Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 Review
I'm really delighted to be back and taking a look at the latest version of the Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005.
Back in the day, when life was simple and I had one camera kit, I also had just one camera bag, that actually seems like a million years ago now! These days, messing around with different gear combinations and various formats it's not really possible to get away with such a simple arrangement. That said, I'm sure most photographers probably have at least two bags, some maybe more?
For the past couple of years I've been using the Wotancraft City Explorer Ranger 002 and I've been absolutely delighted with it, it's a big bag and it enabled me to indulge my habit of carrying a lot of gear around. The Ranger is the largest bag in the City Explorer line-up, alongside this, my small bag option has been the Wotancraft City Explorer Scout 006, it's ths bag I took on my 8 week trip through several countries and one I've used increasingly as I've learnt to carry less gear.
In terms of size the Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 falls between the two bags I already own and I would describe it as a Wotancraft's other large bag option after it's big brother the Ranger.
I've tried to look at this bag with "fresh" eye's, something that's been made slightly easier by my enforced rest from photography, knee surgery can do that for you!
This is the bag I'm currently using.
Courtesy of Wotancraft
Outer Bag Materials
Vegetable tanned leather (sheepskin front flap, cowhide straps)
WXC-901 waxed canvas
High-strength metal hardware
Exclusively designed buckles,with distressed dent marks
Inner Detachable Waterproof Pouch Materials
Hovercraft-grade mesh fabric (vacuum formed edge sealing)
High density shock resistant foam lining
Flexible microfiber dividers (small x2, large with cap x2)
YKK Aquaguard waterproof zipper
Size (exterior): 36(width)x 15(depth)x 26(height) cm
Size (interior): 33(width)x 12(depth)x 23(height) cm
Strap length: adjustable between 90~130 cm
Notebook compartment for 12" notebook or iPad
Weight: 1.00(Outer Bag); 0.50(Inner Bag); 0.29(Strap) kg
The Outer Bag
I take a deep breath, inhale and fill my lungs...... I'm not embarrassed to admit that the smell of new camera bag leather emanating from the just opened packaging takes me to a very happy place! Maybe, subconsciously it reminds of new car interiors, I'm not certain of that but I'm certain I like it. I proceed, choosing to ignore the faint voice in dark recesses of my mind proclaiming "only women should get this much pleasure from a new bag" (apologises for sexist comment).
Slowly, I remove the camera bag from the protective cotton pouch it ships in. It's been a while since my last Wotancraft bag opening and I'm pleased to see they've retained this little touch, you know from the minute that bag was made it's been taken care of.
Quality, quality, quality and so it should be, these are after all premium camera bags, one thing is immediately obvious to me, you absolutely get what you pay for.
[Just like it's "big brother" the Ranger, the Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 has adjustable top straps which enable you to secure a coat/jacket or similar.
Choice a bag colour is now limited to Vintage Grey waxed canvas with Dark Brown leather, whilst the previous incarnation of this bag was available with two options of finish I actually much prefer the new colours to either of those. The vintage grey canvas/brown leather combination is somewhat more neutral and as such I would expect them to have a broader appeal.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the bags retro styling, I think I may have mentioned in my last review that looks aren't my top consideration when it comes to camera bags but they are important nonetheless. I know these look good because my teenage daughters have declined the opportunity to tell me otherwise....
It's worth noting that certain materials used in the manufacture of these bags are natural and not manmade. It is therefore possible for small colour variations to occur from time to time.
Strap lugs on the base of the bag offer additional usability.
I'd be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for quality, of that there is no doubt.
This new Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 bag is not a mass produced item, it isn't one of a million others, each identical to the next, absolutely not. These bags are handmade by skilled and experienced craftsmen, masters of their trade. The materials, the detail, the stitching they are all exemplary, each a hallmark of quality. You know your bag is one of a limited number and each one unique in it's own right because of the materials used and the production methods, a handmade bag in every sense.
If your anything like me then quality in itself probably isn't enough, I want quality and value for money too!
This bag retails at US$399, thats a decent investment in anyone's money. Now here's where the manufacturing quality and materials I've been talking about start to equate to value for money in real terms. They have an inherent longevity, not only are these Wotancraft bag's stunning, they will last you many, many years.
Please Note - The cost of International Shipping is already included in the retail price above.
Attention to detail - Stitched in magnetic retainers allow you to expose less or more of the bag contents dependant on your needs.
Ample external storage with 4 pockets and 1 pouch add to the Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 versatility.
The Inner Bag
The Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 bags boast a removable inner pouch constructed from Hovercraft grade materials, the inner is shockproof and extremely well padded, it also adds an additional element of waterproofing over and above the canvas and leather exterior.
Whilst the removable inner pouch does add 500 grams to the overall weight of the bag I still see it as a huge positive. My gear has never felt quite so secure when out and about.
Should you wish to remove the pouch It can be done very easily. As one would expect the bag looses a little of it's shape depending on what you have in it. I do wonder if there is an opportunity to add some fixed positions for the Flexible Micro-fibre Dividers to be utilised inside the bag itself.
I've used the Wotancraft City Explorer Avenger 005 in heavy rain, it works exactly as you'd expect and it offers the kind of protection from the elements you would want and need.
I can't profess to have tested the waterproof inner under strict scientific conditions but out of curiosity I decided to put it to the test in more extreme circumstances.
Firstly, with the waterproof inner fully sealed, placed inside the outer bag, also sealed. I fired the high power hose at this, not quite replicating a water cannon at a Turkish political rally but fairly hardcore for a camera bag. I did managed to get some water inside the outer but not the inner. The results were as I'd expected given the water was fired horizontally at the bag.
More extreme still I tested the inner, by itself, outside the bag. My initial thoughts were to submerge it fully in the pool, clearly not what it was designed for. This transpired to be easier said than done as it has a great deal of buoyancy, enough buoyancy I'd say to keep the entire bag afloat even with gear in it. Certainly for long enough that you could recover the whole thing should the unimaginable actually happen!!
Here's where it got less scientific, the only way I could fully submerge the inner was to apply a bit of pressure to the sides, in doing so I compromised the zipper. Completely submerged for 15 seconds I did manage to get a small amount of water in to the bag, nowhere near enough to damage your gear though.
The value of this feature can really only be ascertained by the individual photographer, for me, I look at it as insurance, additional peace of mind. Many of us are using expensive equipment, it makes sense to protect it.
The waterproof inner has a storage pouch on the reverse of the lid, this positioning makes it usable when the inner top is open or closed. I've noted a couple of modifications to this element of the inner, first the pouch is now constructed from the same materials as the inner. Secondly, the metal zipper has been replaced with a Zip-loc seal which I assume makes it more watertight.
The strap length is adjustable between 90cm and 130cm, offering plenty of scope for most peoples needs.
Pocket zippers have secure fastenings to prevent them from dangling.
The strap design works extremely well on these bags, the padding and shape are very effective and make for a comfortable carry, even on the longest of days.
The front pockets also have two way zippers to enable you to open the pocket from the bottom while the flap is still in place.
The Pro SLR configuration below - Courtesy of Wotancraft. I've also added a couple of additional configurations. Clearly there is more room in the bag, these are workable configurations that avoid the need to stack and diminish usability.
Pro SLR x1, lens x2, Pro Flash x1, accessories
Leica Rangefinder x 2, Lenses x 4, accessories
Contax 645 assembled x 1, Lenses x2. accessories
In addition to the camera configurations above the bag is also capable of holding a 12" Notebook or iPad, this fits comfortably into a purpose made pocket on the inside of the Outer Bag, tucked safely next to the inner. Interestingly I was able to get my 13" Macbook Air with INCIPIO hard-case to fit in the pouch. There is also a second, smaller internal pouch with zip.
One thing I hadn't noticed about the Wotancraft bags until recently is how unbelievably resilient they are. Way back in November 2013 I embarked on a 8 week trip around the world, I took with me the previous version of the Wotancraft City Explorer Scout (All City Explorer bags are made from the same materials). It wasn't until my eventual return in January that I unpacked the bag and gave it a once over, quite incredibly it still looks totally brand new, remarkable given the amount of use it had on that trip alone.
A couple of years ago when I did my original review of the Wotancraft - City Explorer Ranger 002 I had to make some assumptions on how I expected the bag to perform based on the observations of a few weeks. Now having experienced several Wotancraft bags over a much longer period I feel more qualified to make some of the statements in this review.
I've not used every camera bag out there that's for sure, you may have had great experiences with other bag's, of that I've no doubt. What I will say is, if you're looking for something different, something new, something exceptional then I can, based on my experiences, vouch for these bags in every way.
As always I'm happy to answer questions and try out gear configurations for fit (If I have it).