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What Is A Rucksack?

What Is A Rucksack?

Looking for the perfect bag but the duffel bag or the messenger bag is just not for you? How about the rucksack? But what is a rucksack? In the most basic sense, the rucksack is a backpack. However, it is not just a backpack. It also has its own unique qualities and functions that separate them from the backpack. In a way, it forms part of the family of backpacks. Get to know more about the rucksack. Know their similarities with the backpack and their differences as well.

Genuine Leather Rucksack
The Asmund Backpack (Rucksack)

The Fundamentals

To fully understand what truly is a rucksack we must first identify what fundamentally is a backpack. Additionally, we will also include what are the similarities and differences between the rucksack and backpack.

The Backpack and The Rucksack

A backpack in its most basic design is frameless. It is made of cloth or other materials such as leather or waxed canvas. Backpacks are typically carried on the back hence the word “back” of the backpack. It has two parallel straps that you can hang over your shoulders. The backpack’s design is intended to carry a heavier weight which is also why it is carried on the back for additional support and convenience.

Some designs of the backpack sport a waist strap to secure the backpack. Moreover, it is a known fact that the additional waist strap significantly eases the wearer’s burden, especially when carrying heavy loads. This is because the hips are stronger than the shoulders. In addition, the design also increases the agility and balance of the wearer since the heavy load is near his or her center of gravity. This, therefore, leaves the shoulder straps mainly for stabilizing the load.

Similarly, the rucksack has the same frameless design as the backpack. It is however larger and more rugged-looking than the backpack. Although they may differ when it comes to the opening of the bag. In addition, rucksacks sometimes have additional straps on the waist and on the chest for stability. It is quite clear that they share a similar look. The difference however lies when you take a close look at the rucksack’s characteristics.


The origins of the simple backpack may date back way longer than you would have ever imagined. According to many sources, the use of the backpack or something quite similar to its use and design today dates back even to the prehistoric era. Although there is no hard evidence a probability exists. This is because our ancestors might have learned that it is easier to carry heavy objects on the back rather than carrying them in their arms. Carrying something on your back would also give them a free hand to carry weapons such as spears and clubs.

The evidence to prove this probability however is scarce. Many believe that the earliest use of a backpack was from the people who live in the Alps. The earliest design of the backpack was a U-shape rod with two wooden boards. By tying them together with a string they form a pack or bag. They were mainly for carrying firewood.

It was only around 1910 when the first records of the use of backpacks appear. Like the duffel bag, the backpack was primarily for military use. However, its rise to popularity was earlier than expected. Many people started to use the backpack for recreational activities such as hiking and camping. The early 60s was also a popular time for the backpack with the rise of “backpackers”. Then the evolution of the simple backpack took place. Many discoveries of its use led to a variety of designs such as the rucksack.

The Asmund Backpack
Genuine Leather Rucksack


Similar to how they look, the backpack and the rucksack are also often confused with how they are called. This because throughout history the backpack is known by many names. One of those names was a “rucksack” which now contributes to the confusion.

To start, it was only around 1910 when the term “backpack” was coined by the Americans. However, during the Second World War soldiers would sometimes refer to the bag as the “rucksack”. The rucksack was a German loanword mainly used by the United Kingdom, the United States, and other western forces. This is because in Middle High Germany the work “ruck” means “back” (or dorsum). While the words “sack” and “pack” mean the same thing.

You may use whatever term you choose. However, it is better to use the correct term such as the rucksack when referring to a large, rugged backpack.

The Backpack and Rucksack: Similarities and Differences

Let us start with the similarities. Obviously, the backpack and the rucksack look similar however there are some nuances. To reiterate, a rucksack is larger than a backpack. While both bags function to carry heavier loads, the rucksack’s has a larger capacity because of its size. The backpack is lightweight and usually carries 50 liters less than the rucksack. Likewise, both rucksacks and backpacks sometimes have waist straps to ease the burden of carrying a heavy load. The rucksack however often has an extra strap across the chest. This is necessary and convenient especially for hikers who often spend more time carrying the heavy bag.

Another significantly different characteristic of the rucksack is its opening. A rucksack typically has an opening at the top with an overlapping flap to close it. Closing the bay may either be by using a zipper or a tie or drawstring. Larger rucksacks also have belts and loops for holding pots and other things for camping. This even store sleeping bags and water canisters.

Why you should choose the Rucksack?

Know that you know what a rucksack is it is also important to know why you should choose it. Here are three reasons why:

1. Perfect for Long Distance Travel

Let us face it. Traveling is not only rough for the traveler but for the bag as well. If you frequently travel you will need a strong, sturdy, and reliable bag. And with the rucksack’s large size you can squeeze in a few more souvenirs from your travels.

2. Perfect for Camping

If it is not obvious enough, the rucksack is made for camping! With the capacity that it can carry it is a guarantee that all your camping essentials will fit in one rucksack. Plus if you are hiking to your campsite, the additional straps will ease the burden on your shoulders.

3. Perfect for Everyday Use

Do not forget that a rucksack is still a backpack. And for a backpack, there is always a variety of uses. From carrying your books to school to short distance travels the rucksack is perfect for any use.

Vintage Leather Travel Rucksack/Backpack
The Olaf Rucksack

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