Ever had a need for your suitcase to be waterproof? Ever needed to store camera equipment on a boat or raft? I have unfortunately needed both of those things which made the YETI Panga an intriguing accessory for outdoor adventures.
I’ve killed a few cameras in kayaks and rafts over the years which isn’t cheap. YETI took the common dry bag, turned the design dial up to 11, tore off the knob and introduced the world to the YETI Panga.
Being a skeptic by nature, I needed to see this one for myself. Below you’ll find what I loved, didn’t love, and a buy or don’t buy recommendation.
As with all things YETI, this is not an every market saturation product. The YETI Panga was designed with a very specific audience in mind and if you find yourself in that audience, this could be a much-needed tool.
The Good: YETI Panga 50
The first time I took the YETI Panga 50 out of the box I realized this was a different kind of tough. The material the Panga is made out of, a laminated, high-density nylon called “THICKSKIN” is rigid but flexible and claims to be nearly impenetrable.
When I tested it, I threw it up and down a boat ramp, ran with it through a forest while wearing it like a backpack, and even put it under a bunch of cinder blocks and pulled it out. No penetrations. Barely any scuffs. It was still zipped and everything from the latches to the zipper still worked. The YETI Panga 50 passed that test.
The next test I put the Panga through was the water test. When I need my cameras to stay dry, I need them bone dry, not moist, not damp. I grabbed some newspapers, stuffed them in the Panga, and zipped it up. I took my stuffed bag to the backyard and proceeded to hose it down with the water hose. After 10 minutes (and creating a new pond in the yard), I shook off the Panga and unzipped it. The papers were bone dry. No drips, drops, or leaks. The Hydrolok zipper did exactly what it was supposed to do.
With rugged and waterproof checked off the list, I needed to look into functionality. The YETI Panga 50 can be a backpack, duffel, or sling bag with its configurable strap structure. The 50 is 23.5 inches long which makes it a pretty big backpack but it was functional. It also worked as a duffel but I found it a bit wide at 14 inches to carry as a sling bag.
I have started carrying the YETI Panga 50 as my travel suitcase and that is where my biggest disappointment came. The Panga 50 is 10 inches tall by 14 inches wide by 23.5 inches long. At this size, it doesn’t qualify as a carry on for quick flights and trips where I don’t want to check a bag. The flight regulations for a carry on are 9 inches tall by 14 inches wide by 22 inches long. If YETI could trim a total of 2.5 inches off the dimensions I could use this as a carry-on. It is so easy to carry through airports as a backpack full of gear or clothes it’s really a shame.
I also found that when carried as a backpack or even a duffel, the items inside tend to shift (especially in backpack mode). I would love to see an internal divider system, much like camera bags have developed and sold as an accessory. That would keep everything more organized and not a pile of stuff when you open the Panga. Pretty please.
If you need your gear to stay bone dry, unharmed by the elements, and rugged enough to throw in the back of the ATV going to the river, the YETI Panga 50 is worth a look. It’ll run you $300 but if you’ve ever lost gear to the elements, this is a great insurance policy.