I’ve been on the hunt for a messenger style photography bag that didn’t make me feel like I was carrying a purse for what seems like forever. Most just aren’t very manly, and few offer much comfort on long days. I prefer a backpack. I’ve been telling myself that for over a decade which is why I have 20 of them sitting in my office. With the sale of my Canon bodies and lenses, moving into the smaller Fuji X camera system, I am ushering in a new era of photography gear and maybe how I carry it?
Doing my normal research across numerous photography websites, forums and shopping sites, I came across Wotancraft. Steve Huff has been raving about them for months, and considering I’ve always valued the opinions of his reviews, I went out on a limb and grabbed one. Their City Explorer ‘Scout’ Camera Bag seems perfect for my Fuji X-T1 system. Small enough to not be obtrusive at my side, while large enough to carry just what I need for urban assignments.
Wotancraft is a small company founded by James Chang in 2007. What started as a project to build his perfect camera bag, turned into an obsession to provide the best bags he could. These bags may be coming from the land of big factories, but James has kept Wotancraft small and simple. His Team uses the best possible materials to make what they believe are the highest quality products available. On top of their extensive line of camera bags, you should also checkout their handmade watch straps. I have one strapped to my wrist as this moment I’ve been getting lots of compliments on. More on that later.
The bag arrived in this handsome carrying sack with the Wotancraft logo in leather loud and proud.
It took me no longer than moments to realize this is a premium bag. Wotancraft’s W.A.L. Waxed Canvas is a material I’ve never seen in any other camera bag. It looks incredible, much better than pictures will ever show. The distressed aesthetics of the bag give you the patina you would need years to achieve otherwise. Vegetable tanned leather is also used throughout with sheepskin bottom trim and cowhide straps. The hardware is all high-strength stainless steel and bronze rustproof YKK zippers keep your contents secure inside. A military inspired ‘Remove Before Adventure’ keychain comes with the bag, though I don’t think it matches up with the bags intended audience.
With the top flap back, let’s take a look at the large front pockets. The double snap design works well, though getting them closed with one hand is a chore. It would have been nice to see velcro or magnets here. Snaps are more premium and secure, but if this bag is aimed at the street/urban audience, quick and easy access reigns supreme. I found these pockets useful for memory card holders, business cards, wallet, iPhone and a small external hard drive. They are generous to the bags size, but if you overfill them, the bag starts to become wide quickly.
The padded insert is both lightweight and soft to the touch. The inside is lined with microfiber so your gear never gets scratched. The four dividers are ample for a mirrorless gear setup. I am still building my Fuji X system, but found the bag perfectly adequate for one X-T1 body, 23mm lens, 16-55mm lens (attached to body) and accessories. I use the word adequate lightly because with my RRS L-bracket mounted to the base of the X-T1, it barely fit. This is a small bag built for small camera systems. Battery grips and DSLR bodies should look elsewhere.
Tucked along the inside back behind the padded insert reveals a hidden iPad compartment. You can also fit up to a 10-inch slim laptop, or this would be a good place to stash your secret documents.
One of the other, and main reasons I chose the Scout is it’s ability to keep the wet away from my camera. The W.A.L. waxed canvas on the outside of the bag does a great job wicking water away, but the stock padded insert won’t do you any favors in a downpour. Wotancraft offers this optional X-Tech Weld MKII Inner Bag that is both waterproof and shock resistant. It is also lined with microfiber and comes with the same four dividers holding your gear tight. Take a look at the construction, welded seams and high-end zipper closure. Nothing is getting inside this guy.
Across the lid is a removable ziploc style pouch. A great spot for memory cards, pens, and smaller lens caps. With the waterproof insert closed, the main zipper compartment zipped up and the top flap secured in place, you can rest assured no dust, dirt or water will touch your camera. I spent a few days shooting in Palm Desert setting the bag down countless times in the sand. My gear stayed nice and clean.
Let’s talk a little about the front loop closure system. A few people online, Steve included, mentioned how easily you can work the closure with one hand. An important factor when using a messenger bag as one hand will be grabbing your camera. It may be that I haven’t given the bag enough time to loosen up and stretch, but I found myself rarely looping the strap around the metal stud. It takes too much time to get at my camera with the straps secured. They look great and I love the leather, but once again a magnet running along the inside of the strap would have been better.
I can’t forget to mention one of my other favorite parts of the Scout. The small back pocket has been great for my notebook, passport, metro card and other travel documents. All messenger bags need a quick pocket like this. To top if off, the leather strap running across the top loops over the pocket serving as a rain cover. Side Note: The grain of that leather looks good enough to eat!
I wanted to illustrate the size of the bag with something familiar to most. This is my 15-inch MacBook Pro. The small size makes the bag easy to manage on the street in crowds. I found myself swinging it around in front of me without feeling encumbered.
The removable strap is nice and wide, helping distribute weight across your shoulder. I found it to be better than most in the comfort zone. You are going to have to sacrifice one shoulder when choosing a messenger over a backpack, so make sure whatever bag you choose the strap is nice and wide. The padding along the inside of the Wotancraft strap is plush and the dual utility rings are a nice touch for clipping on extra gear.
Regardless of my nitpicking at small things I would like to see changed in the next rendition of the Scout, this bag is gorgeous, tough as nails and I’m curious to see what it looks like after I ring it through a hard summer filled with travel assignments. So, has this bag convinced me to invest in messenger style bags? Not completely, but it has opened my eyes. I may lean more towards the Minimalist point of view, but I still tend to pack bags more like a Boy Scout (always prepared). It definitely doesn’t look like a purse and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to walk into a meeting with it at my side. I think I’d prefer to call it a satchel, after all, Indiana Jones carried one. Now, where’s my whip?
I’d recommend this bag to anyone looking to outfit their mirrorless or rangefinder style camera system in style. It really compliments the classic good looks of my Fuji X-T1 body stuffed inside. The Scout is a great travel bag that’s going to survive being tossed under the seat on a plane, in the backseat of a cab, knocking into people on the subway or forging through the wet woods of the Pacific Northwest.
Want one? The Wotancraft Scout will set you back $259 or $299 with Waterproof Insert. It comes with their 3 Year Free Repair Guarantee. I received my bag quickly with no issues. After going back and forth with James regarding the bag, I am confident that Wotancraft will treat you right. He is one of the nicest guys I have come across in some time.
Head on over to Wotancraft today to review all their great products and tell them we sent you!
The Scout is a premium camera bag, perfect for travelers who expect the best materials and rugged good looks. If protection and aesthetics are key, Wotancraft bags are what you're after.