The Iconic Fjällräven Kanken Bag
1. Back Support
The Fjällräven Kanken backpack was developed in the late 1970s to help Swedish schoolchildren cope with their heavy loads. Backache in young children had started to be a problem and the Kanken was designed to spread the weight evenly. The backpacks soon became a common sight in Swedish schools with their huge range of beautiful colours.
200 Kankens are sold every hour worldwide such is their appeal now. The bags have gone on to become an iconic product, much loved by people all over the globe. Spotting fellow Kanken owners is now a legitimate pastime on the London Underground.
Beware the fakes – with huge popularity comes the inevitable fakery. Fake Kankens can be seen everywhere now but they are easy to spot. The fabric is usually different, much softer like a standard bag and you don’t get the telltale creases on the front pocket. You also don’t get the water-resistance.
Fjällräven Kankens are brilliantly water-resistant. Vinylon F, the synthetic fabric they are made from, behaves more like a natural fibre and swells as it becomes damp. As it swells, the gaps between the woven fibres close more and thus it becomes more resistant to water penetration. This means there is no coating that needs to be maintained and this property lasts the life of the bag.
5. Vinylon F
Vinylon F is made in Japan but the original Vinylon was invented in North Korea. Made from polyvinyl alcohol and using limestone and anthracite as raw materials, it is the fabric of choice in North Korea where it is used for clothing and shoes and pretty much everything else. Though great for bags, it is hard to imagine what trousers made from this fairly stiff material would feel like.
The use of Vinylon F makes the Kanken amazingly light, much more so than most other backpacks giving you an advantage before you fill it up. It also becomes more durable with time and softens as it ages so maybe the trousers would be ok.
8. Extra-Long Zips
The zips go all the way around and allow you to open it up like a suitcase. This makes it by far the easiest of bags to locate stuff in.
9. Environmentally Friendly
The Kanken is made by Swedish brand Fjällräven, a serious player in the outdoor gear market. Fjällräven means Arctic Fox which is a charismatic little predator on the brink of extinction and the company is involved in many conservation projects to help reverse the decline. They take their green credentials very seriously and whilst their products are not the cheapest, they are made to last and created with as little environmental impact as possible. And on the subject, they have recently launched the Rekanken which uses recycled materials.
10. Art & Design
The Kanken is a piece of art, it’s official! In 2016 the Swedish Government listed and protected the Kanken on Svensk Form, the Swedish Society of Crafts and Designs. New special editions versions of the Kanken have been released with different webbing straps to celebrate and here at Bureau we have managed to get a few of the black versions with their Pippi Longstocking stripy straps.