3 Main Characterisics of Waxed Canvas Fabric

Mizo backpacks girl holding waxed canvas fabric backpack

Photo credit: filips

Recently I held a questionnaire on Instagram stories, asking: “Do you know the main characteristics of Waxed Canvas?”. To my surprise, 71% of all respondents showed a clear picture, that they are not aware of why waxed canvas fabric is so special. As a brand owner, I feel a duty to elaborate on this and help you to understand why waxed canvas backpacks and other products made by this spectacular fabric should be considered. I will dive deeper into the next few chapters. Here are the topics I’m going to cover.

  • What is the traditional material bags are made from nowadays
  • What waxed canvas is
  • How to take care of waxed canvas fabric
  • And 3 main characteristics of waxed canvas

Let’s start with an overview of where the market is at the moment and what is the most common material used for backpacks.

Bags are usually made of

Most of the bags are made from Cordura or other polymer fabric. It’s durable, water-resistant and comes in different shapes and colors. The classic and original Cordura fabric, which is secured by its trademark will last long, however, its impacts on the environment are considerably bigger then waxed canvas. Most of the backpack brands are cutting corners and do not use original Cordura fabric, instead, they have chosen to use polymeric material which has similar features, look and feel as the original one. As an old saying goes, you get what you pay for: such material after intensive two years of use is losing its grip and your backpack will start to fail. Fabric will become thinner, folds will be the first place where the material will start to rip.

Mizo backpacks plomer fabric instead of waxed canvas fabric

Photo credit: mmitextiles

On MIZO I made the same mistake at the start, by choosing, considerably lower quality fabric, I risked the quality of my products and brand.

Here you can check waxed canvas bag collection we are manufacturing right now: Waxed canvas bags by MIZO backpacks.

An alternative for cheap polymer fabrics is waxed canvas - one of the oldest materials in the world and still used today. It is a rare example of a fabric invention withstanding the test of time. Let’s talk about it a bit more in the next chapter.

Waxed canvas fabric

The concept of waxed cotton was originally developed in the early 15th century by sailors. Scottish North Sea herring fleets operating from east coast ports began treating flax sailcloth with fish oils and grease in an attempt to waterproof their sails, keeping them light and efficient. Remnants of these sails were used as capes to withstand the high winds and sea spray, keeping the sailors warm and dry. These capes were the forerunner to the fisherman's slicker.

Waxed cotton became an instant success with the commercial shipping industry. One of the early adopters was J. Barbour & Sons in the outdoor industry, producing waxed jackets for farmers and gamekeepers.

Mizo backpacks waxed canvas fabric jacket by Barbour

Photo credit: kalvisuals

Waxed cotton came in either black or an inconsistent dark olive. Colour was controlled by the amount of copper left from the cupro-ammonia treatment, and because of the variability of the olive, a complementary dark brown corduroy collar was placed on dark olive jackets.

Taking care of waxed canvas bag

Impregnated wax decay and reduce its effectiveness over time. To reduce this decay, waxed-cotton products should never be stored in a damp condition, but dried gently. Waxed cotton also needs regular annual re-waxing. As the form of waxing and consistency differs between manufacturers, re-waxing should only be undertaken with re-waxing products from the original product manufacturer. Rewaxing is best undertaken in the summer when the material is naturally at a warmer temperature. Then, in small sections, the wax is warmed and then placed on the material, and rubbed into the material with a soft cloth. Once fully applied, the material should be gently warmed to allow the wax to both seeps in and create an overall even covering.

Mizo backpacks waxed canvas fabric bag on the hill

Photo credit: ashkned

Durable, water-resistant and lasts long

All of this sounds nice, but what about durability, waterproofness, and lasting long? One of the main characteristics of waxed canvas is that it’s water repellant and this characteristic can be redone after time by rewaxing. It’s not completely waterproof. If you went swimming with a waxed canvas bag, it would leak. But if your adventure involves some rain showers or fog, then I would not worry much.

We can consider that fabric will live long, every time you will re-wax it, all bags stretch marks will stay and your bag will take a new shape and will live with its wearer. 

At MIZO we use fabric that is 420 gsm. It is considerably heavy and for one reason only - to be durable, you should not worry that bag material will rip. It will stand the test of time and doing regular re-waxing will last long.

Mizo backpacks view from Scotland - home of waxed canvas fabric

Photo credit: kalvisuals

I hope I made it more clear on why products made from waxed canvas should be considered in the future. Let’s summarize this: waxed canvas fabric has a lower production impact on the environment, it is durable, water-resistant, will last longer, has a long history and if I may say - look great and becomes more beautiful in the long run.