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Outdoor Guide: The Differences Between Wax Canvas and Traditional Canvas

If you are looking to buy your first Duluth Pack or looking to expand your collection you may be wondering what waxed canvas is and what the history behind it is? What is the difference between the waxed canvas and traditional non-wax canvas? 

Waxed canvas was originally used during the 1800s by Scottish fishermen who noticed ship sails caught more wind when they were wet. However wet sails were too heavy to be effective, so the sailors decided to use linseed oil to saturate the sails. By doing this, the sails were able to repel water and they caught the wind better, making for more efficient sailing. Linseed oil mimics the properties of water but without adding the additional weight. Once the sails reached the end of their life, they would be recycled into weather-resistant clothing to wear at sea. Over time this practice became so widespread that factories started producing waxed canvas for mass production.

Waxed canvas is just that, it is our traditional cotton duck 15 oz canvas which has been applied with a thin layer of wax on top of the canvas.  It is still made with our durable and rugged canvas, but we just go one step farther to create a bag with a quicker patina aesthetic. 

Our traditional canvas is a tight weave high strength fabric that holds up to the test of time. Canvas itself is not watertight so it has the potential to allow water on the inside of the bag which is why we recommend a poly pack liner if you are going on a canoe trip. Canvas is a wonderful material as it expands when wet, this is why it is an ideal choice and heavy-duty material for outdoor adventures and it is also time-tested. Canvas is a fairly breathable, yet wind-resistant fabric and fairly easy to clean. The bottom-line canvas is durable and will last for many generations to come.

Waxed canvas has all the benefits of our traditional canvas plus a few extra perks. The wax finish allows the water droplets to bead up on the surface and flow off creating the effect of a water-resistant finish. It also has higher wind-resistance compared to traditional non-canvas. The wax creates a thin membrane on the canvas which will also repel dirt. However, it will show some scuffs and marks more than the traditional canvas option, but this will add to the overall character of the bag. Waxed canvas can be more comfortable to wear, and some people say it has an overall softer feel to it. To care for your pack all you need to do is reapply oil wax finish depending on the amount of use. You should not put it in the washing machine as that will take most of the wax finish off. If you scrub it with soap and water, you may take off the finish too. Please read Duluth Pack’s care instructions on the website.

We must note, Duluth Pack packs, totes, duffels, and handcrafted products are not water-resistant and or water-proof. The seams are not sealed, and many needle holes penetrate the fabric. 

Hopefully, this answered your questions and made choosing your next Duluth Pack easier. 

Happy shopping, friends!