I have been a student for the past eighteen years (unbelievable, I know) and if things go according to plan, I’m about to tack on another three years to that. So it’s safe to say that I know backpacks. From my trusty, huge black Jansport to a much sleeker Everlane, with a tiny Longchamp travel backpack thrown into the mix, I’ve been wearing stuff on my back for ages.
This July and August, I’ll be spending a lot of time traveling throughout Asia. So far, the itinerary looks something like Tokyo–>Seoul–>Shanghai–>Hangzhou–>Tianjin–>Beijing–>Shanghai–>Shenyang. Unluckily, July and August are probably the most hellish months to be traveling in China, what with the dry and polluted air in the north and the soul-killing humidity and heat in the south. All this to say, I really want to minimize the baggage I’ll be lugging around in those conditions, and that baggage needs to be both fairly cute and durable. (It needs to be cute because I’ll probably be wearing my backpack on my front like the most obvious, bumbling tourist ever. But pickpockets are no joke, so.)
Enter the Fjallraven Kanken, that classic Swedish daypack beloved of both tiny Nordic children and hipsters around the world. I first heard about this brand and pack from my most ~*hipster dream girl*~ friend—which is definitely a compliment, by the way, as she is one of the most genuinely cool, casually brilliant, and effortlessly beautiful people I have ever met. But I digress. Hers has followed her all over New York and other travels, including a camping trip in Joshua Tree, and is still going strong years later.
There’s something incredibly endearing about the look of the Kanken, which toes the line between cutesy and utilitarian well. Mine, as you can see, is a light blue that will probably pick up more dirt than I’d like, but the dirt is all part of its charm. It also comes in about 30 other colors, in everything from bright pink, oxblood, lovely mustard yellow to several more workaday grays and browns. It is fairly minimalist in terms of organization space, with one big central compartment and a small zipper pouch on the front. The sides have narrow pockets perfect for an umbrella or slender coffee tumbler.
The material is water-resistant and extremely lightweight, but tough (as my friend’s bag attests). You can also spot-clean the bag or throw it into the washing machine. This makes the Kanken a great bag for city tourism and trips, since it won’t add much extra weight. You can also get a camera-specific insert for the Kanken that transforms it into a dedicated camera bag, which is pretty handy. The big, square body is designed to sit comfortably on your back and distribute weight evenly across your shoulders. It has pretty thin straps, one minor drawback that can be easily remedied with Fjallraven’s shoulder strap add-ons. These straps can also be snapped into place on the back of the bag, so they don’t hang down if you choose to carry the bag using the large top-handles.
What can it hold? The Kanken comes in various sizes: classic, big, laptop, and mini. The classic is perfect for my 13″ Macbook Pro, a textbook, a couple small notebooks, a large wallet, iPad mini, external charger, lunch, and a light jacket. It’s roomier than it looks. Furthermore, the main compartment unzips all the way down, making it easier to pack for trips and access everything at once in your hotel room.
In short: highly recommend this bag for a good mix of functionality and looks. While not quite sophisticated enough to make it into your boardroom meeting, it will do well for travel and more casual school settings. I’m sure you’ll see more of the Kanken than you ever wanted to in my trip photos, so stay tuned… ;)