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Review: The STM Drifter daypack works in any wilderness/urban environment

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I got the STM Drifter to carry my laptop and other assorted office stuff.  The Drifter was never intended to be taken off the pavement.

Turns out the city slicker man purse is also a pretty good wilderness daypack.

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by Leon Pantenburg

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I was not paid to do this review, and there is no advertising or sponsorship relationship between SurvivalCommonSense.com and STM. I have been using this backpack continually for over four years. STM had no input into this review.

There some urban survival items that work in the wilderness, and vice versa. As a gear tester and accumulator, I generally have a piece of equipment designed for specific activities.

I got my STM Drifter four years ago and have used it extensively virtually every day. It is designed to be a hipster, cool urban toter of office and electrical gear and man purse. As such, it works superbly. I can carry my laptop, EDC gear and a variety of other items in it.


The STM Drifter is designed as an urban laptop carrier and is my favorite man purse.

The STM fits well in overhead bins, or under the seat in an airplane. My Drifter has been all over the country and through many airports, and was with me at the 2018 BLADE show in Atlanta.

But a recent wilderness trek proved the Drifter can also hack it outdoors.

I was in Bend, Oregon for a visit and had an unexpected day off. On the spur-of-the-moment, I decided to re-hike one of my favorite trails, the Morraine Lake trail in the Cascades, that leads to the summit of South Sister. The trail is six miles from the trailhead to the summit.

I had survival gear along, and a map and compass. But I didn’t have a good daypack along to carry my stuff in. Enter the Drifter.

Here are the STM Drifter specifications:

main material(s): Cottna 320D/640D Water Resistant Poly
lining: 200g Polyester with Brushed Nylex
device space: 10.04 x 14.76 x 1.18 in
outer dimensions: 18.50 x 12.20 x 7.48 in
capacity: 1094.4 cu in
weight: 2.29 lbs

Here’s what the STM website says about the Drifter design:

*Three zippered front panel pockets:
– Top soft lined pocket for sunglasses or phone
– Middle for keys, wallet or other sundries
– Bottom for pens, biz cards, travel docs
*Top load main compartment reveals 15″padded laptop cell (will hold most 13-16″ laptops)
*Slip tablet pocket with cord and battery storage
*See-through zippered pocket to hold all the doo-dads that tend to get lost otherwise
*Plenty of main compartment capacity for books, shoes, clothing, etc.
*Reflective light loop for better night safety
*Side water bottle pockets with compression straps
*Padded and contoured shoulder straps with sternum strap for a comfortable carry
*Quick grab haul loop
*3D foam mesh back panel with air-flow channel for comfort on hotter days
*Integrated luggage pass through secures the bag to the handle of your wheeled luggage
*Bottom zip pocket holds detachable rain cover in case of a sudden downpour (I have used this several times getting from the parking lot to the office.)
*Durable yet super light aluminum zipper pulls with large, #10 self-repairing YKK® zippers


The Drifter worked very well as a wilderness daypack.

*Water resistant 320D brushed poly main fabric with 640D reinforced bottom fabric

Here is how the STM played out in the mountains:

Design: The pockets are handy and work well for my urban needs. On a day hike, it easily carried all the necessary items I take along with my Ten Essentials. These include an Altoids tin survival kit, knife, compact poncho and other miscellaneous items.

Straps: Comfortable for me and easily adjustable. I tend to lengthen the right strap and sling the Drifter over my shoulder. The placement is such that the strap doesn’t easily slide off. There is no waist belt, which is a good thing.  I rarely see anyone ever using them anyway.

Once I cinched the straps down and adjusted the sternum strap, the pack rode very comfortably. The sternum strap system is outstanding. It slides up and down to adjust for comfort. Even while I was clambering over rocks and boulders, the pack stayed secure next to my back.

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The luggage secure on the back panel lets the STM ride securely on a wheeled piece of luggage.

Grab loop: As the mood strikes, I may carry the pack like a briefcase  by the grab loop on top.  The pack isn’t so long that it or the strap ends drag. I use this feature a lot, and this is something to consider in a school/urban backpack.

Another feature I REALLY like and won’t do without now is the integrated luggage pass through that secures the bag to the handle of wheeled luggage. This lets you slip the Drifter onto the handle, in effect, melding all your luggage together. This is so nice for those fast, forced marches across airports.

Back panel: The mesh back panel provide good ventilation. I frequently walk the two miles to work, and on hot days, the pack is cool to carry. The Morraine Lake trail was in the low to mid 60s when I hiked it. I wore a tee shirt and hat, and I didn’t sweat all that much. The back panel didn’t feel excessively hot. Even though I sweat through my shirt in the back where the panels are, this is nothing unusual.

Zippers: On any urban pack, the zippers go first. The self-repairing  zippers are a good idea. The zipper to the main compartment is zipped and unzipped many times every day, and there is no wear evident. All the zippers operate as smoothly as the day I got the STM.

Color: My Drifter is slate gray. That’s a good neutral color for most situations. In a setting where you don’t want to attract attention, the muted grey is serious urban camouflage that blends in with just about anything. For a photographer, the Drifter is perfect for getting a light reading off of. The Drifter comes in several other colors.

Electronic compartments: For someone who must carry a laptop, tablet, phone and charger, the compartments are well-designed and well-placed. For a business traveler, the STM is a great carrier for all your electronic gear. I put my tarp in the laptop compartment, along with the map and poncho.

Size: You’ll appreciate the luggage pass that secures the bag to the handle of wheeled baggage. I think the size is perfect for a travelers carry-on.

Side pockets: I sometimes carry a bottle of water or Thermos of  coffee to the office. The side pockets allow for easy access, and the compression straps keep anything from falling out.

I used a collapsible quart water bottle, and stopped at the Safeway on the way out of town to get a quart of Gatorade and three bottles of water with electrolytes in it. I carried the Gatorade and two of the bottles of water, and left one in the car. (ALWAYS leave water in the car. You might not need a drink at the end of the hike, but somebody else might.)

All in all I was very satisfied with how the STM worked in a wilderness environment.

Do you need a Drifter?

The Drifter retails for about $150. While that’s more than I want to spend for a daypack, in the long run a Drifter may prove to be  a good investment. My Drifter has been used every day for more than four years, and it still looks and works great. There is virtually no evidence of wear.

When my kids were in school, they each  got a new daypack every fall. The zippers either wore out, or the straps separated from the body of the pack. Worse, the cheap models’ designs may be sketchy. A combination of lack of support, poor ergonomics and heavy loads may contribute to back problems later.

I like the Drifter a lot. It does everything I need an urban daypack to do, and it also proved to be a really good pack for day trips.  If you’re looking for a quality daypack that will work well in both urban and wilderness environments, the Drifter is worth considering.

If mine ever wears out, I’ll be getting another. And that’s about as good of recommendation as I can give any piece of gear.

Order a Drifter here.

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