Db hits the BC

Reviewed: Db Fjäll 34L backpack

By: Ethan Stone February 17, 2023

Db's original ski roller bag was a game-changer back in the day, and they’ve since expanded with a full collection of bags in all shapes and sizes, from street-ready backpacks to airport-ready rolling luggage. Amid this impressive expansion, the Fjäll 34-liter backpack is Db’s first backcountry-focused pack. Fjäll means “mountain” in Swedish, so it’s clear from the start gate what this bag is built for. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating it, including working closely together with Chamonix pro skier and guide Sam Favret on the design. So let’s take a closer look at Db’s first stab at a backcountry-ready backpack.

Db Journey Fjäll 34 liter backpack

Front, side and rear view of the Fjäll 34-liter pack.

First Looks: Design Matters

I’ve been through my fair share of backcountry and freeride backpacks over the years, and I can safely say that I haven’t seen a ton of innovation in the space. Most packs seem focused on what you can carry in them and what you can attach to the outside. These are important points, yes—after all, that's what a bag is for. But in terms of design, the pack itself often ends up as more of a shapeless blob, defined more by what it can contain than what it actually is.

Not so the Fjäll. At first glance, Db’s refined design sensibility is on full display. The Fjäll’s shape is longer and narrower than many bags, with a form that’s roughly rectangular. The bag tapers towards the lower end, which not only gives it a unique look, but also works to keep its contents high up on your back for more ergonomic carrying. You don’t want a bunch of dead weight sagging down on your lower back while out on a tour, and the design of the Fjäll helps to naturally counteract this.

The auto-cinching system on the ice axe carry also seems to help keep the bottom of the bag tight and compact, and the sides of the bag naturally flop inward. In sum, despite its respectable carrying capacity, the Fjäll looks and feels like a smaller, sleeker bag than it really is.

Db Fjäll 34L backpack roll top

Db broke new ground ten years ago when it introduced a roll-top design on a ski roller bag. Now the design is in use by multiple brands, and Db has put it to good use on the Fjäll.

Access is everything

The Fjäll incorporates Db’s signature roll-top design. This allows you to roll your bag up tight when you’re not carrying a full load, or expand with a few precious extra cubic centimeters of space for that big expedition. When fully rolled out, it’s also a convenient place to store a helmet at the top of the bag.

The main compartment also features a full zippered back-panel access flap, which as a photographer, I find to be absolutely essential. I love back-panel access, not just for photography, but for anything really—it’s the easiest way to quickly get at your gear without having to dig around. (On that note, the Fjäll is compatible with Db’s small and medium Ramverk camera inserts. While it’s not designed to be exclusively a camera bag, it seems like it would work well as one.)

Db Fjäll 34 liter backpack roll top access

The roll top opens up plenty of extra space at the top of the pack—a good place to stash a helmet, for example.

As a photographer, I can´t live without a back-access panel. It makes it so much easier to access your stuff without digging around.

There’s an extra compartment on the back of the bag for your avalanche kit and other safety gear, complete with a drainage hole for when you’re stowing away icy, snowy gear. In lieu of a top compartment, the Fjäll features a small zippered pocket on the side that can be reached without removing the backpack. It’s a perfect stash for tools, maps, snacks, anything small that you need to get at quickly. In that same department, there’s also a zippered pouch on the hip belt.

The pocket for your backcountry kit includes a drainage hole for when you stow away a snowy shovel or probe.

Internally, the main compartment comes with a detachable goggle pocket that includes its own goggle wipe on a leash. At the bottom of the compartment, there’s a fixed internal nylon bag that’s intended to carry ropes, wet skins, or any other gear you want to keep separate from the rest of your stuff. Finally, there are three zippered mesh pockets on the inside of the back flap to help keep things organized.

Internal storage in the main compartment: a sewed-in stuff sack with drawcord for ropes or skins, a removable goggle bag, and three zippered compartments on the back flap.

Load up the gear

I’ll keep it short and sweet here: in terms of carrying gear, the Fjäll has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. The pack allows for vertical ski and snowboard carry, dual auto-cinching ice axe carry, and includes a double line of utility loops on the back of the bag for anything else you might want to strap on. Keep in mind, this pack has been designed together with a Chamonix mountain guide.

Almost everywhere, Db has replaced plastic clips and clasps with metal hardware.

The devil’s in the details

The more closely you look at the Fjäll, the more you’ll find to like about it. For example, the metal hardware. Almost everywhere where plastic would usually be used on a pack like this, Db have used metal instead: on the clasps of the hip belt and the chest strap, the shoulder strap adjustments, the clips on the ski and snowboard carry straps. I’ve managed to smash the plastic clips on nearly every single mountain bag I’ve ever owned, so this looks like a promising addition in terms of longevity.

If you´re like me, you´ll have smashed your fair share of plastic waist buckles. The Fjäll´s interlocking metal clasp aims to put an end to that particular issue.

The waist belt and the chest strap are also removable. It’s a minor detail but one that you don’t see on a lot of bags, which allows you to quickly switch from an expedition-ready kit into a more casual street bag.

Removable waist and sternum straps are a unique feature that I haven´t seen elsewhere. I can´t imagine that I´d make use of it particularly often, but if you´re keen to flip your backcountry pack into a more casual street bag, it´s a cool perk.

Possible downsides

While it’s got a lot of really nicely designed bells and whistles, the Fjäll could also be described as minimalist: It’s been pared down to remove anything that’s not essential. That means that the padding in places like the back panel, the shoulder straps and the waist strap is quite thin. If you prefer to have thicker, more comfortable padding in these places, the lean-and-mean approach of the Fjäll might not be for you.

The metal hardware on the Fjäll is intended to be more robust than plastic. However, I´m not sure how well these wire clips will hold up under pressure.

Above, I mentioned the use of metal clips and clasps instead of plastic ones. I see this as an advantage almost everywhere. There are, however, a few locations (specifically, the stabilizers on the shoulder straps and the snowboard carry straps) where these metal clips use a wire locking system, similar to carabiners with wire closures. I’m not sure that these wire clips would hold up much better than a plastic one in the case of a an errant stomp.

Finally, just in case this isn't clear, this isn't an airbag backpack and has no compatibility with any airbag systems. If that's an important feature to you, look elsewhere.

The final word

Although I haven’t always been a Db fan, the design approach to to the Fjäll has me seriously impressed. It might not be the right pack for absolutely everyone. But if you’re in the market for a no-nonsense, performance-oriented backcountry pack that offers plenty of room and practical features within a sleek, dare I say elegant design, then the Fjäll 34L backpack should definitely make your list of candidates.

The Fjäll 34L backpack sells for €269 on DBJOURNEY.COM.