If you live in the UK, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks are everywhere. But while these popular, colourful bags have become something of a fashion icon in recent times, the Kånken has actually been around since the late 1970s. First designed for Swedish schoolchildren, the backpacks were made with both comfort and durability squarely in mind.
Such is the appeal of their iconic design that they’ve now become just as popular among adults as kids. I’ve tested the Kånken 13in, which is made to carry a 13in laptop, for the last few months and though it’s not without its flaws, I can see why the Kånken range has become well-loved worldwide.
The fundamental difference between the Kånken 13in and the original Kånken backpack is that it comes with a separate zippable compartment on the bag’s rear for storing a laptop. Its carrying capacity is also a considerable three litres smaller at just 13 litres.
It’s around 20mm shorter and narrower than the standard version and 30mm deeper to accommodate the laptop sleeve. That might not sound like a huge difference but if you’re almost 6ft tall, like me, the backpack appears to have almost child-size proportions when it’s on your back.
Indeed, even with its straps fully extended, the bag only just fits my not-excessively broad shoulders. Fjällräven’s 15in and 17in backpacks (which have 18l and 20l capacities, respectively) are better choices for larger individuals.
Design and Space
The design of most Fjallraven Kanken backpacks can be described as ‘pedestrian’. The frames of the bags are quite square, which provides them with easy recognition amongst other brands whose bags tend to display a more elliptical frame. Furthermore, the red-colored logo which they stamp at the center of every bag makes it easy to spot any Fjallraven bag in a crowd.
The Fjallraven backpack is tall enough to fit most school textbooks and slimmer, 13” laptops. Fitting a regular-sized laptop (typically 15.6”) might get a little tight.
In terms of its capacity, the Kanken backpack holds less than most standard backpacks of today. For instance, the average volume on the market is between 20 – 30 liters while the Kanken big backpack has a volume of close to 16 liters. Sufficient for school purposes without a doubt, but the Kanken is lacking in volume to fit clothing, a jacket, or other bulkier items. On the other hand, this bag is conveniently super light due to its minimalistic design. Other available bags on the market typically have such an intricate design that they themselves weigh around 2 lbs.
Comfort and Durability
The fabric used in the making of the Fjallraven Kanken Mini and Classic bags is Vinylon, a material produced by the company itself. It is one of the three types of fabrics used in the making of the Fjallraven backpacks. The material is known for its water resistance capabilities and for its strength; even under stressful conditions, it cannot be torn easily.
The feel of the fabric is not the most pleasant; that is, it is not soft and comfy like other fabrics. But comfort has never been the main motive of Kanken backpacks – their bags are designed for durability, not luxury.
Storage and Organization
The main compartment is large enough to accommodate most essential items for a school student or for an average business worker. The zipper mounted on the compartment is two-way and once you unzip it, you can easily access everything inside the bag at once.
The bag’s accessibility is seamless because the inside does not have sleeves or pockets, though this also makes it difficult to organize your various items in there. One hack for this is to remove the foam cushion that is placed inside the main zip, and place any electronic device there.
But then again, the flat surface of your electronics felt through your bag while you wear it can make it quite uncomfortable. The lack of organizational options is one downside of this bag.
The front pocket placed at the center of the main frame is much larger than the average front pocket of bags today. It is great for placing smaller and less important items – less important because the bag does not have anti-theft features so it would be all-too-easy for someone to unzip and take something from your bag undetected.