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The Best Waxed Canvas Bags To Haul Your Gear

Best Waxed Canvas Bags 0 Hero

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.

Best Waxed Canvas Bags Breakdown

what is 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.

what do you use waxed canvas for?

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 it 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.

what to look for

Construction: Since all of these bags will be made from waxed canvas, you’ll be deciding based on the weight and finish of the bag more than anything else. Heavier weight means more durability (generally), but a more cumbersome pack. We’re also fans of US-made heritage goods, so we made a point to include whether each bag was made in the states or not.

Style: Waxed canvas bags come in a variety of styles; whether it’s a backpack, rucksack, or tote, they can accomplish more or less the same thing. However, if you’re commuting in small spaces like buses or trains, you may want to go for a smaller backpack over a large tote. 

Volume: Volume is a similar situation, with more space giving you more options, but resulting in a bigger bag.

Compartments: If you carry devices with you on the daily, a pack with a dedicated laptop or tablet sleeve can be very convenient (and keep your devices protected while you’re on the move).

J.Crew Waxed Canvas Tote Bag

J Crew Waxed Canvas Tote Bag
  • Great for weekend trips and quick outings
  • Large size
  • Simple and sleek design
  • May be too large for some

Best Starter Bag: J.Crew’s Waxed Canvas Tote Bag is a modern take on a traditional waxed canvas bag, with modern materials and a city-friendly design. The bag features a waxed cotton canvas upper that’s mated to a leather base and nylon straps. It’s available in the Khaki/Navy colorway you see above or a Khaki colorway, and it makes for the perfect weekend bag if you’re going on a trip, headed to the gym, or just want something reliable and affordable.

Primary Construction: Waxed cotton canvas
Size: 17″H x 20 1/2″W x 7 3/4″ D
USA-Made?: No
Style: Tote

BillyKirk No. 609 Standard Issue Backpack Tote

BillyKirk No 609 Standard Issue Backpack Tote
  • Versatile design
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Water-resistant nylon lining
  • N/A

Best Backpack/Tote Hybrid: Blending the best of a backpack and a tote while boasting a premium array of materials, the BillyKirk No. 609 Standard Issue Backpack Tote 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 three color options — also comes with tubular mil-spec nylon webbing for added durability.

Primary Construction: 10.10oz Waxed Canvas
Volume: 12.6 liters
USA-Made?: Yes
Style: Backpack/tote

DSPTCH Canvas Weekender

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Very thick and durable construction
  • Removable nylon herringbone shoulder strap
  • Exterior may look different than the photos

Best All-Arounder Bag: 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
USA-Made?: Yes
Style: Duffel

Defy Bucktown Backpack

  • Padded laptop compartment
  • Seat belt strapping handle
  • Water-repellant zippers
  • Zippers can be tight

Best 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
USA-Made?: No
Style: Backpack

Mission Workshop Sanction: AP

Mission Workshop Rambler
  • Modular design that allows you to add other accesories
  • Comes in nine colorways
  • Optional waist belt
  • No side pockets

Best Rucksack: 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
USA-Made?: Yes
Style: Rucksack

Trakke Bannoch Backpack

  • Two AustriAlpin COBRA Quick Release buckles (some of the most durable you can get)
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • Two water bottle pockets
  • No quick access pockets

Best Work Backpack: 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
USA-Made?: No
Style: Backpack

Filson Journeyman Backpack

Filson Journeyman Backpack
  • Vegetable-tanned leather from Wickett & Craig
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Twill sourced from the legendary British Millerain
  • Not made in the USA

Best Backpack for Devices: Designed to offer ample versatility in a minimalistic package, Filson’s Journeyman Backpack boasts a shell that’s made from rugged cotton twill and 14 ounces of oil-finished tin cloth, with cotton moleskin-lined shoulder straps featuring vegetable-tanned bridle leather from Wickett & Craig. Inside, this bag sports a bevy of organizers and pockets to keep everything in order. Weighing only 2.15 lbs when waxed, the bag also features a pair of external side pockets, a padded back panel, and a padded interior laptop sleeve capable of holding a 15″ laptop.

Primary Construction: 100% cotton twill, 14-oz. oil finish tin cloth, moleskin, poly/cotton lining
Volume: 23 liters
USA-Made?: No
Style: Backpack

Bradley Mountain The Wilder

  • Antiqued brass zipper
  • 16″ laptop pocket
  • Made in San Diego in small batches
  • A little pricey

Best Travel Bag: 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 16” in diameter. 

Primary Construction: 19.8oz Waxed Canvas
Volume: 28 liters
USA-Made?: Yes
Style: Backpack

The Best Rucksacks You Can Buy

Photo: Bellroy Venture Backpack 22L

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.