Fjallraven Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag Review
The Fjallraven Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag blurs the line between function and novelty—the Kanken backpack design doesn’t scale down well, but it is adorable.
- Easy to carry despite simple strap setup
- Robust build quality and structure
- Captures the Kanken backpack style in a miniaturized form
- Fabric welts hinder access
- Front pocket too small for more than just a few accessories
- Side pockets too small for a bottle; almost too tall for pens
6.7 oz (189.9 g)
7.9 in x 5.9 in x 3.15 in (20.1 x 15 x 8 cm)
Vinylon F, YKK Zippers
The Fjallraven Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is hard to justify when you look at it with an objective lens. Fjallraven has scaled down its Kanken backpack design to shoulder bag size. As you might expect, functionality takes a significant hit when you take a boxy backpack with a relatively stiff fabric and openings covered by welts and make it smaller. More specifically, it’s accessibility that’s taking the hit here. However, that’s looking at things in an objective and practical way.
“But it’s just so cute!” And we agree. The main draw of the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is that it’s a Kanken the size of a toy poodle (if we’re talking about the runt of the litter, that is). With that in mind, Fjallraven has done an excellent job with its attention to detail by preserving as many design elements as possible.
We’ll start with the more innocuous features Fjallraven decided to keep with the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag: the fabric. It’s Vinylon F, which is the synthetic fiber at the heart of most Kanken bags. That’s not an exaggeration, either. Fjallraven themselves proclaim that “Kanken wouldn’t be Kanken without Vinylon F.” Note that we, ourselves, said “most” because the Kanken Gear Pocket, for example, uses their G-1000 fabric. Are we nitpicking? Yes, but attention to detail matters, so we’re going with it.
Regardless, Fjallraven’s bags usually have a familiar stiffness, and the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is no exception. It gives the bag enough structure to maintain its signature boxy shape and “dampens” bulges by sloping them wherever they try to protrude. That said, this kind of stiff fabric has its drawbacks as well.
Overall, the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag feels just as solid as any Fjallraven product despite being a scaled-down version of bigger Kankens. In fact, because you’re packing that Vinylon F fabric into a much denser form, it creates this illusion of being more robust than its bigger siblings. And before we forget, the zippers are still YKK, so it’s also solid in the zipper department.
Up at the top, you’ll see the signature tote-style handles. Like most of the features we’re discussing, these are miniaturized versions of the ones on other Kanken backpacks. However, there are two details worth pointing out: one, there’s still a snap fastener to keep the handles together, and two, Fjallraven’s still using the “W” shaped stitching for the back-side handle. Again, the attention to detail is very good.
Of course, the handles aren’t the primary way to carry the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag; it’s the main strap. The material used here isn’t the smoothest. It’s relatively rough compared to the seatbelt-like material used on other slings and shoulder bag-style pouches like the ALPAKA Modular Sling and NOMATIC Access Pouch. Does that equate to discomfort, considering that the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is bigger than those two?
Nope, not really. Despite its large size, we never felt the strap needed widening or padding for better weight distribution. Would that help? Absolutely, but it’s unnecessary if you just want to wear this around for daily casual walks and shopping trips. Only when you pack it fully with heavy gear and wear it all day do you notice the material’s abrasiveness and how it digs in.
The chunky Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is best worn in a relaxed fashion. Down low to the sides or the back, crossbody-style; that’s your best bet. Alternatively, you can also swing it over one shoulder. However, we find this too saggy and not as secure as having it crossbody.
Inside The Shoulder Bag
The good attention to detail continues with the “water bottle” pockets. There are still two—one on each side—just like the bigger Kanken bags. However, these are nowhere near big enough to fit actual bottles, and we struggled to find a use for them. They’re too big for a stick of lip balm and too small for a smartphone. Pens and candy bars, though? Your mileage may vary, but those could be good bets.
Let’s sus out that front pocket. Yes, it’s comically small, and it’s undoubtedly the feature taking the worst hit by the miniaturization of the Kanken design. There’s not much room for a pair of AirPods, a piece of candy, and lip balm. That said, the minimal space isn’t as much of an issue as the fabric welt obstructing access.
See, in the larger Kanken backpacks, the fabric welts shield the zippers from the elements like rain and dirt. The issue is that making the welt smaller results in a tighter opening. Now, imagine trying to unzip and reach under that small welt to get your earphones when you’re wearing the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag to your side—it’s not as easy as reaching into a top-facing front pocket, right?
At the back of the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag is a zippered compartment. In the Kanken Laptop Backpack, this is the laptop compartment, but obviously, you won’t fit a MacBook Pro here. However, you can slide in an 8-inch tablet, so Fjallraven’s inclusion of this compartment isn’t for novelty’s sake.
Alternatively, you can use it to store the main strap to keep it from dangling around when you’re carrying the bag by the handles. It’s also the most convenient compartment to access in the Kanken Sling Shoulder Bag, so keep that in mind when deciding how to use it. It doesn’t have a ton of depth, so bulky items can bulge out, although the fabric’s relative stiffness somewhat smooths that out.
Our issue with the fabric welt also applies to the main compartment. Like its backpack counterpart, it opens in a wide horseshoe shape, though still obstructed by a fabric welt. Pro tip: leave the dual zippers along the top where they’re easier to reach, even under the welt. Most of the 2.5 liters of space is here, so there’s a lot more room to maneuver and fit chunky items like a scarf or a packable jacket.
There’s also a slip pocket at the back that’s wide enough for passport-sized items. It’s quite tricky to access because of the factors we’ve already mentioned. Conversely, that also makes it relatively secure for important items… like a passport, so, let’s all take the hint and dedicate this pocket to gear like that.
- More of a shoulder bag than a sling
- Just a mini version of the Kanken; it’s tiny, stylish, and adorable
- Comes in lots of different colors to fit your style
- Material is durable but feels a bit overkill
- Difficult to quickly get into the main compartment
- Dig the unique style for such a small sling!