I have been reading some "make your own gear" forums, and making waxed canvas bags seems to be a popular craft.

I recently did a little research into ripstop nylon (for another SE, here), and it seems to have the same desirable qualities as waxed canvas - tough, strong, waterproof. However, nylon weighs a lot less, so I'd think it would be preferred over waxed canvas for serious hikers and backpackers.

My guess is that for DIY'ers it's mostly aesthetics - waxed canvas bags usually look pretty cool compared to a nylon sack. But I've never used a waxed canvas bag myself, so I'm curious if there are other advantages.

What are some reasons you might prefer a waxed canvas bag over a nylon bag?

  • 3
    It is a tough, nice looking, renewable and ecological product. For backpacking I would never consider it, though.
    – njzk2
    Nov 18, 2016 at 22:20
  • also, ripstop nylon comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on what you want, and with a lot of different coatings for waterproofing
    – njzk2
    Nov 20, 2016 at 23:38

1 Answer 1


Canvass is:

  • More expensive
  • Heavier
  • Easier to repair
  • Easier to waterproof
  • More rugged
  • Once it gets mildewed, it's done forever

Nylon is:

  • Cheaper
  • Lighter
  • Harder to repair
  • Harder to waterproof
  • Less rugged; carry only soft/dull things; don't scrape the ground
  • Mildewed? No problem. Wash with Chlorox, then you're good to go
  • More colorful options

Your answer, therefore, depends on your needs and preferences.

  • 1
    why would nylon be harder to repair? Also, the level of ruggedness varies a lot. 1000D cordura is not the same as 10D sylnylon, Dyneema grid in fabrics also changes a lot the strength of the material, and multi-layers fabrics have other properties (like X-Pac fabrics).
    – njzk2
    Nov 20, 2016 at 23:37
  • Nylon is insanely difficult to work with when creating tear-resistant attachments and seams. Too much stitching, and you essentially cut a line into the fabric; too little, and stitching is weak. If you repair a hole or tear, you're limited to sewing or gluing patches, but you incur a similar risk when sewing, and with gluing, it can work, but not all glues work with all nylon fabric.
    – user11609
    Nov 21, 2016 at 8:36
  • Also, nylon has a tendency to rip. So, if I had a nylon tent or tarp, it would not withstand strong winds, particularly in colder weather - especially when there is snow. I'll trust canvass any day, besides the benefit of it being somewhat warmer, even if not able to stop wind as well. As to siliconized nylon, it can be durable, but the ultra lights used by backpackers is too brittle; I would never use it in rugged conditions.
    – user11609
    Nov 21, 2016 at 8:44
  • @Wigwam, thanks for the insights here! I am little confused by your comment on ripping though, isn't ripstop nylon was specifically made to avoid that?
    – user812786
    Nov 21, 2016 at 12:38
  • @Wigwam we are typically talking about silicone- or PU-coated nylons. On those, sil- or PU-based sealant work well as glue. For attachment points, reinforcements are easy to add. Ripstop goes a long way in limiting the risks of tear. And if you are actually going to compare how fabrics fare in strong winds, compare equivalent weights. A basic 10oz canvas will not work any better than a 10oz nylon.
    – njzk2
    Nov 21, 2016 at 14:42

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