Fjallraven Vardag 25 Review
The Fjallraven Vardag 25 has a minimalist design and a comfy harness system, though it could use more pockets and easier laptop accessibility.
- Fabric’s water-resistant finish fends off light splashes
- Simple main compartment easily fits pouches and packing cubes
- Straps are thin though dense padding adds comfort
- Fabric roof hinders laptop access
- Minimal organization with only two compartments
- Strap design causes slack to stick out when in use
16.9 oz (479.1 g)
16.9 in x 12.2 in x 5.71 in (42.9 x 31 x 14.5 cm)
Polyester, Cotton, G-1000, Wasa Hardware, Duraflex Hardware, YKK Zippers
When you think of Fjallraven, the first bag that probably pops into your head is a Kanken. Which one would you pick, though? From the several backpack spinoffs down to a humble pouch, there maybe something for everyone. However, what if you’re the exception who doesn’t fancy the iconic Kanken look? Is there still a Fjallraven bag for you? With this bag, we’ve got an alternative.
Meet the Vardag 25, a Fjallraven daypack that’s not a Kanken. If not for the brand’s signature G-1000 fabric (and prominent logo), we’d say it’s a pretty standard-looking backpack. There’s a diagonal front pocket, a horseshoe-shaped main compartment, and a pair of skinny shoulder straps—it’s about as inline with other travel daypacks as you can get. For those looking for that simplistic design, that may be enough, though there are pitfalls that lie in waiting if you’re not looking closely.
The first thing to look at closely is the Vardag 25’s fabric. It’s Fjallraven’s usual G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S that’s 65% polyester and 35% cotton, and it has that crunchy texture you may associate with Fjallraven gear. As important as the fabric itself is the wax finish accompanying it. The wax adds water resistance to fend off accidental splashes and light precipitation.
Mind you, it’s not impervious to stains like mud, as you can see with the sample we tested (we can thank bike rides for that). Fortunately, you can get rid of most of them with lukewarm water and a little elbow grease, though this does wear away the wax over time. Not to worry, though, as Fjallraven also sells the Greenland Wax, which you can use to freshen up the Vardag’s water resistance.
The Vardag’s quality feels top-notch as far as Fjallraven bags go, with no out-of-the-box defects to note. Hardware-wise, it’s also fairly well-equipped, with a mix of Duraflex and Wasa buckles, plus YKK zippers. While the YKK zippers are mechanically reliable, they’re not the AquaGuard style, so water can still seep in if it gets under the fabric welt.
The most notable omission on the Vardag has to be bottle pockets. A place to put a travel water bottle is one of the first things we look for when picking a daily backpack. There’s nothing quite like the convenience of having your bottle ready to be pulled out. Sure, you can put it in the Vardag, but having to zip and unzip each time is a bit of a hassle.
Admittedly, you may think the Vardag is too barebones, though many Fjallraven bags are similarly basic. The same can be said about the Vardag’s harness system, though its simplicity is more excusable.
We were apprehensive since the shoulder straps look relatively anemic, even by daypack standards. The width doesn’t cover that much area, nor is the thickness of the padding particularly encouraging. Surprisingly, though, the padding itself feels dense, so it should get the job done, though we’ll get to that in the next section. Before we discuss how the Vardag fits, there is a feature hiding in plain sight here. Can you guess what it is?
If you answered “stowaway straps,” you’re correct (we can offer you nothing but a virtual high five). For those who don’t see it yet, notice how the shoulder straps’ slack sticks out rather than flowing straight down. Fjallraven looped the excess so that they fold onto the shoulder straps when you cinch them down. There are snap fasteners at the top to lock the ends and prevent them from dangling.
Stowing shoulder straps prevents them from catching on random things as you try to put the Vardag under an airline seat or a cluttered car trunk. While the feature works, and we’re fans of the concept, it doesn’t feel necessary on the Vardag.
In practice, tightening and loosening the shoulder straps’ adjustment is too slow and inconvenient. Compared to other travel backpacks that store shoulder straps in their back panels, it’s relatively finicky. Plus, messing with their adjustment each time impacts comfort and fit. Lastly, as we mentioned earlier, this strap design causes the slack to stick out a bit awkwardly—not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it might be if dangly straps are your pet peeve.
Now, we already know that you’re losing out on the signature Kanken style with the Vardag (save for the G-1000 fabric). Still, we do like how clean it looks. Both zipper tracks are stealthily hidden by a fabric welt, giving the whole bag an uninterrupted feel. The Deep Forest colorway we chose looks a bit drab, though it contrasts nicely with the retro-y Fjallraven logo. It’s red, blue, and yellow, and we dig the nostalgic vibe it gives off.
Despite the shoulder straps’ lack of width and thickness, they are comfortable. They don’t dig in as much as their narrow shape would suggest. There is a bit of sagginess with the way the load hangs at the back, though it’s not surprising since the Vardag’s classic design leans toward “baggy” rather than “structured.”
We also noticed that despite this Vardag being the 25-liter model, it doesn’t feel like it’s that large when you wear it. It feels a lot smaller, more like somewhere closer to 20 liters. Lastly, we have to point out that we’re not fans of the slack sticking out. You’ll be fine if you have a loose adjustment where the slack is very minimal. However, those with smaller frames and, therefore, a tighter fit will notice it more.
Inside The Backpack
Let’s start with the front pocket and its diagonal opening. It’s reminiscent of a similar pocket on the TOM BIHN Zeitgeist, which they call a “slash pocket.” No matter what you call it, the benefit here is a wider opening for easier access.
The YKK zipper opens smoothly, as expected. The relatively short and thin paracord zipper pulls don’t seem like they’d do a good enough job for zipping and unzipping, especially with a fabric welt in the way. However, they’re easy to pull and short enough not to be too distracting.
Inside the front pocket is just a big empty space. There are no additional pockets to organize your everyday carry accessories; it’s just a straight dump pocket. Silver lining: Fjalraven uses a relatively bright liner here, so sifting through your items isn’t as much of a chore as if it were pitch black. If you already have a small tech pouch and other organizers, this pocket should accommodate them without a problem.
This minimal organization trend continues with the main compartment (we’ll discuss access shortly). Apart from the laptop sleeve at the back, there are no other pockets. You’ll have no trouble fitting packing cubes in the tub-shaped main compartment, and the horseshoe-shaped opening provides wide access. You will have to play a bit of Tetris to get all of your pouches of choice slotted in (remember to leave space if you’re carrying a bottle, too), but we had no issues doing so on our end.
Suffice it to say organization, or lack thereof, isn’t the most critical aspect of most bags. In the case of the Vardag, if you’re already using a bunch of pouches, it may be less of a factor. On the other hand, if you typically rely heavily on a bag’s built-in pockets, you may want to look elsewhere. In other words, it really depends on your personal needs and preferences.
We can be more decisive with our thoughts on the laptop sleeve access. Simply put, there’s way too much fabric in the way. The roofline is relatively deep, so you must maneuver your computer around it each time, especially a 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is a large device by all accounts. Now, to be clear, it fits; it’s the access that’s the problem.
Other brands get around this issue by having a separate zippered opening for the laptop sleeve. For example, you can access the Danner Daypack 26L’s sleeve through a zippered opening at the side of the back panel. Note that this isn’t a separate compartment, as it’s a sleeve that’s still part of the main compartment.
As for the laptop sleeve itself, it fits the aforementioned 16-inch MacBook Pro, but there’s little to no false bottom underneath. Ideally, we’d want a gap of an inch or more between the sleeve’s floor and the bag’s base, so we really don’t think of the Vardag as having a false bottom. That said, it does come with another form of protection.
There’s a foam panel that comes stored in the sleeve. It provides extra structure to the Vardag. Apart from that, Fjallraven designed it as a seat pad, and, as you may have already guessed, you can use it if you need to sit on the grass or other hard surfaces. It’s a nice little addition, though we’ll admit that we first thought it was just packing material.
All in all, the Vardag isn’t Pack Hacker’s idea of an optimal daypack. While the minimalist design ethos work in some regard—as with the Vardag’s harness system and aesthetic—organization and laptop access suffer from it. Again, those issues may not be top priorities for you, and if those are non-factors, then Vardag 25 is a solid non-Kanken Fjallraven backpack to consider.
- Relatively simple organization—just a main compartment and a slash pocket
- Hard to get laptop in—there’s a lot of fabric to move around in order to do so
- Snap fasteners on end of strap work nicely to stow the straps, but when the bag is in use, they dangle around
- Haven’t used the snap fastener strap management system much—it’s just too slow
- Enjoying the G-1000 fabric in terms of weather and dirt resistance
- Bag is a bit of a black hole best organized with pouches