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Knapsack Vs Backpack: What’s the Difference?

Knapsacks are better for short camping or hiking trips that last no longer than a day; generally, they are smaller than backpacks of the same price. Backpacks are synthetic materials and come in such a large variety that they can adapt to any need you may have but will be damaged with heavy use.

Understanding which might be best for your needs requires that you understand all the benefits and disadvantages of these bags. Many people assume that a knapsack is automatically better because of the required quality or that backpacks are better because of their versatility.

What are the benefits of each?

To understand the two types of bags, we need to start with the best that both of these bags have on offer, as these are the things that you need to focus on when making a purchase. Going in blindly and simply choosing one that you may think works is never a good idea.

We will be taking a long look at all the benefits that backpacks have and all the benefits of a knapsack. We recommend ensuring that you consider each option as you work through your choices, with most people only learning these through trial and error.

Benefits of a Backpack

Technically all backs that you carry with two straps over your shoulders are backpacks; as trends have changed and materials for bags broadened, the name has as well. However, backpacks for camping and knapsacks meant for camping, hiking, or everyday use have become different.

Usually, you will find people referring to knapsack as something smaller, which is why we need to take a look at the specific benefits of what would be considered a backpack. We have six benefits to backpacks over the modern understanding of knapsacks you need to consider.

  • Versatile: Backpacks come in every shape, size, and color you can imagine, with many modern backpacks incorporating space for technology. A good backpack won’t cost too much, have multiple pockets, and be adjustable in every way you may need.
  • Pockets: This is the most significant benefit of backpacks over knapsacks, multiple pockets inside and outside the bag. Many backpacks have space for pens, laptops, tablets, cameras, and almost anything else that you could try to put in them.
  • Mass Produced: It may sound bad, but because backpacks are always in demand and the basic designs are well known, the bags are produced on a large scale. This improves their total price and means you can replace your bag if something happened.
  • Affordable: Backpacks can be extremely expensive if you get the newest weatherproof, floating emergency bag you can find. However, you can also find perfect backpacks that are perfectly in your price range.
  • Size: You can find simple backpacks that are just one large pocket with a zip that only fits a few things, all the way to backpacks that can do everything you need for a weeklong hike. The versatility in size choice for backpacks is unmatched by any other type of bag.
  • Padding: The often overlooked benefit of a good backpack is the provided padding it has, as it is not limited to the straps. Backpacks can have memory foam backing with sponges in the straps that help support the weight and stops them from digging into your skin.

Knapsack benefits

As knapsacks are not always the same, each designer and manufacturer has their brand of bags that you need to consider. Depending on what you plan on using the bag for, it will greatly change the benefits of these bags.


With knapsacks, we recommend not simply buying the cheapest bag just to say you have a knapsack, instead of focusing on quality. A high-quality knapsack might not be with you on every trip that you take, but the canvas, nylon, or leather knapsack may last a lot longer than you expect.

  • Quality: A high-quality canvas or leather knapsack will not be made with many machines going through a specific program. Instead, they are usually handmade, with each bag stitched by practiced hands.
  • Materials: Generally, a knapsack is either made out of leather or canvas or a mix of the two. With a few select knapsacks made using nylon to offer some flexibility in the materials, either way, the materials used will be of a higher quality than just a backpack.
  • Fashion: The most common reason that people consider knapsacks is because of the inherent fashionability of these bags. As they are made from higher-grade materials, they look a lot better when sacrificing function for form.
  • Strength: Knapsacks that are handmade usually have higher quality stitching and reinforcing, making them a lot more capable of withstanding wear and tear. These bags can last several years, even with daily use.
  • Repairable: Canvas, nylon, and leather knapsacks can be a lot easier to repair as the materials required to do so can be purchased at most material shops. Normal thread or thick thread can repair any holes or tears in a knapsack within minutes.
  • Usability: Backpacks are perfect for hiking, camping, long walks, or traveling to new countries. However, knapsacks are a lot more usable for everyday needs as they are lightweight and will look good with most outfits.

What are the disadvantages of each?

Usually, we would have to separate the disadvantages between these two types of bags, but they share many. With only two things that make them different from each other, these are usually the two that separate them enough for people to consider the other.

Taking a look at just these two differences will be a bit better as it will allow you to choose whichever bag you may prefer. It is important to remember that backpacks and knapsacks are so diverse that there is a solution to any disadvantage you may think of.

Knapsack Lack of Space

As great as knapsacks are considered for their looks, they unfortunately fail when it comes to the total available space they offer. Further, knapsacks rarely have as many pockets or additions as regular backpacks, limiting their use to only day-to-day things.

You must remember this when planning what to use for your trips or camping plans, as knapsacks will only be able to carry enough provisions for a day trip. This is the reason that knapsacks have started falling out of favor with campers and hikers.

Backpacks, Fashion, and Bulk

This is the biggest and possibly the only disadvantage that backpacks have over knapsacks; a good backpack will not be fashionable and bulky. All the pockets, the sleeves, the straps, the padding, and the extra support make these bags rather unwieldy at times.

While there are smaller backpacks that you can use, one that you may go hiking, traveling, or camping with will not be small. The typical image with a large bag that stands almost a foot above them exists for this reason.

Knapsacks are becoming consumed by the backpacks category, but there are still a few noticeable differences between the two. It would help if you considered the benefits of each of them, remembering that the disadvantages of using either type of bag being quite precise.