Known for its water-resistant and tough-as-nails durability, waxed canvas was a staple of England and Scotland’s sailing culture. Today, innovative companies across the globe are putting their own take on the fabric, and we’re not complaining.
Here’s a look at some of the best waxed canvas backpacks for all your adventures at home, in the office or in the field.
Rolltop Pack, Sanborn Canoe
Located in Minnesota, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1-million acre haven for canoeing, camping and generally enjoying the outdoors, and it happens to be where Zak Fellman and Todd Randall officially embarked on the journey that is Sanborn Canoe Co.
Beginning with artisan painted canoe paddles, they now make a line of camping and canoe accessories, including their Rolltop Pack. Made from rugged, water-resistant TexWax™ #10 duck canvas, the pack is designed for canoe trips, camping and anything else mother nature sends your way.
Reinforced loops on the outside of the pack make it easy to organize your essentials, and with more than 22 liters of internal storage, this thing’s big enough for multi-day trips, yet compact enough to not be a burden. An internal laptop pocket makes it a tech-friendly option that’s practical above all else. Sanborn’s Rolltop is handmade in the US, comes with a lifetime guarantee and ships ready for all your land and river adventures.
The Biographer, Bradley Mountain
Tyler Axtell began Bradley Mountain in his Ocean Beach garage in 2012, setting out to “help people in practical ways have a simple set of tools to tackle their dreams and goals.” One of the company’s crowning achievements is The Biographer, a rugged yet sleek waxed canvas rolltop that’s decorated with oiled leather, brass hardware and detail where it counts most.
Bradley Mountain makes The Biographer in San Diego, and their team of four craftsman offers this bag in field tan (pictured), brush brown, charcoal and black. It’s a little smaller than some packs, offering between 10.5 and 13 liters depending on how open the rolltop is, but the quality of The Biographer is second to none. That’s why they include the disclaimer that bags may need 2-3 weeks for processing, as each is handmade to order.
The waxed canvas contrasts well with the organic leather that’s dyed and oiled in-house, and the straps are lined with a nice wool padding that makes The Biographer as comfortable as it is distinguished. Put all this together and you get one of the best waxed canvas packs on the market.
Wilderness Rucksack, Tanner Goods
Portland, Oregon-based Tanner Goods holds itself to high expectations, and we are all the better for it. Consider the Wilderness Rucksack, a waxed canvas rolltop that looks like if it had to spend an extended weekend in the Yukon, it would be just fine with that.
The 18-ounce twill canvas brings character and a distinct look to the Wilderness Rucksack, which at 20 liters works for the daily commute, weekend trips and adventures in between. It’s been heavily field tested and came back with a practical, simple nature that looks soulful, yet rugged.
The bags are made in the US and come detailed with brass rivets and hardware, as well as vegetable-tanned Cambara English bridle leather, which is as fancy as it sounds. A wool laptop compartment and internal leather pockets proves that Tanner’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship isn’t just skin deep: you’ll love the inside of this bag as much anything else.
Delireis, Bedouin Foundry
Bedouin Foundry got its name from Bedouin tents, used by nomadic people to cross deserts and other hostile environments. The tents, though practical and durable, were clean, luxurious and comfortable inside. In the company’s words, “our bags follow the same metaphor, rugged and durable on the outside… inside, printed linings and padded compartments provide secure storage for your personal possessions.”
The Delireis is an example of this metaphor in action: its simple exterior is brought to life by details and lines that are playful yet functional. The rolltop body has an Austrialpin cobra buckle, vegetable-tanned leather accents and nicely padded straps that offer more support and comfort than some leather-only options.
The waterproof 14-ounce waxed canvas comes courtesy of Halley Stevensons of Scotland, which has been in business since 1864. Inside, you’ll find fun fabric linings and organization that brings more life to the basic rugged-outdoors look of more simple rucksacks.Gorgeous branding appears in all the right places inside and out, and the finishing touches on this pack are typical of high-quality English luggage makers. The Delireis is handmade in England and available in navy, black, olive, plum and khaki.
Roll-Top Scout, Duluth Pack
The Roll-Top Scout is a smaller version of Duluth Pack’s famed canoe pack patented in the late 1880s. The concept was brought to life when a prominent fashion writer requested a smaller bag, and Duluth Pack delivered.
Today, it retains its heritage vibe and scoutmaster look, from the classic rolltop to the leather straps and buckles keeping things on lock-down. Duluth Pack’s signature leather emblem makes for distinct but not over-the-top branding, and the slim profile looks good in the city or the field.
It’s made in Minnesota and each Scout has the sewer’s name on the inside, a nice touch in a world that too often prioritizes nameless manufacturing.
Best Made Co. – The Waxed Ditty Bag
Ditty bags have roots in sailing: “each man has one in which he keeps his clothes, and a little bag or reticule called ‘a ditty bag,’ containing all the implements of his housewifery,” says the The Journal of Belles Lettres from 1833. Since then, ditty bags have gone in and out of popularity, but Best Made Company’s version is updated and, in our humble opinions, here to stay.
Made in the US with 10-ounce army duck canvas, the Waxed Ditty Bag is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. It’s designed to hold essentials when space is more important than organization. It’s on the smaller side at 10 liters capacity, though a larger version is available.
Solid brass grommets and aged-looking hand-spliced cord help the Ditty Bag keep its maritime history, but subtle branding, beautiful hardware and a slim modern shape make the bag perfect for today’s adventurers. Includes tin of wax to keep the bag protected as it ages.
Rucksack No. 21 Large Backpack, Fjallraven
In 1960, Fjällräven became the first company to sell framed backpacks, and hikers have swooned to the Swedish company ever since. Their No. 21 Rucksack isn’t framed, but it is as tough and durable as the rest of their collection.
Made with their in-house G-1000 fabric designed for water-resistant, windproof and UV-protected use, the No. 21 is a simple, clean-looking pack that uses naturally toned leather at all the right spots.
Laptop and thermos pockets on the inside make the bag extremely practical for hiking and work, and a slide-out seat pad makes it ideal for weekend getaways in the woods. At 30 liters, it’s bigger than most of the other waxed packs we’ve highlighted, but its simple design keeps it close to your body and avoids feeling overly large.It’s available in 15 colors, from the dark olive above to more bold choices like ochre and lake blue.
Timbuk2 – Cask Laptop Backpack
What Fjällräven is to Swedish backpacks, Timbuk2 is to the messenger bag: they launched the very first one in 1989 and haven’t looked back. Their line of bags, backpacks and other travel goods quickly made the company an icon of San Francisco style.
It’s guaranteed for life, fits up to 15″ laptops and offers plenty of EDC organization options inside.
The Cask backpack is a slim, modern take on waxed canvas, and if the above choices are too forest-y, you’ll appreciate the urban style of this bag. Made with durable waxed canvas and high-end leather, the Cask combines old-school styling with trendy aesthetics, and so far it’s working out. Users find it ideal for commuting, where tight spaces and frequent movement are difficult with bulkier bags.
Roll-Top Pack, Winter Session
Husband and wife Roy Katz and Tanya Fleisher run Winter Session from their Denver storefront, and their Roll-Top Pack captures perfectly the couple’s approach to craftsmanship and quality.
Made from durable 20-ounce waxed canvas, the Roll-Top has subtle but powerful design features that only get better with time. Case in point: vegetable-tanned leather straps that’ll darken with age, and a canvas body that shows its history in the best way possible.
Pleated exterior pockets give the pack plenty of room to take on trips, and the body’s construction is slim enough to use around the city. Brass hardware is used only as needed, giving the Roll-Top a clean, simple vibe that’s easy on the eyes.