If I were limited to only having one bag, it would probably be a Wotancraft.
People who haven’t owned or used Wotancraft don’t fully appreciate how good their bags are relative to many mainstream bags.
When you get your first Wotancraft, it’s not hard to fall in love with the quality of their bag construction and the attention to detail.
More importantly, you know the bags will last a lifetime and in a world of products made to break quickly, it’s great to see some manufacturers still care about that.
That said, even great bags need updating, and that’s where we are for this review, looking at the newly upgraded 18L Wotancraft Pilot Backpack.
The 18L replaces the current 20L Wotancraft Pilot, and the update comes as Wotancraft modernises many of the bags in their lineup.
Wotancraft calls the Pilot a travel backpack. Whilst it’s a great travel pack, it’s also a perfect everyday camera backpack.
Don’t let the “travel” part throw you off; if you’re looking at an everyday backpack, I’d also include this in your evaluation.
For those of you with the current Pilot, we’ll also try to cover some key differences in this review to help you understand whether this is a worthy upgrade.
Table of Contents
What is the Wotancraft Pilot Backpack?
- Quality and construction
- The perfect travel backpack?
- Not much else
- Exterior (W x H x D) 28 x 45 x 16 cm
- Main Compartment (W x H x D) 27 x 44 x 15 cm
- Laptop Compartment (W x H) 25 x 41 cm
- Side Door Opening (W x H) 13 x 19 cm
- Side Door Pocket x2 (W x H) 12 x 14 cm
- Tripod Straps x2 15 – 23 cm
- Weight with dividers ± 1570 g without dividers ± 1490 g
- Capacity 18 L
- Package Includes main backpack x1, dividers x3, detachable camera insert x1 detachable sternum strap x1 detachable tripod fastener x2
Design and Build Quality
Wotancraft has always been a company that uses top-quality materials and construction, so it comes as no surprise the new iteration of Wotancraft Pilot doesn’t disappoint in that respect.
The crafting on the bag is magnificent. The material is miltary grade 500D Nylon 6 Wotancraft Duelcoat Fabric. This material is lightweight, durable, weatherproof and an upgrade on the previous model.
It offers dual waterproof layers on the interior and exterior to ensure that nothing in your bag will get wet, even in the heaviest downpours.
The use of clips and buckles on the new Wotancraft Pilot is premium in every respect. Nothing on the bag leaves you feeling like an afterthought, or Wotancraft were trying to cut corners.
It’s common to see a good bag let down in small areas, but that isn’t the case here. Wotancraft got it right.
The bag is offered in both black and khaki variants. The khaki offers more mainstream appeal than the camouflage options on some Wotancraft bags.
My wife didn’t like the camo option on my Wotancraft Nomad but indicated she loves the khaki on the Wotancraft Pilot.
I think this broadens the appeal but also means I have to keep a closer eye on this bag to ensure she doesn’t appropriate it.
I like the modular design. It keeps the lines on the bag clean, and the external attachment points look like part of the bag stitching, so they don’t detract from the design.
In short: it’s a well-made, well-constructed lightweight bag that maintains Wotancraft’s original styling aesthetics with a modern feel. And it does so in a way that it doesn’t lose any of the original appeal.
Storage Capacity and Compartments
TheWotancraft Pilot incorporates a modular design that maintains a clean profile. On the front and sides of the bag, you’ll find several loops for attaching additional storage modules to keep the feature-hungry user happy.
The storage capacity on Wotancraft Pilot is 18L which is reasonable. The add-on modules extend this slightly, but nothing drastic like doubling the storage.
Our review pictures include a coin pouch and a phone pouch module. Wotancraft also offers zipperless modules with velcro to attach to the bag’s interior.
These are optional extras, and many are compatible across the entire range of bags.
I don’t carry coins, but the pouch is a perfect fit for my Apple Airpod Pro case. I like having the ability to attach it at an easy-access location so I don’t have to dig around in my bag when I am on a plane.
The bag has numerous access points and compartments. The top access point is accessible with a Fidlock magnetic buckle that works well.
Under the lid, there is a small mesh pocket suited to small items you don’t want lying lose in the bag.
This provides access to a top compartment with a removable camera insert and laptop access.
The laptop compartment is 25cm x 41cm, comfortably fitting a Macbook Pro 16 inch and dwarfs my Macbook Air 13.
One of my minor gripes with some bags is the lack of iPad and Macbook compartments.
In the case of the Pilot, it could fit both in the laptop compartment, being a tight fit if it’s an iPad with a keyboard case; however, the front pocket on the bag fits an iPad comfortably.
The top camera compartment will fit a medium-sized, full-frame mirrorless with a couple of lenses.
The collapsible design is practical and doesn’t impact storage much when not in use, so I am inclined to leave mine in for everyday use.
If I travel with my kids, I’ll remove the top compartment and carry a single body and lens or my Fujifilm X100V. Extra storage with kids is invaluable.
They almost always need an extra piece of clothing or need you to carry something.
You will find two access points to the lower camera compartment on either side of the bag. The bottom compartment allows for a camera and three lenses.
These are hidden behind pouches that can be used for water bottles or a tripod, allowing you to carry two water bottles or a water bottle and a tripod.
Outside these storage areas and the modules, you can access a front compartment with two hidden compartments suitable for passports or a wallet.
I prefer using it to store my 12.9 iPad Pro and keyboard, but Wotancraft has this to be expandable for towels and jackets.
Wotancraft also incorporates straps under the bag. These could be used for clothing, a neck pillow or a sleeping bag.
Protection and Security Features
The Wotancraft Pilot offers a Duelcoat Fabric, which features Nylon 6, a high-density TEFLON coating for repelling water droplets, along with a water-resistant PU coating on the interior.
The PU (Polyurethane) coating has a waterproof rating of 2000mm, comparable to camping tents, ensuring your gear stays dry.
The zippers are all YKK zippers, including the pouches, and the zips on the sides provide a fair level of water resistance one would expect from this kind of bag.
While testing, we encountered numerous storms, and I never felt concerned about the interior. The flaps are long enough to ensure that rain doesn’t creep, even when the wind is strong.
We encountered 40-50 knot winds during our testing, and my biggest concern was keeping myself warm and dry, not the bag.
While the Wotancraft Pilot isn’t lockable, it does provide adequate protection, and the hidden pockets may reduce risks associated with theft.
It won’t be suited as a replacement for something more secure in areas where theft is highly prevalent.
The bag doesn’t look like a camera bag which will reduce targeting of the contents, but it won’t prevent targeting by professional criminals.
Accessibility and Ease of Use
Wotancraft has improved its usability and accessibility over the past few years. They’ve found ways to incorporate modern features without impacting aesthetics which is always a great outcome.
The new Fidlock on the bag is a great improvement over the previous fasteners. The magnetic design makes fastening instantaneous, and opening the bag requires less physical effort.
The flaps are easy to access and reduce the risk of gear falling out, although some may prefer the larger opening of the previous generation pilot. This really comes down to personal preference.
The new configuration may be challenging to get larger gear, like a 100-400 mounted to the camera, but I don’t see this bag as suited to large gear.
Wotancraft has also made the attachment of the additional modules easy with one-touch clips. They aren’t fiddly, but you must get used to the opening and closing mechanism.
Once you have, they work well. Having the ability to move these between the front and side of the bag is also helpful.
If I were going to nitpick on ease of use, I would say that I could probably have used less velcro on the top camera insert to make it easier to remove.
It would also have been nice to have this as a portable insert like the City Explorer, although I don’t know if this would have been possible.
Comfort and Portability
Given this is a travel backpack, there are minimum levels I would expect for any bag in this price range, and Wotancraft meets these.
The padding on the shoulder straps ensures the bag is comfortable, even when carried for extended periods and fully loaded.
Wotancraft has also provided sternum straps and a waist harness, which help with the bag’s weight if you are loading the bag to capacity.
The sternum and waist straps are removable for occasions when they are not required.
Whilst I appreciate the need for these, I very rarely need to use them, so I always prefer being able to remove them, or they get in the way.
The padding on the back of the bag is mesh, and the high-density foam protects your back and provides sufficient airflow, so sweat isn’t an issue.
The handle on the bag is the soft padded kind seen on many modern bags. I believe this style and durability negates the requirement for the older style of plastic handles which were not very comfortable.
It would have been nice to have a handle on the side of the bag, but given the smaller 18L volume, I don’t think this is critical.
Versatility and Travel-Friendliness
As far as travel backpacks go, this falls into the medium range. It’s well within the range of bag regulations and unlikely to get too much attention at airports if you have it a little overloaded.
It will suit most travellers, but wildlife photographers may find the capacity too limiting for longer lenses.
This would leave you with a choice of checking in a hard case or trying to find something slightly larger, which may provide carry-on luggage constraints.
I travelled with a large carry-on backpack and many large lenses, and my shoulders weren’t happy with the prospect.
As a result, I’m in the latter group of using a check-in hard case with decent insurance to ensure I have damage coverage.
One of the first things I look for on a travel bag is a luggage pass-through. Importantly Wotancraft has incorporated this.
If you’re travelling and spending lots of time at airports, attaching the bag to your luggage helps reduce the load on your shoulders.
There are also hidden sleeves specifically designed for travel documents which is a great addition.
These are found in the front pocket, with two zipped passport-sized sleeves accessible from either side of the bag.
They aren’t as covert as some of the previous Wotancraft bags, but this comes down to balancing accessibility with security.
The Wotancraft fits perfectly in the travel photography group, provided you’re not carrying too much gear or larger lenses.
Organization and Accessibility of Accessories
Overall, the Wotancraft Pilot provides a fair degree of versatility regarding the number of compartments and the organisation’s capability.
Add the modular design, and the bag scores even higher.
For small items like camera batteries and memory cards, you can use the two side compartments in the side door or the larger zipped compartment under the lid.
If you need additional capability, the modules should provide more capability.
One thing I do like is the interior velcro modules that work on the Pilot. These include a battery and SD card fastener or one for carrying laptop chargers and cables.
Removing the top camera module allows you flexibility for everyday use while maintaining access to the bottom compartment.
In my case, I always have a Fujitsu X100 permanently located with me in the lower compartment.
It means I always have a camera with me, no matter what. Occasionally I’ll add a second body to the bottom, either with a 24 or 85, depending on what I intend to do.
How I Tested the Wotancraft Pilot Backpack 18L
The Wotancraft Pilot was provided pre-release just over a week before release.
This timed well with some planned travel in Australia, where the bag joined me on various drives, boat trips and social adventures with my family.
The timing was also perfectly aligned with wet and cold storm fronts. This was great for testing the bag and bad for taking our kids on a school holiday.
Needless to say, my wife didn’t appreciate my enthusiasm for the testing conditions, but the bag survived without any issues.
Living on an island teaming with wildlife also provides additional opportunities to test my gear.
I have one minute walk through treed pathways to the beach, giving me plenty of opportunity to test it on hikes along the beach and through the mangroves near our home.
Alternatives to the Wotancraft Pilot Backpack 18L
The travel and everyday market is fairly saturated, so you will find no shortage of alternatives to suit any design/weight requirement.
I’ve picked three, but there are probably over a hundred if you look hard enough.
The Wotancraft Pilot is one of the pricier models, coming in slightly more than the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, although I feel the quality on the Wotancraft is substantially higher than the Peak Design.
The Peak Design carries a similar design with side access to camera gear.
Another good alternative is the Wandrd Pvrke 21, a great quality bag I tested on a trip to Austria.
I loaded it well beyond what the poor bag was designed to carry, and although it survived, I felt the softness of the frame was never quite the same. It also provides side access to camera gear and storage at the top.
The Prvke provides more flexibility for longer lenses, but the softer frame could be uncomfortable for extended carry.
The Mindshift Backlight is also offered in a similar storage combination with an 18L version.
This is closer to a camera back than an everyday or travel bag, but it would suit those who intend to carry more gear.
Price and Value for Money
Priced around AUD350 (USD250), the Wotancraft Pilot isn’t suited to every user. Believe it or not, it is worth every cent.
I like to use the cliched “you get what you pay for” when it comes to camera gear, and bags are no exception to that rule.
Buy a cheap bag, and you’ll probably be looking for a new one at some point in the near future. Yes, Wotancraft bags are pricey, but they are also good value for money.
My view on bags like this is that the quality and construction of this bag will ensure it lasts twice as long as a cheaper bag.
The construction also means it will maintain its premium look long after a lower-cost option has gone to the camera bag graveyard, and there isn’t a big market for used camera bags.
I have seen my fair share of camera bags, and I have also seen many of them destroyed over the years from overloading or just heavy use.
A few of my bags have maintained their original state, and none were budget models. Every one of my Wotancraft bags still looks like new.
Is the Pilot suited to everyday use?
Yes, it’s definitely a good everyday backpack.
Can the Pilot hold a Laptop and iPad?
Yes, the laptop compartment is thick enough for both an iPad and Laptop, although I prefer to put mine in the front compartment.
Is the Pilot waterproof?
It’s not completely waterproof, but it will keep the content dry in heavy rainfall due to the materials’ quality.
Are the interior camera dividers removable?
Yes, the top camera insert is removable, and the dividers at the bottom of the bag can also be removed.
Are the external modules included in the price?
Except for the camera insert, the modules are an optional extra. They are all reasonably priced.
Wotancraft Pilot Backpack Review | Conclusion
One of the hard things about reviewing Wotancraft bags is finding things wrong with the bag.
You have to nitpick to find faults, and I know I am not the only reviewer with this problem. They are really that good.
The Wotancraft Pilot is another excellent upgrade from Wotancraft and is already my first choice of everyday bag.
I’m thinking of hiding an Airtag in it in case my wife steals it, as she has been eyeing it since it arrived.
They aren’t perfect, although some of it comes down to personal preference, but they are pretty close to being perfect.
I like that in a world where cheap and disposable is the modern way, Wotancraft has made a business and built a reputation for products that last a lifetime.
Yes, they are pricier than many bags, but in this case, you do get what you pay for. This brand isn’t getting by on its name.
Your Wotancraft is going to outlive any of the more budget-friendly alternatives.
In summary, I’d highly recommend considering this if you’re looking at a travel or everyday bag.