The Wotancraft bag company is an up and coming brand that has been making a name for themselves. They are most known for their handmade quality and World War II styling, which features a mixture of waxed canvas and leather. The Commander backpack is no different; with enough room to store a full professional kit, this backpack has the looks and features to make any photographer happy. But how does it hold up to real-world use?
The first thing I noticed is that the build of this bag is amazing. Not a single component feels flimsy or breakable. This is due to the fact that the entire bag is handmade from premium materials. The only problem is that with the words “handmade” and “premium materials” comes a high price tag ($769). But in addition to the bag, you also get a three-year guarantee with free repairs, which is a nice addition.
The bag consists of two main compartments. The top compartment is similar to most camera bags. It has a top flap that opens up to reveal a padded insert with adjustable dividers. The good thing about this area is that the padded insert is fully removable, which gives you the option to pack other things besides camera gear. There is also a side zipper that gives you access to this area without needing to open the top of the bag. I took this backpack on a week-long trip to Belize and was able to fit all my clothes in the top compartment. All I packed was shorts and tank tops though. Had I needed to pack jeans or warm clothing, the room would have quickly ran out.
The bottom compartment is similar to other backpack-style bags with openings on either side that give you access to the contents. The benefit of this is that you have access to your gear without needing to take the backpack all the way off. All you need to do is remove one shoulder strap, swing the bag around, then open the compartment to remove your gear. The padded dividers of the bottom area are also fully removable, and there is a zipper that allows you to combine the top compartment with the bottom. My only issue here is that the divider between the top and bottom is not removable. Instead, you unzip around three of the sides, and you are left with a flap that has to stay connected to the bag. It would be been nice to be able to fully remove this divider so that it’s not in the way when converting the bag to a single compartment backpack.
Along the outside of the bag, you will find numerous sets of pockets, some of which are closable with a zipper or button and others that are not closable at all. The front pocket is large enough to hold a Nikon SB910 flash and the other pockets are large enough to hold most camera accessories, such as cables, batteries and chargers, and memory card holders. There is also a large padded pocket along the back of the bag that is capable of holding a 15” MacBook Pro.
There are also straps on the front of the backpack that can can hold a tripod. I like that the straps are on the front of the bag instead of the bottom. This allows me to set the bag down in the upright position, whereas bags that have the tripod attached to the bottom need to be laid down. However, the problem is that where the tripod sits is directly on top of the pocket that holds the flash. When I tightened the straps to secure the tripod, I felt like I was putting a lot of unneeded pressure on my flash. I think it would have been better to have the tripod attach higher up along the front of the top compartment.
Fully loaded, I was easily able to pack two full-frame cameras with lenses, plus five additional lenses and accessories. Add in that the bag starts off fairly heavy when completely empty (right around 5.7 pounds), and this quickly made the bag's weight a significant load. Looking at the leather shoulder straps, I thought there was no way this could be comfortable to carry. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. On the underside of these straps, there is a nice, thick layer of padding, and the straps were able to keep the bag up high on my back, where it should be. There is also a nice set of padding along the back of the bag that has a groove along the middle to make room for my spine.
The bag's weight while empty has to do with the materials used. Leather and waxed canvas are not light materials, but they do supply a nice benefit: they make the bag really resistant to water. In addition to being water resistant, Wotancraft also offers a fully waterproof padded insert that can replace the standard insert that comes with the bag.
What I Liked
- The look and style of the bag are great. I get complimented on it wherever I take it.
- It’s surprisingly comfortable to carry, even when fully loaded.
- It can carry a good amount of gear and is customizable to carry things besides camera equipment.
What I Didn't like
- The placement of the tripod straps is awkward. I feel like they remove the functionality from one of the pockets.
- Although I understand why, the price tag is high ($769).
Although the price of the bag is high, I feel that the price is justifiable. This bag is built like a tank and has a lot of features that are desirable in a photography backpack. It has style, the ability to hold a lot of gear, as well as a lot of options to convert the bag to other carrying uses. Add in that the backpack is water resistant and comfortable to carry, and I think this is a solid buy that will last a very long time.