Backpacks, rucksacks, haversacks – function vs fashion vs terminology!


I started tweeting our selection of backpacks this morning and at the same time wondering if I shouldn’t be saying rucksacks. It’s the perpetual daily torture over which words google best…but then equally, do they both necessarily mean the same thing in the buyer’s eye?

In my mind there’s an element of outdoorsy snobbery about certain terms. I recall once saying to my good friend Robin, probably 20 years ago now, that I liked his new anorak. He was mortified….”It’s a SKIING JACKET, and thanks!” came the response. It was all a bit akin to that fabulous Alan Partridge and Peter Kay Comic Relief sketch where someone comes over and asks who owns the brown Toyota blocking the door, to which he responds, “It’s a coffee coloured Lexus!”

I digress.

It’s all about second guessing what people look for, moreover what words they use to describe an item…and sometimes it feels like it’s anyone’s guess…you say potato….I say potahto!

In my mind the backpack was always the less technical term and more of an implication of a fashion accessory as opposed to something you would take fell walking…like these beauties…

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada Pink Spots Backpack

Kukuxumusu knitted jacquard Dragonfly Backpack - Jaione

Joshua Davies Isobars Laptop Backpack

Jordi Labanda Blue Backpack

Chupa Chups Lollypop Backpack

VW Transporter Haynes Manual Backpack

Whereas the rucksack is something I’ve regarded as far more technical, walking accessories that don’t so much come in a choice of fabric design as a full technical specification, usually denoted by litre-age, waterproofing, breathability and weight!

For years I’ve walked in Cumbria but was a very late starter so my rucksack of choice before being tutored into the more technical stuff was a Quiksilver one. It’s a surfer’s one if the truth be told but it’s really light, really hardwearing, suitably showerproof and at the time of purchase, I felt, uber stylish, in its cream and gold colourway!

These days I still carry it on shorter walks but am more inclined to use something a bit more technical on occasion, as my old bones prefer the lightweight, very waterproof and geared up for sitting correctly on your back type of accessory – so I have a very cheap Rhino 22 litre Wynnster…I am certainly no Alan Hinkes!!

The choice is vast from Berghaus, which I always think look the best being taller and slimmer, to Lowe Alpine and The North Face…and that’s just the tip of a very large ice berg.

And then we come to the haversack!

My mother has never called a rucksack a rucksack or backpack…but a haversack. So it was weird when looking into this to find that haversack certainly nowadays seems to be what I would call a courier bag, messenger bag or satchel!

I’ve never heard a single other person say the word than my mother so that alone would deter me from ever describing anything on newroomsonline as such…..but given the fact that I am plagued almost hourly by SEO cold callers who tell me we come up for zero…what do I know?



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4 Responses to “Backpacks, rucksacks, haversacks – function vs fashion vs terminology!”

  1. Evette Says:

    These are great collections! I love the designs. These are perfect for traveling and camps. Children’s rucksacks are cute too. As long as it is durable with cool designs that fit your personality, I think these are great! Thank Sally!

  2. Sandra Says:

    Yes, I am also always confused what is a backpack and what is a rucksack! I like the fact that you chose a surfer’s pack even though you weren’t going surfing but chose it for its comfort. I really think that is the way to go. There are so many options of different packs for different purposes nowadays and I’m sure that’s great but really you should choose a pack just for you and not the definition of what you’re going to do with it.

  3. GOactivities Says:

    When I worked at GO Outdoors we tended to use a rucksack and backpack as the same thing- something above 18 litres or so in size? Anything smaller than that is a daysack or a backpack?

    If you like your Quicksilver one we say good on you! There’s no need to choose something that’s so specific for ‘walkers’ or ‘surfers’ – it just needs to be comfy, able to hold stuff and ideally adjustable and breathable on the back.

    I now work at GO Activities- so we sell things like walking holidays, guided walks in the Peaks or the Lakes, kayaking, karting, and other unusual stuff like otter spotting! Check us out if you need to take your bag on a trip 🙂

    Elaine x

  4. Osprey Rucksacks Says:

    We always go for Rucksacks personally!

    Backpacks always conjures up hiking up a mountain with a full kit for survivasl!

    As you say, personal choice though!!

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