Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?

Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?

Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?
In Uncategorized

One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘Is waxed canvas waterproof?’

With many brands favouring modern synthetic fabrics like Cordura or Gore-Tex, it can be hard to understand the benefits of an age-old fabric like waxed canvas, so let’s take a look at its history,  find out how it works, and discover how waterproof waxed canvas really is.

The History of Waxed Canvas.



Waxed canvas was first conceived by Scottish fishermen in the 1800’s. They discovered that their canvas sails caught the wind more efficiently when impregnated with linseed oil, and when the sail came to the end of its life they would recycle it into weather-resistant garments to wear while at sea. Over time, this practice became so widespread that the concept became commercialised, the proofing perfected and mills began producing pre-waxed cotton and oilcloth. Today, ours is custom made right here in Scotland.

How Does Waxed Canvas Work?


Waxed Canvas is made water-resistant by the coating itself. The cloth is densely woven, then completely saturated with wax, which naturally repels water. Over time, some of this wax will wear off, and as such it must be reproofed regularly using our Trakke Wax. Typically, you’ll need to rewax the fabric on your bag every 8-12 months – just like oiling the chain on your bike. This process can be repeated indefinitely, ensuring many years of use.

By contrast, most synthetic fabrics are weatherproofed by applying a thin, impermeable membrane to the cloth itself. This works very well, and these treatments can be chemically altered to tailor their qualities and performance , but over time the membrane can perish, causing it to crack and peel from the fabric as you can see in the image below. When this happens, it’s hard to undo, and the fabric becomes permeable again, so it leaks.

Here you can see the waterproof membrane peeling away on a synthetic fabric.

That’s why we prefer more traditional fabrics like waxed canvas that are designed to be maintained over much longer periods of time.

Is Waxed Canvas Waterproof?


A woman wearing a waxed canvas rucksack in the rain.

Well yes and no.

It’s not completely waterPROOF. If you went swimming with a waxed canvas bag, it would leak. Equally, we don’t use seam-tape on our bags, so some would leak in through the seams too. In a rainstorm, this isn’t really a problem – but in a lake, a bag would be under pressure from the water around it, and it would eventually force it’s way in.

However, waxed canvas is extremely water-resistant. In a storm, the fabric will shed the rain with ease for prolonged periods of time. If the coating is maintained well, it will continue to do so for many years to come. Have a look at the video below to see water ‘beading’ off waxed canvas fabric.

So Why Do We Use It?



At Trakke, we favour materials that are built to last. We look for materials that are rugged and durable, but it’s also crucial that they age well. It’s all very well lasting for 20 years, but if it looks awful after all that time, you won’t want to use it.

This is where waxed cotton excels. The wax coating means that the fabric marks easily, getting scratched and scuffed over time. Each time it’s reproofed, these marks become part of the cloth and the overall colour becomes richer. This gives it a beautiful patina that captures the story of the fabric as it ages.

The story is important too. We love the fact that waxed cotton was created by fishermen here in Scotland, and that it’s still made here today.

Waxed canvas bags have a lot of character. The patina of the fabric becomes a record of all the adventures you’ve had and ultimately, waxed canvas wears in, not out, so the longer you have it, the more beautiful it will become.

In fact, it could be the last bag you ever need to buy.




Assynt 12

Pack up your daily essentials, throw the Assynt 12 Backpack on your back and you’re ready for a day of adventure. With one compartment for your gear and a zip-access lid pocket, it’s built for the simple life, but if you really can’t avoid work, it’s big enough for a 13” Macbook, so you can pretend you’re working from home while you’re out on the hill.
A tin of wax that reads, 'For reproofing waxed cotton'


Keep your waxed cotton bag in prime condition with a tin of Trakke Reproofing Wax. Periodically re-wax your bag to keep the fabric supple, the colour strong and the water beading off the surface. Compatible with all our Waxed Cotton range.