Wotancraft Pilot Backpack Review
The Wotancraft Pilot Backpack is a modular camera pack with a premium build. With add-on modules, its 20L base capacity is able to expand to 36L of total capacity. Overall, it’s a versatile and aesthetically pleasing pack for travel photographers with a lightweight mirrorless set up.
Weight: 1800 g
Main Material: 500D Cordura
Hardware: YKK, Duraflex
Frame Style: Frameless
Weather Resistance: Teflon (exterior), polyurethane (interior)
Dimensions: 30 x 17 x 48 cm
Manufacturing Country: Taiwan
Warranty: 3 Years
Length of Test: 6 weeks
Acquisition: in exchange for our honest feedback, Wotancraft sent us the Pilot with zero expectations. As always, the content of this review wasn’t shared with the company prior to publishing. Just know, our job isn’t to tickle the ego of a gear brand… its to provide you with the insights you need to make a sound buying decision – nothing more, nothing less.
Climate(s): Tropical Savanna
Weather: Hot and Humid (highest temp 34 C), Light and Heavy Rain
The Pilot is designed for:
It’s not designed for:
Main Material: the Pilot’s 500D Cordura nylon is as tough as they come. It’s a military grade fabric that’s been custom spec’d for Wotancraft and features their proprietary wax treatment – giving it a canvas look with a patina effect.
Hands-down, Wotancraft’s Cordura is one of the best materials we’ve ever seen on a pack and its become one of our favorites – alongside Dyneema and X-Pac.
As for the construction, the Pilot exudes top-quality craftmanship and is built to last.
Hardware: the main compartment features water repellent YKK AquaGuard Zippers (#10), which will keep your gear dry in light rain. The zippers themselves have full-grain leather pull tabs attached, giving them a highly premium (luxury) feel.
On the rest of the pack, each pocket features uncoated #8RC YKK Zippers. It’s worth noting that these zippers lack pull tabs – we recommend adding paracord to them.
To round out the hardware, the pack’s side-release buckles and webbing adjusters are all heavy-duty plastic, made by Duraflex and YKK.
Back Panel: foregoing a frame sheet or internal frame, Wotancraft opted to outfit the back panel with two massive slabs of closed-cell foam that are lined with Aerospacer mesh. Naturally, the foam conforms to your body shape while still providing a semi-rigid base of support.
However, we do wish that dual aluminum half-stays or carbon fiber rods were added to increase vertical force distribution. When loaded out with camera gear and filled to its max 36L capacity, this pack gets heavy and a more supportive frame is needed.
With that being said, for day-to-day outings with a sub 9 kg load, the back panel performs well and will rest comfortably on your body.
For all you city dwellers out there, the back panel also includes a nylon luggage pass-through strap.
Since we gave up on rolling luggage many years ago, we can’t comment on how well this MacGyver feature works…
Shoulder Straps: the Pilot’s S-shaped shoulder straps are padded with a dual-density closed-cell foam. They’re comfortable out-of-the-box and feel great with light loads, but the same issue we had with the back panel persists. The shoulder straps just aren’t supportive enough for heavier loads (+11 kg) – they compress too easily and bottom out. Additionally, the straps are also a bit short compared to most daypacks (by ~5 cm).
As for the sternum strap, it’s micro-adjustable via a sliding rail system. The hardware works well and the centrally-placed buckle is convenient, but the webbing happens to be too short for my 111 cm (44″) chest and digs into me. For individuals with a <106 cm (42″) chest, you shouldn’t have any issues.
(note: the shoulders straps are compatible with the Peak Design Capture Clip)
External Pockets: at the top of the pack there’s a fixated brain pocket that’s lashed via two buckles – the pocket is ~2L in capacity and is a great place to store a passport wallet, a small first-aid kit, sunglasses, and a headlamp, with some room to spare.
Just below the brain are two shallow pockets that can store a Buff or lightweight beanie – in our opinion, these pockets seem redundant and aren’t needed.
And now for our favorite feature of the Pilot (drumroll please)… the capacious beavertail. That’s right folks, this panel has massive storage capability that’s split between two pockets. One large vertical pocket that can store a week’s worth of clothing plus a lightweight fleece and a smaller horizontal pocket that can store a lightweight rain shell.
In between the beavertail and the pack, you can easily fit a pair a minimalist sandals – which means the Pilot is a great choice for one-bag travel.
Main Compartment: primarily accessed via side J-shaped zipper openings, the contents of the pack are easy-to-access (even while on-body).
The entire compartment is lined with microfiber and a rigid high-density foam. Combined with the modular dividers, the main compartment offers maximum protection for expensive camera gear and is capable of storing two DSLRs and up to five lenses.
At the back, there’s a padded / suspended sleeve that holds up to a 15″ laptop (or a 16″ MacBook Pro). Access to the sleeve is via the top zippers, which requires unbuckling the brain first – tedious, but nothing to complain about.
For additional organization, optional hoof-and-loop “stick-on pouches” (to store chargers, batteries, and dongles) are also available.
Side Pockets: on both sides of the pack there’s an elasticized pocket that’ll squeeze in a wide-mouth 1L water bottle or a small travel tripod.
Just above the side pockets are daisy chain lashing points, that work in conjunction with a removable buckled fastener to secure larger tripods. In practical terms, this fastener system is a clever feature that we wish more packs had…
Modular Add-Ons: in total, there are three modules that can connect to the pack via YKK snap-on clips: a 1L Accessory Pouch, a 7.5L Travel Pouch, and a 7.5L Rider Bag.
In all honesty, we didn’t use the add-ons much – except for the 1L Accessory Pouch. When fully loaded out with all three pouches, the Pilot became far too unwieldly and bulky to be functional – it pulls your center of gravity backwards and downwards.
Instead of maxing out the Pilot’s capacity, we just recommend sticking to its most basic form plus the accessory pouch (total capacity is much higher than the advertised 21L).
(note: each module comes with a carry strap and can be used individually as a sling)
Carry Comfort: for casual hiking and walking around town with a mirrorless camera set up, the Pilot was a joy to use. When carrying lightweight kit, the Pilot is very comfortable for point A-B hauls, however comfort falls short on all-day technical hikes.
Just remember, the Pilot is heavy when empty (1.8 kg), the harness and suspension system isn’t overly supportive, and it lacks adventure-focused features (trekking pole attachment, etc.). All in all, this pack shouldn’t be your first choice if you need a mountain-capable load hauler… it’s best use-case is for general travel that’ll include non-technical day hikes on well-groomed trails.
Within the context of its limitations… the Pilot is generally a comfortable camera pack.
In our humble opinion, this is the best looking camera pack on the market, bar none.
From an aesthetics perspective, the Pilot doesn’t look like a camera pack – it has an Indiana Jones blended with a WWII rucksack vibe. Looks wise, Wotancraft’s chief designer Albert Yuan, nailed it. When walking around town, people stare at this pack and we consistently get compliments on it. And for lack of better words, this pack is a piece of “rugged eye candy” – it feels like you’re carrying a piece of functional art on your back.
At the time of writing, the Wotancraft Pilot comes in two colorways: black and khaki.
The Pilot is a premium offering that’s priced accordingly. Relative to the competition. Wotancraft uses higher quality materials and has an overall better build quality. However, while the pack is “built-to-last,” the company’s 3-year warranty (for such an expensive bag) is a bit concerning. Although, we have no doubts that this pack will hold up for many years of reliable service.
The primary competition (read: alternatives to consider) for the Wotancraft Pilot are:
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The Wotancraft Pilot Backpack is a unique take on the camera pack genre and is a premium offering that’s worth your consideration.
In our view, it’s a solid pack for a travel and/or landscape photographer that uses a lightweight mirrorless set up. For general travel, urban environments, and non-technical day hikes, the Pilot is one of the best camera daypacks available – since most of its cons are also shared by the competition.
For more information on Wotancraft, see our interview with them HERE.
The Wotancraft Pilot is well-designed, but we’d like for an upgraded version to:
The Wotancraft Pilot Backpack is capable of carrying a two full frame bodies + 5 lenses + 4 batteries + 2 circular filters + minor accessories.
Yes, we were able to fit out 15″ laptop with ease.
Yes, the foldable DJI Mavic drones will fit with ease.
Love the build quality and the vintage WWII aesthetic… this is the best looking “heritage” pack we’ve come across to date.
Even with the carry limits this pack has, we’ve still enjoyed using it. So far durability has been good and there’s no issues to report.
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