Waxed canvas is the foundation of everything we do.
Every pack, bag, and accessory starts out as a canvas roll with limitless possibilities of what it can be. Just as Frost River’s heritage is rooted in the explorers who paddled through all conditions and traversed rock-strewn portages, the history of waxed canvas starts in a similar place, with sailors and fishermen who made their living roughing the seas.
Early on sailors realized that wet sails were superior in catching wind and therefore more efficient. But the downside to wet sails is that they were extremely heavy which would slow down the ships. Mariners then started to treat their sails with grease and fish oils as they were more efficient when the weather was good and when it turned they would absorb less water which kept them lighter.
Photo: Canvas Sails of a ship during Duluth's Tall Ship Festival 2019
Eventually, they moved from grease and fish oils to linseed oil. Linseed oil worked well but had a few drawbacks such as getting stiff when cold and turning the canvas yellow. Sailors would also take remnants of old sails and turn them into outwear. This yellowing that would occur due to the linseed oil is the basis of the iconic yellow slickers that are synonymous with modern commercial fishermen.
In the early to mid-1900s, wax blends started to replace linseed oil as the preferred treatment. The new wax treatments kept the canvas more breathable as well as fixed the issues that resulted from using linseed oil, the stiffness in the cold, and the yellowing of the canvas.
Waxed canvas was a hit from the get-go in the shipping industry but it also spread quite quickly to the outdoor industry and growing motorcycle community thanks to its weather resistance and durability. Because of these qualities, it was adopted for military use during the first and second world wars. Waxed canvas outerwear remains popular in Australia and the U.K. in the form of Duster jackets and Barbour coats.
Caring for your waxed canvas goods is about as simple as it gets and is quite difficult to mess up. First off, just use your gear, our packs and bags are meant to be used and they only get better with time! But when the time comes that your gear needs some TLC we are here to help.
If your bag just isn’t quite as water-resistant as it once was all you need is a tin of wax and a hairdryer! Rub a small amount of wax on the affected area and then use the hairdryer to heat it up until it all melts in, then you’re good to go! If it needs a little more help than just some fresh wax, get yourself some canvas cleaner. This is great if your bag gets dirtier than you would like (personally we think a couple of stains are a good thing, they add character). Start by wiping off any dirt or debris that is on the pack then spray the dirty section and scrub in a circular motion. Finally, allow the pack to air dry! We have found that sometimes you may need to re-wax the section you cleaned depending on how dirty it was and how much cleaner was used. That's it! Your pack should not need much else to keep it happy and ready for any adventure that you may throw at it!