As much as we enjoy cutting-edge constructions like Dyneema and CORDURA, it’s hard not to possess an appreciation for old-school, tried-and-true materials like waxed canvas. Perfectly encapsulating the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos, waxed canvas is one of the oldest constructions still being employed today, with this fortified material dating all the way back to the 1400s. Affording immense durability and solid weatherproofing at an affordable price, waxed canvas — also known as waxed cotton — remains a popular construction even today on everything from jackets to bags.
And it’s this latter segment that we’ll be exploring today in this curated guide to the best waxed canvas bags. Alongside delving into our choices for the latest and greatest waxed bags on the market — which includes everything from backpacks to weekender-style duffel bags — this article will also delve into the history of the material, as well as the construction’s benefits — and shortcomings.
Turning Back The Clock
A Condensed History Of Waxed Canvas
In the 15th century, the majority of ships on the sea utilized flax canvas sails, and after several decades of this, more and more sailors began noticing how these sails were capable of catching more wind when they were covered in ocean water, though this came at the cost of the sails being massively weighed down. In order to achieve the best of both worlds, seafarers began applying grease and fish oil onto the sails, enabling them to more effectively catch and harness wind without the added weight while bestowing the sails with an impressive degree of weatherproofing.
After noticing the level of waterproofing offered by waxing these sails, seaman started crafting clothes from leftover, used, and discarded scraps of waxed canvas sails. Eventually, linseed oil would be used in place of fish oils, which became the norm until the 1920s when a UK-based company would custom develop a paraffin-based waxed cotton that’s since become the standard — even a century after its debut. Around WW2, waxed canvas would be widely adopted by military personnel, as well as motorcycle enthusiasts, hugely bolstering the material’s popularity.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The Benefits & Drawbacks Of Waxed Canvas
Though it depends on the weight/type (i.e. g/sm) of the canvas being utilized, waxed canvas tends to be incredibly durable, offering the strength of regular canvas while simultaneously affording stellar levels of water resistance. On top of fortifying its wearer or contents against the elements, waxed canvas also does an incredible job of repelling dirt and grime, plus is usually more comfortable to wear than other commonly used synthetics, and is capable of developing a unique patina over time.
And, unlike waxed canvas from the 1920s — which was made by rubbing oil or wax onto canvas, modern waxed canvas is made by embedding wax into the canvas fibers themselves, allowing for better weatherproofing, and preventing melting or running if the material is exposed to hotter temperatures. Best of all, this material can be rewaxed at any point, affording a lifetime — or more — of weatherproofing. Despite all the benefits this material offers, waxed canvas products tend to be sold at fairly accessible prices — at least compared to more modern, high-end constructions.
Considering that waxed canvas was invented approximately half a millennium ago and continues to be used today, it goes without saying that this material boasts a myriad of key benefits, though the construction isn’t without its downsides. For starters, waxed canvas offers fantastic weatherproofing, though does so at the cost of breathability. What’s more, this material can’t simply be machine washed, and typically needs to be cleaned by hand.
Fjällräven Vardag 28 Laptop
Offered in seven different color options, Fjällräven’s Vardag 28 Laptop Bag is a 28-liter backpack that’s crafted from the Swedish brand’s proprietary G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S construction — a sustainably-produced material that’s composed of a recycled cotton-poly blend and can be fortified using the brand’s Greenland Wax. Alongside a padded and zipper-secured laptop sleeve that can fit notebooks of up to 15”, the Vardag 28 also packs an included seat pad, an internal zippered stash pocket, and a pair of external front zippered pockets.
Primary Construction: G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S
Volume: 28 Liters
Topo Designs Rover Pack Heritage Canvas
Made in America, the Topo Designs Rover Pack Heritage Canvas is a modern take on a traditional waxed canvas bag, with modern materials and a city-meets-mountain design. Backed by Topo Designs’ MAP Guarantee, the bag features a DWR-finished CORDURA canvas upper that’s mated to a Horween leather base. Offering 20 liters of internal storage space, the Rover Pack Heritage Canvas also boasts a flap-protected cinch-top closure, an internal laptop sleeve, and a large external zippered front pocket.
Primary Construction: DWR-Finished 12oz Cotton Canvas
Volume: 20 Liters
Mission Workshop SANCTION : AP
In addition to producing the SANCTION : AP in HT500 and CORDURA construction versions, Mission Workshop is also now offering this 20-liter backpack in olive or brown waxed canvas variants. Made in America in small batches, this version of the backpack features a 10oz waxed canvas shell. Constructed around an internal frame sheet, the SANCTION : AP sports a single external quick-access pocket, four weatherproof pockets, and a laptop sleeve that fits notebooks of up to 15”. And, like all Mission Workshop bags, the SANCTION : AP is compatible with all of the brand’s single rail Arkiv accessories. Mission Workshop also offers an optional waist belt for this bag.
Primary Construction: 10oz Waxed Canvas
Volume: 20 Liters
DSPTCH Canvas Weekender
Cut from an ultra-thick 18oz filter twill waxed canvas, the DSPTCH Canvas Weekender offers the structure of a semi-rigid bag and 33 liters of internal storage space while tipping the scales at only 2.62lbs. Offered in all-black or OD green color options, the bag is lined with a 410-denier nylon packcloth with a DWR coating. Made in America, this DSPTCH bag is also backed by a lifetime warranty and is compatible with a host of optional add-ons offered by DSPTCH.
Primary Construction: 18oz Filter Twill Waxed Canvas
Volume: 33 Liters
DEFY Bucktown Backpack
Produced in 18-, 23-, and 28-liter sizes, DEFY’s Bucktown Backpack is another ultra-modern take on a waxed canvas bag that benefits from the use of several state-of-the-art constructions. The bag is crafted from a 14oz TexWax Original Wax Canvas and lined with a 500-denier CORDURA interior. Other noteworthy elements include a 2″ seat belt strapping handle, solid matte black D rings, YKK Water-Repellent VISLON AquaGuard exterior zippers, an exterior pocket that can accommodate a 32oz Nalgene water bottle, thick straps with metal ladder lock clamps and closed-cell foam padding, and a laptop compartment that can fit MacBook Pros up to 16”.
Primary Construction: 14oz. TexWax Original Wax Canvas
Volume: 23 Liters
Trakke Bannoch Backpack Mk2
Trakke’s second-generation Bannoch Backpack is an award-winning, top-shelf interpretation of an everyday carry backpack with an unmistakably old-school influence. Crafted around a dry-finish waxed canvas shell equipped with a liner made from the same material, the Bannoch Mk2 features cotton webbing, a flap closure secured via a pair of COBRA AustriAlpin quick-release COBRA buckles, two water bottle pockets, an A4 document sleeve, double bellows pockets, an interior zip pocket, a laptop sleeve that fits models up to 15”, and stainless steel hardware throughout. This bag is also produced in four different color options.
Primary Construction: Dry-Finish Waxed Canvas
Volume: 17 Liters
BillyKirk No. 297 Standard Issue Backpack
Modeled after traditional JanSport-style school backpacks while boasting a premium array of materials, the BillyKirk No. 297 Standard Issue Backpack is made in New Jersey from a 10.10oz waxed canvas. Capable of housing a laptop up to 15” in size, this bag boasts matte nickel-plated brass hardware, premium vegetable-tanned full-grain leather trim, and custom zipper pulls. This bag — which is offered in four color options — also comes with a color-matched No. 302 zipper pouch that’s cut from the same 10.10oz waxed canvas as the backpack itself and sports a BillyKirk logo patch.
Primary Construction: 10.10oz Waxed Canvas
Volume: 20 Liters
GORUCK Heritage GR1 26L
Offered exclusively through Huckberry, this special-edition version of GORUCK’s iconic GR1 rucksack is constructed around a military-grade duck canvas shell with a Martexin Wax finish that’s expected to form a unique patina over time with use. The handle and bottom panel of this bag are composed of full-grain leather sourced from S.B Foot Tannery — a Minnesota-based outfit that’s a major supplier to the U.S. Military. TSA-compliant and compatible with carry-on sizing, this version of the GR1 retains the regular spec’s glove-friendly YKK zippers with 550 paracord pulls, bombproof 16” laptop compartment, external slant pocket, 2” x 3” patch panel, extra padded shoulder straps, and three external rows of MOLLE webbing. GORUCK also stands behind this product with a lifetime guarantee.
Primary Construction: Waxed Cotton Canvas
Volume: 26 Liters
Tanner Goods Voyager Daypack
Designed to offer ample versatility in a minimalistic package, Tanner Goods’ Voyager Daypack boasts a shell that’s made from a special ripstop version of 10.10oz waxed filter twill which is DWR-coated and accented via vegetable-tanned Black English bridle leather straps and zipper pulls and black anodized hardware. Inside, this bag sports a bevy of organizers and pockets to keep everything in order. Weighing only 2.15lbs when waxed, the bag also features a pair of external side catch-all pockets, a flap and drawstring-protected main closure, and an interior laptop sleeve.
Primary Construction: 10.10oz Filter Twill Waxed Ripstop Canvas
Volume: 21 Liters
Triple Aught Design Axiom 24 Pack SE Waxed Canvas
In 2020, Triple Aught Design took its already award-winning Axion series bag, bestowed it with more than a dozen updates, and streamlined the design into a more compact mid-sized vessel, resulting in the Axiom 24. Since that time, TAD has also begun producing limited-edition variants of the Axiom 24 that see its regular VX-21 ripstop shell replaced with one of several alternative constructions, including a waxed ripstop canvas. This waxed canvas shell is supplemented via the use of Hypalon synthetic rubber, closed-cell cross-linked polyethylene foam, two rows of rear Helix attachment points, and two rows of PALS webbing. Made in America, this limited-edition bag also boasts Duraflex nylon hardware, YKK Uretek water-resistant reverse-coil zippers with Hypalon pulls, an inverted front pocket, a front admin compartment, a pleated mesh pocket, and a padded laptop or tablet sleeve.
Primary Construction: Heavy-Duty Waxed Ripstop Canvas
Volume: 24 Liters
Bradley Mountain The Wilder
Made entirely in San Diego, Bradley Mountain’s Wilder bag started out as a bespoke one-off travel backpack but has since evolved into a product offering that’s crafted by hand in small batches. Cut from a 19.8 oz waxed canvas, this backpack features 9oz USA harness leather accents, webbing, and straps, a leather bottom, an antiqued brass zipper, solid brass and copper hardware, an oversized (7” H x 3.75” D) water bottle pocket, and a laptop pocket that fits notebooks as large as 15” in diameter.
Primary Construction: 19.8oz Waxed Canvas
Volume: 28 Liters
KILLSPENCER Duffle Original Black Waxed Canvas
An ultra-top-shelf take on a standard weekender crafted from a spare-no-expense array of materials, the Original Black Waxed Canvas version of the KILLSPENCER Duffle is built around an insanely sturdy 18oz filter twill waxed canvas. Alongside its main construction, this duffle also comes equipped with Swiss-made Riri zippers with an antique finish, a Durable IFAC class 1 fire retardant interior with a waterproof black nylon lining, and Bullhide leather handles and accents. In addition to a laptop sleeve, the bag also boasts a removable and adjustable bullhide and webbing shoulder strap accented with black hardware. Made by hand in Los Angeles, this customizable duffle is also offered with an optional three-character monogram.
Primary Construction: 18oz Filter Twill Waxed Canvas
Volume: 34 Liters
The Best Rucksacks You Can Buy
Want to check out an additional selection of ultra-robust carrying options? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best rucksacks for the latest and greatest rucks currently on the market.