The Big Guide to the Best Rucksacks for School, Work and Military

If you are looking for something stronger and sturdier than a backpack, then a rucksack is a good alternative. Although this term isn’t as popular as it once was, these type of bags are excellent for those who spend a great deal of time in the rugged outdoors. Rucksacks are roomy, durable, and have a great carrying system.

Since the idea of a rucksack might seem a bit jarring to some, it can be difficult to know where to begin with these bags. Anticipating this, we have come with a complete guide on rucksacks. Here, you will be able to see the types, sizes, and various methods that are used to construct these bags. This, in turn, will make your choice a lot easier.

An In-Depth Look at Buying a Rucksack

Are you the kind of person that spends more time outdoors than inside a house? Do you like to head out into the wilderness for days at a time? Or, are you simply looking for a pack that can withstand nearly everything that you throw at it? If the answers to any of these questions are yes, then what you need is a good, old-fashioned rucksack.

What’s most confusing about this type of bag is probably its name. Many people aren’t sure of what a rucksack actually is, let alone how to choose one. Well, in this guide we tackle all of this and more:

Rucksack vs. Backpack

The first thing that we need to deal with is the rucksack definition (vs. backpack), to be more precise. Now, the reason that so much confusion exists is because, in certain places, the terms rucksack and backpack are used interchangeably. So, for many people, they both mean the same thing. Despite this practice, however, there are several discrepancies between the types of bags.

Now, it can be argued that a rucksack is a type of backpack since they share a similar structure. Historically, though, a rucksack has always referred to a larger pack. These were usually used for hiking or camping purposes. Since these bags are also equipped with various external attachment points, they are also capable of carrying greater amounts of gear. The word ‘rucksack’ is also commonly used to describe the tactical packs worn and used by those in the military.

There is another distinction although it isn’t universal when it comes to rucksacks. In many instances, rucksacks have a drawstring closure that allows you to cinch the bag shut. With backpacks, these closures tend to consist of zippers.

Military Rucksacks

Military rucksacks and army rucksacks are in a category all their own. While these packs may look like traditional ones, they have certain features that are greatly improved over those created for mass consumption. For one thing, these bags are more durable and can typically carry greater loads as well.

When considering military rucksacks, the first thing that you will need to decide is between the ALICE and MOLLE models. ALICE is a bit of an antiquated design and it stands for all-purpose lightweight individual carrying equipment. It is essentially an equipment attachment system that works with or without an external frame. Although it is not necessarily comfortable, these rucksacks can carry heavy loads. It can also be a bit difficult to access the items that you may need quickly.

These days, most branches of the military rely on the MOLLE model. The acronym refers to the modular lightweight load-carrying equipment design of the bag. Unlike with the ALICE model, the MOLLE rucksack stores everything in different compartments. So, in addition to the rucksack, there is also a tactical assault panel, hydration bladder, and various other modular pouches.

Capacity and Size

Now, usually, a rucksack refers to a backpack that can carry more than 35 liters of items with it. Therefore, it is typically used for trips that last for a day or longer.

If you are going on a hiking trip where you will return home without camping out for the night, you will be able to function with a rucksack that can hold between 35 and 40 liters of things. This means that there will be plenty of space for food, water, a change of clothing, and maybe smaller pieces of gear.

For those that are planning on going on a backpacking trip or will be camping out for longer than a day, you will require a bag with a capacity of between 50 and 75 liters. This way, you will be able to carry all of the supplies and clothing that you will need for the trip. If you will be on the road for much longer than this, then an 80+ liter bag will do.


Now, when choosing the capacity of your rucksack, it is important to note that it isn’t just the length of your trip that matters. You will also need to take into consideration where you are going and what you will need along the way. So, if you are backpacking in the winter or need a lot of equipment, you will need a larger bag even if you will only be gone for a short period of time.

Since most rucksacks are defined as being slightly larger, you will need to think of your own size and height when purchasing one. You should never get one that is a lot bigger or longer than your torso. Ideally, the rucksack should sit between the base of your neck and the top of your hip bones. Even if you do decide to go with a larger bag, you should ensure that it doesn’t tower above your head for one more than a few inches.

Rucksack Material

Remember, with rucksacks, it is all about durability. This is why the most common fabrics that you will come across are canvas and nylon. Here is a little bit more about why these materials are used:

First and foremost, canvas is traditionally a mix of polyester and cotton. The main advantages of this fabric are that it is quite strong thanks to the polyester and will last a long time because of the cotton. A canvas rucksack will either have a core-spun or blended construction.

Rucksacks made of blended canvas are widely available. This is because they are often a great deal cheaper. Here, the fabric is made of short polyester filaments that are mixed with cotton and then woven into yarn. If you are willing to pay a higher price for a more durable canvas option, though, then the core-spun version is better. This option has a polyester core with cotton fibers tightly wrapped around it.

Nylon is popular is because, despite its considerable strength, it is still a cheaper option than canvas. The type of nylon that is used depends on the kind of rucksack that you get. With most traditional versions, you will get mass-produced nylon which is durable but isn’t resistant to wear and tear like canvas. However, the tactical and military versions will probably be made from Cordura nylon, ballistic nylon, or ripstop nylon. All of these are abrasion resistant and perfect for wear and tear, use and abuse.

If you are looking for a rucksack to use in the city and you aren’t really looking for strength, then there are leather rucksacks available as well. These packs are attractive and luxurious and work well even in a professional environment. At the same time, these backpacks aren’t easy to take care of and can peel or wear away with time.

Water Resistance

The fabric that you decide on will determine the level of water resistance that you experience. Canvas isn’t actually water resistant. However, once the cotton fibers in the blend absorb water, they expand. This prevents any more water from entering the bag and can protect your belongings to a certain degree.

Nylon is often made water resistant with the help of durable water-resistant coatings, much like polyurethane. These ensure that the water droplets slide off rather than become absorbed by the material. At the same time, these coatings can wear off after a while.

There are some rucksacks that are actually completely waterproof. These, however, don’t just use water-resistant material, they make certain that the seams are sealed up as well. While there are a few ways to do this, one of the more common options is to sew binding tape on top of the seams inside the bag.

The Suspension System

Rucksacks are built to be load-bearing and hardy packs that are meant to be carried for longer distances. It is this purpose that makes it so important for you to choose the right suspension system for yourself.

The first thing that you should analyze is the shoulder straps. These will need to be tightly sewn at each end to the bag to prevent ripping. At the same time, you will need wide, padded straps that can be adjusted. As previously mentioned, it is important for the rucksack to hang above your waist. This will allow you to move easily with your gait being impeded in any way.

The heavier the load that you are carrying, the more support that you will require. This is why the right hip belt will come in so handy. The belt, too, will need to be padded and should be adjustable around your waist. When trying on the rucksack, the hip belt should rest just above your hip bones for the best fit.

Last but certainly not least, there is the chest strap. This is useful for when a heavy rucksack begins to pull away from your back, messing with your balance. In this case, the chest strap will be able to pull the backpack near, keeping it close to your center of gravity.

If you are a woman and aren’t that tall, it could help to look at women-specific rucksacks. These are better suited to shorter torsos, wider hips, and narrower shoulders. As such, they are a lot more comfortable to wear and make it easier to carry loads.

This is a comprehensive analysis of rucksacks and what you need to look at to decide which is the best one for you.

Top 0 Best Rucksacks

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