WOTANCRAFT – City Explorer 002 Ranger

By October 14, 2012 Blog, Review 37 Comments
Feature

Wotancraft – City Explorer 002 Ranger

Introduction 

Some time ago I did a road trip around New Zealand’s stunning East Cape with my young sons (HERE), in preparation for that trip and whilst trying to pack what was clearly too much gear in to my current bag it slowly dawned on me that I should start to look seriously at alternatives. 

I’ve always found bag choices to be quite tricky, in essence, no matter how much research you do, the only way you’ll ever know if a bag is going to work for you is to try it yourself. That said, on this occasion I did something I have not previously done, I put the question out there to other togs to see what recommendations came back, of course when you do something like this it can serve to further complicate matters! Reading through the responses all the usual suspects where there as one would expect, bags I’d either already dismissed and others that I was in some way considering. Then I had a recommendation from a friend, Stephen Patterson regarding a bag I was much less familiar with, enter the Wotancraft – City Explorer 002 Ranger.

 

Wotancraft Front

Specifications Courtesy of Wotancraft

  • Capacity : Pro SLRs X2, Lenses X2, Pro Flash X1, Accessories
  • Size (Exterior) : 40(W)X 18(D)X 30(H) cm
  • Size (Interior) : 35(W)X 15(D)X 24(H) cm
  • Strap Length : 90~130 cm
  • Notebook Compartment Inner Dimensions : 13″ Wide Screen
  • Outer Bag Fabric : Premium Genuine Leather, WXC-901 Waxed Canvas, High-Strength Metal Buckle, YKK Zippers
  • Inner Bag Fabric : Waterproof Mesh Fabric, High-Density Foam Lining, Flexible Microfiber, YKK Waterproof Zipper
  • Weight : 1.43(Outer Bag); 0.52(Inne

Wotancraft Rear

The Outer Bag

Whats immediately evident to me upon opening the packaging box is attention to detail, this bag doesn’t ship wrapped in plastic, it arrives in a purpose made cotton, dustproof holdall. Does it make it a better bag? of course not, but it does set a tone of quality, one which is evident throughout all aspects of the bag, someone has really thought this through, what’s more that someone has a lot of pride in their product.

A combination of top quality leather and waxed canvas make up the outer bag construction, these are materials I’m familiar with, they are known to be durable, reliable, they are tried and tested, these were factors that rated highly in my bag selection process. More importantly the waxed canvas finish is highly water repellant, in stark contrast to my current bag which requires me to quickly dress it in a little waterproof jacket when it rains…….

It’s probably the most stylish bag I’ve owned, with the City Explorer 002 Ranger WOTANCRAFT have gone for genuine retro styling with subtle military tones, to be honest whilst the styling is probably very important to some it’s less so to me, what I really want is a bag thats well made, functional and above all big enough to cover any eventuality. It will come as no surprise to know it has all these bases covered.

Handmade by Artisans using “2nd Hand” techniques is how WOTANCRAFT describe the finishing of the City Explorer 002 Ranger, “old but new” is another phrase used to characterise it’s look and feel. I’m reminded of a pair of Levi’s 501′s I bought in the late 80′s they were new but had been artificially aged, I was very attached to those jeans and I suspect I will be equally fond of this bag!! With each bag being handmade the finish is therefore distinctly original, one of a kind and as such exclusive to you!! 

Wotancraft Remove-Before-Adventure1

Reassuringly the bag is fitted with branded YKK zippers, the metallic elements such as the catches, buckles and loops also appear to be of excellent quality although time will be the real measure of that. I recall an extract from the WOTANCRAFT website, “quality is everything, only the best, no compromise” easy to write I know, but to be fair everything I’ve seen so far on this bag echoes those sentiments. Let’s not forget the fun little touches like the “Remove Before Adventure” key fob pictured above, maybe there are other uses for this?

With two storage pouches to the front of the bag and one at either end there is plenty of “easy access” external storage, I’ve used these for my light meter, white/grey cards, blower brush, 120 film, compact digital camera (Leica D-Lux 4 in my case) that kind of thing. Along with these there is also a zipped pouch suitable for an iPad or similar sized device.

The bag is available in a choice of two colour combinations, Army Green & Russet Brown which I selected and Navy Gray & Dark Brown. As it happens either of these combinations would have suited my tastes, I’m not sure on the possibilities of a two tone brown bag in future but this would also have appealed to me.

The Inner Bag

Wotancraft Inner-Outer

Without hesitation, this is the element of the bags design that most impressed me when I began my research, the removable inner bag or to use its official name, the X-TECH WELD INNER BAG MK-II. Yes, this inner boasts an almost 100% waterproof quality thanks to its construction from Military Grade Hovercraft materials no less. Complete with a YKK Water Repellant Zipper which I’m guessing is the reason for this being “almost” 100% waterproof, still thats “almost” 100% better than my current bag!!  There have been at least three occasions over the past 12 months when I could have used this feature and at least one when I desperately needed it, crossing a river in the East Cape on a wooden pallet tied to four oil drums whilst carrying a Leica M9, M6, M3 a 35mm Cron & 50mm Lux was perhaps not the smartest decision I ever made. 

X-TECH WELD INNER BAG MK-II Detail

Wotancraft Open-InnerAs you’d expect the inner is lined with microfibre and comes with fully adjustable dividers so you can arrange the interior to suit your exact requirements. The clear plastic accessory pocket also velcro’s neatly to the inside of the inner’s lid, as this is folded back when the bag is in normal use its accessed with ease, seal up the inner and your memory cards and other accessories are protected along with your cameras.

Most lens manufacturers supply you with a pouch for your precious glass, or as is the case with Leica a leather case, I want to transport my lenses in these for added protection, with this bag I’m able to do this easily. Whats more I’m  able to get three rangefinders and 3-4 lenses in with minimal effort, more even, if I ever wanted!

Functionality  

On the inside of the bag, there are also two small pouches suitable for business cards and similar sized items, additionally three pen sized holders and more importantly a pouch capable of holding a 13″ Notebook (see my MacBook Air in the image below) All of these are incorporated into the bags material lining but still easily accessible when the X-TECH WELD INNER BAG MK-II is in place.

A point to note, neither your iPad or Notebook benefit from the added protection of the X-TECH WELD INNER BAG MK-II, although if you were in a tough spot, say about to cross a river on a few barrels and some drift wood you could probably remove the adjustable dividers and squeeze everything in……

Wotancraft Internal-LaptopOne particular feature of the bag which I have found useful is the adjustable top straps, these allow you to hold in place a jacket or coat, there have been numerous occasions when I have walked the streets wishing I could easily loose a layer or two of clothing. In addition to the useful top straps on the underside of the bag you will find two more, these allow you to carry a tripod or additional item of clothing. In fairness, whilst I have attached my tripod I have not carried it around, I have a fairly heavy Manfrotto and I would certainly want a more lightweight unit suitable for carrying around all day if I was going to make regular use of this feature.

Another real surprise has been the curved leather shoulder pad, its incredibly comfortable, despite the obvious weight of a full bag it seems to distribute it incredibly well. Invariably I would have to swap shoulders with my smaller bag as it gradually became more uncomfortable, but as yet I have not found the need to do this with the WOTANCRAFT City Explorer 002 Ranger

It would be remiss of me not to mention the weight of the bag, at a little over 2kg when empty its twice that of my previous bag but it’s also twice the size!! And given what I’ve mentioned above about the weight distribution and strap comfort it most certainly isn’t noticeable to me. Ultimately I need a bag capable of carrying the equipment I need on the occasions that I need it.

Wotancraft All-GearA couple of well used combinations, as you can see there is no shortage of space in this bag.

Wotancraft Medium-Format-BagSummary

Without doubt I would describe this as a “premium” bag, I fully intend to update this post with anything I subsequently note about the bag and its performance but there comes a time when you have to document your thoughts and commit them to writing, I’ve had just over two weeks using the bag, certainly enough time to get the measure of it. 

As photographers we spend thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars on equipment, having done this isn’t it only sensible to invest in the best bag you can find?? One thats going to protect your equipment and make photographing on the move as easy as it can be. I’d go so far as to say that I’m so thoroughly impressed with this bag that I will definitely be looking to Wotancraft for a smaller bag option, I’ll keep you posted on that.

The full range of WOTANCRAFT products can be found on their website - HERE

WOTANCRAFT – City Explorer 002 Ranger Review on La Vida Leica - HERE

WOTANCRAFT – City Explorer 002 Ranger - In Your Bag #300 on Japan Camera HunterHERE

Gallery 

I couldn’t resist photographing this bag with various camera combinations from my collection, you can find these on my Flickr – HERE or simply view in the slideshow below, hope you enjoy.

 

37 Comments

  • Anjolie Lanel says:

    Thanks for the review on Wontancraft. I can’t remember if it was you or possibly someone else who had mentioned them before. I checked their website and their camera bags looked incredible. I’ve been looking for something weatherproof, not that it rains much in SoCal, but when it does, it pours with unbridled fury. I’m definitely going to have to save up for one of their bags – the fit and finish is amazing!

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Anjolie, Your very welcome, bag choices are so tough. This will most definitely keep your gear safe and dry!! Cheers, Jason.

  • John Ferebee says:

    Jason, very timely post. I’ve been reading and searching for a new bag myself. Currently have a Think Tank Disguise 50 which holds everything but it’s heavy when loaded up. I was looking for something retro, well made, and carryable in the field. Lots of posters like the Billingham and I’m sure it well made too but your bag looks fantastic

    • janrzm says:

      Hi John, this was a move up from a Think Tank Retrospective 5 in my case. This bag meets all the criteria you mention, I would not normally spend my time writing about a bag but I have been so impressed with everything about the WOTANCRAFT. You would not regret the purchase of this bag, also you won’t see one everywhere you go either….:-) Cheers, Jason.

  • Guy Platt says:

    WOW, stunning looking bag.

    I guess like many other photographers, and you, I have a strong attraction for bags. Most unfortunately end up sitting in the cupboard never used having failed to match up to their advertising hype. In my case this includes some Think Tanks. A bunch of Lowes. A Bellingham Leica model (which I particularly disliked as soon as I received it and never used). An Artisan and Artist. I do have a small A&A, and a small Domke, which get some use.

    Not that past failures are going to put me off buying another bag should one show up on the horizon. I suspect the Ranger is a bit big for me as I never walk around with a large bag, but the Messenger looks interesting :)

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Guy, it sure is!! I think the attraction comes in part from always seeking that elusive “perfect bag”….It sounds like you’ve tried hard to find yours!! :-) I can vouch for the quality, attention to detail and service of Wotancraft, they are clearly going to become very popular with products of this standard. Your correct though, this is a large bag, but its what I wanted. I am definitely going to be getting a smaller bag from the to replace my Think Tank Retro 5. Cheers, Jason.

      • Guy Platt says:

        Great that you’ll be getting a smaller one as well .. I’ll wait to hear which one then as I will never find one locally to look at.

        Cheers
        Guy

  • [...] Wotancraft – City Explorer 002 Ranger Hi guys I've just reviewed this awesome new bag here – WOTANCRAFT – City Explorer 002 Ranger __________________ Website | Twitter | Flickr | [...]

  • [...] on aperturepriority.co.nz Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Published: October 14, 2012 [...]

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Michael, it took a moment for the penny to drop here, initially I thought perhaps you use this bag, then I visited La Vida Leica. I have to say I felt almost a little sick when I read the initial impressions on opening the bag, very similar, now however I feel a sense of satisfaction that what I experienced wasn’t just imagined. It’s easy to “gush” about something this well made but if they are qualities you value then its no surprise that we enjoyed a similar experience. Cheers, Jason.

  • Guy says:

    Jason

    I’m half way down the path of ordering one of them (either the Ranger, or Messenger or both). Had a very friendly email from Wotancraft answering a question I had.

    Had you ever seen one before ordering it?

    Regards
    Guy

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Guy, sorry for the delayed response.

      I hadn’t seen one, I trusted the recommendation of a friend who had the Mk 1 version. How are you getting on with your decision?

      Cheers, Jason.

      • Guy says:

        I am going to get both .. the ranger and the messenger .. but the Dutch supplier only has the Navy Gray in stock and I am trying to decide if that will do or if I should wait.

        • janrzm says:

          Your a real bag warrior Guy!! I will be very interested to know your thoughts on the Messenger in due course. Whilst I like both available colours I think I’d be tempted to wait for my first choice, although that would depend on the advised delivery date. Cheers, Jason.

  • My you sure got a beauty here. Very stylish, very beautiful, I’ll sure take note of that name!

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Phillipp, welcome to this website. Its a great bag if you tend to carry quite a bit of gear, as I do most of the time…..:-)

      All the best, Jason.

  • Guy says:

    Hi Jason,

    After having my Wotancraft bags for a month I thought I’d post a comment here to second your opinion of the Ranger bag. It really is an excellent bag and very useful to have if travelling with some gear. I took a trip to Sweden and carried my macbook pro, an ipad, 1 camera body and a few lenses, and the bag was perfect both as a carry-on for the plane trip and also while walking around in Stockholm.

    I wish I could say the same about the Messenger bag. Mine does not have the same quality of leather on the top flap as the Ranger has (hard and not particularly attractive). I’ve treated it with some leather products but it has not improved much. The killer though is the design of the strap. It fastens through a very tight fitting leather loop and then over a metal stud. The loop is too small to easily close the strap as the leather strap has to be forced through the loop. Once closed is difficult to open. I would call it a “pretty large small bag” with a poor fastening strap. Definitely a mistake of mine to buy it.

    regards
    Guy

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Guy

      I’m very pleased and quite relieved that you share my view of the Wotancraft Ranger, I still use it 95% of the time.

      In relation to the Messenger bag, it’s disappointing to read your comments on this, I can’t say if it’s possible to do anything about it but you should certainly contact Wotancraft directly and at least let them know your thoughts, I have given them my own view on the Ranger and they are extremely interested in customer feedback and improving their products accordingly.

      Did you read a review on the Messenger anywhere before ordering?

      I am also looking for a small bag solution at some point this year and will be looking at Wotancraft options there, thanks for making me aware of this.

      Have a great Christmas!

      All the best, Jason.

      • Guy says:

        Nope, I didn’t read a reply. Like you I thought I’d just search the Wotancraft website to see what they offer and picked the Messenger as looking like a good choice. For the price I am surprised how poor it really is. Going back to using my A&A and Domke bags I realise how much better designed they are as small camera bags.

        I have written to the distributor. If they ask for some detailed feedback I’ll be happy to provide it.

        Have a happy holiday season yourself,
        Guy

        • Guy says:

          Since I complained about the Messenger bag above, I wanted to share the amazing response I received from Wotancraft which has quite blown me away at their level of caring. This is a company which I am very happy to have supported by buying their products.

          “According to your feedback we have stop selling 007 Messenger. If it’s convenient could you give us some specific opinion of this bag. Or maybe some idea about a great bag in your mind.

          We will redesign this bag. And of course your feedback will be very important to us. And kindly let us know if it’s possible that we can send you a New Messenger once we finish it. We really hope our bag can accompany our customer for a long time.

          Once again we really appreciate your feedback. Your opinion can always make us better.”

          • janrzm says:

            Hi Guy

            Thanks for taking the time to post this update, I didn’t want to speak on their behalf but I was almost certain they would address your concerns. I must say that with this response Wotancraft have exceeded even my expectations. In today’s retail world customer service of this level is almost unheard and it’s great to see a company back up their words with such positive actions.

            All the best, Jason.

  • Krister says:

    Hi,

    I’ve just bought the Ranger, partly due to reviews like this one, and I’m really happy with it.

    I also have the Scout which I think is a great option for a smaller bag. It matches the quality of the Ranger imo. And of course, Wotencraft support is brilliant. :)

    Cheers,
    Krister

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Krister

      Thats really good to hear, so many comments and emails from people that have bought this bag following my review and see all the same qualities I spoke of. I too have the Scout as a small option, equally as impressive like you say.

      Cheers, Jason.

      • Leon Roy says:

        Firstly Jason, great review and fantastic pictures. I’d been sitting on the fence over getting a Leica but your top 12 for 2012 pretty much pushed me over the edge. I’ve been carrying it with me day to day around London and I have to say opening the images on my computer when I get home each day still blows me away with their detail, contrast and texture.

        My problem is, as a big DSLR shooter I’d love a bag that I can carry with me all the time. Whether it’s loaded with a big camera, laptop and couple of lenses or just a Leica and a few odds and sods. Does the Ranger hold a DSLR + few lenses comfortably on your shoulder or do you find the size of this bag pushes you to lean towards the Scout day to day?

        • janrzm says:

          Hi Leon

          Thanks, it’s always very rewarding to get such kind comments.

          In terms of the Ranger, it is a large bag and easily holds a DSLR and 3 lenses. I often carry two M bodies and 3-4 lenses when traveling and working on projects like the theatre work. I do however still have a requirement for a smaller bag and I find the Scout fits the bill perfectly in those instances. I honestly don’t think one bag suits all needs unfortunately. Maybe treat yourself to both…..:-)

          Cheers, Jason.

  • Erica says:

    I have a Wotancraft Scout myself and it’s one of the best bags I’ve ever had. It’s a beauty to look at and very functional.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Erica

      I got the Scout just before Christmas, another great bag from Wotancraft. Exceptional quality, if I could change one thing about it I would alter the fastening method of the straps, that said mine is always undone :-)

      Cheers, Jason.

  • [...] about Wotancraft when I read Jason Howe’s blog aperturepriority.co.nz. He has a very nice review with amazing photos of the City Explorer 002 – Ranger. The bag looked very well constructed, [...]

  • Great review Jason. I’m going to order either this or the Avenger, the slightly smaller bag… can’t decide which!

    I currently use a thinktank retrospective 7 to carry a Leica M7 and my Oly OM-D with a few lenses, and it’s a great sturdy bag with some neat features.

    On a walk today though it started to rain and I found I was struggling a bit with the rain cover. It would be great to have a bag that you could trust when the weather turned, without having to cover it completely. Plus these look so well crafted it’s hard not to want one based solely on that!

    I largely use Micro 4/3 kit now so I don’t think I’ll need the size of the Ranger but it’s also great to have a bag you can chuck a few things like drinks bottles etc in too… my current one is the same size as the Avenger (next size down from the Ranger) so I think I’ll go for that.

    Incidentally the walk I did today near my new home in vancouver was at a place called the Chief – a mountain path climb that reminded me a lot of those scrambling climbs in Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand… some great opportunities to take photos but it meant finding gaps in the ever changing weather!

    Cheers! James

    Cheers! Still looking forward to your jupiter / sonnar comparisons.

    Thanks for the great review.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi James

      Thanks, I appreciate that. I make no secret of the fact that I have become a huge fan of the Wotancraft bags. I’ve lost count of the number of people that have gone on to buy a bag following this review, which is also great to hear. Whilst the Ranger is wonderful it is also large, if you want to be in a position where you are never short of space then it is great, you may be better with the Avenger though. You’ll certainly be blown away by the quality.

      I still use my Think Tank Retrospective 5 from time to time, it’s not an all weather bag though and the little rain cover is only a last resort as it takes away all functionality.

      I’ve not done Arthur’s Pass yet, its on my list :-)

      I’ve not forgotten the Jupiter/Sonnar comparison, I’m trying to compile it with interesting images so it will take a little time to come together, this isn’t being helped by the Contax 645 that is currently distracting me….a lot!!

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Garrick says:

    Hi Jason,

    Have been loving your site as I put together a kit, which I plan to take to Europe for 2 months. I have an M9, M6, L-758 Light meter, 35mm & 50mm Summilux and the usual accessories (may take a small flash or one of my gold old Vivitar 285s). Also taking a 15″ retina MBP with me. I’m looking for a bag to carry my camera kit with me every day I’m away. Would you recommend this for long days away from the hotel, day after day – or something a bit smaller? Would like to have the option of throwing in my Macbook if I went for something bigger like this – but Wotancraft have told me I need to remove the insert to accomodate that size laptop.

    BTW – I had a question – I see all your cameras, lenses etc listed on your site – but wondered what you were using flash wise for you shots as above?

    Cheers, Garrick

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Garrick

      Thanks thats good to know, I’m always encouraged to hear from Leica shooters in NZ.

      You’ve certainly put a nice kit together there, I’m spoilt with equipment and to be honest sometimes I long for a more simple setup….

      Certainly the Ranger is capable of carrying more than you’ve listed there, maybe something slightly smaller unless you don’t mind the spare space. The laptop adds a degree of complexity and I wonder if it really needs to be carried daily in the bag or if it can’t be kept in your accommodation? I’ve got a 1 month trip coming up in July and already I’m beginning to agonise over choices :-)

      Lighting for the Wotancraft piece was carried out using between 1 & 3 200W Strobes dependent on the particular image. I’m starting to do more with strobes/pocket-wizards and I’ve just taken delivery of a great piece of kit for shooting outdoors (more to come on that at a later date)

      Cheers

      Jason.

  • WOTANCRAFT says:

    […] of you will recall that early last year I did a review of the excellent City Explorer 002 camera bag from WOTANCRAFT. Not only did it prove to be a great bag and a popular post but it also […]

  • K says:

    Hi Jason,

    Please give us some review about your Scout bag include some nice pictures of it, of course!

  • […] You can see my review of the previous version Wotancraft – City Explorer Ranger 002 – HERE. […]

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