In the late 1970s, new statistics showed that nearly 80 per cent of the Swedish population suffered from back pain at some point in their lives. Perhaps the most serious aspect was that back problems were starting to appear at an ever younger age. Chief school medical officers and sport and leisure consultants were among those expressing serious concerns about the backs of school children.
Shoulder bags were fashionable at that time, and experts felt that the risk of back pain could be reduced if the weight of school books could be distributed across both shoulders instead of just one.
Fjällräven's Åke Nordin was following the debate and decided to design an affordable and functional backpack with plenty of space for school books and paper. Two A4 ring binders were used as the basis for the size.
The Kånken backpack, which was produced in cooperation with the Swedish Guide and Scout Association, was introduced just in time for the beginning of the school year in 1978, and was very well received. When the weight of the bag was redistributed from one shoulder to both, back problems were reduced. The backpack was also considered to be good for posture.
More than 35 years later, Kånken has straightened up millions of backs and is worn by children and adults alike all over the world.
As a product, the bag has barely changed over the years. Kånken is still manufactured from hard-wearing, water-repellent Vinylon F fabric, and it has a spacious main compartment with a large opening, two side pockets and a zipped front pocket. It includes a seat pad that is stored in a pocket at the back and which provides stability and comfort. We have added more colours, however, as well as a few different models, such as Kånken Laptop, Kånken Mini and Kånken Kids – the latter with shoulder straps adapted to the backs of small children as well as a chest strap that keeps it in place on small shoulders.
It might also be interesting to know that Kånken was the first backpack in the world to offer climate compensation. This was in 2008, and since then we have been offsetting all emissions resulting from production and transport of Kånken that have a climate impact.