describes a bag sporting the following features:
- Term use: Europe, the U.S. military;
- Term origin: Germany;
- Size: Large – capacity over 60 liters;
- Straps: Two adjustable shoulder straps, hip belts, chest belts;
- Uses: traveling on long distances, camping, hiking, trekking, military applications, etc.
- Design: square/rectangular shape, a central entry point at the top of the pack, multiple pockets and compartments (dedicated to carrying sleeping bags, water bottles/pouches, tent, etc.), a wide variety of materials (waxed canvas, technical fabrics, polypropylene, combinations, etc.), camo prints/natural colors/vivid color combinations, etc.
What is a Knapsack?
Now that we learned what is a rucksack, we have to understand what a knapsack is. The rucksack vs. backpack vs. knapsack debate relies on the term's history and use when it comes to the latter. A knapsack is a smaller backpack, but people use this term mostly in Canada to refer to what Americans call backpacks or daypacks. The primary difference lies in the size of this item.
The German origin word of knapsack means "small bag," so it is the preferred item of people who do not need to carry many heavy objects during the day or those who want to achieve a demure, low-profile urban look.
Knapsacks' Critical Features
It is now time for us to see what features make a knapsack:
- Term use: Canada;
- Term origin: Germany;
- Size: Small – capacity under 30 liters;
- Straps: One or two without any additional belts;
- Uses: Daily use, handy for small items, schoolbag, day bag;
- Design: Triangular shape (some refer to it as a sling pack), but also square/rectangular shape, mostly natural colors but also vivid color combinations, usually featuring a main compartment and some exterior pockets, etc.
We live in a world where manufacturers use the terms backpack and rucksack interchangeably, so it may be hard for you to understand which, especially when you shop for such bags online and cannot see and check them in person. To make things easier for you, we have created a guide on picking the backpacks' right size when you shop online. It will give you a starting point to make an educated choice.