The Annex Drifter is an excellent backpack for the serious technophile, as long as you don’t need anything that looks too business-centric.
Alex’s Note: I originally wrote this review in 2014, but it’s relevant to reviews I’m writing now in 2023, and a little tricky to surface otherwise.
Plus, I own the copyright, so I can do this kind of thing. The Drifter does appear to still be on sale, and mine is still going strong after that many years.
Also, when else do I get to continuously review a product over a NINE year span?
STM Annex Drifter: On the plus side
The Annex Drifter — Annex being the name of the collection of bags, and Drifter the specific name that STM’s given this particular laptop-friendly backpack — uses its vertical orientation to enable a lot of storage space within its frame.
The main compartment of the Annex Drifter features a large padded compartment for laptops and tablets up to around 15 inches in size. I strongly suspect you could bulk it out with any of the larger gaming-specific laptops from makers such as Alienware or Asus, but for any moderate sized laptop, ultrabook or tablet you’ll be very well suited indeed.
If you’re a fan of nooks and crannies, the Drifter will make you very happy indeed. Just in the main compartment alone, there’s a secondary padded area, three further pockets, a deeper non-padded storage area and a mesh-covered vertically oriented storage pocket. That’s a lot of space to store whatever it is you like to fill backpacks with.
For review purposes I used it as my primary bag (where I’d usually use a more conventional laptop bag) on a recent two-day trip, packing it with multiple phones, handsets, chargers, plugs, pens, cameras and socks. With additional side and front pockets for further gadgets, water bottles and pens, I had little trouble using it comfortably for some time.
Alex 2023 update… and pretty much every single trip I’ve taken since. And I do mean every trip, this thing’s gone round the planet and across Australia many, many times.
The rear padding on the STM Annex Drifter is very comfortable as long as you’re wearing it fully across your back. If you’re the type who sometimes slings a backpack across one shoulder it’s naturally a bit less comfortable over time when the Drifter is fully loaded.
The Annex Drifter should fit within the stated guidelines of most airlines, measuring in at 47x 31x19cm, although its shape may draw some stares from gate staff. For what it’s worth I managed to use it while loaded with gear simply stowing it underneath an economy seat with no issues.
The Drifter Annex also has its own raincoat, or to use STM’s own term, Bagarella.
Having mentioned it once, I will never use that word again.
I have to admit that concept threw me a little when I read it on the Annex Drifter’s specification sheet, but there it is. At the very bottom of the Drifter backpack is a small zipped compartment with an umbrella logo on it, and within lurks a small blue raincover designed to be folded over the Drifter Annex in case “of a sudden downpour” according to STM’s description. It’s hardly a tent unto itself, but it’s serviceable.
Alex 2023 update I’ll be honest here; I often forget that the Bagarella (eugh, terrible word) is even there.
STM Annex Drifter: On the minus side
Like many bags with multiple compartments, it’s pretty easy to lose track of where smaller items may have been placed if you need them in a hurry. That’s a common issue for any complex bag of any type, and the Drifter is no different.
The Annex Drifter does a solid job of protecting your back, and the padded sections are likewise reasonably robust, but the further you get from the back, the less protected your tech gear will be. The zippered mesh pocket that’s designed to fold out from the Annex Drifter is a touch problematic if the Drifter is heavily packed, especially as the zip is at the base. If you can’t fold it out due to bulk or because you don’t want to reveal what you’re carrying for security reasons, it’s rather easy to have items drop out the base when unzipped.
While it should measure in for most flights, at 1.04kg it’ll take a reasonable chunk out of your permitted carry-on allowance if your bag does end up getting weighed. It would be rather easy to load up the Annex Drifter well beyond allowed limits — I may have been guilty of this myself — without realising it’s slipped over the line.
It also doesn’t sing, although that’s probably a plus.
It’s also obviously not going to exactly match your needs if you’re transporting technology and need a more serious business style look. The Annex Drifter’s style is quite deliberate, but it’s not business-centric to speak of.
The Annex Drifter has an adjustable chest strap for added grip, but it was notable when testing it that those who are more (ahem) “ample” at chest height might struggle with its upper settings being a little close to your neck, while lower settings may be impossible to clip up at all.
Alex 2023 update: I have taken it into many business meetings in the nine year span, with nobody commenting. Maybe the nature of business meetings has changed?
STM Annex Drifter: Pricing
STM lists the Annex Drifter with an RRP of $169.95.
Or should I say listed, because as far as I can see, they don’t make it any more in this style for sale to Australian consumers, though they do make a lot of other bags and luggage-style goods.
At a guess, given mine is still going strong after 9 years, maybe they made them too well? That’s a nice situation for consumers, at least.
However, all is not lost, as it appears that the Drifter is still sold in International markets, albeit with a slightly different style to the one I’ve got. Here’s the Drifter on sale on Amazon, if you want one.
STM Annex Drifter: Verdict
The STM Annex Drifter’s name might bring to mind folk of an itinerant nature.
No, you can’t have a backpack. You’re a dog.
However, this is a pretty serious backpack well suited to those of us with serious technology addictions who don’t wish to have seriously strained shoulders. It’s not inexpensive, but if you’re carrying around a large quantity of heavy tech gear, it would compare favourably with just one trip to the chiropractor.
Alex 2023 update Pretty obviously, this one comes highly recommended. You certainly can’t have mine.