The Extra Tough Advantages of Canvas

Need a heavy-duty fabric that'll see you through whatever? Reach for canvas.

When you want a product that's weather-resistant, outdoor-ready, and tough as all hell, you want canvas. It's got a long history of being some of the sturdiest fabric around, and still easily holds it own as the material of choice for clothes and gear that need to be extra durable. Why? Well...

The Weave

Heavy cotton fibers are woven together in a simple over-under pattern called a plain weave. That separates canvas from denim, which is similar but uses a twill weave for a subtle diagonal pattern.

Canvas is actually divided into two types: plain canvas, and duck canvas. The plain stuff is woven tightly enough to be tough and weather-proof, but not quite as tightly as duck canvas, which uses an extra dense weave. That makes duck more weather-resistant, but less breathable.

The Wax

As if the fabric wasn't rugged enough, canvas often gets a treatment of wax to amplify the heavy-duty benefits. It started way back in the 15th century, when grizzled sailors during the Age of Discovery realized that their sails caught the wind better when they were soaked with water.

How to Wax Your Canvas Clothes, Bags, and Gear

Your tough canvas goods are about to get even tougher. All you need is some wax, a hairdryer, and about thirty minutes.

Since keeping the sails wet all the time wasn't practical, and since all that water would have made them too heavy anyway, they used fish oil to wax the fabric. That way, the sails would be stiffer, but wouldn't soak through with water. Once they realized how effective it was, the sailors sewed together excess sail scraps to wear as sea spray-proof capes.

In the early 1900s, canvas became the fabric of choice for nature-fighting outdoor types when versions coated with more modern types of wax started to appear. Back then, tin was some of the strongest material known to man, and waxed canvas was so impressively impenetrable that it earned the nickname "tin cloth," a title that Filson (who have been around since the nickname's inception) still uses on their impressively strong and sharp outdoor gear made out of the stuff.

So, basically: it doesn't get much tougher than canvas. Wear and carry your gear made out of the stuff proudly, and set out on some adventures to put it to the test.

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