The Fjallraven Kanken backpack is a classic style of bag and has been around for decades. It’s been almost 50 years since the Fjallraven Kanken was initially released, so we’re here to revisit the classic design and see how compares to the modern competition.
Let’s not mince words if you’re after a highly functional bag that is both tough and great for hiking or travel the Fjallraven Kanken is not for you. However, the backpack is a classic and has been popular with the fashion-forward and hip crowd for a good reason.
A great small day bag, the Fjallraven Kanken Kanken backpack is the perfect bag for carrying around the odds and ends you’ll need throughout a day of travel. Designed for lightweight travelers, or as a substitute for a purse or tote you might carry around for everyday use.
Produced in Sweden, the classic backpack was made for school children to help promote straight backs. Thanks to the success in design, they are now sold worldwide for a variety of uses. With a volume of 16 liters, this certainly isn’t big enough to be your only packed bag when traveling, but it’s a perfect solution for a day bag or carry-on item to keep your essential belongings close at hand.
The Kanken will easily fit underneath the seat of an airplane as a carry-on but is still big enough to pack those essential items you want to have on hand. Kanken backpacks help keep your back straight and ultimately less achy at the end of the day. Construction uses vinylon, which has a texture similar to lightweight canvas, creating a very durable yet let lightweight backpack.
In comparison to other backpacks, the Kanken is also a very budget-friendly option. For half the price of other travel backpacks on the market, you can get an excellent quality bag that will hold up to your adventurous lifestyle.
The Kanken has a main pocket, two flat side pockets, and an additional zipped front pouch. This simple design keeps your possessions organized, but doesn’t become overwhelming with all the options for pockets and zippers that some bags have.
The large zipper on the main pouch makes it easy to open the backpack almost all the way. Even if what you’re looking for is all the way on the bottom, you can access it without unpacking everything.
To keep the items in the backpack from jabbing into your back, the Kanken has a foam pad inserted into the back panel. This provides a bit of extra cushion without adding weight. The great thing about the foam pad is that it can be removed and used as a seat cushion wherever you’re going.
Although some people might not use this feature, it can come in handy more often than you realize. Sitting on hard park benches, wet ground, uncomfortable plastic bus seats, or even a corner of the airport while waiting for a delayed flight can become more comfortable when you have an easily transportable foam seating pad with you at all times!
Vinylon f is a synthetic fiber used in all of Fjallraven’s products to produce lightweight and durable outdoor items. Unlike other materials that require some sort of coating to produce a water-resistant quality, vinylon f is water-resistant all by itself. Since the material expands when it becomes wet, the fiber fabrics will swell, leaving almost no room for water to pass between the strands.
Dunking your backpack underwater will still result in damaged material on the inside, but in light rain, highly foggy conditions, or with gentle splashing, everything on the inside of the Kanken backpack should stay safe and dry thanks to the expanding quality of the material.
The Kanken has a simple design with a slightly “boxy” appearance. It definitely preserves some of the “school day” nostalgia, while still being an excellent option for travelers. The rectangular shape also helps keep everything organized and gives you easy access to all the items in the pack.
If you’re the type of person who likes color and variety, then you’re in luck with the Kanken. You can pick from a ton of different colors for your new bag – from a simple navy to a light orchid pink or acorn brown.
Some people have commented that the color selection on the webpage doesn’t accurately match what the bag looks like in real life. For example, colors may be slightly more or less intense than the hue shown on the screen. Take the color selection with a grain of salt, but still, it’s pretty cool that there’s more to choose from than the standard black, grey, and occasional green and blue!
One thing the Kanken lacks in comparison to other travel backpacks is thicker shoulder padding on the straps.
The thin straps don’t have much going for them in terms of support if you’re carrying a heavier load. Thankfully, since the backpack is on the smaller side, it’s not likely you’ll be carrying around something bulky or heavy, so the thinner straps might not be much of a problem.
On the pro side, the Kanken can easily be carried as a backpack or a bag, thanks to the convenient top strap. This allows for easier transport in various situations and lets you use the Kanken bag more like a tote if desired.
On each side of the Kanken, there are flat pockets with a bit of reflective material on them for added visibility.
Unfortunately, these to pockets are a bit too small for most water bottles, unless your bottle happens to be particularly thin.
They are still convenient places to keep an umbrella, extra pens and pencils, or a map of the area on hand. If you’re the type of person who likes to have a water bottle within easy reach, it would be good to get a carabiner or water bottle strap if you like other things about the Kanken.
The Kanken backpack has a simple design with one main compartment, two flat side pockets, and one additional zippered pocket in front. If you’re looking for a straightforward bag without extra bells and whistles (or endless places where things can get lost), the Kanken is a great choice. However, if you’re the type of person who likes many different pockets, compartments, and lots of zippers, the Kanken backpack might not be the right travel bag for you.
The largest pocket in the Kanken has a zipper that goes almost all the way around the bag, allowing you to open it to reach whatever items may be closer to the bottom.
On the back of the main compartment is the sleeve holding the foam pad to protect your back. This pad can be removed easily to be used as a seat cushion wherever you end up.
The Kanken doesn’t have a designated laptop compartment, and it’s a bit too small to fit most laptops. Tablets, Chromebooks, or smaller electronic devices can still easily fit with room to spare for other items.
If you don’t have a laptop or are fine leaving it behind at your hostel or hotel while you go out exploring, the Kanken is an excellent choice for a travel backpack. If you’re a digital nomad who needs to have your laptop with you everywhere, the Kanken might not be for you.
On the inside of the main compartment is a label where you can put your name and address on the pack in case it gets lost. It’s a nice touch for travelers or really anyone who worries about misplacing a bag somewhere!
With a volume of 16 liters, the Kanken is better suited for day trips or as a small carry-on bag. It’s perfect if you’re the sort of traveler who wants a few essential items along, like a water bottle, a snack, and maybe a few other odds and ends.
Aside from the two flat pockets on either side of the backpack, the Kanken has one other small zippered pocket in front. This compartment is big enough for phones, a wallet, or other small items you might want to have within easy reach.
The logo on the outside of the bag and the side pockets is reflective, making it easier for cars to spot you if you’re out walking with your backpack after dark.
There’s no doubt that the Kanken is built to last and to hold up to a lot. It may be small, but that doesn’t mean you should underestimate its strength!
For starters, the material is different than many other bags on the market. Vinylon 5 isn’t a super common material, but it provides great results. Lightweight, reasonably water-resistant, and very durable, the bag is meant to withstand adventures. The zippers are fairly good quality, without many issues of snagging or breaking.
One thing to consider in terms of durability is the foam pad in the back of the backpack. Especially if you are using it as a seating cushion, as Fjallraven suggests, the foam can get worn out quickly. In comparison to backpacks with built-in padding, the foam on the Kanken won’t last as long.
Fjallraven originally designed the Kanken for school children, then expanded to the market for travelers and everyday use. It’s certainly a versatile bag and easy to use in a variety of circumstances. The fact that you can carry the bag either as a backpack or tote opens up more possibilities for areas of use.
If you’re a student for part of the year, traveler for another part (or possibly traveling and studying simultaneously), then the Kanken is ideal. It can hold a decent amount of gear but doesn’t become bulky or cumbersome.
Because it’s on the smaller end, the Kanken is a nice bag to use even when you aren’t traveling. Instead of carrying a purse or trying to jam all your essentials into various pockets, the Kanken is convenient to use in many situations.
Although there are many things to love about the Kanken, there are also a few potential downsides you should consider before making a purchase. The size can be positive or negative, depending on your style of travel. For some people, 16 liters isn’t enough room to pack all the essentials, especially if you carry around a lot of electronics or want a specific compartment for your laptop.
With only two real pockets, the Kanken lacks the organizational features and numerous zippered compartments that other travel backpacks often have. Again, if you like a simple design, this might be a good thing, but if you prefer to have a separate pocket for each of your items, you might want to look elsewhere for a travel bag.
For a backpack with the main advertising point of helping you keep a straight back, it does seem a little strange to have such flimsy shoulder straps. Yes, the backpack itself sits very squarely on your back, and the foam pad provides a nice cushion between you and the contents of your bag. However, with such minimal padding on the straps, after wearing the Kanken all day while walking around a new city or going on a long hike, your shoulders can get quite sore.
Going back to the origins of the Kanken as a school backpack, it was designed to be carrying things for shorter distances, like between classes, then being set down again.
For travelers who know they’re going to be standing for extended periods or plan on going trekking, it’s probably a better idea to get a travel backpack with a bit more support and cushion for your shoulders, and possibly a waist or sternum strap to help distribute the weight more evenly.