The Fjällräven Kanken Rucksack, a Swedish Eco-Design Classic

Fjallraven Kanken Bag

Last month, my partner gave me a Fjällräven Kanken rucksack for my 30th birthday, and I have to tell you about it, as this is a classic amongst the eco-designs nowadays. I first spotted these slightly odd-looking bags in London many years ago, and learnt that they are a Swedish product, designed to last forever. When I received one in the mail recently, I got to know it a little better.Fjällräven is that Swedish company with the cute Nordic Fox as their logo, and an unpronounceable name. Since the 50ies, they produce "functional equipment for more - and more comfortable - journeys in the outdoors". Products excel in durability and functionality. The founder Åke Nordin, designed the Kanken rucksack in the 70ies, as a solution for kids to carry their folders to school without braking their backs. Together with the Swedish Guide and Scout Association, Fjällräven managed to introduce an affordable and functional backpack on the market in 1978. This also triggered debates around society's back problems amongst experts and even the general public.

kanken rucksack

Image: Laws of General Economy

At first, people weren't sure what to think of this new way of carrying. Nordin thought he might sell some 200 the first year, but he sold 400. The second year, he sold 30.000, a definite sign of success. And something else happened; the Kanken bag started to be more than just a rucksack. By some, wearing a Kanken turned into a symbol of liberal political views and sometimes the bag was called "the communist hunchback".

And today, 32 years after the first Kanken was sold, some 200,000 bags are made every year, the design hardly having changed at all. Fjällräven believes that there are some 3 million happy backs out there, carrying a Kanken.

What I like about my Kanken

The first thing you notice is that the bag is super lightweight. And simple: shoulder straps, carrying handles, zippers that open the bag for easy access, 1 special padded inside pocket along the back, 2 small outer side pockets and 1 zipped bag on the front. The bags come in 3 sized and are made from Vinylon 7, a very durable and waterproof fabric. The colours are really fun, from the classic green to bright yellow. Last but not least, the climate impact from production and transportation has been carbon offset.

I will try and remember to write an update when I turn 40, to tell you how the bag aged with me, but from other Kankens I saw around the world, they seem to really last.

Visit the Fjällräven web site for other outdoor products, made from organic cotton and Eco Cycle labelled (closed-loop production), or to sign up for Fjällräven Classic, a trek in the Lapland mountains of Sweden, for which the company won the 2010 Eco Award. ::Fjällräven

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