Waxed canvas is having a moment. The cotton-based fabric that’s been waxed for waterproofing played an integral role in early expeditions as the British empire explored the far corners of the earth, and it’s experiencing a recent revival thanks to outdoor-focused brands like Fjällräven, Filson, and Orvis.
“Waxed canvas has that classic look with a great retro vibe,” says Chip Addington, founder of Addington Co., a small St. Paul, Minnesota–based company that makes backpacks and duffels out of canvas, leather, and denim. Instead of traditional cotton fabric, Addington uses nylon as his primary material, which he waxes himself. The end product has the same look and feel of waxed canvas but is lighter and has a higher waterproof rating.
“The bags I grew up using while paddling the Boundary Waters were all waxed canvas, so the material has a real sense of time and place for me, but I want my bags to be able to perform just as well in a canoe as in the city.”
While there are far more technologically advanced waterproofing materials than waxed canvas, Addington still appreciates the heritage that the material represents.
“Waxed canvas was basically the first waterproof fabric,” he says. “It was invented by the Royal Navy to keep their sailors happy. Basically, it’s 300-year-old Gore-Tex. You have to respect that heritage.”
Here are five of our favorite waxed products.
Addington North Bound Weekender Duffel ($250)
Addington describes his bags as an intersection of traditional methods and modern design. His favorite bag in the lineup, the Crosstown Chevron, can be worn as a lumbar pack on the trail or a messenger bag on the bike. We love this simple duffel that looks good enough to use on a business trip but is reinforced with ballistic nylon so it can handle the abuse of a real adventure.
Filson Lined Short Cruiser Jacket ($350)
Waxed cotton gets some smart modern updates in this heavy-duty Cruiser jacket, like polyester in the sleeves for a bit of stretch and a flannel lining for ultimate comfort.
Duluth Pack Rolltop Scout Backpack ($165)
Duluth has been making canoe-ready waxed-canvas bags for almost 150 years. The Rolltop Scout is based on the same design as its original Scout bag but features a slimmer design that fits snugly against your back, making it better for bike commuters or those who navigate busy subway cars.
Taylor Stitch Winslow Hoodie ($225)
Take your hoodie and give it the waxed-canvas treatment and you’ve got the Winslow—a weatherproof winter jacket that manages to be casual without being frumpy.
Orvis Barbour Lightweight Royston Jacket ($350)
A step away from the traditional stiff waxed canvas, the Royston is a shoulder-season jacket that features a superlight four-ounce waxed-cotton outer, a soft cotton lining, and a sporty Harrington jacket design.