Waxed canvas bags have a rugged look that looks great with a few scuffs and scratches. Just like leather, they develop a nice patina over time and become unique to the owner.
Originally developed as a waterproof utility fabric, used in a nautical and military context, waxed canvas has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over recent decades largely because of its performance and durability. Waxing combines oil and paraffin, creating a waterproof coating that is both stronger than cotton and more durable than nylon. It is also remarkably resistant to abrasion and tearing. While it does not breathe as well as Gore-Tex or similar waterproof fabrics, it is much lighter and cooler than traditional heavy cottons and abrasion-resistant than polyester.
The fabric is very easy to maintain with a few regular care routines. Unlike some other fabrics, waxed canvas repels dirt, so keeping it clean is just a matter of a regular brushing with a dry brush and occasional wiping with a damp cloth. Oil stains, however, are a bit more challenging and may require some extra elbow grease to get rid of. One method involves placing cornstarch on the stain for two days, which will absorb the oils, and then brushing the stains away. Another option is to use neatsfoot oil or beeswax, applied with a soft bristled brush or soft cloth.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your waxed canvas bag will need to be reproofed occasionally, a process similar to reconditioning leather. This enhances the water and wind resistance of your bag, giving it a fresh new life. Whether you purchase a waterproof spray or a solid wax bar, you will want to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the proper application.
With a little regular maintenance, your waxed canvas bags will be ready to handle all of your adventures. Just remember to avoid the obvious mistakes that could damage your gear – never put them in the washing machine, and don’t send them to the cleaners. Waxed canvas is a time-tested material that has kept ships sailing true and hunters dry for centuries. If you take good care of it, it will last for years to come, giving you the confidence that your bag will be able to hold up under any conditions. From renowned brands like Filson and L.L. Bean, to more modern offerings such as Duluth Pack and Buffalo Jackson, you can’t go wrong with a waxed canvas bag.