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The Story of the Kanken Leave a comment

Cast your mind back to 1978. The Bee Gees are at the top of the hit parade, zombies are lurking outside of a shopping centre in Dawn of the Dead and in Sweden 80% of the population are suffering from back problems due to unwieldy shoulder bags.

With back experts and hunchbacks everywhere frantically scrambling to find a new design before another generation of Swedes are crippled, in steps Fjällräven mastermind and outdoor enthusiast, Mr Åke Nordin with his spine-saving school-bag — the Kånken.

With a name that means ‘carry’ in Swedish, it’s not much of a surprise that the Kånken was designed to do just that. By using two straps instead of just one, the weight of heavy school-books was spread evenly on both shoulders meaning less strain on the back.

As well as the spine-saving shape, the bags were made from a super-durable fabric (known only as ‘Vinylon F’) and packed with a smörgåsbord of useful features, including a newspaper pocket for the news-conscious pupil, a reflective badge and a removable seat pad for the occasional Swedish-meatball picnic.

With the backing of the Swedish Guide and Scout Association, Kånken backpacks were soon the bag of choice for both Scandinavian school-children and fully-grown people alike, and now, nearly 40 years after they first hit the playground, over 200,000 of the bags are sold every year, making them the best-selling backpacks in the world.

While the term ‘classic’ can be thrown about fairly loosely these days; we reckon the reliable ol’ Fjällräven Kånken definitely deserves the title.

With a design that’s stayed the same since 1978 it’s still as useful as ever, and whether you want something subtle or something not-quite-so-subtle, there’s a Kånken to suit even the pickiest of backpackers.

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