The Fjällräven Kånken backpacks, you have probably seen them before. These iconic Swedish backpacks have been around since the 70s and we’ve been in love with them for years. The unique and recognisable design and their lovely colour pallet simply stand out.
Recently, we became the proud owners of our own Kånken and Kånken Art bags. Since we travel full time with our kids, we have taken them along on our adventures. In this article we want to give you a review on these backpacks and why we think you should invest in them. Especially in the Kånken Art selection, as we will explain later on. Not only for yourself, but for the environment as well.
Why you should choose a Fjällräven Kånken backpack
A little history
Fjällräven has always been about making nature more accessible to everybody. Since the ’60s, Åke Nordin has been developing functional outdoor gear, with an emphasis on sustainability and the environment through its durable and timeless designs.
His first product was a backpack for people wanting to trek through nature. A few years later came their famous Greenland jacket for outdoor enthusiasts, developed out of a groundbreaking fabric. And then, in 1978, Åke Nordin developed the iconic Kånken Classic backpack.
Protect your back
In the ‘70s, a lot of people started to have back problems, meanly due to the popular shoulder bags back then. Many of these problems started at a young age. Kids needed to carry their heavy books every day to school.
Åke wanted to change that and developed the Kånken backpack just before the start of the school year of 1978. The easy and simple design, perfect to fit books and A4 ring binders inside, evens the weight out over both shoulders. The foam cushion in the back of this bag, helps people to walk up straight.
It immediately became a hit and the rest is history. One of the most recognisable bags in the world hasn’t changed much over the years. They added only an increasing choice of colours and sizes, such as the Kånken backpack mini. Many kids and people all love the world now use this backpack without harming their backs. It’s perfect for everyday use but also for travel and outside adventures.
Every brand that puts the environment in the first place, and is willing to change its processes and fabrics to become more sustainable, gets our attention.
As it is Fjällräven’s core mission to get people outside, nature has always played an important role for the brand. They have been doing as much as possible to reduce their footprint. Protecting the environment they love so much is important to them. Although they are not 100% sustainable yet, they are trying to move towards that goal every day. Fjällräven does not currently use PVCs, PFCs or angora wool. You can read more about this here.
The Kånken backpack is a perfect example. Although the classic bag isn’t made out of recycled material, due to its timeless design and the durable Vinylon fabric, a Kånken bag lasts almost forever. Which means the environmental footprint of the bag is reduced considerably. Fjällräven gives a lot of tips on how to take care of your Kånken backpack and extend its lifetime. They even produced an extra edition of the iconic bag, the Re-Kånken, completely made out of recycled plastic bottles.
Kånken was also a pioneer in climate compensation. They were the first backpack to offset all of their emission that is a result of producing and selling the Kånken Fjällräven backpacks.
Since 2017, when Kånken was named craft art by The Swedish Society of Crafts and Design, Fjällräven has worked together with Swedish artists to create unique and limited editions of the iconic Kånken backpacks and accessories. They asked the illustrators to use the Kånken bag as their canvas and express their bond with nature. Kånken Art was born!
This year, Fjällräven has worked together with Moa Hoff, an illustrator from Stockholm, Sweden. She created a beautiful handmade pattern, inspired by her own memories in nature. In this short video, Moa Hoff explains her relationship with Kånken and how she came up with this design. You can find all the information on Moa Hoff, her love for Kånken and the creation of this unique en experimental design here.
Besides the fact that you’ll buy a unique piece of wearable art, there is another reason to invest in the Kånken Art collection. If you buy a Kånken Art backpack, travel wallet, pen case, toiletry bag or card wallet, a percentage of the sale will go directly to the Arctic Fox Initiative. That way, you give back to nature, which we all love so much!
The Arctic Fox Initiative
Did you know that Fjällräven actually means arctic fox in Swedish (hence the logo)? I didn’t until I started to write this article. The arctic fox has been threatened for over 100 years, meanly due to hunting but recently also because of climate change. They are on the brink of extinction and have been classified as protected since 1928.
As the population doesn’t seem to be able to recover on its own, the University of Stockholm stepped in. They started a project to provide feeding and conduct research to save them. Due to Fjällräven’s connection with this beautiful animal, they support the project in different ways, by funding a full-time researcher, supplying equipment, …
The results have been amazing (from 50 foxes in Scandinavia around the millennium to 200 now in Sweden alone), but still, the arctic fox needs a lot of help. If you’d like to learn more, read this article on the project and the arctic fox.
Meanwhile, the initial Arctic Fox Project has grown into the Arctic Fox Initiative. Fjällraven wants to do more than support the arctic fox alone. Therefore, they created an initiative that gives other great environmental ideas and projects the opportunity to raise funds.
Each year, non-profit organisations that work for the environment or encourage people to get outside can apply for a spot. Depending on the jury and the public, they get accepted and a percentage of the income of Fjällräven’s Kånken Art sales goes towards these projects.
Our experiences with the Kånken backpacks during our travels
Although the Kånken backpack was originally designed for school, it’s usable for any purpose. We love them for travel! They are extremely lightweight, durable, perfect for carry on and of course, they look good. As from now, our Kånken backpacks come along with us wherever we go.
We have a Fjällräven Kånken mini and Kånken Art mini bag for our girls and a Kånken Laptop backpack for us.
Our girls have been so happy with their little backpack. Like almost all kids, they love to pack and carry their own stuff. The Kånken mini backpack has been the perfect size for them. Not too small, so they can take what they want, but not too big either, which means it doesn’t get too heavy. When we go for a walk, it fits a water bottle, some explorer gear and an extra sweater.
But to us, the biggest advantage of Kånken is its rectangular shape. When we visit a city or do some sightseeing, the girls love to pack some books or paper to draw on when we have to wait somewhere. And their Fjällräven mini Kånken is the first one that makes it possible to bring these along without rumpling everything. Same thing for our Kånken laptop bag. The rectangular design, big main compartment and two-way zipper make it very handy to pack for travel and to take our laptop along.
The recognisable handles aren’t just practical to carry the backpack around like a handbag, but also have a good side effect. They function as a sort of anti-theft feature, as it’s very hard to open up the zipper when they are tucked together.
So, as you probably noticed, we are in love with our Fjällräven Kånken bags. Although they might not have all of the features and accessories of some of the other backpacks, it’s exactly their simple, retro design that makes them irresistible. And the fact that Fjällraven has a big heart for the environment, only adds to the appeal of Kånken and the Kånken Art collection, which directly supports different environmental projects.
Although our Kånken backpacks were kindly given to us by Fjällräven, this article expresses our own opinion, as always.