Waxed Canvas backpack, front

When I first started thinking about making a back pack, I knew I wanted to use canvas, and I knew I wanted a simple “traditional” design. My goal was to create something that could hold a couple days worth of clothing for a weekend getaway, or be used as an airplane carry-on. Serious hiking, climbing, or long heavy hauling were not factors I considered when designing and constructing this pack. For inspiration, I looked to both the Archival Rucksack and Makr Farm Ruck Sack, which both seem to be nicely designed and well made.

The pack features a double layer of canvas throughout the body and flap for durability and some structure. Ideally, I would have preferred to use one layer of really heavy canvas, but as I mentioned in the post about the canvas I dyed for this pack, I found the canvas on sale and couldn’t pass it up. At the time it was the heaviest canvas available in the store, and while I saved a little money, I should have just bought the right fabric to begin with. All things considered though, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Waxed Canvas backpack, back

All of the blue webbing is polypropylene, and while it isn’t my preferred material, it was easy to work with. Cotton webbing would have been a nice option, but was difficult to find in small quantities. I also thought about using leather for the shoulder straps and flap closure, and on a future pack I may do so. Working with leather, however, requires a lot of practice, special tools, and skills that I haven’t even begin to learn.

For both the shoulder straps and flap closure I used a simple double D-ring setup for adjustments. This works great for the shoulder straps because I don’t need to change the length of those very often, but the D-rings make getting into the main compartment a little difficult. On my next pack, I will probably use different hardware such as a lobster claw, or some type of snap hook to close the top flap.

Waxed Canvas backpack, open

The main compartment closes with a drawstring woven through grommets, which were surprisingly easy to install. I decided to lightly wax the outside layer of canvas with Otter Wax to give some texture, a weathered look, and most importantly, resistance to water. I should probably apply a heavier coat for more protection, but this is something I can do at a later date. I chose Otter Wax because it is a natural product, is environmentally friendly, and is relatively easy to apply.  The two outer pockets have slots for pens/pencils, and close with a jeans style button. There are also several pockets on the inside for thin, low profile items.

Waxed Canvas backpack, wax

Materials and hardware:

(materials are approximate measurements and are usually more than enough)

  • 2 yards heavy canvas
  • 16 ft. 1″ webbing
  • 12 ft. 2″ webbing
  • 8 D-Rings
  • 4 metal slides
  • 2 jeans style buttons,
  • 16 size #1 grommets
  • 2 yards 1/4″ rope for draw string
  • Heavy topstitching thread
  • 5 yards 1″ bias tape, or twill tape to finish inside and top opening seams
  • Fabric dye and wax, optional