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Gear of the Year 2021: Chris’ choice – Wotancraft Pilot 10L shoulder bag

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To call 2021 an innovative year for the camera industry is an understatement. Now, you could point out that 2021 was a year of relatively few product releases, hampered by numerous supply chain issues, and you’d be correct. However, what the industry lacked in quantity, it certainly made up for with quality.

The Nikon Z9 became not only the first Nikon flagship camera to rely on an electronic shutter, but also took DPReview’s ‘Product of the Year’ award. Canon revived its Eye-Control autofocus, with a completely redesigned system, unlike anything we’ve seen before. The DJI Ronin 4D video camera combined the stability of a 4-axis gimbal with 6K imaging and LiDAR focusing technology. Jordan Drake and I both used the Ronin 4D, and it lived up to the hype.

Preparing to write this article, I had a difficult choice ahead of me. Reviewing the latest cameras and lenses is a unique privilege, and one that I very much enjoy. However, it is a transient experience. A few days here with a new camera release. A week there with a lens to test. How can something become a favorite when the experience of using it is a fleeting one?

Instead, I looked toward an item of photo gear which is far more consistent. Something which needs to be dependable, functional, and stylish, all at the same time. Something which all of us as photographers rely on every time we head out the door.

At 2.5 lbs with strap and dividers, The Wotancraft Pilot 10L is reasonably lightweight. Its supple materials mold to the body comfortably, and is compact enough to stow in any travel situations.

So my 2021 gear of the year is a camera bag: the Wotancraft Pilot Travel Bag 10L, to be exact. At first glance it portrays a rugged, timeless look. The styling really does speak to me, and I even love the color. Its waxed Cordura construction and vintage rucksack design would be as much at home on the streets of a modern metropolis as on the seat of a World War 2 Jeep. Wotancraft market its bags with images of mountain hikes, motorcycle tours, and camping excursions, and even features their new line of camping accessories. The goal is clear: These bags are made for adventure.

Waxed CORDURA fabric, and weather resistant zippers provide excellent protection for camera gear. The side pouches are very secure due to the strong elastic closures.

Okay, so maybe my beard isn’t quite as dapper as would be expected from the target audience, and I probably won’t ever own a motorcycle. But I have used the Pilot in many kinds of weather, and have taken it through the airport quite a few times, not to mention carrying it around in all our videos for the last six months.

The upgraded ‘Fidlock’ closure opens easily with a quick side motion, and internal magnets will automatically close when brought together.

The clamshell cover folds closed, without any gaps that let in the elements, and all is secured with the a solid black-painted brass hook. It’s supposed to show the brass underneath as it ages. Very Leica-esque! However, I highly recommend the ‘Fidlock’ upgrade which is the nicest magnetic clasp I’ve every used. A quick flick of the wrist opens the lock, and the magnetic design practically closes itself when the flap is closed. The Pilot holds a perfect amount of gear, with a well-designed grippy strap that spreads the weight comfortably. A classic trio of professional lenses with a large camera is no problem.

The Wotancraft Pilot 10L has enough space to hold a classic trio of professional zoom lenses with a camera body. The origami style dividers are slim, and fold in various positions to allow stacking of smaller lenses.

I like the zippered front pouch for all my memory cards and filters. The interior tablet sleeve does double duty as storage for microphones and cables. Attaching Wotancraft’s accessory pouches on the front of the bag provides removable space for power banks, chargers and batteries. The tripod straps on the bottom are expandable for various sizes of tripod, and most importantly, removable if not needed.

Front accessory pouches can be added to the front of the Wotancraft Pilot, expanding its usable storage.

There’s even a zippered back pouch which I’ve never needed to use, but it’s there. Unlike many other bag designs, the open side pouches seal fairly tight, so if I were to place something in them (other than a water bottle) it might actually still be there later in the day.

And yet, for my money, the most useful features are the two loops of webbing on the top of the bag and the hollow tube, if you will, on the front of the bag. Gloves, hoodies, jackets, umbrellas and so much more can be lashed or fed through these loops. They are incredibly useful when traveling or taking photos. The Pilot is a handsome, feature rich bag, that travels well, and stands up to heavy use.

Webbing on the top cover has various storage uses. Sweaters and jackets can be fed through the bag securely. Handy straps on the bottom are wide enough to hold compact tripods, and are removable if not needed.

Even with all the well thought-out features that Wotancraft has designed into this bag, perhaps the best thing about it isn’t a feature at all. For me, the best part of the Pilot 10L bag is that nothing about it has ever annoyed me. I think that’s an under-appreciated factor amidst all the marketing and innovations that make promises of a superior product.

Maybe the best compliment that I can give this bag is that, while I’m using it, I never really think about it at all

A camera bag is a pretty simple thing, or at least it should be. It needs to hold our desired gear safely, and maybe look good while doing it too. However, what makes me really covet a bag is that it does everything I ask of it without ever causing an issue. As good as a bag can be, if it sticks a little bit on the latch, or has hard to open zippers, or is a struggle to get under the airplane seat, the experience will always be tainted, even just a little.

I’ve never had an experience with the Wotancraft Pilot that took me out of the moment or caused me frustration. Maybe the best compliment that I can give this bag is that, while I’m using it, I never really think about it at all.

2021 has been an interesting year, with a few innovative products that, I will admit, gave me a case of ‘Love at first shot.’ However, the piece of gear that turned out to be a long lasting love was hanging off my shoulder the whole time.


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