this thing's incredible

The Best Thing I Bought This Decade Is Fjällräven’s Kanken Laptop Backpack

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

My Fjällräven backpack is filthy. (I shortsightedly got it in yellow.) But it should be. In the six years I’ve owned it, I’ve put this bag through everything. I carry it every day on the subway in New York City, but I’ve also taken it hiking in the mountains of Vermont, island-hopping in Greece, on the beaches of Tulum, and through the streets of Seoul and Tokyo. It’s gotten me through rainstorms and heat waves, yet there isn’t a single tear or any loose threads, and the zippers have never once snagged or come apart.

When the Kanken first came out in the U.S. around 2012, I wanted one immediately. I loved its boxy shape, the oversize handles, the red fox decal. I didn’t care that it was originally created as a schoolbag for children in 1978. (This bit of history actually added to its covetability for me.) And I didn’t care that they were all over the city — on adults, students, and little kids alike. This was one trend that I wasn’t ashamed to embrace. I knew it would soon become a classic, even if it looked a tad juvenile.

Months later, I finally bought one. It was expensive for a backpack, but considering everything I use it for and how long it’s lasted, the investment was worth it. I chose the laptop version because at that point in my life I was toting my MacBook to my job at a small film-production company every day and wanted to give my shoulder a break. As opposed to being inside the bag, the laptop compartment is in a separate, zippered pouch at the back. That makes it extremely convenient for slipping my computer in and out without having to open the main compartment. It’s padded, too, eliminating the need to carry around a bulky laptop sleeve. And when you’re not using it for a laptop, the extra compartment is great for notebooks, external hard drives, screenplays, and other documents you want easy access to.

Although the bag is compact, its boxy shape actually helps keep things better organized, allowing you to fit more inside. (For instance, when I’m traveling, I’ve been able to stuff a large DSLR camera in the main compartment along with extra batteries, my laptop charger, wallet, and makeup pouch.) The zippers of the main compartment go all the way down to the base of the bag, so you can open it up (and pack it full of stuff) like a suitcase. The bottom doesn’t sag like traditional backpacks, which I’ve noticed gives me better posture. And the straps are so well-padded that, even after a full day of walking around with my laptop and that heavy camera, my shoulders have never ached the way they can with other backpacks.

Whether I’m heading to the office or to the airport, the Kanken fits exactly what I need — and helps me carry it comfortably. And with all of those separate compartments (it also has two external side pockets), it has another surprising function, too: a diaper bag that looks much cooler than a real diaper bag. When I was putting together my baby registry earlier this year, I included a Kanken, but this time, I asked for it in a navy blue.

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The Best Thing I Bought This Decade Is This Laptop Backpack