I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I have owned and used more camera bags than any human being should. Some are better than others, and virtually all of them have pronounced trade-offs. Wotancraft is a company that has risen to prominence in recent years by producing bags that meet that rare intersection of top-tier form, function, and quality at a reasonable price. Today we're taking a look at one of their flagship bags for mirrorless shooters, the Ryker, to see what it's all about.
We've covered some other Wotancraft bags before here on Fstoppers in the recent past and touched on the brand's World War-esque design scheme that combines a rugged utilitarian leather and fabric match-up with a sleek and modern sensibility. And it works. It really, really works. Take a look at a backpack like the Commander, or a duffel like the Ranger and you can see the lineage.
The Ryker is actually quite a bit different from their normal utilitarian fare in that it forgoes the military vibe to focus on a straight-up classy leather option. It's a bag designed for a Leica shooter, and it shows. It is right at home whether you're wearing a suit to a fancy event, or you're deep in the trenches on the street and want to be inconspicuous. No distractions, just pure leather love. Frankly, it doesn't look like a camera bag at all — that's a good thing.
The moment you put your hands on the Ryker you know you've got something special. It oozes quality. And I mean, even compared to other popular leather bags that are similar, this is clearly even a step above. I cannot think of another bag I've used that is of better quality. I mean that. Wotancraft bags are 100 percent hand-made by about half-a-dozen artisans out of Taipei, Taiwan (another half-dozen make their watch straps) using totally full-grain leather that still has the skin surfaces intact. It's also quite thick with a smooth pebble grain which indicates these things will wear nicely (more on that later). That leather smell hits you like a brick wall when you open the bag for the first time. While all leather has that signature leather smell, Wotancraft's premium vegetable tanning process that utilizes agents like Quebracho, Chestnut, and Acacia produces an exceptionally rich scent with a perceptible sweetness. Don't act like you don't care how it smells. You love it. This treatment also makes the leathers exceptionally soft right off the bat. While they'll certainly become softer and more pliable as time goes on, they are far from stiff on day one.
The interior is velveteen-lined and has customizable dividers to suit your needs. The thick and super-soft velveteen protects your gear with flying colors. There is no question that your gear is safe in the Ryker. Speaking of color, the interior color has been chosen to compliment the exterior leather choice. With the brown you get a deep maroon lining, and with the black you get a rich royal purple. Even though I'm usually extremely polarized in my color preferences for bags, I genuinely couldn't tell you which combination I like better in this case; that's a great problem to have. The dividers are of the Velcro-adjust style common to most camera bags, but unlike many bags where the entire interior is just one giant swath of Velcro that allows for infinite configurability, Wotancraft has strategically placed strips of Velcro-like rails. This has the benefit of showing more of the velveteen on the interior. I like the look, and I like the idea of more velveteen cradling my equipment. Don't worry, I can't think of any practical configuration you'd be unable to achieve even with the relatively selective Velcro rail positions.
Aside from the main compartment, there are four full-width compartments. On the very front when you open up the main flap, there is an unsecured open pocket that's great for quick-access items. Just don't flip your bag upside down without the main flap secured. Even if you did, as long as the contents are light (like paper) they'll likely stay put. Behind that pocket is a zippered accessory pocket that's big enough to hold ample amounts of film, a mini-tripod, lightmeter, your phone, or anything of similar size. Inside the main compartment on the back is a velveteen-lined compartment with a Velcro-secured velveteen cover. This would be an excellent place for filters or other delicate items; even a tablet like an iPad Mini would be perfect here. And finally on the very back where the bag rests against your body is a small zippered pocket right underneath the discrete Wotancraft logo. This is the most secure pocket on the bag because it rests against the body under normal usage and is also in the most discrete location. It's pretty much the perfect place for a passport or some cash.
One of the more functionally thoughtful features of the bag is how the main compartment closes with two different layers, each somewhat optional depending on your needs. When you open the bag for first time you're presented with the large, obvious leather flap that is primarily secured via two hidden leather-covered magnets. If you're actively working, this is enough to keep the flap in place to prevent dirt, water, grime, or other casual elements out of your bag while you're shooting. But if you're going to set the bag down or it's going to get rustled about you can slip the end of the flap under the leather band that crosses the front to provide extra flap security. But that's just all just the first layer. Pull the flap up completely and you're presented with a zipper flap as well. When actively shooting, I mostly left this flap unzipped and just relied on the magnet power of the flap for quick and easy access. You just have to grab both flaps on the way up. If you have minimal need for protection and maximum need for accessibility, you can take the main leather flap and fold it all the way to the back of the bag so it rests against your body, too. Then only the zipper flap is in use, which you could then choose to zip or unzip at will. When you're ready to throw the bag in the trunk of a car or store it for the night, zip up the inside flap, throw the main flap over the front so the magnets can engage, and you're done.
The Ryker was designed with the Leica M system in mind, but any mirrorless kit, like the Fuji X-series or Leica T, would be right at home. The bag is not super tiny, though, and you could certainly load it up with an un-gripped DSLR (even a Nikon D810 or Canon 5D Mark IV) with a prime lens or two assuming the interior accessory pocket is mostly empty.
The attention to detail on the Ryker is outstanding. It truly is the little things. The first thing that actually caught my attention was that each and every little tiny steel rivet in the bag says "Wotancraft" on it, as do the D-rings that the strap attaches to. Every single stitch on the bag is flawless. While leather is organic and is prone to cosmetic flaws, you can certainly tell that they are using the most "clean" and beautiful cuts of leather for all visible sections. Even the zipper for the main compartment is sewn in such a way where the zipper's brass teeth face outwards and away from the main compartment when open so you can't accidentally scrape your camera or lenses against them. Each end of the main zippers also have tiny little leather "counter pull" tabs that make closing the zipper a quick and snag-less event.
Initial quality is one thing, but how do they hold up over time? Well, I've been putting both a black and a brown Ryker through their paces almost daily for eight months, and I have purposely been hard on them including tossing them into car trunks, bringing them to the beach, dragging them around airports, setting them down on all sorts of materials from dirt, to sand, to wood, to concrete. They've scraped against brick walls, and they've been out in the sun for extended periods of time. I want a bag that looks beautiful, but I want a bag that won't let me down when I need it to work for me.
Interestingly enough, the black and brown bags do have some differences when it comes to wear. Both bags are two-tone with the secondary accent leathers being a very dark Chestnut-stained brown. These accents will wear with regular abrasion revealing lighter leather underneath. I see this mostly on the bottom of the bag where I have set it down on rough surfaces and also along some leather edges. For the brown bag, the primary saddle brown appears to be close to the natural leather color so no amount of bumping or scraping affects it. What does affect it though, is long-term exposure to sun and the elements. There's also leather conditioner. If you're like me and prefer your light saddle leather to be darker and have more of a patina, you can give the bag a head start by using a leather conditioner like Leather Honey. Be very careful to use very little at a time and make sure to apply very evenly to prevent streaking. The Ryker does respond to the conditioner very well and darkens up nicely. The black bag's primary black leather seems to be more resilient to change. After all this time, the black is essentially unchanged and flawless which is all the more impressive because it has even more of a shine than the brown. I thought shininess would dull in areas of wear, but I can't really see any indication of that. Ultimately, while you can baby anything and keep it pristine, if you want a bag that will age with you, get the brown. If you want a bag that will be mostly the same as when you bought it, get the black.
Each Ryker comes with a super solid leather strap that is the same dark leather as the bag accents. They are riveted at the ends where they attach to the metal swiveling clip. One side of the strap has a buckle for length adjustment. There is a movable shoulder pad that matches the bag's main color. Being designed for small mirrorless rigs, these will likely never weigh enough to exceed the threshold of the strap and pad's comfort. As with all leather on the bag, the straps are soft and pliable the very first time you use them but will only continue to get better and better.
Wotancraft takes customer service very seriously and strives to put a personal and flexible touch on every order because they understand the general uncertainly many people have of buying overseas. If you have questions or requests before ordering you can talk to them. I even heard a story of someone wanting a handle on a bag where one didn't exist and they installed one custom! And if that's not enough, they offer a three-year guarantee of free repairs for any bag used as intended. Even if you need a repair after the warranty period, shipping is free when you pay for repairs.
- Raw quality of materials and workmanship
- Thoughtful, practical, attractive, and timeless design
- Incredible attention to detail
- Brown wears nicely over time. Black maintains its "new" look.
- Comfortable and balanced during long periods of use
- Main compartment zippers fold out to prevent scratching gear
- Configurable main flaps for individual needs
- Open, configurable main compartment with thick, protective lining
- Plenty of spacious, full-width pockets for extra storage
- Fast shipping, despite coming from overseas
- No dedicated place for things like pens or memory cards
- If the bag is very full, the main flap doesn't reach the magnets entirely
When the rubber meets the road, it's hard to fault the Ryker on any level. It does its job of protecting your gear perfectly, and it does it in impeccable quality and style. At $379 USD, it's certainly not an inexpensive bag at all, and in one sense that's a negative strike, but Wotancraft is swinging well above their pay grade. I challenge you to find an objectively better leather bag of this size from any brand at even double the price. This is a perfect example to prove that being a good value does not equate to being cheap. I cannot recommend this bag highly enough, and I'm not the only one. Leica shooters are probably familiar with Steve Huff who has famously proclaimed the Ryker his all-time favorite bag as well.
The Ryker can be ordered directly from Wotancraft.com.