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British Millerain and the Ranger Bag

It started with a need. We had set out to create a great, lightweight bag, perfect for packing the essentials in when leaving camp or keeping light for days spent on the water with fly rod and waders. We had a vision of the design and features and the bag came to life but it was clear that finding the perfect material was the final piece of the puzzle. The Venn diagram was drawn and the sweet spot established: we needed a fabric that was tough, waterproof and good looking. This was where the hunt began. 

 

British Outdoor Bag

 

Technology in the 21st Century provides solutions to many of our problems: travel has become easy (if sometimes less exciting), we can shop from our desks and fabrics exist for seemingly every need. However for the Ranger Bag, we ended up looking back, combing through history books until we landed in 1880, where the cutting edge of waterproof fabrics was wax. 

 Boat

 

It all began (as with so many great stories) at sea. Sailors throughout millennia have tussled with the challenge of wet sails adding weight to their ships and the saltwater quickly eating away at the fabric. To combat this they treated the heavy cloth with linseed oil to keep the sails light and efficient in strong winds. However, it wasn’t only the sails receiving a beating from the weather, the high seas were tough on the sailors and often their boats offered little protection, so they improvised and began fashioning leftover pieces of the oiled sailcloth into simple smocks to protect themselves from the harsh conditions. And so, as technology progressed and the sails became lighter, cotton replaced the heavy duty flax of before, and in turn the improvised clothing got better and better. 

 

Workshop

 

In the 1700s, mills began experimenting with purpose designed oiled clothing and Francis Webster Ltd soon perfected the art of weaving cotton and treating it with linseed oil. It wasn’t perfect though and in 1880 a company by the name of British Millerain sought a solution. They found it in paraffin-based waxed cotton which provided the water resistant and breathable qualities of the linseed oil without the deterioration or discolouration of the cotton. 

Commercial fishermen jumped on the waxed cotton and were followed by gamekeepers and farmers. Motorcyclists came soon after, appreciating the warmth and waterproofing of their new coats and jackets, but it was the British army during the Second World War who brought it into the mainstream having adopted waxed cotton as their first choice for waterproof clothing. They were the only military of the era to have waterproofs, which is a remarkable fact to think about, now we live surrounded by a smorgasbord of waterproof fabrics. It wasn't long before spare waxed cotton and army surplus soon found its way into civilian life.

 Waxed Cotton Soldiers

 

Gamekeepers, farmers, commercial fishermen, motorcyclists, soldiers: our attention was firmly grasped. It was a strong lineup of outdoor aficionados who needed fabrics they could rely on so we set about hunting through extraordinary selection at British Millerain. Needless to say, they have not stopped innovating and the selection is vast: lightweight, heavyweight, rip-stop, herringbone, you name it and they’ve done it. We knew we’d found the sweet spot when we came upon their 18oz Tekwax Ranger: a heavy twill treated with an ultra dry wax. This remarkable fabric is extremely tough, waterproof and looks and feels fantastic and the dry wax means there is no need for a lining, keeping the Ranger Bag as lightweight as possible without compromising on durability. 

 

Fera Tan Ranger Bag

 

We are proud to work with British Millerain, a mill that has been operating for six generations now and a true example of great British heritage, who far from being stuck in the past, is still innovating and pushing forward. We look forward to utilising their fabrics in future products, creating generation-enduring pieces that will only become more glorious with age. There truly is joy and history to be found in the humble waxed cotton. 

 

For more insight into the history of waxed cotton, click here and you can find their Ranger Tekwax in our Olive Green Ranger Bag and Tan Ranger Bag.

 

British Millerain