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Top 5 Reasons Waxed Canvas is Better Than Plastic

Waxed canvas - what is it, why should you use it, and how does it stack up to its counterpart plastic?

 

Canvas can consist of numerous substrates, yet the most typical properties are of a pure cotton base, occasionally mixed with a smaller percentage of linen (which is a derivative of flax). Canvas can also be comprised of hemp, although this option is far less common than the two formerly mentioned choices. Canvas is durable, simple to manufacture, and perfectly applicable to a vast number of demanding activities such as hiking and sailing; for this reason, the textile has been used for hundreds of years in these environments. Waxed canvas, though, came later when British sailors realized their sails caught wind more effectively upon the application of certain oils available at the time. Thus, the infamous “waxed canvas” slowly became more and more prevalent in society. The use of this material went further yet in the outdoors community - both in occupation and recreation. To this day avid outdoor enthusiasts utilize waxed canvas due to its numerous unique properties, allowing it to still (after all these years) supersede materials such as plastic. Without further ado, we present to you the “top 5 reasons waxed canvas is better than plastic”.

Waxed Canvas Is Eco-Friendly We’re not going to get all “hippie-dippie” on you, but there is something significant to mention in regards to the environmental impacts of waxed canvas, comparatively speaking. Canvas is completely biodegradable, lasting only a short period of time if left unattended in a wilderness setting (years), whilst plastic can continue decomposing for millennia - literally. A plastic bag (and other plastic consumables) can literally last 1000 years in a ditch, ocean, or a tree before completely decomposing. Lest we forget the microplastics, too. Microplastics are devastating to wildlife - us included - and are a byproduct of the plastic decomposition process. 

 

Waxed Canvas Ages Well

Are you fashionable? Are you one for class? Do you prefer things of artisan-like quality, compared to mass-produced products that hold no artistic and unique value? Well, we’re with you. The interesting thing about waxed canvas is that instead of decreasing in quality over time, it actually improves! Now, we’re not saying that the durability facet of it increases over the years - that would be a blatant lie. But, unlike plastic, the aesthetic aspect of waxed canvas genuinely improves over its years of use. Plastic, on the other hand, becomes stained all different types of colors, sometimes picks up an unpleasant smell, and overall, certainly doesn’t do the job of pleasing one's eyes. If you’ve ever seen an old Tupperware, you’ll get what we mean.

Waxed Canvas Isn’t Toxic

First off, let us clarify what we mean by “toxic”. We’re not referring to a state of toxicity that will cause immediate harm but instead one that causes damage over time at a slow and consistent pace. Despite the stigma around those who’re constantly banging the “phthalates” drum isn’t entirely positive, the individuals do raise serious concerns about long-term health consequences of ingesting such chemicals. Following research done by numerous credible institutions, a general consensus has been reached pointing to the ill effects of their ingestion.  Waxed canvas, on the contrary, doesn’t hold ANY of these toxic properties. There aren’t any durability chemicals introduced in the creation process (literally growing cotton), nor is the waxing oil pumped full of such chemicals. Stay free of phthalates and use waxed canvas!

 

Waxed Canvas Is Wicked Tough

Let’s talk about toughness. Plastic does hold some “strength” in this regard, but only to a certain degree, and only under certain conditions. Plastic is difficult to tear when there are no lesions in the material; as soon as the smallest lesion does appear, the entire product becomes subject to failing under any sort of stress. With waxed canvas, we find this doesn’t happen to nearly the same degree. If a small tear appears, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, the integrity of your item may deteriorate to a degree, but it will still be very usable - much unlike plastic. Plastic is prone to losing any viability as a useful material as soon as there’s a “chink” in its armor. What we mean by that is any puncture, any slight tear - any damage - means a significantly less utilizable product.

 

Waxed Canvas Is Repairable

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about repair. Imagine you’re trekking through the bush with your expensive plastic gear when a stick jutting out from the side of a tree punctures through your bag; it’s still usable, but you don’t know for how long. You’re on a 3-day hiking trip in the middle of nowhere and now you have damaged gear. You’re left vulnerable. The worst part? How in god’s name could you ever possibly rectify this situation through the use of your extensive bushcraft knowledge? You can’t strip the bark off of a tree and mend the puncture, that would only make the damage worse. You can't even solder the bag together, the material would simply fall apart. You get the idea - plastic gear just isn’t that repairable, ESPECIALLY with the materials we find in a natural setting. Our pick, waxed canvas, is 100% repairable. Have a hole ripped in your bucket bag? Patch it with a needle, an old rag, and a little bit of thread. Even with the waxed aspect of it it’s completely repairable. Anything in this department of waxed textiles can be modified or restored to its original functionality, the only limiting factor being your know-how. With plastics, all the know-how in the world won’t repair your torn bag to anything resembling its previous state.

Conclusion Yes, waxed canvas is “old tech” by common standards, but it’s dependable as heck. Maybe it won’t be as light - it certainly weighs slightly more than plastic - but you can always depend on it working. That’s why we see the most knowledgeable survivalists still using such products instead of switching over to the newer and so-called “better” synthetic alternatives. It’s our candid recommendation that if you're planning on participating in any lengthy or strenuous bushcraft adventures, that you purchase yourself some good-old waxed canvas gear.

Written by Dallas Emigh for PNWBUSHCRAFT


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