PQ Style: What is the Difference Between a Rucksack and a Backpack?

Well... the answer to that is a bit complicated. When we researched the difference between a rucksack and a backpack, we got a huge list of dissenting opinions. We got to the bottom of it and aim to uncomplicate this age-old debate.

Do you remember learning in school how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? That's pretty much what happened with rucksacks and backpacks. Essentially, a rucksack is a kind of backpack.

Rusty on your geometry skills? No worries, let's break it down. We'll define what makes a rucksack a rucksack, and it's similarities to a backpack, and what splits the difference.

Backpacks

leather rolltop backpacks

That's easy enough to define, they're a bag that's carried on your back. Although we didn't originate the style, Americans are attributed with coining the term. In the States, we use the term "backpack" to refer to school bags, but it also refers to a bag that's a perfect carryon or weekend trip bag.

A true backpack has two shoulder straps. Preferably, the straps are nice and wide across the largest part of your shoulders and taper in along the waist. This helps redistribute the weight and keeps it comfortable throughout the day.

Rucksacks

leather laptop backpack

The term "rucksack" has a much older history. It's a derivative of the German word "der rücken", and basically means rugged, roomy backpack. Often times, they're used for hiking and intrepid camping trips. They're ideal for long hiking trips and adventures around the world. So, a rucksack is just a big backpack, right?

Well, yes and no. In a military context, you'll hear "rucksack" much more often. Also, rucksacks tend to cinch close along the mouth of the backpack. Aside from that, you can use the two terms pretty interchangeably. Both backpacks and rucksacks help you carry heavy, bulky loads. Do you need a rucksack or a backpack? It’s really a matter of how much stuff you need to carry and how long you need to carry it.

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