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The Best Waxed Canvas Jackets for Wet Weather

Protect yourself with one of these water-repellent options.

collage of three jackets
Huckberry, Filson, Orvis

Waxed canvas jackets are readily associated with rugged outdoorsmen and skilled tradesmen. It makes sense. The fabric used in modern-day versions of this style draws inspiration from hard-wearing jackets made by early sailors, who originally crafted jackets from oiled sailcloth. In the early 20th century, textile mills developed a process for finishing cotton with paraffin wax, creating fabric that was flexible, warm, durable and weatherproof.

What Is Waxed Canvas?

Though many brands have adopted lightweight waterproofing technologies like Gore-Tex, countless companies still produce hard-wearing waxed canvas outerwear. It's tough, water-resistant and has gone largely unchanged over the past century. Although it's occasionally been adapted to suit newer silhouettes, the trusty treatment still works well to this day, in spite of new, synthetic materials and membranes.

Because long before there were synthetic fabrics, before Gore-Tex and “weatherproof breathability," there was thick cotton and a can of wax. Early sailors realized that wet sails caught the wind better than dry sails, but wet sails were too heavy and slowed the ships down.

The solution was rubbing oil into the sailcloths, making them more efficient and also water repellent, so they stayed light in the rain. The sailors started cutting jackets out of the oiled sailcloth for themselves, wearing early editions of the rain jacket, but these primitive designs, made with linseed oil, became stiff in the cold and faded in color.

"Waxed cotton is one of the oldest natural functional fabrics, dating back to the 15th century," says Nick Kemp, design manager at Huckberry (one of our favorite brands for waxed jackets). The material was ideal to help keep people dry with minimal weight added, Kemp tells Gear Patrol.

In the early 20th century, manufacturers developed a process for combining cotton with paraffin wax. The new material made for flexible, warm, durable and waterproof clothing that was quickly adopted by soldiers, outdoorsmen and sailors.

Since then, a slew of synthetic, breathable and waterproof fabrics have been developed — and used in those lightweight Arc'teryx jackets everybody wears. But a few companies have stuck with waxed cotton, which remains much more suited to workwear and carries the look and history of a real outdoorsman.

"A great waxed jacket is more relevant than ever, especially for guys looking for a natural-fiber, functional fabric that gets better and ages with every wear," Kemp says.

Is a Waxed Canvas Jacket Right for You?

How waterproof are waxed canvas jackets?

Although waxed canvas is super water resistant, it is not technically waterproof. In order to be waterproof, something must have a seal or be virtually impervious. Waxed canvas is not. While the waxy layer creates a membrane that repels water, when fully submerged or exposed for a prolonged period, these jackets will soak through, leaving you wet underneath. They're good for steady, even heavy, rain, but no more.

How warm are waxed canvas jackets?

This depends on whether your waxed canvas jacket is lined. While a standard waxed canvas jacket is pretty warm on its own, it won't do you any good in a snowstorm or on a windy winter day. That is unless it's lined with flannel or another insulating fabric. Flint and Tinder's waxed canvas jacket, which is our top pick, comes flannel-lined for year-round wear.

"A guy should look for a waxed jacket that they feel that they can wear as often as possible and fits seamlessly into their wardrobe," Huckberry’s Kemp says. "The true draw of waxed jackets come out as they are worn, age and mold to the wearer."

Are waxed canvas jackets breathable?

Waxed canvas jackets are water resistant because the wax layer creates a membrane that blocks out water. As such, a waxed canvas jacket is nowhere near as breathable as an unwaxed cotton canvas jacket. Truthfully, the difference is incredibly obvious. If it's a little warm out, you'll certainly sweat in a waxed canvas jacket, but most folks wear this style in fall and winter when it isn't especially hot.

How to Re-Wax a Waxed Canvas Jacket

The best part about a waxed jacket is that it isn't a finite finish. You can re-wax it whenever it needs touched up, and, if you do, ideally own it forever. For first-timers, you can tell a jacket needs to be re-waxed by its appearance. The areas where the wax has been worn out will appear lighter than the oily, dark patches around seams and indentations.

Unlike a selvedge denim jacket, with unique, deep fades suited to each wearer’s body — the more faded a denim jacket is, the cooler, some might say — a waxed jacket needs more TLC to maintain its functionality.

You can re-wax a jacket in four easy steps.

  • Clean and Prep Your Jacket
  • Apply the Wax
  • Heat the Applied Wax
  • Dry, Wipe and Wear It

    For easy-to-follow instructions, read our guide to re-waxing waxed canvas jackets.

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        How We Tested
        a collage of 2 hanging jackets
        Evan Malachosky

        Our tester spent months with our top two options, the Flint and Tinder Flannel-Lined Waxed Trucker Jacket and Filson's Tin Cloth Short Lined Cruiser Jacket. They wore them in the rain, during a snowstorm, out on a busy city sidewalk and to dinners, too, where the waxed black look of Filson's option could pass for leather from afar.

        They surveyed how both fit — our tester is a true large — and whether one really needs a fuzzy liner like flannel. Below, they offered insights on both, but also a dozen more worthwhile picks.

        To learn more about our testing methodology and how we evaluate products, head here.

        Best Overall Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Flint and Tinder Flannel-Lined Waxed Trucker Jacket
        Best Upgrade Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Filson Tin Cloth Short Lined Cruiser Jacket
        Best Affordable Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Best Made Co. Barn Coat
        Duluth Trading Co.
        Best Stylish Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Rogue Territory Supply Jacket
        Best Western Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Freenote Cloth Riders Jacket
        Manready Mercantile
        Best Lightweight Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Flint and Tinder Bighorn Waxed Jacket
        Flint and Tinder
        Best Organic Cotton Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Taylor Stitch Pathfinder Jacket
        Taylor Stitch
        Best Machine Washable Waxed Canvas Jacket
        L.L. Bean Double L Waxed-Cotton Upland Coat
        Best Classic Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Barbour Ashby Wax Jacket
        Best Vintage-Inspired Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Peregrine Bexley Waxed Jacket
        Best Waxed Canvas Jacket for the Field
        Tom Beckbe Tensaw Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Tom Beckbe
        Best Everyday Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Kuhl Outlaw Waxed Jacket
        Best Waxed Canvas Shirt Jacket
        Cole Haan Waxed Cotton Rain Jacket
        COLE HAAN
        Best Workwear Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Stio Turnbolt Waxed Canvas Jacket
        Best Waxed Canvas Jacket for Rain
        Burrows & Hare Trinity Wax Jacket
        Best Sherpa-Lined Waxed Jacket
        Outdoor Research Lined Chore Jacket
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        jacket and dog

        Explore the following guides to find more of our top jacket recommendations.

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