Gear

14 Best Waxed Canvas Backpacks and Rucksacks

by Dustin Christensen
Updated July 29, 2021

Best Waxed Canvas Backpacks and Rucksacks Featured
Photo: Kyle Niemier

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The waxed canvas revival is real, and backpack brands are making the hardy, old-school material more accessible and versatile than ever.

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. We’ve hauled all kinds of canvas packs on camping, paddling and backpacking trips, and there’s nothing that feels as hardy as solid cotton canvas.

Here’s a look at 14 of the best waxed canvas backpacks for all your adventures at home, in the office or in the field.

Editor's Choice

Dakota Waxed Canvas Commuter

Best-in-class quality and performance

A vintage-inspired backpack that perfectly balances waxed canvas, metal hardware and leather accents in all the right places.

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The Dakota Commuter manages an impressive feat, maintaining its vintage roots while functioning capably for today’s demanding commuters and hikers. Although it’s made to hold laptops and work goods, it works just as well on the trail, and the two side pockets make it more practical than most waxed canvas packs you’ll find out there.

Too often, brands design a canvas bag with all the throwback aesthetics and none of the features you really need day in and day out, but that’s not an issue with the Dakota Commuter. There are enough organizational features to keep you focused on your daily journeys, but the iconic Buffalo Jackson look gives the bag a decidedly old-school charm.

Upgrade Pick

Dakota Roll Top Backpack

Rugged styling, lightweight performance

For its 45L size, the Dakota Roll Top is surprisingly nimble, fitting everything you need for a hike or a weekend trip away from it all.

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If waxed canvas is having a moment, then roll-top bags are having a moment within the moment, and we’re not mad about it. The old-school styling of the Dakota Roll Top makes it easy to secure larger loads, and at 45L, this one’s three times the capacity of the Commuter pack above.

It has the same attention to detail and craftsmanship as the rest of Buffalo Jackson’s line, but extra features like side buckles make it easy to hold down a wool blanket or sleeping pad if you’re spending the night under the stars. To bear the extra weight and capacity, the Dakota Roll Top has impressively padded shoulder straps for comfortable miles on the trail.

Value Buy

Waxed Canvas Rucksack

No frills, no problemo

This simple waxed canvas bag isn't backed by a large brand, and that's why we dig it. It's an affordable, well-constructed backpack that nails the canvas look with ease.

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Duluth Pack Deluxe Roll-Top Scout

duluth pack rolltop scout deluxe

The Deluxe 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.

The Deluxe version of the Scout pack adds more leather, including a hearty leather bottom that keeps your pack more protected out in the wild.

A side-access zipper also makes getting to the main compartment incredibly easy, where most canvas bags only offer top-closure access.

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Fjällräven Räven 28

fjallraven raven 28

The Räven 28 is ideal for students wanting the classic schoolbag look of a Jansport with the durable water-resistance of waxed canvas.

It’s made with an eco-version of Fjällräven’s G-1000® made from recycled polyester and organic cotton, and maintains the same ruggedness of their original waxed fabric.

A padded sleeve fits 15” laptops and there’s no shortage of organizational options. Because it’s often stiff and difficult to work with, waxed canvas usually lends itself to simple bags, but not here.

The Räven 28 has enough zippered and internal pockets to hold everything you need for class, work, and more.

Two exterior side pockets can hold slim water bottles and even with a heavier load, the main compartment won’t weigh down the padded shoulder straps to the point of discomfort.

A nice foam sheet on the back gives the bag structure without making it feel heavy and inflexible. It’s available in all sorts of bold colorways, but we dig the dark olive with its minimalist vibe.

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Fjällräven Kånken No. 2

fjallraven kanken 2

When Fjällräven launched the Kånken in the late ‘70s, their goal was to alleviate back problems in Swedish schoolchildren. We don’t know the state of those kids’ backs now, but we do know the Kånken is now ubiquitous for students and adults around the world.

The Kånken 2 is a double-waxed version of the original, offering superior water-resistance and a rugged but clean look that works just as well for hiking as it does school.

At 16 liters, it’s one of the smaller, lighter packs on our list, but that doesn’t mean it lacks substance.

The back’s more padded than most canvas packs you’ll find, and Fjällräven’s iconic and simple ergonomic design makes it easy to wear for long hours or miles.

It’s a solid urban option for those who don’t need the larger, outdoorsy capacity of the Stubben (below) but still want the G-1000® waxed fabric construction.

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Westward 23L Rolltop Backpack

Westward 23L Rolltop Backpack

We’ve been fans of United by Blue for a few years now, but their new Westward Collection takes things to a whole new level.

The collection is designed to combine the old-school stylings of waxed canvas with “modern world” functionality, and the market is better off for it.

Their Rolltop Backpack exemplifies this hybrid in the best way: it has the big, bold aesthetic of waxed canvas, but feels surprisingly lightweight and flexible.

Unlike traditional waxed canvas bags, the Rolltop uses a cotton and polyester blend of canvas, making it one of the more versatile bags of its kind.

Typically, our only complaint about canvas bags is the weight and rigidness of the material, both of which are trademarks of the product – but not always practical.

The Westward Collection’s Rolltop solves these issues while keeping the traditional appeal of a canvas bag.

It’s larger than you’d think, uber-comfortable and completed with beautiful aluminum hardware and leather accents.

The bag’s organization and layout makes it clearly utility-driven, and in our field tests we found it much easier to keep gear in check compared to other models.

True to the brand’s eco-roots, the lining is 100% recycled and every sale translates to one pound of trash removed from an ocean or waterway.

It’s the most modern-looking bag on our list and ideal for adventurers looking to cut weight and snag modern conveniences while still sporting the nostalgia-driven look of waxed canvas.

Win-win-win.

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Bradley Mountain Day Pack

bradley mountain day pack

If you’re not looking to drop $300 on a pack, consider Bradley Mountain’s Day Pack, an amazing value considering it has the same impeccable craftsmanship and materials as their Biographer.

It’s slightly smaller, and as the name suggests, is ideal for short day trips and jaunts around your favorite hikes and watering holes.

It’s made with 18.9-ounce canvas and though a leather-and-canvas combo can sometimes seem weighty, the Day Pack is surprisingly light and nimble.

It carries just enough supplies without being uncomfortable, and wears easy on the shoulders, even without the canvas padding that the Biographer sports.

It’s a solid choice for those looking for a heirloom-quality bag while staying on a budget. If you’re looking for other Bradley Mountain options, check out their fold-top Scout Pack.

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Trakke Assynt 28

trakke assynt 28

Trakke designs and makes all their bags in Glasgow, Scotland, and their waxed canvas packs are a reflection of the landscape and elements of the region.

The Assynt 28 is a valiant salute to old-school mountaineering, and despite updates in technology – a metal ring zip puller, lightweight steel hardware – the Assynt 28 maintains a decidedly retro feel.

The bold canvas colors offer a refreshing take on a product normally dominated by field tans and browns, and the 28-liter capacity works well for city and mountain alike.

A drawstring top and waxed interior makes the bag more water-resistant than you’d expect, which makes sense considering its birthplace.

A 15-inch laptop sleeve makes the bag great for work or pleasure, and you can add modular pouches to increase space as needed.

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Bradley Mountain Biographer

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.

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.

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Winter Session Roll-Top Pack

winter session rolltop pack

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.

Best Canvas Backpacks Rucksacks

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.

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Fjällräven Rucksack No. 21 Large

Ruckack No.21 Large

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 waxed 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.

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Fjällräven Stubben Backpack

stubben pack

Fjällräven launched their signature waxed G-1000® fabric back in the 1960s, but it’s still a staple of their product line today. They offer five different G-1000® options, including the heavy duty version that forms the exterior of their Stubben Backpack.

The cotton-polyester material is treated with the company’s Greeland Wax, a durable paraffin and beeswax blend that offers long-lasting water-resistance, though they recommend you reapply wax from time to time (directions here).

The Stubben is a structured daypack with an internal frame and the ability to act as a padded chair when not in use.

Where many waxed canvas packs lack support and stability, the Stubben thrives on a comfortable frame that’s ideal for all sorts of adventuring.

In wet climates, the water-resistance is enough to generally keep your stuff dry, but the pack has further features to minimize impact from the elements.

Case in point: a convenient snow lock on the top-loading main compartment.

It’s the perfect day pack size at 27 liters, but if you need extra storage, check out easy-to-add side pockets. Padded straps and a comfortably-made backside make this a great ergonomic option for those who start to feel wear and tear out on the trail.

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Mission Workshop The Sanction

the sanction mission workshop

The Sanction from Mission Workshop features the brand’s trademark Arkiv® closure system, a simple and silent alternative to cheap plastic hardware.

The buckle slips over a thick fold of nylon webbing and holds steady in place, even when the bag isn’t full.

The pack’s 10-ounce waxed canvas offers durability without feeling like too much weight, and it’s the perfect way to show your daily carry use over time, as the canvas wears its wrinkles and colorations like scars.

Like all of Mission Workshop’s bags, The Sanction is about practical use and function, and doesn’t take any shortcuts to get there.

It’s made in the US, backed by a lifetime guarantee on workmanship and materials and works well with a number of the company’s accessories, like their Low-Profile waist belt.

The Sanction clocks in at 20 liters, 2.6 pounds and comes in olive, brown and black.

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