Rucksack vs Backpack: Key Differences (And Why You Shouldn’t Care)

It’s not a secret that rucksacks and backpacks are two of the most popular types of bags. They are both great options, but there are some key differences between them that you should know about before making your final decision.

This article will cover rucksack vs. backpack in detail to help you choose the best type for your needs!

A rucksack is a large, rugged backpack. “rucksack” comes from the German word “der rücken.” It means “the back,” and soldiers have used rucksacks since the early 19th century.

The most important thing to know about rucksacks is that they do not refer to a specific type of backpack. Instead, it’s simply the name for any large, sturdy bag. Rucksacks were traditionally used by hikers, mountaineers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Today rucksacks are very popular with schoolchildren as rucksacks are a convenient way of carrying books and other school supplies. The rucksack has two shoulder straps, which help distribute the weight evenly.


A backpack is a pack that you carry on your back. Although Americans did not initially invent the backpack, we coin the term. For example, in the United States, a school bag for a child is often referred to as a backpack.

As the name suggests, backpacks are designed to sit on your back and distribute weight evenly. It is beneficial for anyone doing heavy lifting because it helps to reduce strain on your back. Backpacks are also very popular with school children because they can carry all their books and supplies.

Backpacks also come with various pockets, straps, and compartments to help you stay organized.

Differences: Rucksack vs. Backpack 

Although rucksacks and backpacks are two very different bags, the main difference between rucksacks and backpacks is not their appearance. Of course, they are both famous, but rucksacks have some advantages over backpacks that you should know about!

– Rucksacks are sturdier and more practical for outdoor activities

– You can wear rucksacks with a rucksack harness, which allows you to carry heavier loads

– Rucksacks are traditionally used by hikers and mountaineers, while schoolchildren often use backpacks

So, rucksacks vs. backpacks?

Ultimately it’s up to you which one you choose. However, rucksacks are certainly a great choice if you want something rugged and sturdy. On the other hand, Backpacks offer more compartments and pockets to help you stay organized.

Benefits of Rucksack

  • Rucksack harnesses can be a great way to keep your rucksack stable. Rucksack harnesses help distribute the rucksack’s weight across your shoulders and back, reducing strain on your muscles and joints. This
  • It can carry heavier items.
  • You can wear it with a waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight of your pack even further. It is handy for anyone going on a long or strenuous hike, as it helps to stop your rucksack from sliding around.

Drawbacks of Rucksack

  • Rucksacks can be uncomfortable to carry if they don’t have a rucksack harness.
  • It takes time and practice to adjust a rucksack harness properly.
  • They aren’t as popular as backpacks, so you might have to spend more time and money trying to find a suitable rucksack for you.

Benefits of Backpack

  • Backpacks are designed with comfort in mind, so they are often lighter than rucksacks.
  • They offer more compartments and pockets to help you stay organized, especially useful for school or college students.
  • Backpacks are also often used by hikers and mountaineers, as they can carry more weight than a rucksack.

Drawbacks of Backpack

  • Backpacks tend to sag, which can cause strain on your back.
  • You may need more than one backpack for different purposes. For example, hiking and everyday backpacking can be annoying if you have to carry them both simultaneously!

Backpack Buying Guide

Hip belt

Choose a backpack with a hip belt that is properly adjusted, and you’ll have yourself a fantastic outdoor experience. Typically, the more massive the pack, the thicker the padding, providing maximum support and comfort when bearing heavy loads. To ensure that the bag’s weight is evenly dispersed across your hips, make sure to circle over your hip bones; try out some packs on to see what feels most comfortable for you.

Shoulder straps

The shoulder straps on a backpack should be well-padded and adjustable. The higher the quality of your pack, the more comfortable it will feel on your shoulders. Some of the most expensive backpacks are made with wide mesh padding, enabling air circulation through your bag. It keeps you cooler on hot days. If comfort is your number one priority, the secret to backpack shopping is simply this: try before you buy!

Sternum/chest strap

The sternum strap should be adjustable and allow you to fine-tune the fit of your backpack. It adds a little more stability and ensures that your pack will fit just right. It is crucial to carry heavy loads, as it reduces the chance of shoulder strap slippage.

Water bottle pockets

With some backpacks, you’ll be able to fit a water bottle on either side of your bag. It is excellent for hikers and mountaineers, as you can carry enough water to last your entire hike.

Compression straps

They help cinch your backpack closer to your body, making it more stable. If you’re trying on a pack and feel like it’s constantly shifting, try tightening the compression straps and see if that stabilizes your backpack.


The material from which a bag is made is significant. Nylon or polyester backpacks are ideal for lightweight hiking and mountaineering. They’re light and durable; the lightest packs are carbon fiber. For heavy-duty backpacks to carry equipment for outdoor activities, look out for bags that have been reinforced with extra stitching or bar tacks.


Some packs have a separate compartment that can be used as a lid to cover the backpack when it is not in use. It adds an extra layer of protection for your belongings if it starts to rain or can act as a barrier between you and the elements when sleeping outdoors.

Zipped front panel access

If you need to access the contents of your backpack quickly, look for bags with zipped panels. These are particularly useful if you don’t have much time to reach your belongings during an emergency.


If you are buying a backpack for hiking or mountaineering, then the size of your bag is significant. Generally speaking, the larger the pack, the more comfortable hiking with it on your back. However, it would help to consider the maximum weight your backpack can carry. Many bags have a capacity of around 50-60 liters, but if you plan to bring a lot of equipment, then look for backpacks with at least 75 liters. It will ensure that your pack is comfortable and that you’ll be able to fit all your equipment inside.

Front stash pocket

Some backpacks have a stash pocket on the front, which is excellent for storing items you need easy access to. It includes multi-tools and first-aid kits.

Detachable daypack

Some backpacks come with a detachable daypack, which can be removed and attached to your main pack. It is excellent for storing your lunch, water bottle, and spare clothes while you’re hiking or mountaineering. Plus, it can be used as a separate daypack when you’re not hiking.

Side pockets 

Many backpacks have additional side pockets, great for storing water bottles, umbrellas, and walking poles.

Rain cover

If you’re buying a backpack for hiking or mountaineering in wet conditions, look for a bag with a rain cover. It will protect your belongings from the elements when it starts to rain and is particularly useful if you’re hiking in cold conditions and need to wear lots of layers.

Laptop compartment

If you intend to use your backpack to carry a laptop, then look for bags with a separate compartment specifically designed to protect your computer. It will allow you to take your laptop out on the go without taking your backpack off.

Sleeping bag compartment

If you intend on using your pack for overnight hiking or mountaineering, then look out for packs with a separate compartment. That will protect your sleeping bag. It is beneficial to carry your sleeping bag with the hood facing upwards, ensuring that nothing will get inside your bag.

Rucksack buying Guide

Shoulder Harnesses: Backpacks with shoulder harnesses are more comfortable to wear when walking long distances. They distribute weight evenly and will not put any strain on your neck.

Chest Strap: A chest strap will prevent your backpack from moving around as you walk and is particularly useful when wearing a bag with an inadequate number of attachment points.

Back Panel: The back panel of your backpack should be adequately padded and provide vital ventilation. It will help prevent sweat accumulation when walking long distances with your pack.

Front Rucksack Opening: The main compartment of this rucksack is accessed by opening the front zip, making getting items further down the bag simple.

Sternum Strap: It will prevent your shoulder straps from slipping and is especially useful when carrying a heavy load.

Side Zips: If the main compartment of your backpack does not have zipped side panels, then look for backpacks with zipped side compartments instead. It makes it easier to access items stored in the bottom of your bag (such as food) without having to unpack everything else first.

Laptop Compartment: A laptop compartment allows you to take your computer out on the go. It protects against bumps and general wear and tear caused by walking around all day. Plus, this ensures that nothing can get inside your bag and damage or dirty up everything else. Backpacking is a great way to see the world and get fit simultaneously!

Adjustable Back System: This feature allows you to change the position of the back padding to suit your height, build, or comfort.

Hip Belt: A hip belt is helpful if you carry a heavy load, as it transfers some of the weight to your hips and prevents the shoulder straps from cutting into your shoulders.

Water Bottle / Umbrella Pockets – Many backpacks have additional side pockets, great for storing water bottles, umbrellas, and walking poles.

Detachable Daypack: If your backpack does not have a separate daypack included with it, then you can often buy one separately. It is beneficial to take your daypack on short hikes or sightseeing trips while leaving the bulk of your belongings at the hostel or hotel.

Shoulder Strap Pockets: Some backpacks come with shoulder strap pockets, which are great for storing mobile phones and iPods.

Side Pocket: If your backpack does not have a separate side pocket included with it, then you can often buy one separately. Taking a water bottle on short hikes or sightseeing trips is beneficial.

Rucksack Cover: A cover helps protect your bag from the elements and can be easily rolled up and stored when it is not in use.

Walking Pole – Ice Axe Loops – These are useful if you like to hike in mountainous areas, as they allow you to attach walking poles or ice axes when needed.

Hydration Bladder: Hydration bladders are helpful for hikers who want to drink water on the go. They fit inside a backpack and allow you to take sips of water without removing your pack.

Laptop Sleeve: A laptop sleeve allows you to take your computer out on the go. While still protecting it against bumps and general wear and tear caused by walking around all day. Plus, this ensures that nothing can get inside your bag and damage or dirty up everything else.

Rucksack Vs. Backpack: Who Wins?

There is no clear winner in this matchup. It all depends on your demands. Rucksacks are suitable for those who need more space in their backpacks; they are also better for carrying heavier loads, thanks to the shoulder straps and hip belts. However, rucksacks are not as comfortable for traveling; this is where backpacks excel.

So, get prepared for your next holiday destination.

Happy Traveling!

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Z Hashan

I’m Z Hashan, an entrepreneur, but more importantly (well, to me at least), a traveler.

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