The Kånken backpack is one of Fjällräven’s most iconic products. Famed throughout the world for its style, practicality and durability, it’s the go-to for everyone from school children to commuters, and no matter where you head, you’re sure to spot a Kånken or two.


Here, we take a look back at the history of this iconic bag and how it’s evolved as Fjällräven continue to put sustainability at the heart of their business.


An icon is born

The Kånken was launched in 1978 in response to the growing trend of wearing shoulder bags which correlated with an increase in the incidence of back pain. Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin wanted to use his experience of designing comfortable, functional backpacks for trekking to produce a new pack ideal for commuting and exploring towns and cities. 


Åke came up with a backpack that would accommodate folders and other essentials and chose to make it from hardwearing Vinylon F to increase its durability and ensure it would stand the test of time.


The design was simple yet functional, featuring rectangular shaping, top handles, flexible adjustable shoulder straps and an embroidered logo on the front.


The main compartment featured a large zippered opening to make it easy to pack and unpack, while two flat side pockets and a zippered front pocket ensured there was plenty of space for smaller items, while an address tag meant it could be returned to you if lost.


Åke also added a seat pad so that users could take a breather when they needed to and cleverly chose to store it in the inside back pocket to stop the contents of the backpack from pressing against the back. 


And so, an icon was born. The Kånken has since become one of the most popular bags across the globe and is instantly recognisable with its signature simplistic styling that has remained virtually unchanged since its conception. 


Why Vinylon F?

Vinylon F is a hardwearing synthetic material made of a fibre called polyvinyl alcohol, which has properties usually found in natural materials. One of these properties means the fabric swells when it becomes damp. This makes it denser and able to withstand moisture penetration, so unlike most other backpacks, the Kånken doesn’t require a polyurethane (PU) or silicone coating to make it water-resistant.


Vinylon F is also incredibly tough and withstands the rigours of being a well-loved school backpack or travelling bag.

A growing legacy

Fjällräven believe there's always room for improvement, and that's why they're constantly looking for ways to build upon the success of the Kånken. Although the original Kånken is still going strong, they have now introduced new members to the family, including the Kånken No.2, a laptop specific Kånken, the Re-Kånken, the Kånken Hip pack and the Tree Kånken.

Kånken No.2

The Kånken No.2 has the same silhouette as the original Kånken but is made from Fjällräven’s G-1000 fabric. G-1000 is a polycotton material proven to be strong and durable that can be waxed with Greenland wax to lengthen its life and increase water repellence. The bag also features leather handles and detailing to give it a stylish and distinctive look.


Laptop Kånken

As times have changed, so has the equipment we need to carry, and the Kånken has evolved to stay ahead. The laptop-specific pack shares all the same features as the original Kånken but also has a padded pocket to protect your computer when you’re on the move. Available in 13, 15 or 17-inch options, there’s something for everyone.


This special edition Kånken has a lower impact on the environment with the same great features. It’s made entirely from polyester recycled from eleven plastic bottles and is dyed using SpineDye technology which radically reduces the amount of water, energy and chemicals used. All this means it’s ready to be carried, travelled with, and loved for years– and in the far and distant future, recycled once again.


Like the Re-Kånken, the Tree-Kånken has a lower impact on the environment, but rather than focus on recycled materials, Fjällräven chose to explore alternatives to fossil-based raw materials. This led them to discover pine weave, a durable, hardwearing fabric developed from cultivated and certified spruce and pine trees in northern Sweden. 


The coating is a customised combination of water-based polyurethane and wax that enhances durability and water resistance to give every Tree-Kånken a unique worn-in patina that develops over time. 


It also features carefully modified details, including a reflective logo, a flat front pocket with vertical zip and a strap for fastening a jacket or yoga mat underneath to make it your own.

Kånken Hip Pack

If you love the styling of the Kånken but are looking for a smaller bag for the everyday essentials, the Hip Pack is perfect. It features an adjustable strap and can be worn around your waist or across your body. Plus, with one main compartment and two smaller ones, it’s easy to access what you need quickly.


Caring for your Kånken

Although designed to be durable and long-lasting, the Kånken requires some care to keep it performing at its best for years to come:


  • Never put Kånken in the washing machine. Instead, wash dirty marks with lukewarm water, mild detergent and a soft brush or sponge
  • When drying your Kånken, hang it in a well-ventilated area that’s not exposed to direct sunlight. Never use a tumble dryer
  • Leaving your Kånken in direct sunlight will cause the colour to fade
  • Wash your Kånkenin in lukewarm water before you start using it to prevent dye from leaking onto your clothes
  • Don’t overfill your Kånken - the standard Kånken backpack has a 16-litre volume, and although there is no official max load, you should keep it to just a few kilos. If you need more room, choose a different size Kånken
  • Don’t put a laptop in a regular Kånken. That back pocket of the Kånken is made for folders and note pads. A laptop puts too much strain on the straps and zips. The Kånken Laptop is available in three sizes, so you can find one to suit 
  • If you get a zip stuck, avoid yanking it free. Instead, use a little bit of oil or clear lip balm to loosen the zip, then gently try opening and closing it
  • If tears appear, fix them as soon as possible. The longer you leave them, the bigger they’ll get

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