Hailing from LA, Code of Bell was at the front of the sling and fanny pack wave we’ve seen over the past few years. The CoB X-PAK and X-POD were game changers in the sling world, adding roll-top style capacity in a sleek package with modern materials. You’ll find that they’re commonly searched for and talked about in The Perfect Pack community.
While slings have remained popular, we’ve also seen an uptick in the use and availability of sacoche and musette style bags. As expected, Code of Bell has taken their signature overbuilt yet sleek and expandable designs and released the Annex Liner – a sacoche for the modern age.
|Depth||1″, expandable to 8″||3cm, expandable 20cm|
|Capacity||91.5 cu. in., expandable to 592c.i.||1.5L, expandable to 9.7L|
Provided by Code of Bell
|Primary Materials||Dimension Polyant VX-21RS, Cordura 1680D Ballistic Nylon, YKK Aquaguard Zippers, Hypalon|
Quality and Comfort
Every material and hardware choice is well thought out to bring about the highest performance and quality possible at this price point. The entire front face of the bag is made up of Dimension Polyant VX-21RS and adorned with YKK Aquaguard zippers. While the bag isn’t waterproof, this is more than enough to get you through that unexpected rainfall. All other external areas of the pack are 1680D Cordura nylon, so you can be sure the bottom and rear won’t wear out anytime soon. To top it all off, the zipper pulls and side pull tabs are all made up of a really nice feeling hypalon fabric.
I did find the zipper garages slightly too tight, but it wasn’t really an issue.
The backside of the Annex Liner has a carry handle that easily tucks away into the rear magnetically secured sleeve. I never had a problem leaving the handle out, but it was nice that I could tuck it away if I felt like it.
The rear side also has two columns of vertically attached webbing down either side. I found these useful for keeping the adjustable portion of the shoulder strap in check, but you could lash something here if you felt so inclined.
Like all other areas of the bag, the strap is simple yet well thought out. The adjustable length has a plastic gated hook at the end, allowing you to connect it back to the D-ring where the main strap attaches, or higher up on the adjustment cam itself. And like mentioned above, you can use the provided webbing clip to wrangle that further with the rear-sided webbing. The strap is comfortable, and I had no problem wearing the Annex Liner down on my side, or even around on my back. When loaded up, I didn’t feel like it needed any extra padding either.
One thing I tried to accomplish, but was maybe trying to be too clever, was to use the extra adjustment strap as a stabilizer strap for messenger-style carry. I’m sure Code of Bell didn’t design it this way, but it worked okay if you really need to carry it on a bike, etc.
I love bright orange interiors. I can’t say it enough, and Code of Bell hasn’t let me down here. In the main compartment we’ve got a really nice pumpkin-orange 420D lining. The pockets in here are basic but they make sense. There’s the two accessory pockets and one pen sleeve on the front of the bag, and one Velcro secured compartment to the rear. I wish CoB would have used a magnetic closure here, like they did for the external sleeve. I’m not a big fan of Velcro on anything, but that’s a personal preference.
One thing I kept reaching for that was wasn’t there was a second zipper. It’s not a huge deal, but I would have preferred to have seen a dual zipper on the main compartment.
The bottom, external side of this compartment has some expansion built into it. Like most parts of this bag, Code of Bell does an excellent job at maintaining a clean profile when they can. If you flip the bag upside down you’ll find a snap closure that keeps the main compartment nice and slim, but expands about an extra 2″ when un-snapped.
Around the front of the pack is where some of the magic really happens. As we’ve seen on some other CoB products, the front panel is actually a roll-top compartment. It lays nice and flat when cinched down, but when rolled out, I’ve been able to fit an incredible amount of things in here. From multiple water bottles to a puffy jacket. Does it look great when it’s stuffed? No, it doesn’t. It actually looks pretty awkward. But, the point is that you can if you need to, and on several occasions throughout my last trip, I did need to. There’s also a plastic hooked key-leash in here.
This front compartment is also where most of the complexity if this bag is, and it’s definitely complex for a bag its size. It took me a little bit to figure out how the buckles are supposed to secure the roll-top. Hint: you actually put the buckles in with the rear-facing out. This seemed a bit unintuitive at first but you get used to it. At the end of the day I’m not quite sure that side-release buckles are the best solution here.
Between this compartment and the main compartment, on the bottom side, you’ll find two rows of vertical webbing, similar to the back side of the bag. Since this area is downward oriented, it’s really only useful for lashing things like keys, fobs, or other tools. Personally, I didn’t find much use for this area, but I sometimes threw a rear bike light under here, just in case I found myself needing some extra visibility at night.
The back side has an easily accessible sleeve secured by a nifty, strong magnetic closure. I used this as an in-seat bag while flying over the past month, and typically threw my ticket and other paperwork in here, or my Kindle as I ran from gate to gate. As mentioned above, you can also tuck the grab handle away in here. Like the rest of the bag, the lining is orange.
One of my favorite things to do with the little pull-tab on the back was to throw an S-Biner or Tom Bihn Swivel Carabiner on it and attach it to the back of the airplane seat in front of me, giving me a great little in-seat organizer. I was able to leave it there the entire flight without an attendant giving me a second glance.
- Packed to the brim with features everywhere you look. The more I used it the more I found myself saying “ooh” and “ahh”.
- Holds a ton of stuff, if you need it to, but remains sleek and slim otherwise.
- All hardware and fabric choices are top notch, from the VX21 and ballistic Cordura to the YKK Aquaguard zips and hypalon pulls.
- Orange interior makes finding what you need a breeze.
- It’s complicated to use. When I had to use the expandable rolltop it was really clutch, but the rest of the time it kind of just added extra bulk and straps.
- When utilizing the expansion, the bag looks pretty awkward.
- I couldn’t quite figure out a use for the vertical webbing on the underside-middle of the bag.
Like currently popular sling bags, sacoche and musette style bags have been used all over the world for ages, but we’re only just starting to see more prevalent use throughout the United Stated. Code of Bell’s entry into the world is a good one. Like the rest of their lineup, it’s packed to the brim with features and quality, and more than earns its modest price tag of $119. Musettes aren’t for everybody, but if you’re looking to try one, I can’t help but recommend the Annex Liner. I don’t say this about many bags, but it’s truly a joy to use every time you take it out.
At the time of this publication, the Annex Liner is going through a small set of updates, and you can pre-order that for $100 from the link above. When we learn more about the updates, we’ll be sure to update this review.
Editor’s Note: This bag was provided by Code of Bell for use in this review. The content of the review was not discussed with Code of Bell prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.