Oi Polloi

The Story of the Fjallraven Kanken

Published: Wed Aug 02 2017

This was written a few years ago now, but such is the power of the humble Fjällräven Kånken that this article is still as relevant now as it was way back in the mists of time.

Cast your mind back to 1978. The Bee Gees are at the top of the hit parade, zombies are lurking outside of a shopping centre in Dawn of the Dead and in Sweden 80% of the population are suffering from back problems due to unwieldy shoulder bags.

With back experts and hunchbacks everywhere frantically scrambling to find a new design before another generation of Swedes are crippled, in steps Fjällräven mastermind and outdoor enthusiast, Mr Åke Nordin with his spine-saving school-bag — the Kånken.

With a name that means ‘carry’ in Swedish, it’s not much of a surprise that the Kånken was designed to do just that. By using two straps instead of just one, the weight of heavy school-books was spread evenly on both shoulders meaning less strain on the back.

As well as the spine-saving shape, the bags were made from a super-durable fabric (known only as 'Vinylon F') and packed with a smörgåsbord of useful features, including a newspaper pocket for the news-conscious pupil, a reflective badge and a removable seat pad for the occasional Swedish-meatball picnic.

With the backing of the Swedish Guide and Scout Association, Kånken backpacks were soon the bag of choice for both Scandinavian school-children and fully-grown people alike, and now, nearly 40 years after they first hit the playground, over 200,000 of the bags are sold every year, making them the best-selling backpacks in the world.

While the term ‘classic’ can be thrown about fairly loosely these days; we reckon the reliable ol’ Fjällräven Kånken definitely deserves the title.

With a design that’s stayed the same since 1978 it’s still as useful as ever, and whether you want something subtle or something not-quite-so-subtle, there’s a Kånken to suit even the pickiest of backpackers.