Are Wax Jackets Good for Wild Camping?
Mariners used them to buoy the ship’s sails. Farmers use them to shield themselves against the rain. And now, they’re worn by fishermen, hunters, and numerous inhabitants living in the country. Wax jackets have long since made their way into the swanky high-street outlets of London and are considered by many to be a trendy clothing item. Despite this long history of practical use and the later transition to fashion, there’s still one question outdoor activists want to know: are wax jackets good for wild camping?
These days, despite their humble origins, wax jackets are more commonly seen as a fashionable or even luxury item that is worn for looks rather than out-and-out functionality. However, wax jackets are still popular with rural workers, who spend many hours outdoors and face the rough elements daily. So, are wax jackets good for wild camping or are they best left in the wardrobe? Let’s find out.
What Are Wax Jackets?
Wax jackets are made from cotton, or its highly processed cousin, canvas. Wax jackets are then treated with an oil layer to make them waterproof and durable. This combination of materials creates a semi-breathable jacket that is highly resistant to weathering. It can be styled, cut to size, and comfortably fitted into a jacket ideal for outdoor apparel.
Wax jackets are usually worn by gardeners, gamekeepers, and farmers. However, these jackets have gradually shifted from outdoor pursuits to boarding houses, London law firms, and countryside pubs. Due to this contradictory transition, there are a few question marks over the capabilities of wax jackets when worn for outdoor activities such as wild camping. This begs the question, are wax jackets good for wild camping in the modern day?
Using Wax Jackets for Wild Camping
If you are going wild camping in Scotland or hillwalking in the Peak District, you’re going to need a waterproof jacket by your side. Heavy rain, high winds, and low-hanging clouds often plague the vales and fells of the UK which makes waterproof clothing an essential kit list item.
Wax jackets seem like the perfect fit for campers. They are hard-wearing, breathable, and weatherproof. However, they are less commonly seen on the trails than a traditional rain jacket. As they appear to fulfil all the requirements needed for an outdoor adventure, are wax jackets good for wild camping or do they have some faults?
Firstly, wax jackets are expensive. They are considered a branded luxury item and can easily cost £200-300. Even top of the range North Face or Patagonia synthetic jackets seldom cost more than £200. A mid-range synthetic jacket can also be picked up from Decathlon, Mountain Warehouse, or any outdoor retail store for far cheaper.
Wax jackets are heavier than standard rain jackets. The canvas material is more rigid than on a synthetic jacket and this can be somewhat restrictive if you are walking long distances and carrying a hiking backpack. They are harder to fold up and pack down which is a nightmare for lightweight campers. These drawbacks immediately rule out budget backpackers, long distance hikers, or anyone wishing to ramble a few miles before setting up their tent.
Wax Jacket Alternatives
If a wax jacket seems a little pricy for you, try a rain poncho or a waterproof shell jacket. A rain poncho is a cheap and cheerful alternative to a wax jacket. Simply throw on the poncho and it will cover your backpack and body in a waterproof layer. It makes movement a little difficult and it’s useless in high winds, but it may suit someone going on a budget wild camping adventure.
A waterproof shell jacket is probably the most common clothing item for battling the elements. They can be purchased for a reasonable price from many outdoor stores. The water-repellent material will vary, depending on the quality of the jacket you buy. If you purchase a mid-range jacket, it should be breathable, wind-resistant, and waterproof.
Crucially, synthetic jackets are thin and easy to layer with additional clothing. This is a key flaw when debating “are wax jackets good for wild camping?” as they are too bulky to layer effectively. Synthetic jackets are compact and easy to store in a small pack space. Weight and size matter when you are wild camping and a lightweight alternative to a wax jacket is appealing to many people.
Best Wax Jackets to Buy
One of the most famous wax jacket brands is Barbour. The Classic Beaufort Wax Jacket is their most popular seller. The Ogston Waxed Cotton Jacket is another well-sold jacket from Barbour. If you’re looking for countryside walks and forest wild camping trips, check out the Huckberry Flannel-Lined Trucker Jacket. For an extra-durable jacket that can withstand sub-zero temperatures, look no further than the Filson Down Cruiser Jacket. If you want a breathable wax jacket that still offers resistance against foul weather, the Kühl Kollusion Jacket will suit you.
Now we come to the final answer: are wax jackets good for wild camping? Wax jackets are certainly durable and resistant to ripping, perhaps more so than a standard waterproof jacket. They can withstand dirt and water for many seasons and require rewaxing less regularly than a rain jacket needs reproofing. In fact, wax jackets are so long-lasting, they are often passed down between generations.
Of course, wax jackets also offer a certain vintage look that some wild campers may find attractive. Unfortunately, wax jackets are less breathable than Gore-Tex or DWR jackets. They are also heavier, and they don’t fit into a standard wild camping backpack.
In conclusion, are wax jackets good for wild camping? Yes and no. They are robust waterproof garments that survive some hard conditions. If you want a stylish jacket to take on the occasional camping trip, it’s the ideal garment. However, don’t expect to hike long distances and scramble up rock faces wearing one. For that, stick to your standard waterproof jacket and forego the fashion statement!