Wotancraft Atelier 2014 Updates
Last updated on November 24, 2015
It's no secret that we really like the Wotancraft Atelier camera bags. In fact, check out our previous reviews of both the Scout (006) and Ranger (002) City Explorer bags to see why. The long and short of it is, they're built extremely well out of top quality materials - and the design aesthetic, which admittedly won't appeal to all - certainly works for us.
If that wasn't enough, Wotancraft Atelier this year did one better - and updated the entire line of City Explorer bags. The two primary changes include:
New lightweight inserts - one of the great features of the bags are the waterproof inner bags. With this inner bag in place, you could go out in the harshest weather (or even jump in the river) and rest assured that your gear was safe and dry. The trade-off of course, is that they're a bit on the heavier side, and not quite as pliable as your standard padded interiors. Well, you're in luck! Wotancraft Atelier has addressed this by offering a new inner bag, simply called the "lightweight insert." You can get your bag with it instead of the waterproof version - or retrofit an existing bag, allowing you to tailor it to your needs.
New waxed canvas material - all of the bags now use this material, called "W.A.L. canvas" - which offers the same great looks and performance - but at a 50% weight reduction! At a casual glance, it looks the same as the old material in terms of color and pattern, but upon closer inspection, it's not quite as heavy (thick) and waxed looking. It's much more pliable and feels a tad rougher, more natural - better. The knit is also tighter.
Between these two updates, introduced in the latter half of 2014, the bags are up to 50% lighter than before and offer more customization - giving you the choice between a traditional padded interior or one that's additionally waterproof. We'll take a look at these new features in-depth below, and amend our previous reviews appropriately soon.
One last change, sadly, is the loss of the former "ArmyGreen/RussetBrown" color combination. The only choice now is "Vintage Grey" or what used to be called the "NavyGrey/DarkBrown" combo. We have confirmed this with Wotancraft Atelier, though they tell us that other colors are possible in the future.
We absolutely love the waterproof inserts as originally came with the Wotancraft Atelier bags. If these bags had a "killer feature" then this would be it. Very few other camera bags on the market offer this feature, let alone in a messenger bag format. In fact, these are the only ones we're aware of! The closest, and only competitor is the Lowepro DryZone series of bags. But the range is rather limited, offering only two backpacks and one "duffel" bag. The original DryZone 200 is still available, but the other two offerings are relatively new - and look very much like "dry bags" that boaters, for example, might recognize. None of them are what we'd consider "rangefinder oriented" (or even mirrorless for that matter) because of their format and sizing. Finally, they only come in a very, very bright yellow. Your other option of course, is something like a Pelican case. Rugged, yes. Something we'd want to travel with and carry around, especially when shooting... Not so much.
The downside of the waterproof insert of course, is that it's a bit on the heavier side, and somewhat bulky. If you're just walking around town for some casual photography, especially with clear blue skies overhead - it's decidedly overkill. While it certainly wasn't a showstopper by any means (we've used our bags extensively around the globe this way for a couple of years now), the new option is very much welcomed! You now have options, depending on your needs.
|Lightweight insert, front||Waterproof insert, front|
The new lightweight inserts are just that. They don't have the hovercraft-grade, waterproof outer bag with seam-sealed construction and heavy zipper. It's essentially just the inside of that bag; padded and super-plush, entirely Velcro-friendly microfiber. Four dividers are provided with this option as well. The other main difference is that the top of this lightweight insert, lacking the flap of the waterproof insert - has a pair of fabric-clad, padded flaps instead. In a stroke of genius, you'll notice we said "a pair" of flaps - Wotancraft Atelier has utilized two flaps rather than one. Why? Two reasons come to mind; one, you can fold them back and into the outer bag to stay out of the way and run "top open" on the inside. Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly - depending on what and how much gear you have inside, they can closed up, overlapping - to make for a thinner bag overall.
|Lightweight insert, top||Waterproof insert, top|
Comparing actual weight, as found on the Scout (006) bag for example, the waterproof insert weighs .43kg (.9lbs) whereas the lightweight insert weighs .36kg (.8lbs). Comparing the Avenger and Ranger bags, the differences would be even greater.
What's nice about these lightweight inserts is that you can order your new bag with it over (or in addition to) the waterproof insert - or separately to retrofit the original bags you may already own.
The new material, called "W.A.L canvas" has the same great, rugged look as the previous material - but upon closer inspection and handling, is not quite as "heavy." Both in thickness and actual weight. Furthermore, it's not as heavily waxed (paraffin-infused) as it was previously - lacking the glossy, somewhat "plasticky" feel of the old material (though we actually liked it!). Indeed, it looks and feels more like true canvas. This new material represents a 50% savings in weight over the old, yet maintains the same level of water and resistance. So what does "W.A.L. canvas" mean? We spoke to our friends at Wotancraft Atelier, who further explained:
Our previous waxed cotton canvas mainly relies on the wax infusion/coating to achieve water resistance. The new canvas, thanks to the weaving technology and choice of material, further slows down the speed of water soaking through the fabric.
This is a surprising feature that we've achieved through the process of fabric development. The strength of the fabric can sustain scratching/grinding from rough objects, such as rocks, bricks, keys, etc.
The bag still ages well, because the wax coating we've applied still marks scratches and fades on the bag, but it's safe to say that the fabric itself can sustain heavy usage without ever tearing or scuffing.
This is probably the most important feature: it is 50% lighter than our old waxed canvas. Considering that Scout body is made mainly of canvas, this makes a huge difference.
New waxed canvas in front, old in back
The older waxed canvas was very unique, and no one else had anything quite like it. This was some seriously heavy duty stuff with a hard to miss wax treatment - what they called "paraffin-infused." There was no doubt in your mind that this stuff would shed water; snow and rain - or whatever else you threw at it. Over the past couple of years that we've tested the bags, it has held up extremely well and lived up to its claim of water resistance. The leather trim might get wet - even soaked - but the underlying canvas was like a duck's back. Water just rolled right off of it. Even the rigors of international travel and daily use didn't phase it. No tears, no seam or thread failures, no thinning out of the wax. It broke in and got more pliable... But has been rock solid.
Like with the waterproof insert, the cost came in the form of weight - both a heavier material and wax treatment. The new material promises the same qualities of water resistance and abrasion resistance - but at a 50% reduction in weight. This is achieved by using a slightly thinner material and wax treatment. Comparing them side-by-side, the look is the same - aside from a less waxy appearance of the new material. Upon close inspection, the canvas also appears to be of a slightly tighter knit. The real difference is in feel. It's not smooth, nor somewhat stiff like the old material - it's now a tad rougher, and slightly more flexible. It looks and feels more like what canvas "should." It does however, seem to "scuff" a bit easier - as you can see in the photos. Not a bad thing; it adds to the distressed look and charm.
|Old waxed canvas||New waxed canvas|
Comparing the Scout (006) camera bag, the original version comes in at 1.53kg (3.4lbs) total weight and the new version at 1.33kg (2.9lbs). That's almost a half pound less weight - the equivalent of many a lens. Taking a closer look, the original outer bag weighed .81kg (1.8lbs) and the strap .29kg (.64lbs) - whereas the new version comes in at .73kg (1.6lbs) and .25kg (.55lbs), respectively.
We struggled to find much else in the way of the publicized changes, though there are a couple here and there. Mostly pretty minor and cosmetic - for example, the finish of the front pocket snaps is black, rather than the distressed, raw metal look of all the rest of the hardware. Not sure what prompted that, and honestly - we prefer the previous look (though they're hidden under the flap when closed). Some of the smaller rivets feature the Wotancraft name embossed on them, though you'd have to really look closely to notice. The rest of the hardware, leather trim and general design are all unchanged.
One additional change that we found on the Scout, is that it now includes a hand-carry strap sewn into the bag on the back. We wished this was available on the original, and here it is! Worth noting that unlike the larger bags with a different flap/strap design, it's not a removable leather piece. It's just not possible with the design of the Scout. This is a great addition.
All new bags come with the "military ordnance tag keychain" (that reads "REMOVE BEFORE ADVENTURE") and leather logo tag, whereas before it seemed only the larger bags offered this.
Finally, though somewhat unrelated - Wotancraft Atelier launched their new website in mid-November - which is nice looking and easier to browse!
So how do these two changes look and feel, when comparing an old and new bags? Visually, and at first glance - remarkably similar. Looking closer, the new bags look less waxy, more like canvas. Internally, the new inserts provide an excellent option, less bulk and easy access to your gear. Overall, the new bags are also more pliable, especially with the lightweight insert fitted. The biggest differences are in the feel though - more like canvas, and and they are noticeably lighter. While the weight differences aren't huge - you will appreciate it nevertheless.
If you're a fan of the Wotancraft Atelier "City Explorer" bags, as we certainly are - you're going to really enjoy the changes. Just when you thought great bags couldn't get any better... They have. As we mentioned in our bag-specific reviews, these are top notch items both in materials and workmanship, and if the designs appeal to you (as it does to us), you'd be hard-pressed to find a better bag out there. To be sure, they're not cheap. The top of the line and largest bag, the Ranger, with a waterproof insert - will run you a cool $549 USD these days. But the first time your bag drops into a river or even just gets caught in a massive downpour, you might consider that cheap insurance indeed. Finally, we have no doubt that these bags will likely outlive us all... So there's that.