For a smallish country that overlaps the Arctic Circle, the humble Swedes sure do come up with a lot of great ideas for export. Volvo cars, Ikea furniture (and meatballs), POC helmets, Spotify playlists, and Swedish Fish (the candy), to name a few. Not surprisingly, the packs made by the country’s premier gear maker, Fjällräven, are just as unique.
Old School / New School
Kånken | $80
Why It’s Unique: Before it was a cultural icon, the Kånken was a solution to a real-world problem—Swedish kids throwing their spines out of whack carrying books on straps. Today, this simple and comfy vinyl daypack is praised for its Scandinavian austerity and is available in more than a dozen styles.
In the Field: Active lifestyle photographer Alison Vagnini, who often shoots in the backcountry for Fjällräven, uses her Kånken as a daily rucksack because of its simple functionality. “If I’m out shooting and I don’t want to carry all my gear, I’ll put a lens or two in it and it’s perfect. When I’m traveling, I’ll fold it down flat and pack it in my suitcase so I have a city daypack when I arrive.” Tip: Get the Kånken photo insert if, like Vagnini, you’re always carrying camera gear.
Trek and Travel
High Coast 24 | $65
Why It’s Unique: Although the High Coast is even more streamlined than the Kånken, it’s a veritable shape-shifter: sleek enough to be a stylish carry-on but tricked out enough to pull double-duty as your technical daypack. And because you can strip out the foam padding and the chest and hip straps, it can also serve as a streamlined commuter bag.
In the Field: Brian Ireland, Fjällraven’s senior merchandise manager for North America, says the High Coast 24 is a travel pack for most, but it’s also caught on with bike commuters who love the roll-top design for quick access and the Flame Orange color for high visibility. Ireland, though, uses the High Coast to get him out surfing. “It’s waxable, so it’s water-resistant. And because it’s a simple top-loader, I can fit sunscreen, water, and boardshorts.”
Hut, Hut, Hike
Abisko Hike 35 | $150
Why It’s Unique: Whereas nearly every other pack suitable for hut trips is made from virgin polyester, the Abisko Hike 35 is stitched together with rugged organic cotton and recycled polyester. Also, unlike most packs this size, it can be folded down and stuffed in your luggage.
In the Field: Fjällräven Boulder store manager Jordon Griffler uses the Hike 35 as his go-to pack for accessing crags all over Colorado. The top-loading design lets him easily add a rope to his pack, the redesigned water bottle sleeves (no mesh to tear) allow easy access, and the rugged G-1000 eco-fabric holds up to serious abuse. “It’s not just a crag pack, though,” says Griffler, “it’s what I grab when I’m heading out for alpine, sport, and trad climbing. But I also use it as a carry-on. You’re going to use a bag this size more than anything else in your quiver.”
Kajka 65 W | $375
Why It’s Unique: Designed specifically for women, the Kajka 65 W is a marvel of sustainable design, sporting a unique and lightweight wooden frame and manufactured entirely without mined or chemically-engineered parts.
In the Field: At five foot four and 110 pounds, Fjällräven’s US Regional Manager of Retail, Jenny Bertram, always had a hard time finding technical packs that fit. Then she discovered the Kajka 65 W three years ago. “You can customize it both lengthwise and widthwise,” says Bertram. “It’s so ergonomic that I can do things I can’t in other expedition packs—like bend over and tie my shoes. It’s ideal for three-day trips—and the gusseted sides account for a bonus 15 liters of storage if you need it.”
Kid’s Kajka JR | $100
Why It’s Unique: At 20 liters, it’s big enough for 8- to 12-year-olds but features the same rugged materials as adult packs.
In the Field: Jenny Bertram says that the Kajka JR, with its anatomically correct shoulder straps and hipbelts, is emblematic of Swedish trekking culture, where carrying your own pack is a rite of passage. “In Sweden, it’s important to train your kids to carry their own pack. It shows ownership. And it’s a fun way to teach your kid that if they want it along, then they need to carry it. As a company, Fjällräven is trying to bring that culture here. Most kids this age will only be hauling a jacket, food, snacks, and their water, but by carrying their own pack they become part of the adventure.”