The LA based bag designers at Code of Bell have been pumping out unique single-strap bags since the word “sling” started trending. The original X-PAK and X-POD designs were some of the most unique offerings at the time of their release, adding expandable capacity and utility without sacrificing any form.
The new Annex line, which started with the Annex Liner, switches focus from traditional front or rear worn slings to smaller crossbody bags. So far, these have all been setup satchel style, with removable straps so you can repurpose the bag as a pouch or otherwise. The newest in the lineup, the Annex Case, is easily the smallest offering we’ve seen from Code of Bell. In fact, it’s a completely different type of item altogether; it’s a wallet, and a clutch, and a phone case, and a crossbody all in one. While small, it may offer the most general utility of anything yet from Code Of Bell.
|Capacity||30.5 cu. in.||0.5L|
|Primary Materials||Dimension Polyant VX21RS, YKK Aquaguard|
Quality and Comfort
Code of Bell never slacks on their material choices, with the standard offerings always consisting of familiar combinations. The front panel of the Case is made up of Dimension Polyant XPac VX21RS, with the rear being reinforced by ballistic nylon. YKK Aquaguard zippers adorn both the primary and front pockets. The front, rear, and side panels are reinforced by sheets of plastic, giving the Case a really solid structure that will keep your belongings from getting crushed.
I did notice some stitching issues with the Case that mostly seem to be cosmetic. On the inside, the stitching issues are a little more apparent due to thread tension variations between the black top thread and orange bobbin thread showing up easier against the fluorescent orange liner. The plastic reinforcement is also very tight against the edges of the seams, almost too tight, and while I don’t believe this will cause issues, it could use a small revisit.
Comfort is difficult to talk about here, since it’s such a small item with a single small strap, but like everything else in the Annex lineup, there are a few ways you can go about carrying the Case. The way I personally see myself using this the most is as a travel wallet or clutch. I don’t often carry a wallet bigger than a simple sleeve, but when traveling I almost always have much more with me – local currency, a passport, various cards, tickets and small documents. The case is going to be excellent when travel ramps up again.
One thing that I wish was available was a slim strap to use in clutch / wallet mode. Something that sat flush against the back of the Case that you could wrap your hand through, just to add a bit more security. You could easily rig something up yourself, given the lashing points for the primary strap and the strip of PALS webbing across the back.
If you want to run light, the Case easily sets itself up for sling and crossbody carry. The strap is the same one as provided with the Liner and Carrier; it’s a fine strap, but maybe a little overkill for something like the Case. Something closer to the 15mm or 20mm strap range would feel a bit more at home here.
The Woojin triangle buckles look great but can be a little tough to maneuver through the small loops on the back of the Case. I suspect you won’t be removing and attaching the strap often, but it’s worth pointing out. Given that there are four webbing loops, you can also carry it vertically if that feels more natural at your side.
The very front of the Case also has a strip of reflective material, just in case. I try and slap reflective strips on most of my bags anyway, so this is a welcome addition.
Organization and Access
Right behind the reflective strip is a small zippered pocket. There is some volume built in here, but the pocket is still pretty slim. It’s a nice spot to stash your car key or wallet. Without the extra volume, this wouldn’t be possible. This zipper is also a tension lock zipper, which means it’s much more difficult for it to open on it’s own, or otherwise, unless you want it to.
The main compartment is set up very much like a typical clutch. It opens like an accordion to give you full, viewable access to the entire setup. The center is divided by a single slim zipper pocket. Not much volume here which is expected. On the back side of that is a single full length slash pocket with card sleeves in front. On the opposite side is a single mesh zip pocket. Most of the volume in this compartment is in the empty space between the pockets.
Code of Bell claims that you can keep your phone in here, and you definitely can. However, this leaves little room for anything else. A pair of wireless earbuds should fit as well, but not at the same time. The Annex Case could honestly use a little more depth. Code of Bell bags are known for their unique, novel expansion systems. It would be nice to see something here. The structured walls, while welcome, also prevent you from stuffing any odd shaped items in here. To note, I was able to stash an extra mask and some hand sanitizer in here just fine.
- Great materials and water resistant construction, as expected from Code of Bell
- Locking YKK zips keep your items secure
- Dual use as travel wallet and crossbody bag is great for light travelers and urbanites
- Some cosmetic stitching issues inside and out.
- No expandability, which is unlike typical Code of Bell items
- Strap is overkill, but fine
Even for Code of Bell, the Annex Case is a bit different. It’s not really a bag, but you can use it as one. It’s also not really a wallet, but it kind of is. Let’s call it what it really is; it’s a clutch, and a gender neutral one at that. We don’t see things like this very often, as they’re not mainstream, but with the rise of techwear, other fashion trends, and the evolution of carry needs based on the global climate, I think we’ll see similar items hit the market sooner than later. As usual, Code of Bell is ahead of the times.
The Annex Case is available directly from Code of Bell starting at $99 comes comes in Black VX21RS or Multicam Black X50.