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Are you in search of a stylish everyday bag that can pull double duty when you travel?
Or perhaps you’re after a minimalist carry-on backpack or daypack that comes in fun colors?
Here our friend Camilla introduces us to one of the most popular bags in Sweden – and one growing in popularity across the globe. It is water-resistant and lightweight, yet stands up to heavy wear and tear for years, as she’s personally found out.
In Sweden, people typically use it for their commute and shopping, but Camilla also appreciates its use for attending university and as a carry-on while traveling.
Read on to find out more about why Camilla highly recommends this perfectly-sized, classic 16L Kånken backpack.
Fjällräven Kånken Quick Review
Review: The Fjällräven Kånken Basics
My backpack is a Fjällräven Kånken, in the standard 16L size.
In Sweden, I see it everyday when people commute and go shopping. The name Kånken means roughly “the lug,” as in lugging something, so it’s quite fitting.
I’ve had my Fjällräven Kånken for at least five years. I’ve mostly used it for school, but I also traveled a week in London with it as a carry-on. For my biology project at university I spent a month out in the woods with it as a daypack.The Fjällräven Kånken in the classic 16L size goes for about €79, but I always use it with the additional shoulder pads for €20.
- Check out prices for the Fjallraven Kanken backpack on Amazon.
Why I Chose the Fjällräven Kånken
For me, it is important that the bag is weightless when empty, but also comfortable even when it’s full. I also value being able to have my things organized in different pockets and sections.
The Fjällräven Kånken is perfect for me- lightweight and waiting to be stuffed.
Features: What is special about Fjällräven Kånken?
The Fjällräven website lists the Kånken features as follows:
- Size: 16L (works as daypack, carry-on, or personal item)
- Weight: 300g (super lightweight!)
- Composition: Lightweight and durable Vinylon F fabric (withstands dirt and wetness)
- Opening: Main compartment opens large for easily accessibility (almost clamshell style)
- Storage: Main compartment plus two flat side pockets and a zipped front pocket
- Comfort: Includes PE foam seat cushion, stored in interior back pocket next to back. Optional shoulder strap pads sold for additional cost.
- Carry System: Adjustable shoulder straps or top carry handles
- Extras: Reflective logo and address label in main compartment
Top Fjällräven Kånken Backpack Feature
The bag is extremely lightweight (at 300g, it is lighter than a soda can) and easily stuffable.
For this review I put a full binder into it to show the size, but you can easily stuff even more things into it, like some clothes around the sides. I usually put in one or two packing cubes that work as my organizers for my small things.
The two side pockets are great for umbrellas, bottles, sunglasses and things of that size and shape. The front pocket is nice for quick-grab items like napkins and snacks.
Backpack Testing & Durability
This is a bag that lasts. I love that it is so durable (no wear and tear after 5 years of use, except the discoloured bottom), as well as washable.
As mentioned before, I’ve mainly used the bag for transporting belongings to and from school, but I’ve also enjoyed using the Kånken backpack for travel purposes. It works perfectly as a carry-on bag or daypack!
When I bought it the company recommended a light hand wash and then re-applying wax to keep it water-resistant, but I’ve machine washed it (on the gentle setting) two or three times without re-applying wax, and it survived fine.
Editor’s Note: The company’s site specifically states to never put the Kånken in the washing machine, and only certain versions of Kånken are meant to be waxed. Read more in our FAQs section below.
- See why you should clean your luggage after a trip.
Kånken Backpack Size: Perfect Carry-On or Personal Item
At a mere 16L, the bag works perfectly as a carry-on or personal item, but depending on where you’re going (or what you’re carrying) it might be too large for a daypack. If you’re exploring the city you might as well just go with a smaller handbag.
Fit and Comfort Level
Is the Fjällräven Kånken comfortable?
The built in straps can easily hurt when you carry a heavy load, but if you spend the extra €20 for the shoulder pads it is as comfortable as can be. I am a mere 155cm (5’2”), but I have never thought it was too big or too heavy when it was full.
Along with the two shoulder straps, the bag also has two carrying handles, which is great when you need to have your bag ready at customs or whenever you don’t want to have the bag on your back, like on public transit.
- Read more about the best backpacks for women.
FAQs About Fjällräven Kånken
Is Fjällräven Kånken waterproof? How can I waterproof my Kånken?
The original Kånken is not waterproof; it is water resistant. Kånken is made of Vinylon F: 100% vinylal and is not made to be waxed or waterproofed.
However, the Kånken No. 2 is made of the G-1000 fabric and is much more water repellent (read: still not completely waterproof). Fjallraven highly recommends waxing G-1000 fabric with their Greenland Wax for an increased water repellency and durability.
If you expect heavy British downpours or other comparable weather, Kånken No. 2 might suit you better.
How should I wash my Kånken?
Kånken is not made to go in the washing machine. Dirty marks can be washed with a soft brush or sponge using lukewarm water and mild soap. Hang in an open area to dry but not in direct sunlight, to avoid fading.
Does Kånken fit a laptop?
Fjällräven website begs you to not put a laptop in the original Kånken, to avoid strain on the straps and zippers.
However, they do have a Kånken laptop version specifically made with a padded compartment and padded shoulder straps for carrying your laptop safely and comfortably. This version is available for laptop sizes 13 inch, 15 inch, and 17 inch.
Is Fjällräven Kånken vegan?
Some, but not all, varieties of the Kånken are vegan friendly. Fjällräven’s website is very clear and up front about which bags are vegan and which are not. You’ll see a legal notice section under “product specifications” on the product pages of bags that “contain non textile elements of animal origin.”
Is Fjällräven Kånken available in stores? Where can I try Kånken on?
Many cities offer a variety of Fjällräven qualified retailers, so it’s worth checking with your favorite hometown travel and outdoors store to support shopping small and local.
- In the U.S., REI carries some colors and a few locations have them in the store. The rest will allow you to buy online and pick up in store. In any case, all REI returns can be done in a store near you, even if you purchased online.
- In the UK, Cotsworld Outdoor and Urban Outfitters stock the Kånken, making them excellent places to try before you buy.
- In Australia, Fjällräven has an official, physical shop in both Sydney and Melbourne. The major department store, David Jones, keeps the Kånken in stock, as well as a number of smaller luggage and bag shops across the country.
How do you pronounce Fjällräven Kånken?
Fjällräven is pronounced “fyell reven” (and is Swedish for arctic fox, thus, the logo). Kånken sounds like an English pronunciation of “konken,” which means “the lug,” as in lugging something.
How to spot a fake Fjällräven Kånken!
Honestly, the only improvement I’d make on the backpack is to include a few more compartments, as it only has four- two side pockets, one big compartment and one small in front.
Some additional separation in the big compartment would be nice, or an extra pocket in the front.
I suppose another downside could be that they don’t sell green shoulder pads to match my backpack straps, but I really don’t mind at all.
Conclusion: Highly Recommended
I highly recommend the Fjällräven Kånken to everyone who wants a simple, lightweight, durable bag that does exactly what it’s supposed to, with no extra fuss (or weight).
About the author: Camilla Nilsson is an environmental biologist from Sweden, but is currently studying environmental and health protection. She has mostly travelled within Europe but wants to see the world. She also illustrates and sews in her free time.