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Ah, the rucksack / backpack debate. If you’ve tried to nail down the difference between a rucksack and a backpack, you’ve likely found more answers than you bargained for. We’ll do our best to clear it up for you.
Bottom line: a rucksack is actually a kind of backpack.
As the name implies, a backpack is a bag you carry on your back. In America, we often refer to a child’s schoolbag as a backpack, but really a backpack will be adequate for a day or weekend trip. A backpack has two shoulder straps, but on a true backpack, the shoulder straps actually carry very little of the weight. Instead, the load is mainly diverted to padded hip belts.
A rucksack is essentially a large, rugged backpack. The word “rucksack” is derived from the German, “der rücken,” meaning “the back.” A rucksack is often used for camping or hiking and has pockets and belts used for holding a more substantial amount of gear compared to a backpack. Rucksacks will also have hip belts and often chest belts as well. A large rucksack is ideal for anything from an extended hiking and camping adventure to travelling around the world.
Both backpacks and rucksacks allow you to carry heavy loads more easily than is possible in a handbag or on the front of your body. It’s really a matter of how much stuff you need to carry and how long you need to carry it.