Fjällräven’s Kajka, first launched in 2008, has been praised in outdoor media and among trekkers around the world for its smart functions, large capacity and user-friendly Perfect Fit Adjustment System. In 2009 it was named Outdoor Product of the Year by Swedish Utemagasinet and Best in Test in the Finnish magazine, Retki 2011.
But good can be even better, and last summer we launched a new, upgraded version of Kajka. One totally unique function is the innovative , environmentally-adapted frame construction made from Nordic wood. By using wood instead of aluminium we have reduced the co2 emissions of the frame by over 90 %. The updated Kajka was named Gear of the show in the American magazine Outside at the launch of the Great Outdoor Retailer trade show in the U.S. in 2012.
Thus, when you take your Kajka out into the woods, you can do it knowing that going back to the roots can also be a step forward for the environment.
Through sketches, sample fabrics and products we manage to find our way to a very productive Henrik Andersson to ask him about the backpack. Henrik is the manager of Fjällrävens design department and also the brain behind Kajka. He corrects me when I say this and points out all the others in the team who have been involved in all the development and testing along the way.
"Without them, Kajka wouldn’t be the backpack it is today."
So, what interests a designer of outdoor products?
"Being outdoors. Ski, run, surf, swim, sleep outdoors, eat outdoors. But also develop versatile and durable products with low environmental impact."
How did you come up with the design for Kajka?
"I started with Fjällrävens core values and ability to create functional products with a long lifecycle. Inspired mainly by Kånken and its simple and clever functionality. Think it is fantastic with products that resist the trends and continues to be used year after year and only getting more popular with time."
What does it mean when a backpack is designed for men's and women's anatomy ?
"Size and shape of the shoulder straps and harness system is different to be optimized for the women's and men's different bodies. Every user to a backpack is of course very different and so all bags are adjustable in back length, shoulder width, etc. In general, women have more slender torsos which is why the shoulder straps are slightly shorter. They are also shaped so as not to cut into the bust."
The new Kajka have a frame of wood, why?
"A number of years ago we did a life cycle analysis on Kajka to be able to carbon offset the production. This has been done since in 2010. Through the analysis we have learnt that the aluminum frame accounted for a large portion of the energy consumption and carbon footprint. For that very reason we started a project to develop a design with equal or better performance with lower environmental impact. After years of development and over a hundred tested frames in different materials and design we launched the new Kajka with an advanced frame in birch last year. The frames, which are made of Finnish birch, have a 90% lower environmental impact than the old frames."
How does a wooden frame tackle the wear and tear on a trek?
"The frames are very good. In all longer field tests that our test team and us have done, no frames have been damaged unprovoked. We have only managed to damage the frames when we exposed them to hard provoked violence."
How were those tests done?
"To really test their limit we have for example released packed bags from different heights against hard surfaces. Low heights are not a problem, nor drop from a few feet unless the bag lands very unfortunate. It is not until the bag lands heavily with its frame against an edge you risk it being damaged. Avoiding this kind of violent handling naturally avoids that kind of problem."
Are the frames treated somehow?
"The frames are treated with linseed oil to get a good moisture resistance. The treatment has a great durability but after a season with lots of long hikes, you can oil the frame so that it maintains it wooden properties for many many years to come."
What kind of adventures is Kajka designed for?
"The support system of Kajka is designed with a focus on comfort during longer hikes. The functionality and versatility, however, is that it lends itself well even as a travel backpack."
What are your favorite features of Kajka?
"The large front opening that allows one to pack up and open up Kajka almost like a suitcase. The removable lid that can be used as a shoulder bag or hip bag for short trips. The adjustment for different shoulder widths is unique and allows the same bag to be adapted to different family members for example. And another unique and great detail is the mesh space at the bottom of the bag where you can dry damp equipment during sunny days."
Can you describe Kajka in three words?
"Simple, sustainable, adaptable."
Finally, it there something you would like to add?
"The best products get better with time. Invest in sturdy, versatile equipment that over time wears in, not wear out!
I also want to inspire people to sleep more in tents or under the open sky. With a good sleeping bag sleeping outdoors is at its best, all year round”