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Fjällräven Kånken 13in review: The perfect everyday backpack?

Edward Munn
29 Apr 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90

It’s well made and looks great, but the laptop-carrying variant of the iconic Kånken backpack isn’t without its flaws

Pros 
Front-loading main pocket
Independent laptop compartment
Comfortable carrying handles
Cons 
Expensive
Smaller than original Kånken
Too small for broader people
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If you live in the UK, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks are everywhere. But while these popular, colourful bags have become something of a fashion icon in recent times, the Kånken has actually been around since the late 1970s. First designed for Swedish schoolchildren, the backpacks were made with both comfort and durability squarely in mind.

Such is the appeal of their iconic design that they’ve now become just as popular among adults as kids. I’ve tested the Kånken 13in, which is made to carry a 13in laptop, for the last few months and though it’s not without its flaws, I can see why the Kånken range has become well-loved worldwide.

Buy now from alpinetrek.co.uk

Fjällräven Kånken 13in review: What you need to know

The fundamental difference between the Kånken 13in and the original Kånken backpack is that it comes with a separate zippable compartment on the bag’s rear for storing a laptop. Its carrying capacity is also a considerable three litres smaller at just 13 litres.

It’s around 20mm shorter and narrower than the standard version and 30mm deeper to accommodate the laptop sleeve. That might not sound like a huge difference but if you’re almost 6ft tall, like me, the backpack appears to have almost child-size proportions when it’s on your back.

Indeed, even with its straps fully extended, the bag only just fits my not-excessively broad shoulders. Fjällräven’s 15in and 17in backpacks (which have 18l and 20l capacities, respectively) are better choices for larger individuals.

Fjällräven Kånken 13in review: Price and competition

I’ve only used it for a few months, so I can’t comment on its long-term durability, but the Kånken 13in certainly seems as well constructed as you’d expect for a backpack that costs just shy of £100.

That said, if you need higher levels of durability and waterproofing, you should consider one of Fjällräven’s more hardwearing models such as the Raven 20l (RRP £85). It doesn’t have the Kånken’s iconic design, but it’s made from G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco, which can be wax treated, and has a considerably larger 20l capacity including a 15in laptop compartment.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a great all-rounder, something like the Osprey Nebula should serve you well for commuting and hiking alike. It’s not waterproof but has a spacious 34l capacity, a laptop sleeve and deep, stretchy pockets on either side for carrying water bottles.

For our pick of the best daysacks, whether you’re cycling to work or hiking in the Peak District, you can also refer to our best backpacks list.

Fjällräven Kånken 13in review: Features and design

The Kånken 13in is mostly very practical for a small backpack. Its main front compartment unzips to within an inch or so of the bottom, for instance, which means you can easily load it while it’s lying flat on its back. And thanks to its boxy design, there’s enough space in this section to fit what you should need for most days out – whether that’s a spare change of clothes or a packed lunch (although probably not both).

Within its main compartment, the Kånken 13in has an additional nylon sleeve, which is handy for storing a tablet or magazine, and on its front there’s an additional small zippered compartment that’s perfect for stashing your keys, wallet or purse.

Then there’s the laptop compartment. This fits my 13in MacBook Pro with about an inch of extra space and it’s adequately, if not amply, padded – in other words, you'd be wise to still take care when placing the bag down on hard floor. Unlike many backpacks, this compartment is on the outside of the bag and has a separate zipper that makes getting to your computer out very quick and easy.

Sadly, though, the backpack’s side pockets aren’t quite so useful. They'll accommodate a portable umbrella, but anything bigger than a narrow 500ml water bottle won't fit. It’s not clear if these pockets are larger on the larger Kånken models, but if they are, it’d rank highly on my list of reasons to consider a larger one.

The Kånken somewhat redeems itself with its carry handles, which make carrying it by your side very easy. Its main straps are also sufficiently padded to make it comfortable when worn on your back, but if you are carrying heavier loads, it's worth considering Fjällräven's optional shoulder pads that fasten with velcro and push buttons.

The Kånken 13in is constructed from Vinylon-F as opposed to the wax-treatable G-1000 used in Fjällräven’s most durable outdoor products. So, although it’s water repellant and can be spot-washed using mild detergent, it’s not intended for full days trekking in the rain.

Buy now from alpinetrek.co.uk

Fjällräven Kånken 13in review: Verdict

It looks great and feels comfortable, but does the Kånken 13in justify its £90 price tag? Partly, yes, but be in no doubt – you are paying a premium for the Fjällräven name.

If you’re not worried about having the most fashionable backpack money can buy, you can pick up something more practical for considerably less such as the Osprey Nebula.

Having said that, most of my gripes with the backpack are in some way connected with its size – it just doesn’t fit me well. If you have a smaller frame and like the look of the Kånken 13in, then it’s a tempting blend of fashion and practicality.

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