May 13, 2015

Written by

Chris Gonzales

As I said in our guide to leather goods, we write a lot about manufacturing materials here at Tools & Toys. Leather often steals the show but its cousin waxed canvas has a storied history of its own, going all the way back to the Scottish sailing industry of the 1850s.

Waxed canvas is like leather in that it’s quite durable, and if properly cared for ages beautifully. It also has the benefit of being water-resistant.

Today, we will celebrate this lovely textile by showcasing some of our favorite waxed canvas goods.

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Ugmonk’s Messenger Bags »

When I thought of writing a waxed canvas gear guide, Ugmonk’s messenger bags were the first items that came to mind.

Each 14oz waxed canvas bag is lined with 500 denier Cordura nylon and sports premium, full-grain leather straps and nickel-plated hardware/rivets. The shoulder strap is removable, so you have the option of wearing the bag over your shoulder or carrying it by the top handle. There are several interior pockets throughout (including a 15.4″ laptop compartment), plus front and back exterior pockets for easy document access.

Comes in four colors: navy, black, charcoal, and army.

The ONA Bowery waxed canvas camera bag. ($139)

The ONA Bowery waxed canvas camera bag. ($139)

ONA Bowery Camera Bag and Insert »

Our favorite camera bag of all time. It’s small, incredibly handsome, versatile, and has a ton of personality. You can fit an iPad mini in the back sleeve pocket perfectly, and it’ll hold your mirrorless camera plus a few extra accessories. Heck, it’s versatile enough you can use it for carrying just about any of your small daily essentials.

What’s more, it works as either a standalone camera bag or as a bag insert/organizer, wherein the entire thing (sans detachable strap) can be placed inside a larger bag for organizational and protective purposes.

The waxed canvas Bowery comes in your choice of smoke, black, or our favorite, field tan (pictured above). Need something a little bigger? Check out ONA’s Prince Street messenger bag, also available in field tan and smoke.

The "Durables" collection from DODOcase. (Prices vary, approx. $50–$80.)

The “Durables” collection from DODOcase. (Prices vary, approx. $50–$80.)

DODOcase “Durables” Device Sleeves »

The folks at DODOcase have an entire line of waxed canvas device sleeves, which they’ve aptly dubbed Durables. They’ve got sleeves for iPad Air/Air 2, iPad mini, and MacBook Air 11″/13″, as well as wallet sleeves for iPhone 6/6 Plus and previous iPhone models. (They also make lots of sleeves for non-Apple devices, if that’s your thing.)

Each of these beauties is hand-made in San Francisco, featuring a waxed canvas exterior, mahogany leather accents, and a soft felt interior lining. They’re designed to snugly fit devices sans-case, but the iPad models will accomodate their respective Smart Covers if necessary. We love the aesthetic of these sleeves, they impart such a timeless look to our modern devices.

The original tool book by Cotter Pin Gear. ($189)

The original tool book by Cotter Pin Gear. ($189)

Cotter Pin Gear’s Tool Book »

The four-panel waxed canvas tool book from Cotter Pin Gear is a great way for motorcyclists and bicyclists to carry their repair tools around — wrenches, pliers, sockets, etc. The binding all over the book is made from high-quality leather and there are two tough leather straps sewn on the outside to hold everything together. It also sports an integrated zippered pocket for other small, loose items you may need to carry.

Comes in two colors: sage and black.

ONA Lima Camera Strap »

ONA’s Lima camera strap is ideal for smaller, lighter cameras such as the Olympus E-M10 or Fujifilm X100T (or any mirrorless rig under four pounds, really). It’s comprised mostly of top grain leather and waxed canvas, so it certainly looks classy, but there’s also a soft neoprene pad around the neckline for added comfort and support. There are two buckles on each side to adjust the strap’s drop length (from 19.5″ to 23.5″). Total length is 63″.

The Lima is $79 on Amazon and, like the ONA Bowery we mentioned earlier, comes in black, field tan, or smoke (pictured above). Photographers with DSLRs that require a heftier strap should check out ONA’s $89 Presidio line.

The Charles apron by Sturdy Brothers. ($150)

The Charles apron by Sturdy Brothers. ($150)

The Charles Apron »

They say people who work with their mind like to unwind by working with their hands. Whether they’re doing fine woodworking, cooking on the grill, serving coffee, or even cutting hair, a hearty and comfortable apron is a blessing. The modern-yet-timeless Charles apron from Sturdy Brothers certainly fits the bill.

Best Made Co. Bonded Canvas Passport Case »

Best Made Co’s new bonded canvas passport case is about as simple as international travel gear gets. It’s a small bound booklet with brass zipper enclosure (and a red leather zipper pull) that holds your passport, an iPhone + charger cable, and a couple writing utensils. You could probably squeeze a Field Notes memo book in there too. Like I said, simple.

The “bonded canvas” refers to the combination of its 10 oz. water repellent duck canvas exterior and 7 oz. bonded flat twill interior. In their words:

These two separate fabrics are permanently bonded together using a rubber based adhesive. The use of a natural colored interior twill offers improved visibility inside the pouch, making it easier to find what it is you’re looking for. The exterior canvas is pre-treated with a waxed fiber process for water resistance, which is further enhanced by the bonding process.

Get the passport case in “olive drab” or black for $54 at Best Made co.

5oz bar of Otter Wax. ($20)

5oz bar of Otter Wax. ($20)

Otter Wax »

Like leather, waxed canvas requires some routine maintenance to stay in good shape. There are quite a number of guides out there showing you how to care for your waxed canvas goods.

The latter of those guides I just linked, published by The Art of Manliness last year, has this to say about waxes:

Using paraffin is definitely the old school way to go, but it has it downsides. Filson, for instance, makes a paraffin wax, though it’s specifically for maintaining already waxed items. Sure, you can apply it to your non-waxed clothing, but you won’t get the same result, and the application is a bit more difficult and involved.

Paraffin is also the byproduct of fossil fuels, and is found to be toxic in some uses. In candles, for instance, it has been found to be a source of indoor air pollution. When you wax with paraffin you have to make sure the room is well-ventilated, and it’s a substance you just may not want infused into your clothing.

Agreed. Thus, we also recommend Otter Wax, an all-natural, paraffin- and silicone-free canvas wax that uses renewable, environmentally friendly ingredients. It even has an herbal, lemon-y kind of smell, which is pleasant.