Hands-on Gear Review

Fjallraven Kanken Classic 16L Review

A fashion-first student’s book bag with remarkable durability.
By: Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 22, 2017
Price:  $80 List  |  $55.99 at Amazon - 30% Off
Pros:  Durable, simple
Cons:  Minimal comfort, features.
Manufacturer:   Fjallraven
57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 15
  • Comfort - 25% 2
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Versatility - 25% 2
  • Ease of Use - 15% 10
  • Durability - 10% 9
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  • 2
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Our Verdict

The Fjallraven Kanken Classic is an outlier product that holds its own. It earns its place in our review for functional reasons and as a cautionary tale. It certainly can suffice as a daypack. It will hold your water bottle, camera, sandwich, and an extra jacket for cruising the geysers in Yellowstone or for vision questing in Joshua Tree. However, it has none of the attributes we look for in a pack for beginner or expert hikers. The padding and structure is minimal and the features are limited. It is marketed as a "daypack" just like the Editors' Choice Osprey Talon 22 is, but these are two entirely different products. The Fjallraven is a fashionable, carefully tailored city bag made to look like a backpack. The Talon is constructed to optimize performance, with form following that function.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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This is an outlier product in our review and on the market. It is the simplest, smallest daypack we tested. It earns its place here because of its excellent construction quality and trendy design. It is also likely the best made "school bag" style daypack available. It is an immaculately constructed kids school backpack. In that category, there are very few products that are truly made to last and designed with both fashion and function in mind.

Performance Comparison


Because of the limited size and features, the overall score of the Kanken isn't anything special. It is small, with just one extra pocket and unpadded shoulder straps. However, it is very durable and extremely high scoring regarding "ease of use". For these reasons, it stays in our review but scores, overall, at the bottom of the heap.

The Kanken out for a short hike in the Northeastern US. Even in this dreary weather  the burly "vinylon" fabric kept out the moisture.
The Kanken,out for a short hike in the Northeastern US. Even in this dreary weather, the burly "vinylon" fabric kept out the moisture.

Comfort


You don't choose a pack like this for its comfort in carrying heavy loads. The small capacity and fashion-forward design priorities mean that it isn't that comfortable. The unpadded straps can be augmented with aftermarket pads, but these look clunky and out of place on this svelte "throwback" design of a pack. This is a town bag that looks good. For light loads and short hikes, it is serviceable, just like your kid's book bag would be serviceable. For adult use, though, the durability and clean look make up for limited comfort.

The shoulder straps of the Kanken Classic are simple 1 inch webbing. Fjallraven does make and sell aftermarket pads for these straps  but we did not test them.
The shoulder straps of the Kanken Classic are simple 1 inch webbing. Fjallraven does make and sell aftermarket pads for these straps, but we did not test them.

Even the minimalist suspension of the Top Pick Marmot Kompressor 18 and the svelte straps of the Best Buy REI Co-op Flash 22 are more supportive and comfortable than those of the Kanken. Again, you don't pick this pack for its comfort.

Weight


This is the second lightest pack we tested in 2017. The simple construction makes it ultralight. Unlike many ultralight products, the Fjallraven makes minimal compromise on durability. To make it this light, Fjallraven has designed the Kanken simply and kept the volume low. The material is quite durable. Only the Top Pick Marmot Kompressor 18 is lighter, and we granted it this award partially for that reason. The Kompressor is unique because it is ultralight and especially versatile as a secondary, smaller, daypack for carrying along on backpacking missions. You could also carry the Fjallraven in this same fashion, but its other attributes aren't as conducive.

Versatility


The Kanken Classic 16 is a fairly narrow-application product. It is small, simple, with very basic suspension. It is basically a school-kids book bag with excellent materials and tailored design. This is great for casual, around-town usage and for short, minimalist day hikes. For your typical tourist bus trip, for instance, the Kanken makes a good day hike bag. You might only be out for, at most, a few hours at a time, just carrying your camera and an extra jacket.

This is a small pack. Shown here on the back of our 5'10" lead tester.
This is a small pack. Shown here on the back of our 5'10" lead tester.

Ease of Use


Ease of use is, at least mostly, a function of the complexity of a product's design. The Kanken Classic 16 is very simple in design. Its ease of use score reflects this. As far as getting in and out and finding your stuff, the Kanken is very easy to use. Many, though, especially for extended, higher paced hiking, prefer some additional organizational features. Waist pockets, rear jacket "stuff pockets", and side water bottle holders are some of the features that athletic day hikers appreciate. For them, this makes a pack easy to use. The Kanken does not have these additional features.

The small side pockets are just big enough to fit a half liter Nalgene bottle. The standard  1 liter bottle will not fit. Nor will a standard "bike bottle" style vessel.
The small side pockets are just big enough to fit a half liter Nalgene bottle. The standard, 1 liter bottle will not fit. Nor will a standard "bike bottle" style vessel.

Durability


It is in durability that the Kanken Classic 16 excels. That simple construction, with few straps and zippers to fail, all put together with rugged "vinylon" fabric makes for a bag that will last decades. Especially if your use is relatively mild, as the design kind of limits you to, the Fjallraven will never let you down. The zippers, like any zippers, are the weak point, but even they will last for years and years.

Our review wasn't long enough to test any of the packs to ultimate failure, but we are reasonably confident that none will last longer than the Fjallraven. Osprey's award-winning models, both the Daylite Plus and the Talon 22 are robust and tightly stitched. The Deuter Speed 20 comes with a lineage that suggests nearly a lifetime of function. The ultralight packs, notably the Top Pick Kompressor and Best Buy REI Flash 22 are those that will break down first.

Best Applications


The Kanken is a very nice kids school backpack, or a fashionable daily bag for he or she that hikes occasionally and doesn't need, either in town or in the wild, extensive organizational options.

Value


The fashion and durability come with a cost. For a bag this simple with such limited function, the price is rather high. If you don't mind shelling out the cash, you might feel the branding and durability are worth it.

Conclusion


Every once in a while a product slips into our reviews that is a little out of place. This is one such product. This backpack can certainly suffice as a daypack. Likely you've come to this review with an idea of what you want. If you want a hikers daypack, consider this a cautionary note that not everything branded as a "daypack" is perfectly suitable. With that in mind, it makes for the perfect around town pack.

Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: December 22, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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