Last Updated: March 5, 2021

Fjallraven Kanken (Classic) Backpack Review

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Fjallraven Kanken (Classic) Backpack

The Fjallraven Kanken is super-popular amongst the hip crowd, especially those who favor fashion over function. The backpack itself is super simple, but has enough space for everything you need. You don't buy this bag to go hiking, but it certainly does turn heads on the street! View Latest Deal

The Fjallraven Kanken backpack is a staple school backpack. It was designed to be pack for school that counter back aches and promises carrying comfort. But that was all the way back in the 70s.

How does the Kanken fare today, with modern technologies that all the popular backpack manufacturers use? Is it still a great backpack for school, or are you better off picking up an Osprey or a North Face pack for the same price?

Those are the main questions I’ll answer in this review!

The Kanken backpack looks stunning, but its features are just not there. Here’s how I rate them: 

Product Rating

82.5Overall Rating
Design
9/10
Comfort
7/10
Materials & Durability
9/10
Value for Money
8/10

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 10.6” (W) x 15” (H) x 5.1” (D)
  • Weight: 10.6 oz
  • Capacity: 16 liters
  • Compartments: One main compartment
  • Pockets: 3 total; One external zippered pocket, 2 slip side pockets
  • Backpanel & Harness: PE Foam cushion in the back, ergonomic X-shape shoulder straps
  • Size: 16-liter capacity; good for everyday use, slightly below average for travel
  • Versatile Uses: School backpack, everyday backpack, decent for travel

Kanken Classic: Overall Rating

Fjallraven, Kanken Classic Backpack for Everyday, Royal Blue

You can read more about the individual features in the rest of the review. Hopefully that will help you understand why the backpack didn’t get higher grades.

Additionally, I did take into consideration other everyday backpacks that you could get for the same amount of money, and that heavily impacted the rating of the Kanken. As a standalone backpack it’s pretty fine. But when you take a look at what else is on the market, it’s actually a pretty underwhelming backpack.

Design And Specs

As far as design goes, this is one of the best-looking packs for schools. It’s a true classic, and its minimalistic design fits very well into our day and age. Plus, you can get it in pretty much any color you can think of, so it’s easy for everyone to pick up a Kanken that fits their preferences and that they will love.

You can go for a mini Kanken backpack, but you can’t really choose the size of the Classic. Look at the table above for its specifications.

This is mostly a pack for school, and I think its size fits that purpose really well. It is tall enough to fit all of your books and your average 13” laptop. You might be able to squeeze and 15.6” one in there is well, but I can’t guarantee that. The usual 15.6” laptop is 15” tall, so it might be a little tight in the pack. And if you put it in a sleeve, I don’t think it will fit.

The capacity of the Kanken is slightly smaller than what you see in other everyday packs. Their volume is usually anywhere from 20-30 liters, but I do think that 16 is more than enough for school necessities. You can easily fit all your books and notebooks in there, and still have some space for your pencil case, tablet or whatever else you consider a necessity.

However, I don’t think you will be able to fit a hoodie or a jacket in the pack. Maybe if you only have a couple of items in it. But if it’s already pretty full, there’s no space inside for your spare clothes.

I do really love how lightweight this pack is. And that’s one upside of its minimalistic design – packs with tons of different features can often weigh 1.5-2 lbs, which can be a lot for a school backpack. This one is super lightweight, so it’s pretty easy to carry around even when it is fully packed.

Comfort & Durability

PE Foam Cushion

Fjallraven Men's Kanken Backpack, Leaf Green, One Size

The foam cushion is pretty much the backpanel. And it is the revolutionary feature that made this backpack so unique in the 70s. Fjallraven integrated a foam cushion in the very back of this pack to straighten the backs of kids, and provide them with better carrying comfort.

The foam feels soft and comfortable on your back. It also acts as a barrier that prevents anything that’s inside your pack from poking you in the back. The cushion has its own sleeve, and you can remove it, if you decide to use that sleeve for something else.

Simple PE foam was enough in the seventies. But is it enough today? After all, there are such advanced backpanel technologies that help you feel comfortable, and also allow your back to breathe while you are wearing the backpack. And on top of that they strive to include a bunch of additional features that make a 50lb+ backpack feel pretty much weightless on you.

In terms of your level of comfort, I don’t think that the Kanken fares that well today. However, you also need to consider the actual capacity of this pack – it can’t get that heavy anyway, so you don’t need as elaborate support as you would in a bigger pack. So overall, I think that the comfort this pack offers is decent, but definitely not great or amazing.

Vinylon-F Shell

The Vinylon-F is a staple shell material of Fjallraven backpacks. It is made from weaved synthetic fibers, which actually swell when they get wet. That just makes the weave tighter, and helps the backpack resist rain showers without any additional coating.

That’s what makes the Kanken water-resistant. Vinylon-F is also a really strong and durable material, and there’s no doubt that your backpack will live through all the torture you can put it through. The shell of this pack for built to withstand dirt and wetness, which is exactly what you want out of your everyday backpack.

What’s even better is that it is super easy to maintain. You can clean the backpack with just some soap and warm water, and it will be as good as new. Overall, the Kanken gets an A+ for its durability, especially because a school backpack needs to be really tough.

Storage And Organization

Spacious Main Compartment

Kanken Main Compartment

The main compartment of this back is really spacious. It features a two-way zipper, and when you unzip the front panel you have easy access to everything inside the pack. But that’s because there’s nothing else inside it.

No additional sleeves or divider, not even a single pocket. So, organizing your stuff is basically something you can’t do. Sure, there are some external pockets, but you can’t really put your tablet inside those.

What you can do is remove the foam cushion and use it as a sleeve for your electronics. But then that device will lie flat against your back, which certainly won’t feel comfortable.

So, even though you can fit a lot in this backpack, I’m really disappointed with the lack of any organizational features.

External Front Pocket

Kanken Front Pocket

There is a single front pocket on the Kanken backpack. It’s zippered, and it is fairly large, for a front pocket at least.

It’s great for any smaller things you would want to keep separate from the stuff in the main compartment, but I wouldn’t put anything too valuable inside it.

There are no anti-theft features, and it is pretty easy for others to open it without you noticing when you’re wearing the pack.

Side Pockets

Kanken Side Pockets

You also have two side pockets on the Kanken. They are pretty tall, but they aren’t really stretchy – you can’t really fit a water bottle in them.

You could probably fit a small umbrella, or maybe gloves and hat. But since they are pretty rigid, they are not really that great for school.

However, they are good for travel – they are large enough to fit your passport and boarding ticket. Plus, since the pockets are open, you can access those things in a matter of seconds.

Versatility

Seating Cushion

The foam in the back of the pack also doubles as an impromptu seating cushion. Which can be pretty useful on outings, or when you find your school chair super uncomfortable.

It is a pretty thoughtful feature, but how often are you really going to take out that cushion? It would mean that you have to mostly empty the pack, and then do it all over again when you want to put the foam back in the sleeve.

It just seems like too much hassle for me. But in emergencies when you really need something soft to sit on, the Kanken has your back(side).

Carry Handles

Kanken Carry Handles

The Kanken backpack features two carry handles on the top. They are pretty useful and actually make the pack slightly more versatile – if you want to use it for travel or just as an everyday backpack, these help a lot. Especially when you don’t really fully pack it.

However, if you do manage to squeeze a bunch of things inside the pack, you’ll see that the carry handles aren’t that comfortable after all. They start to hurt your hands after some time, since they are not padded or anything.

But you can secure them together with a snap, which is actually really convenient. It also acts like a sneaky anti-theft feature – the main compartment of your pack can’t really be opened without tampering with the carry handles. And you would definitely noticed if someone was trying to do that.

Good For Travel?

If you don’t mind the lack of organization features, then yes this is a good pack for travel. It is super lightweight, and the main compartment is really spacious. You could pack a lot of stuff in it – the two-way zipper certainly helps with that, since it allows you to lie the Kanken flat and have access to everything at once.

Plus, it is small enough that it would be accepted as a carry-on on any airline. It’s a great choice for two-three days, but I doubt you could use it for any longer trips.

Value For Money

I really think this depends on what you are looking for in a backpack. In terms of durability, you get excellent value for money, since you will be able to use this backpack for years and years to come.

But how much will you actually use it? If you want something that is simple and classic, and you think that this is the perfect fit for you, then you are definitely getting your money’s worth.

But if you are on the prowl for the ultimate school backpack, I think you’re better off picking up something else. You can find a bunch of other backpacks with a higher number of features, and lower price tags. The Osprey Daylite and the Timbuk 2 Spire are the first two that come to mind.

Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack: Final Thoughts

On the one hand, I just love its design – it’s so retro. And the sea of different colors really makes me want to get at least two of them, because it’s so hard to pick just one! It’s decent enough for school and it even works well as a carry on, since it’s basically weightless and you can fit a bunch of stuff in it.

On the other hand, it’s pretty expensive for pretty much a piece of fabric. With so little pockets and extra features, it’s kind of hard to justify such a high price tag. You can get a much better backpack for the same price, which will be much more comfortable to carry around on a daily basis.

Fjallraven, Kanken Classic Backpack for Everyday, Royal Blue
  • ICONIC: Same classic Kanken design since 1978. Stash everyday essentials in the main zippered compartment, front zippered pocket, and two open side pockets.
  • PRACTICAL: Meet the material: Vinylon F. It has a weird name but it's dirt-resistant, water-resistant, and wipes clean.

But it definitely won’t look as good as the KankenSo, if you have money to spare and you are in love with the pack, then by all means get it. You will be buying a pack that you will own and wear for years to come, and that certainly has to count for something!

Head over to Amazon to check out the different colors and their prices. Actually, some of the colors are pretty heavily discounted right now, so definitely try to grab the best deal you can find!

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