Wotancraft Pilot is an Almost Perfect Camera Bag 2021


Key Takeaways

The Wotancraft Pilot is a lightweight waxed Cordura messenger-style bag for carrying cameras.The Taiwanese bag is full of subtle, delightful design touches.This is the best camera bag I have ever used—so far.

Charlie Sorrel / Ach5

Every photographer knows it's impossible to find the perfect camera bag—but Wotancraft's Pilot comes really, really close.

The Wotancraft Pilot comes in 7- ($159) and 10-liter ($199) sizes, is fashioned from a waxed Cordura nylon, has a configurable, padded interior, and just enough pockets to hold all your extras. Bonuses include a secret pocket and external straps, so you can expand capacity as needed. I looked at the smaller bag in black. It also comes in khaki.

"In use, the Wotancraft Pilot is fantastic. It has just the right amount of padding."

Problem Solved

There are several recurring problems with camera shoulder bags. The first is comfort. Often the strap cuts the shoulder after a while, or the bag is too boxy, which means that it won't conform to your hip, and also pulls the strap out to the side, making it cut even further into your shoulder. Then, add padding and pockets, and it gets too heavy, fast.

Another big one is accessibility. Some bags are more like soft transport cases. You carry them to the shoot, then set them down. Other bags, like the Wotancraft Pilot, are designed to be accessed while you wear them. This access can be hampered by zippers or other closures that don't stand open.

Then there are looks. Some macho menfolk claim that looks don't matter, but if you gave them a Hello Kitty branded bag or an excellent Kelly Moore camera purse, you'd soon discover the truth.

Charlie Sorrel / Ach5

Too many camera bags look either plain dorky or are just way too technical. And there's a practical factor, too. An obvious camera bag can be a target for theft. The Wotancraft Pilot solves all these problems, easily.

Work It

The Pilot's soft Cordura body is waxed, which renders it more-or-less weatherproof, and looks great. It looks more like canvas than nylon, only it's lighter and tougher. This shell conforms well to your body, and the soft, broad strap is comfortable.

The strap has a shoulder pad that can be slid off the shoulder if you prefer. I use it when the bag is heavily loaded, but prefer the bare strap otherwise.

The bag closes with a single metal clip (there's an optional magnetic clip). This makes it easy to operate with one hand. You can tuck the flap behind the bag, making it easy to work from. The interior is one big space, and included Velcro dividers can split it up.

The front and rear are padded with stiff panels, and the bottom and ends use softer padding. This clever design touch makes it super comfortable.

Charlie Sorrel / Ach5

There's a front zippered patch pocket (with mesh organizer pockets inside), a rear zippered pocket, and two open, elasticated pockets on the ends, which can be used for a slim water bottle. Behind the front pocket sits another pocket, accessible from the sides.

Many reviewers claim it's pickpocket-proof, but I doubt that. I know about pickpockets who can decouple the lens from a DSLR while distracting you with a tourist map.

Wotancraft Pilot vs. Domke F-3X

In use, the Wotancraft Pilot is fantastic. It has just the right amount of padding. I keep my X-Pro3 in there, and there's space for that camera, a couple of extra lenses, and a flash.

Or you can use the provided insert to carry a small laptop or any size iPad (my 12.9-inch fits in there, just). Another setup: One X-Pro3 with lens, one old film SLR with lens, and space between for lenses, or a sandwich.

Before buying this bag, I used Domke's F-3X, a lightweight canvas shoulder bag with a similar configuration. The main differences are that the Domke is roomier, but floppier, and that the Domke has the best end pockets in all camerabagdom.

Every photographer knows it's impossible to find the perfect camera bag—but Wotancraft's Pilot comes really, really close.

They're huge, big enough for a film SLR and lens, but also floppy enough to disappear when empty. The Domke has a wider, more comfortable strap and a looser front pocket.

Both the F-3X and the Pilot are excellent bags. I prefer the Pilot only because it's a little more compact and looks a little better to me. The Domke is a little too floppy when used partially empty.

It's also easier to arrange the interior of the Pilot for my minimal needs. Then again, the F-3X can be customized by dropping in a padded organizer, making it more flexible.

I'd be happy with either the Pilot or the F-3X, but the Pilot is close to perfect for me.