Fjallraven is a household name in its native Sweden, having been involved in the production and manufacture of high quality backpacks and outdoor gear since 1960. In Swedish, the name means ‘Arctic Fox’, a small but highly adaptable predator that lives in the bitter cold of Sweden’s mountains. Like the animal it was named after, the brand is committed to making high quality products that are able to withstand the harshest conditions.
One of their bestselling backpacks is the Kanken Classic series. The bag’s minimalistic design has aged well in modern times, but it has an interesting history dating back to the 1970s. Originally made as a school bag to help schoolchildren alleviate back pain by distributing weight evenly, it saw a surge in popularity even among adults. Today, it’s considered one of the most popular Swedish backpacks of all time.
Build and Dimensions
Comparing it to many backpacks on the market, the Kanken is not exactly the largest – but true to its ‘daypack’ label, is big enough for everyday use. Measuring 15 inches by 10.6 inches by 5.1 inches, it fits a surprising amount of items despite its compact frame. Users should have plenty of room for school or office supplies, laptops, books and other essentials.
The inside consists of a large central compartment. Unlike many bags that offer loads of pockets for easy organisation, the Kanken has a pretty basic set up. There is an interior sleeve that can hold a 13” laptop, but that’s about it. There are no small pockets for smartphones, wallets or stationery. The upside is that the zipper opens up almost all the way down to the bottom of the backpack, so users can always lay them flat on the ground (like a luggage bag) to retrieve items at the bottom. The laptop sleeve should comfortably fit notebooks and smaller laptop models such as the MacBook Air or HP Spectre. It also comes with a removable insert made from 2/4 inches of soft foam to provide cushioning for your back as well as protect the daypack’s contents from hard falls or knocks. If you have a larger laptop, Fjallraven offers bigger options such as the Kanken Big and Maxi versions. On the outside is a zippered pouch for holding stationery, accessories, keys, tissues, makeup – anything that requires convenient access. There are no side pockets for holding water bottles.
Despite their lack of pockets, users still love the Kanken Classic – thanks to their ergonomic build and sturdy construction. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly thin nylon straps: as they were originally made to help solve the problem of back pain among school children who had to carry heavy school bags, the Kanken Classic features strong and durable straps that distribute the weight evenly across the back, shoulders and neck. They are able to handle loads of up to 16L, and will not slip to the side even with heavier loads.
Apart from the shoulder straps, the daypack also comes with a smaller top strap for those who want to carry it by hand. Their medium-sized frame allows users to bring it around like a tote bag.
The Kanken Classic uses Vinylon F material, a synthetic, hard-wearing fabric that is tough and durable – making them suitable not just for everyday use, but also for commuting or outdoor activities. Most synthetic fabrics used in rucksacks and daypacks like the High Sierra Curve Daypack requires a coating such as polyutherane or silicone for it to be water resistant; but the Vinylon F mimics the properties of natural materials, thanks to a fibre called polyvinyl alcohol. The material swells up when damp, preventing further moisture from seeping in. Although not waterproof, the backpack’s contents should be protected from light rain and the elements. It dries quickly, even when wet. The fabric’s tightly woven texture acts just like Ripstop technology by preventing against rips and tears.
Lighter colors are susceptible to scuffing but it gives the bag a vintage, rugged look. The texture is similar to rough cotton and maintains a perpetually crinkled look, similar to raincoats. As the material is fairly soft, the bag will not be able to stand up on its own when empty, but folds down flat for easy storage when not in use. On a side note, the company is committed to materials sourced from ethical sources.
The Kanken Classic takes ‘less is more’ to a whole new level. While daypacks like the or Hynes Eagle Vintage or JanSport Big Student are loaded down with outer pockets, buckles and zippers, the Kanken sports just one simple pouch and a ‘flap’ which runs around the edges, hiding the zipper from view. The lack of side pockets gives the backpack a clean, squarish shape free from bumps and grooves. There are countless color options for a personalized style: from sky blue to frost green and ox red. Those who prefer darker, more sombre tones can go for black, navy and forest green. For users who like flashier hues, vivid choices like peach pink, birch green and burnt green are easily distinguishable even from afar. There are also ‘dual’ colors like navy/warm yellow and ox red/putty. The company’s logo is sewn on the front and has reflective properties for night travelling.
Pros and Cons
- Decent storage space, holds laptop of up to 13 inches
- Front pouch for easy access
- Ergonomic shoulder strap design alleviates pressure on back, neck and shoulders
- Top handle converts backpack into tote bag
- Simple and stylish design
- Many color options
- Water resistant
- Durable Vinylon F material
- Basic, not many compartments, difficult to sort items
- Susceptible to scuffing
‘Old but gold’ best summarizes the Fjallraven Kanken Daypack. Its no frills design offers a fair amount of storage space and comfort. The bag makes up for its lack of compartments with ergonomic straps that helps to distribute weight evenly, which helps to alleviate back problems in the long run. If you can live without compartments, then the Fjallraven Kanken is a solid choice.