Backpack vs Rucksack vs Knapsack- Differences in detail-2023

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Taj Uddin Ahmed

Backpack, Rucksack, and Knapsack, these three words are, truthfully be told, similar in use. Anyone can hardly see the differences between them. Many people even cannot distinguish one from another. So, let’s have a try to make a clear concept between backpack vs rucksack vs knapsack.

These words are interchangeable and thus they can be individually different. It is also noticeable that people mostly use ‘backpack’ among those three terms.

Every word in the world has a history behind it. These three terms have a history as well. The place the word was born, that word is supposed to be popular in the region.

When you make a choice in using the term one of them, it must be important to know the clear understanding and differences in detail about them.

Then why are we waiting for? Let’s discuss it.


What’s a backpack?

A backpack is a type of bag with shoulder straps that are carried one’s back to carry essential stuff.

In most cases, we see backpacks have two straps and that is amazing because these straps help users to hike or camping or to ascend mountains.



The word backpack was begun to use in the United States towards the 1910s. Before using this word, people used to use a moneybag or packsack. Later on, this word was getting popularity dramatically.

The uses of a backpack

Backpacks are the best friend to a person when they are going out. A lot of necessary stuff and document we need every day and we cannot carry is without a bag properly. There are many kinds of bags and you can pick them according to your need.

You can take your bag not only to your office but also you can use it when you are going camping, ascending a mountain, hunting, and many other purposes. Besides it, backpacks are quite multi-functional, right?

Backpacks can be your protector from stealing your valuables and sudden rain. If you are in the middle of somewhere where there is nothing that can shelter you, your document can get wet and in that case, a waterproof bag can save the day.

Features of a backpack:

Most of the time, a backpack has two shoulder straps. If it is a slingshot backpack, it will have mostly one and in some cases, it will have two shoulder straps. Shoulder straps are inevitable. Besides it, the padded hip belt is incredibly important to carry either heavy or light weighted things. This balances the weight evenly and is then easier to carry the load. If it doesn’t have with the bag, the bag, if it’s heavy, can barely be carried. 

Why hip belt?

Because the hip belt, if worn properly, can effectively transfer the weight of your bag from shoulder to your hip which is a way of carrying the heavy load by your body’s most essential organ…your legs. It is to remember that the hip belt, to be effective, must be long enough to wrap the front of your hip bones, certainly not up at your waist.

How does a backpack look like in terms of structural form?

Backpacks can be more of a square form. It has more pockets to carry stuff and to make it handy.

Categories of a backpack:

Backpacks, in general, can be categorized in 4 ways.

  1. Frameless
  2. External frame
  3. Internal frame and
  4. Bodypack

US and UK, any differences in using the word ‘backpack’?

Backpack vs. rucksack vs. knapsack is, as I mentioned earlier, interchangeable words. In terms of the US military, they use rucksacks usually because, what I think is, a rucksack is bigger and stronger than backpacks and it can endure a heavy load.

The UK tends to use a backpack in the general sense. They honestly prefer calling backpack to a rucksack.

It’s not a big deal. So it can be deduced that backpack is mostly common in both of the countries but in terms of a rucksack, it is comparatively mostly used in the USA.

Focal points of a backpack at a glance:

  1. The size of a backpack is average
  2. Backpack, the word originated first in the USA
  3. It is common in use both in the US and UK
  4. A backpack has two straps
  5. A padded hip belt is also with a backpack
  6. The shape can be rectangular or square
  7. It can be multi-functional
  8. Colors are available
  9. The term backpack is very common

Some best backpacks that you may be searching for:


To be honest, a rucksack is no different than a backpack. They are quite replaceable words. People use it in which they find comfort.

Let’s take a look at rucksack.

What is a rucksack?

A rucksack is a large, rugged bag with shoulder straps that helps a person to carry it on his back and it is typically strong, waterproof, and mostly used by hikers.

A rucksack is able to carry heavy loads like a backpack. The word ‘rucksack’ is mainly used in military applications. Here is the reason, the military always carries heavy stuff and they need more gadgets and essential things in the bag. It is noteworthy that the rucksack is strong enough to hold all of its valuables.

OWMEOT Hiking Backpack


The term ‘Rucksack’ is originally derived from Germany. The word “Rücken” means “the back”, and “Sac” means “a big bag”. Then the word Rucksack means a bag for your back. Actually, that loanword is very common in the Western Military and thus military men and women are comfortable in using the word rucksack.

What is a rucksack used for?

A rucksack is particularly used for camping, hiking, ascending a mountain and so others. For these risky and heavy-duty works, belts are used for holding a more significant amount of stuff. Rucksack has hip belts to make the weight even and chest belts as well. It does without saying, a large rucksack is not only useful for extended hiking and camping but also it allows you to travel around the world for days.

Features of a rucksack:

  1. A rucksack is roomy enough to hold a lot of things. In most cases, a rucksack can hold a 17-inch laptop along with other necessary stuff like books, clothes, camping gear, and so on. A rucksack is a perfect day backpack.
  2. Sometimes a rucksack has a shoe compartment that helps greatly a user. This shoe compartment separates the volatile stuff from the others.
  3. A rucksack has an adjustable belt which helps you greatly when you are traveling. A long enough padded waist belt helps you to carry heavy loads so that the weight is distributed evenly.
  4. The backside padded structure helps you travel comfortably the whole day by providing proper air circulation during summer.
  5. A rucksack having an S-shaped straps structure adjusts your shoulders very comfortably.
  6. It can be used as a multipurpose tool. You are good to go hiking, trekking, overnight trip, camping, and so on. Both men and women can use this amazing heavy-duty hiking backpack for traveling, hiking, camping, and others.
  7. As most of the rucksacks use a high-quality polyester fabric, the bag becomes water-resistant and sometimes anti-scratched as well.
  8. It is  a MOLLE backpack

Military Rucksack:

A military wanders from place to place with their heavy equipment and gears. That is why, on one side, they need enough space inside the bag and should be durable as well to last long. For this reason, they use a rucksack to fulfill their requirements. They can use this rucksack better than a day bag. Another common and special feature of this rucksack is the MOLLE.

MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) allows you to load more than you usually would. You cannot manage such a huge capacity in any other bag. As a rucksack is the first choice of the military, the built-in quality and design ensure durability and strength to take any terrain and stress.

Now the question is…..

Is the word ‘rucksack’ American or British?

Though English is the native language of both countries, they have some differences in speaking (accent) and writing as well. In some cases, the Americans mean a word in a sense while the British don’t. They want to mean the same thing but the words can be different. In this regard, the word backpack is American.

On the other hand, the British use the word rucksack to express the same meaning as Americans do backpack. Therefore it is obvious that the word rucksack is British while the word backpack is American.


Definition: Knapsack is a strong and durable bag with shoulder straps that are carried on the back and is made of canvas or other weatherproof material.

The materials that are used in knapsacks guarantee their durability in any adverse environment. Knapsacks basically are highly durable and the canvases used here are rigid too.

As in the knapsack, high-quality canvas is used, and it is perfectly weatherproof. Backpacks are not different from knapsacks. As said earlier the words backpacks, rucksacks, and knapsacks are interchangeable to use. They all come with straps and are suitable for carrying.

However, the term knapsack is an obsolete word that was used to use in the very past. It is used as a primitive word.  In this contemporary and modern era, the word knapsack is, truthfully be told, barely used. ‘Knapsack’ is a term that was commonly used before the 20th century.

Backpack vs Rucksack vs Knapsack


The term knapsack is German. Knapsack, the single word has two syllables. In German Knap and Sack makes the word Knapsack.

In particular, in German the word ‘knap’ means ‘to bite’ and the word ‘Sack’ means ‘bag’. Therefore, it means a strong bag that has real durability and can overcome the actual stress in any situation.

So the word knapsack like rucksack originated from German.

How big should a knapsack be?

In terms of size, a knapsack is just as exactly to a backpack. Actually, there are no differences between them. It is just the use depending on place to place. The only difference between them is that this term keeping the meaning the same is used in the place they are familiar with most.

For instance, if you look into the distinguishes, you must find that Canadians are quite accustomed to using the term ‘knapsack’ while Americans use ‘backpack’ and at the same time the British use the word ‘rucksack’ keeping the meaning exactly the same. So the three terms have the same meaning but the term is used differently in different places.

However, if you differentiate the size between the knapsack and a backpack, it can be concluded that knapsacks may be a bit smaller than backpacks and the knapsacks have a distinct shape. But the knapsacks can be bigger too when needed.

The necessity of a knapsack

A knapsack doesn’t have as many pockets as backpacks or rucksacks. And thus, the uses between them may also vary. A knapsack does not allow you to have a lot of stuff but it is ideal for taking gym clothing.

So knapsacks can be used in those places where you can take very few things. This does not even allow you to do one day or two days of tours or traveling. You can just go for a simple outing which helps you to carry your most necessary things.

From its origination (‘knap’ means ‘to bite’), it can also be guessed that it indicates a small bag.

Overview of Backpack vs Rucksack vs Knapsack:

Backpacks are the favorite of those who use them for their daily work like business, travel, excursion, school, outside exercises and so others while rucksacks are used for hiking, camping, ascending a mountain, and others. But knapsack does not let do any of these to do.

The term backpack originated from the US while rucksack and knapsack are originally derived from German.

Many Americans use the term backpack for a bigger bag though most of the Americans don’t.

The term rucksack is really meant for a bigger and more functional bag while a backpack is usually smaller than a rucksack but in the case of a knapsack, it is smaller than both of them.

Manufacturers use the term rucksack to mean a rugged, strong, bigger, rigid, and multi-functional bag. A backpack can be like a rucksack though the features and sizes are not quite the same. On the other hand, a knapsack is really small compared to them.

You can be camping and hiking in terms of backpacks and rucksacks but it is quite impossible in the connivance of a knapsack.

As mentioned earlier is not the same scenario all the time. For example, some communities in the UK do use the term rucksack for the smaller version of the backpack which is not really strange because the former one they find easy.

Backpacks and rucksacks have two shoulder straps individually whereas a knapsack does not possess the feature.

Backpacks and rucksacks are mostly in shape rectangular or square while a knapsack is mostly triangular.

It is obvious that both of the terms backpack and rucksack are multifunctional and versatile but in the case of a knapsack, it is only handy for small items.

These two backpacks and rucksacks have a wide variety of colors while the color of a knapsack is mostly natural.

Which one am I to pick among them?

Pick one is not that difficult if you can set your mind first. You need to determine what kind of bag you are trying to buy. The choice between a backpack, rucksack, or knapsack certainly depends on many criteria such as needs, sizes, budgets, preferences, and so on.

Though the three of the terms are quite interchangeable, sometimes they have differences in terms of places. So among them, the term backpack is universal, standard, and quite versatile.

It is obvious that the rucksack is more versatile than the other two thus if you want such a bag, you can pick a rucksack.

If you want to go hunting, hiking, camping, or mountain, a rucksack is mandatory because on one side it will allow your equipment and gears to hold in it, and on another side, it can undergo an adverse environment like raining, bad weather, muddy soil and so on.

You can go for a knapsack if you want to hold some small items in it like a purse, keys, cosmetics, goggles, and so on.

And last of all, the price. The backpack, rucksack, and knapsack, all have better quality. So according to the quality, the price would be higher. So in terms of your need, you can have one of them.

Any one of them would be great for you if you have already decided on what purpose you are going to use it. 

If you want to know more about Branded Backpacks, here it is:

Final Words

All the backpacks mentioned above are analyzed and reviewed in order to save your time and to make your decision perfectly as well. You need to search more if you do not choose from these. Backpacks are supposed to be comfortable and handy to use and only then we can be benefitted. So my suggestion is to research, analyze, and then finalize your decision so that you never regret it.

Happy buying.