Photo: Tim Barribeau

It’s been an interesting couple of years for camera backpacks. Seemingly sparked by Peak Design’s super popular bags, suddenly you can find dozens that no longer scream "This is a camera bag, look at how interesting a camera person I am!"

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And while the Wotancraft New Pilot Camera Backpack ($250) borrows more from the super-tough world of military-influenced everyday carry backpacks than it does the sleek lines of Peak Design, it’s still a thoughtfully designed bag that doesn't jump out as a dedicated camera bag.

It's a bag designed to be extremely tough, and to be customized to exactly match your needs, making it well-suited for people who enjoy setting up things to be perfect for them specifically, and who want a bag that they know will make it through thick and thin.

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The bag leans hard into modularity, which you can customize to fit your needs. Wotancraft sells an array of extras that can be added both inside and outside of the bag to really dial it in to exactly how you want to use it, plus the external MOLLE loops are extremely common and standardized, so you can easily find other add-ons that will clip to the outside.

But it’s bulky, can be difficult to lay out properly, and only comes with the bare minimum accessories included in the package.

Key features and specifications:

  • Modular design
  • Tough components
  • Everyday carry styling
  • Pockets on pockets
  • Size: 11 x 17.7 x 6.3 inches (28 x 45 x 16 cm)
  • Weight with dividers: 3.46 lbs (1.57 kg)
  • Laptop pocket size: Up to 16”
  • Total capacity: 18L
  • Example loadout: two full-frame mirrorless cameras, five lenses


A progressively more overloaded and bulging bag. Starting from normal...

Photo: Tim Barribeau

To customize the bag the way I'd like it, I would probably end up buying a few more internal dividers ($7 each), a cord organizer ($30), a "coin" pouch for stashing lenscaps ($20), a waist strap ($30), and if I'm feeling ambitious a pouch for stashing my phone, plus a notebook and pen, where I can get to them quickly ($50). You can pretty easily add an extra $100 to your bag's price this way, though thankfully they're discounted by about 10 percent if you bundle them into your original purchase.

...then with a jacket in the large outer pocket...

Photo: Tim Barribeau

And while the design may not be aggressively "camera bag", the New Pilot is still large – for comparison, the 18L Wotancraft is around as big as a 30L Peak Design Everyday bag.


...finally a cluster of add-on accessories.

Photo: Tim Barribeau

The New Pilot is constructed out of materials that feel like they will last through just about anything. Between the tough Cordura exterior and the MOLLE straps, the bag looks like something out of the everyday carry world. Particularly nice are all the clips and attachments, all of which feel extremely well constructed. It's a bag I wouldn't feel an instant of hesitancy before throwing in the back of a car, plopping it down in the dirt, or accidentally shoulder-checking it into a redwood. Well, maybe if it were filled with fragile gear I'd be hesitant, but the bag? The bag would be fine. It's a great option for people who put their tools through the wringer and want to know it can withstand the stress of use.

Fidlock closures take a bit of getting used to, but once you do they're quick and sturdy. Photo: Tim Barribeau

The fidlock magnetic closure is a nice alternative for the main flap instead of a more standard clip closure. Plus industry leader YKK zippers, and the whole thing is water resistant (including the zips). This look is definitely less in-your-face about being a camera bag than, say, most of what Lowepro or Manfrotto will offer you.


Everyone's favorite: velcro dividers!

Photo: Tim Barribeau

Wotancraft has packed this thing with pockets inside of pockets. The top flap has an internal pocket, and the large pocket on the bag's exterior has two internal pockets. The side access panel that you use to swing around the bag and get to your gear? They’re on both sides, have external stretchy pockets for holding a water bottle or travel tripod, and small internal pockets.

But while many of the bag’s aspects are fantastic, they’re offset by just as many that are frustrating – notably when it comes to size and weight. The thick Cordura exterior and bulky zippers are incredibly tough and hard-wearing, but they’re heavy. And so are all the add-ons you’re likely to want. The padded shoulder straps help distribute the weight, but the New Pilot (like most camera bags) has a stiff rear panel to protect the contents – which is rough on the back. After lugging it through around four hours of constant use when filled to the brim, that stiff back panel made me sweaty and rubbed uncomfortably on my lower back.

Sliding a laptop in and out is way more difficult than it should be.

Photo: Tim Barribeau

For all the focus on pockets, almost each one of them has a notable flaw that’s frustrating. The top pocket doesn’t open very wide, so it’s difficult to finagle large gear in there. There’s a big outer pocket on the front of the bag, but it’s very thin and constrained by a weird shell layer so you can’t actually fit much, and it causes the bag to bulge oddly when you do fill it. And no part of the bag opens widely enough for you to easily access the entire contents and set the layout to perfectly match your camera needs. That means a more difficult time inserting and adjusting all the velcro shapes.

Odds and ends

The returns and warranty situation for Wotancraft’s bag are pretty difficult. The company is based in Taiwan and only has a seven-day return window for the bag, and you’ll have to pay the return shipping for a pretty big and heavy package (and won’t get refunded any taxes you paid). Similarly, while the warranty is for three years (which is substantial) you still need to fork out to get it to Taiwan, but at least Wotan will pay to ship it back.


The Wotancraft New Pilot has me divided. There’s so much about this bag I really like – it’s tough, no-nonsense, and modular. Some factors are annoying to me but by no means dealbreakers: putting together the layout is frustrating, that’s something you’re likely only to set up once or twice; and the bag is bulky (which comes with the style of bag it is, and the tough components). But the difficulty of accessing your gear, and challenging return policy are both frustrating.

"It's great for people who find themselves drawn to the military-influenced side of bags and everyday carry"

The Wotancraft New Pilot 18L is well-suited for someone who wants a bag that can be beaten up and will survive no matter what you throw at it (or throw it at). And it's great for people who find themselves drawn to the military-influenced side of bags and everyday carry, so they're happy with a boxy shape with lots of attachments. But it'll probably do you less well for an all-day camera hike due to its size and weight, or for anyone who likes their tools to be "sleek".

What we like What we don't
  • High quality construction
  • Super modular design
  • Lots of smart extras
  • Subtle (for a camera bag)
  • Add-ons add on price and weight
  • Bulky and stiff
  • Strange pocket design choices
  • Difficult return policy