Riddle – backpacks in the desert


“Two men are in a desert and they both have backpacks on. One of the two is dead. The guy who is still alive has his backpack open and the guy who is dead has his backpack closed. What is in the man’s backpack who is dead?”

                        “A parachute.”


HW is a 20 year old who was born and raised in Southern California. She now works at a restaurant in the Southern California area. She originally heard this riddle from her grandfather when she was a kid. He used to give her riddles and would give her a dollar if she could come up with the right answer. My informant said “he wasn’t usually out all that much money. I usually only got them when I had heard it before.” I had met her for coffee where she told me this riddle.


This riddle has a typical structure. It asks a question after granting information, but not enough to totally understand where the riddle is going. Often, riddles even provide too much information to throw people off the right answer. In this riddle, you might think the desert is an important clue, but it really could be set almost anywhere. This riddle has a little bit of humor in it as well. Everyone may not find it funny because of its use of death as a comedic technique. The barrier to understand this riddle is relatively low because anyone who understands English and how parachutes work can understand it. However, the younger the audience is, the less likely it will be an appropriate riddle or one that could be understood. My informant cannot remember how old she was when she heard it, but she does know that she understood it once she heard the answer. Riddles are often given to children and told by children for fun and to test how clever someone is based on how good they are at solving them. Often though, people who have heard the riddle before are likely to get the answer, whereas if someone hears a riddle for the first time, it is much harder to get the answer right away.