Fjallraven Kajka 35 Review: Wooden Stays Support This Durable Backpack

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

There’s a lot to consider when buying a backpack, and for many shoppers, packs tend to look more alike than different. But when recently shopping for packs, I bumped into the Fjallraven Kajka 35, and the frame became the reason I ended up picking that specific pack.

Most internal frame packs have stays made from metal or carbon fiber. For the Kajka 35, Fjallraven decided to make the frame stays out of birch wood. This responsibly harvested stuff is known for being both durable and pliable, making it an excellent choice for this application.

Other features of the Kajka 35, like its removable lid and massive water bottle pockets, also piqued my interest. However, throughout my adventures with this pack and the conversations I had surrounding it, the birch stays remained the shining star of this multi-day trekking/backpacking (sort of technical) backpack.

In short: The Fjallraven Kajka 35 is a durable, comfortable, easy-to-use pack for year-long backpacking adventures or even simple day hikes. Its birch wood stays add a little heritage and culture to the pack and ultimately keep you comfortable when you’re out there in it.


Fjallraven Kajka 35 Pack

Specs

  • Volume
    35L / 2135 cu. in.
  • Verified weight
    4 lbs., 11 oz.
  • Fabric
    Weather-resistant Vinylon F, recycled polyamide 210d and 500d
  • Frame
    FSC-certified birch
  • Torso size range (S/M)
    Shorter than 5’ 6”
  • Waist size range (M/L)
    Taller than 5’ 6”
  • Price
    $275
  • Intended uses
    Backpacking, hiking, camping

Pros

  • Vinylon F material is wicked durable and abrasion-resistant

  • The little leather fox patch is the chef's kiss.

  • Sleek profile keeps its shape even when packed to the brim.

  • The ability to add side pockets is a plus

Cons

  • The hip belt is a bit much unless you plan on carrying rocks

  • Water reservoir sleeve needs a redesign

Fjallraven Kajka 35 Pack Review

Sizing

the fjallraven kajka 35 pack's belt pocket filled with items neatly tucked inside
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

I’ll admit that Fjallraven’s size guide is a little unconventional. Instead of giving a specific torso length range, the brand recommends the S/M-sized pack for people under 5’6” and the M/L size for anyone taller than 5’6”. However, Fjallraven states that if you’re between 5’6” and 5’9” and have narrow shoulders, you should go with the S/M.

Finally, the brand also notes that both packs have the same back length and adjustment span, but that the S/M has a shorter hip belt. This roughly translates to the S/M aiming more toward women and smaller men, whereas the M/L targets men and larger women.

I went with the M/L size pack as I am just under 5’7” and, as my mother would call it, husky. I’ve also been called “stout” and “thick.” Great at football, last picked for basketball.

Design & Features

fjallraven kajka 35 pack bottom
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Fjallraven’s Kajka 35 is a streamlined top-loader for year-round, multiday excursions. At 2,135 cubic inches, the pack is a little small for cold-weather backpacking, but don’t let that deter you. If your sleeping bag packs down small enough, the Kajka 35 could be a real treat instead of a larger pack that may have more space than you need in the warmer months.

Made from weather-resistant Vinylon F and recycled Polyamide 210D and 500D, the Kajka 35 is durable and retains its shape even when overpacked. With six pockets in total (seven if you don’t use a water reservoir), there are plenty of options for organization and easy access.

If you need more space, you can strap a side pocket to each side. (I used one for additional internal organization; more on that later.)

close up of fjallraven kajka 35 pack frame
Kajka 35’s frame has responsibly sourced birch wood for durability and flexibility; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Regarding fit and stability, the Kajka has an easily adjustable frame with stays made from birch wood. The choice to go with birch wood was both appealing and effective, as birch is durable and flexes well. This pack also has a heavy-duty, removable hip belt with an additional storage pocket and a place to hang climbing gear.

For a 35L pack, I found the hip belt overkill and removed it after my first trip out. This is where the load lifters came in handy, as I could pull the load up and closer to my shoulders.

One key feature that I liked for trips to the shower was the removable lid. I stored my toiletries, medication, batteries, and the like in the lid and unclipped it from the pack’s body when I headed off to use the facilities. This is something I have enjoyed about the packs I chose to camp and backpack with for years. It makes things easier than dragging the whole pack around.

People on longer treks with multiple legs to their adventure could benefit by using the lid as a messenger bag if they went into town for a bite to eat.

In the Field

fjallraven kajka 35 pack side pocket
Side pockets can be bought separately to expand the Fjallraven Kajka 35 pack’s capacity; (photo/Nick LeFort)

In 4 months, I went on three overnight trips and multiple-day hikes with the Kajka 35. I never felt that the pack was too big or too small. I use a lot of internal pouches to organize my gear, make my setup more efficient, and improve the ease of access.

When I originally picked up the pack, I also snagged a side pocket from Fjallraven. I could easily have attached it to the front or side of the bag, but instead used it inside as a removable pouch for my water purifier, camp towel, and utensils.

Aside from clothing and food, I brought a Terra Nova Southern Cross 2 two-person tent that I stored in the pack. The tent took up the entire length of the inside of the pack and could have easily been lashed to the outside with the compression straps.

However, I wanted to be as streamlined as possible, and as the tent only took up a third of the width and depth of the main compartment, it was fine for my needs.

I considered bringing my Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed sleeping bag and pushed it to the bottom of the pack next to the tent. However, I saved that for late fall and winter as I tend to run hot. So, I relied on my Klymit Nest Sleeping Bag Liner and my Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT sleeping pad.

Due to its long tube shape, the Kajka 35 is easy to load the right way, so you take up the space available to you without it being unruly or off-kilter.

Kajka 35 Cons

inside fjallraven kajka 35 pack
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

My two gripes with the pack are the hip belt and the reservoir sleeve. Neither of these are deal breakers for me, but they’re worth noting because they changed my approach to packing and using the Kajka 35 overall.

The hip belt is high-density foam. It gives you great support; however, if you have a little bit of a belly, it will be uncomfortable. Also, as with almost every pack with hip belts, carrying anything on your pants belt won’t be an option if you use the hip belt. The pocket is great for holding items like a headlamp or a compass, but you lose quick access to a handheld GPS device or belt knife.

The issue with the reservoir sleeve is a little more annoying. The way it is positioned in the pack’s main compartment causes the bladder to sit lower. When the Kajka 35 is fully packed, everything is pushed down and against it so that you can’t suck water out of the tube without blowing out a lung.

Because of this, I used the sleeve for a smaller solar panel and brought a water bottle. This wasn’t an ideal solution, and I would probably need to bring two water bottles with me or lash something like this to the front for midsummer adventuring in drier environments.

In Conclusion

man wearing packed fjallraven kajka 35 pack
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Even though I ran into a couple of snags with the hip belt and water reservoir sleeve, I don’t want that to detract from the overall build and capabilities of the Kajka 35. It’s a sleek, durable backpack that, if you pack it right, can provide you with multiple days and nights of backpacking. It’s also incredibly comfortable, contouring to your shoulders and back.

Considering the pack is almost 5 pounds and only has a capacity of 35L, I know some folks will dismiss it right off the bat for being heavy. I respect people who take the ultralight approach until they sacrifice things like safety and reliability. I would hate to see them skip over a bag like the Kajka because they deemed it too heavy.

fjallraven kajka 35 side pocket shown with its contents next to it
Side pockets upgrade your pack with additional storage space; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Though I take my time on the trail, I’m not doing it to avoid obstacles. My pack needs to get through some thorny brush or withstand sliding down some rocks. With all due respect to some of the ripstop materials out there, Vinylon F performs like it was issued to soldiers during WWII. It’s beefy, which aids in its abrasion and weather resistance.

The Kajka 35 isn’t going to tear open like a bag of chips if I get hung up on a branch or something. To me, that’s peace of mind.

Group backpacking photo

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