Alright, I know what you’re thinking. A Wotancraft Pilot 10L review? Not exactly the kind of stuff that gets a shutterbug super excited, I will admit.
Here’s the thing though: as much as we like to gush about the latest and greatest in camera tech or the most fabulously sharp lenses in the world, there are other parts of our gear that are just as important.
The humble camera bag is one example of this. For decades, photographers have used just about any kind of bag they could get their hands on to transport their cameras, lenses, filters, film, batteries, and whatever else they might need.
Many still do so today. That is why the appeal of a high-end, dedicated camera bag can be hard to understand at first glance.
The Wotancraft Pilot 10L is not just one such purpose-built camera bag. It also sells for an MSRP of $209.
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That makes it a significant purchase for the vast majority of photographers, to say the least.
Because of that, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of such a piece of gear with some degree of care.
After all, $200 carries the same weight no matter whether it’s spent on a bag or a new lens!
Without further ado, let’s take a good long look at the Pilot 10L and find out!
- Appearance and First Impressions
- Functionality and Storage
- Durability and Build
- Drawbacks and Shortcomings
- The Bottom Line
Wotancraft Pilot 10L Review – Appearance And First Impressions
At first glance, the Wotancraft Pilot 10L looks and feels like the quintessential adventure bag. Its design evokes imagery of pioneers and explorers of the modern-day, hiking through dense jungle.
In other words, it’s timeless and talks business. Wotancraft pretty much nailed it in the looks department.
I am personally partial to the black version of the design. Others might prefer the more vintage-looking khaki brown.
The bag’s whole exterior is made from brushed Cordura, a proprietary synthetic material that mostly consists of nylon.
Specifically created for excellent durability, the one used in the Wotancraft Pilot 10L in this review has a texture very similar to traditional cotton or hemp-based canvas. It looks great too!
What’s more, Cordura is significantly lighter while at the same time being much more resistant to tears.
Another bonus of using Cordura is that it’s really child’s play to keep it looking good. Cleaning is as simple as a wipe-down, and there are very few kinds of stains that will set in deeply.
If you plan to use the Pilot in the kinds of environments that its Indiana Jones-y appearance suggests, then that’s a nice feature to have.
In all other respects, the bag feels as tough as it looks. First impressions may not be everything, but if they matter at all, then the Pilot definitely collects some points for that alone.
Wotancraft Pilot 10L Review – Functionality And Storage
Of course, a bag’s usefulness goes far beyond its appearance and choice of fabric. Ultimately, it’s meant for carrying things. In this case, very expensive photo gear, whilst keeping it protected from the elements.
How does the Wotancraft Pilot 10L do that?
With the Pilot sitting right side up, you have a top-side handle and a well-balanced shoulder strap right within reach. The shoulder strap is mounted as it should be – on solid buckles that feel like they’re going to last a very long time.
For comfort and a secure fit, the strap also has very broad and thick padding.
However, the single piece dominating most of the bag’s face is the large central latch securing its contents from front to back. It wraps around most of the bag crosswise, doing a Y-split near the top.
Whether that design meets your particular taste or not, the practicality is key. Even the straps used for the latching system have a double use, and can easily be used to store a rain jacket under.
The Latch System
This is not just any old latch, mind you. Wotancraft put quite a lot of effort and care into designing what they call their “G-Hook Latch System”, and it shows.
In simple terms, imagine the Wotancraft latch as two canvas straps hooked together with an L-shaped metal piece.
To unlatch, you firmly grab that piece and yank it to the side, making sure to slightly twist it at the same time so it falls out of the strap fully.
If that sounds slightly finicky, well every now and then it can be. If you have a heavy camera in-hand, it can be a challenge.
Seemingly anticipating the frustration many would have with this, Wotancraft offers a proprietary replacement for the Latch System. It’s called the Fidlock, and it works with magnets.
To unlock, you just slide one piece of the latch using an easy-to-grasp groove. Vice versa is even easier – the magnets basically allow it to lock itself into place. A fantastic solution.
Needless to say, it is the Fidlock that operates with much more finesse.
The catch? The Fidlock adds an entirely superfluous $8 to the list price of the Pilot 10L. Of course, paying eight dollars extra for a bag that already costs more than $200 hardly feels like extortion.
At the same time, it begs the question: why force consumers to pay for something that should be standard anyway?
Ultimately, the latches on the Wotancraft Pilot 10L are very practical but they can be an inconvenience. A minor one that some experience can help overcome, but a nuisance nonetheless.
Still, all you have to do is opt for the Fidlock to forget about them. If only Wotancraft had made the Fidlock standard and the G-Hook an optional accessory…
Pockets, Pockets, And More Pockets
The most stylish and sophisticated piece of apparel is still good for nothing if it doesn’t carry what it should with ease. In that vein, let’s take a look at the kinds of storage you get with the Pilot.
Immediately upon handling the Wotancraft Pilot 10L for the first time in this review, it became apparent to me that the designers thought of this issue very strongly.
The bag contains numerous storage solutions tailored to the pro photographer‘s needs.
The largest compartment is on the inside, accessible by a huge clamshell-style flap. This itself is held in place by the aforementioned central latch.
Opening it, you’ll find a thick, padded interior. Roomy enough and very supportive, it can be decked out with dividers in numerous configurations depending on your load. Three sturdy dividers are provided and with the velcro-style attaching system, the interior of the bag can be customised to fit your needs.
All in all, the inside volume of the bag is good for a full-frame camera body plus two zooms, or perhaps half a dozen compact primes stacked together.
On the back of the bag and on the front hidden by the latch, you also have one additional zippered pocket each for slimmer items.
Everything from filters to spare batteries, flashlights, screen protectors, memory cards, and more should easily fit in here. However, the options for internal storage don’t end there, as we will see shortly.
All the zippers on the Pilot are genuine YKK jobs and feel snappy. They also stay hidden when zipped up, which helps the bag look just that much more inconspicuous.
The flanks of the bag also have their own pockets, which are more like pouches. They are opened and closed by an elastic that tightly wraps around the contents.
This is great for items that need to be quick at hand. The secure fit and large volume also make them a good option for fitting things like water bottles, for instance.
Further Storage Solutions
Besides pockets, the Pilot 10L has a few more tricks up its sleeve to keep your gear safe and secure.
One of these is the smartly designed loops. The bag features a total of six – two on the top, two on the front, and two on the bottom.
While the bottom loops are meant for strapping in a tripod, the rest are fairly universal. You can use them to hold jackets or other pieces of clothing in place, for example. Or you could pass through something like an umbrella!
These loops don’t just add a great deal of customizability to the design. They also, dare I say, just work.
They expand the amount of stuff you can carry without any loss in terms of fit or function.
As if all that storage wasn’t enough, the Pilot also includes a way to further expand your gear-hauling capabilities.
The front storage loops do double duty as a mounting point for any of the four available add-on pouches. Wotancraft calls these Modules, and they start at $20. The larger-sized Modules go for $45.
The two smaller pouches are fitted to hold a phone or a stack of lens caps and some filters, respectively.
They take up very little space and allow you to keep using the strap with the Module in place.
The bigger Modules are too large for that, but they offer a lot more versatility in exchange. Roomy enough to hold a single lens or a combination of smaller accessories, you can get them either with a drawstring closure or a zippered one.
All in all, the Pilot 10L punches far above its weight in terms of storage. While it won’t haul absolutely everything you throw at it, it still allows you to pack a whole photographic outfit in a secure, efficient manner.
Wotancraft Pilot 10L Review – Durability And Build
On paper, the Wotancraft Pilot 10L looks like a terrific piece of kit that can hold a ton of gear despite its compact size while keeping it protected. At the same time, it’s also satisfyingly light, coming in at 2 1/2 pounds unloaded.
But none of that will amount to much if the Pilot doesn’t last very long. Bags like these are pointless if they can’t survive some abuse out in the field, so abuse is exactly what I did to this bag – for science, of course.
The result? The Wotancraft is one tough bundle of fabric, that’s for sure. The Cordura lived up to its lofty description, staying free of stains and tears no matter where I went.
Likewise, it refused to stretch or lose shape, and especially when loaded up the bag felt almost excessively rigid without getting uncomfortable.
The canvas can get scratched, and the brass on the latch does lose its paint, so I don’t see the Pilot remaining aesthetically blemish-free down the line.
But believe it or not, Wotancraft actually advertises this as a bug, not a feature. They even compare the wear on the black-painted brass to that on a classic Leica.
As an admirer of Leica cameras myself, that might be a stretch. Still, I think it’s safe to say that the Pilot finds a way to look cool and keep going even when it’s a bit messy. It’s not unlike, say, a Land Rover in that way.
Even the zippers, usually the most problematic parts of any bag, functioned smoothly and effortlessly in my example.
As well as being a very robust bag, it also fairs very well in bad weather. The Cordura beads water on it’s surface but doesn’t saturate. I was unfortunate to be caught in a heavy storm during my testing and was very thankful for it’s water repelling skills.
It’s best to avoid the wet stuff where possible, but it is reassuring to know that if you are planning long days out shooting, if you are caught out by the weather, you have some degree of protection.
Wotancraft Pilot 10L Review – Drawbacks And Shortcomings
Of course, no camera bag is all sunshine and roses. Even the best of the best can’t break the laws of physics or reinvent the wheel. The Wotancraft Pilot is no exception.
Lack of Storage
First off, there’s the bag’s size. Ten liters is already not a lot of volume, and especially those lugging around full-frame kits with multiple bodies and heavy lenses will agree.
True, the Pilot does try to make the most out of its diminutive dimensions with its add-on pouches and smart layout. But in the end, a small bag is a small bag. And for some, the Pilot just won’t have enough internal volume.
This issue becomes more apparent when you use the provision for an internal laptop compartment. Essentially, this uses the Pilot’s storage flaps to cut off about a third of the bag’s interior space.
Not only does this decrease the amount of camera gear you can take with you significantly, but it also throws off the bag’s weight quite a lot.
It seems that the weight balancing of the Pilot was mainly tested on lenses and camera bodies – rightly so, many would say.
Still, this means that with a laptop inserted, the rigid Cordura really doesn’t do you any favors and makes the bag flop around, slapping you in the hip or back with each step.
This is all completely subjective though as the bag itself is designed more as an ‘everyday carry’ bag, rather than a fully-laden unit for hauling everything you own. It is worth considering your own personal needs in this department. A small laptop, mirrorless camera and accessories would be plenty portable. Large kits may require larger storage.
All in all, the tough build of the Wotancraft Pilot 10L was one of its strong points throughout the review.
Still, there were some shortcomings here and there.
For example, remember how I pointed out the brass central latch and those solid metal buckles holding the neck strap in place? Unfortunately, all the other straps and loops on this bag are secured with plastic clips.
While they look tough and didn’t show any signs of weakness during testing, they don’t inspire nearly as much confidence as the rest of the design and from a personal view point, metal may have been more reassuring.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. For all it’s very minor (though noteworthy) flaws, the Wotancraft Pilot 10L featured in this review is an excellent camera bag by any measure.
In practical terms, I think it will delight the vast majority of photographers as long as they are compatible with the form factor.
The problem is, Wotancraft isn’t handing these out as part of some philanthropic good deed. They’re charging us for the luxury, starting at $209.
And it only goes up from there – with the Fidlock and two add-on pouches, you’re already at $257. Kit it out with all of the available extras and we’re talking about a whopping $347!
And then there are shipping and import taxes, too! Remember, these little guys need to get to you, wherever you are in the world!
Is this pile of money worth all that the Pilot 10L is?
Of course, only you can answer that question for yourself, but let’s think about perspective for a moment. How much of the total worth of your photography gear combined would the Pilot’s list price take up?
For some, it might be fifty percent. For others, it might be closer to five.
There’s no denying that something like the Pilot 10L will largely appeal to the more materially fortunate segment of the photographic community. But what about value? It is certainly well made and inspires confidence that your gear is in a safe place. How much value can you put on that?
Do you really need to spend this much on a camera bag is a question that only you can answer.
Where Does The Wotancraft Pilot 10L Fit In The Market?
Let’s take a closer look at that question.
For sure, you’ll find many acceptable options at less than $200, less than $100 even. But at such price points, the performance you’ll have to expect will be a far cry from something like the Wotancraft Pilot.
Materials will be of lower quality, fit and finish won’t be up to snuff, and you will probably not have as many customization options. You get the idea.
From a purely objective standpoint, the price spectrum ranging from $200 to about $300 provides the best value by far. Pricier camera bags are almost exclusively tailor-made leather affairs. These provide the peak in form, function, and feel.
Of course, it goes without saying that the sole downside is the dizzying cost.
On the flip side, your value proposition at far less than about $125 isn’t looking so sunny, either.
Most camera bags at this price point will be rather undistinctive, made-in-China affairs. You might get something with the same packing capacity as the Pilot, but nowhere near the reliability, fit, or toughness.
Especially near the bottom of the barrel, it’s exceedingly difficult to find camera bags that were even purpose-built.
This doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. For years, I used a no-name messenger bag from the department store for all my gear.
It wasn’t even intended for photographers, but it cost about $25 and had small zippable compartments that were the perfect size for the filters and other accessories I use. Needless to say, it’s looking a little bit less solid now, years later, with a lot of popped seams and scratched canvas.
But for those on a smaller budget, generic bags like these remain a worthy, usable option.
Wotancraft Pilot 10L Review – The Bottom Line
As photographers, we are constantly on the move. Without the outdoors, our art form, our hobby, and our line of work just wouldn’t exist.
This is why our needs with regards to the equipment we take with us into the field – and the kind of treatment it needs to be able to survive – tend to be set so high.
Not all photogs are adventurers who venture out into the rainforest on an average Wednesday morning, but a surprising number of us are. This fact is what led to the creation of something like the Wotancraft Pilot 10L you saw in this review.
It’s a rugged, extremely durable piece of kit sold at a price point that a non-photographer would be able to justify. But for those who need a way to reliably haul around a full set of gear – a camera, a set of lenses, a tripod, clothing, and more – and look good doing it, this is a top-grade choice.
Sure, it has its design quirks. Those with a particular affection for the Wotancraft might call them “endearing character flaws”. But for what it is, a highly practical and customizable storage solution that also pleases the eye, you really can’t complain.
If you’re in the market for a new storage solution for your kit and you don’t mind the price point, I’d recommend it without reservation.