We love to love these innovative and uncompromising products - until we look at the price tag. At first glance, the Yeti Panga is amazing; it's waterproof, durable, has comfortable shoulder straps, and can be purchased in a few useful sizes. That price though causes a whole heap of shock. For the price of this Top Pick winner, you could get two bags that are as durable, as big, and as easy to cart around. Those two replacements, though, wouldn't be waterproof. If you need waterproof and durable portability for essential gear, the Panga is what we would recommend. If you don't need the waterproofness, our Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp is more comfortable and easier to pack. If you don't need the Panga's durability or capacity, the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole is nearly as waterproof and much lighter.
YETI Panga 100L Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, waterproof, comfortable backpack straps
Cons: Expensive, narrow main opening, only two organizational pockets
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Overall the Panga is nothing incredibly special. It is really only in terms of waterproofness that it stands out. This is fairly typical of our Top Pick award winners. To do very, very well in one scoring metric, the others are compromised. For the durable waterproofness the Panga has, Yeti has compromised on carry options and on ease of packing. For routine travels, especially when one is moving heavy loads and getting in and out of one's luggage, the Panga is not very functional. For wet travel of any sort, it is exactly what you need. Read on for more expansion on the pros and cons of this unique award winner.
Ease of Transport
Of the major carry modes, Yeti has about half. What it lacks is wheels, easy briefcase style handles, and a long strap for one-shoulder carry. The backpack straps are the primary mode of transport, and they are comfortable and effective. It is the backpack straps that sets the Panga apart from other zippered submersible duffels. In scouring the entire market, we did not find a submersible zip bag that carries like a backpack. In so many situations, this mode of carriage is beneficial. Also, though you won't see this in catalog copy, we know that many travelers (especially those traveling with 2-3 or more bags per person) will drag their bags through an airport and across the taxi pick up lanes. It isn't ideal, but it gets the job done. We like bags that are durable enough to handle this. The Panga is that durable; if dragged with a full load in it, it will get further than all but the most robust other bags in our review.
Wrestling around big, heavy duffels is one of the prices of adventure travel. Bags with wheels and/or backpack straps mitigate this difficulty. If a bag doesn't have shoulder straps or wheels, its portability score suffers greatly. The Bago Travel bag doesn't have wheels nor backpack straps. The Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp has carry options basically identical to the Panga, while the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior adds wheels and subtracts the backpack straps. The Best Buy Marmot Long Hauler is configured like the Panga also.
Ease of Packing
In evaluating ease of packing, we consider main opening size and shape, unladen rigidity, and organizational pocket options. The Panga has a long, straight zipper through its stiff fabric. The result is an opening that doesn't go as large as you'd like it to. Getting in and out of the main compartment is further hamstrung by the lack of rigid structure. The two small, interior mesh zippered pockets hold a few small things in a handier position, and a nice touch is the internal strap crossing the center of the zipper. When you've overloaded, the Panga, the strap helps pull the zipper teeth towards each other for easier closure and for protection of the zipper against undue tension.
Almost all the other bags we tested score higher in ease of packing than the Panga. We don't see how the Panga could be improved without sacrificing durability and/or waterproofness, but it is still lamentable. Even the ultra simple Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole and Bago Travel Bag are easier to load and unload. Both of them have straight zippers, but the softer fabric opens wider. The Bago has a great selection of organizational pockets that the Yeti lacks. Both Editors' Choice winners have U-shaped zippers that open wide and stay open while packing and unpacking. Further, the Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled is constructed such that its sides are stiff and stay upright while dropping in your equipment.
Here the Panga excels, especially when we consider that it is waterproof. In a couple hundred yards of dragging through the Santiago airport, our lead test editor didn't even scratch the surface fabric. it would take miles of this to abrade a hole. The zipper is large and protected by the aforementioned internal strap, while the straps and seams are all welded, and the few pieces of hardware are metal. One tester's initial impressions were "Whoa, that is a pretty 'diesel' duffel".
The zipper may seep a little with time and use (we didn't experience this with the Panga, but have with other submersible zippers) but otherwise, we expect class-leading durability from the Panga. Up against venerable champions like the Editors' Choice The North Face Base Camp this is actually saying something - that the Panga is as durable as this proven choice is admirable.
The fabric and construction is heavy (thick shell and webbing with metal buckles) but the overall design is simple and svelte. For the size and durability and portability, the Panga isn't actually that heavy; it is just under six pounds. We like to think of luggage weight as a percentage of airline baggage allowance. Twelve percent of 50 pounds isn't too bad, considering the functional attributes that come with it.
The weight of the Panga is on par with that of the other backpack-style durable bags. The occasional use duffels from Bago and Patagonia weigh much, much less, while wheeled options like The North Face Rolling Thunder and Editors' Choice Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled weigh up to twice as much. The Gregory Alpaca is less waterproof, but almost two pounds lighter.
Here the Panga is king. We've gone on and on about the waterproof nature; this is what truly separates it from the field and earns it the Top Pick award.
The Panga is better compared to river trip bags than to luggage. Even when comparing to rafting specific bags, the Panga stands out for its durability and ease of transport. It is way, way more waterproof than any other luggage we tested.
In driving Chilean rain and tested Teton River submersions, we had no breach of the Panga. For the demonstrated waterproof performance, you must close the zipper entirely with a firm tug at the very end. It is a strenuous move but gets easier as the zipper "breaks in" a bit.
Choose it and use it anywhere waterproofness matters. As a bonus, you get durability and comfy backpack straps. One tester and a veteran of a dozen Alaska mountaineering expeditions pointed out right away that it looked like "a perfect Denali sled duffel". For warmer times, where that sled is dragging through wet snow, this is definitely true. However, the additional mass of the Panga may be tough to justify in this application.
This is not an inexpensive bag in any way. Bags half the price are as durable and carry just as well. Bags half the price are just as waterproof. However, at no price is there a bag that is this durably waterproof with backpack straps. In that niche, the Panga stands alone and maybe justifies its absurd price.
You have all the information you need to choose. You are the one that has to balance the price of the Panga against its functionality. If you will benefit greatly from the performance attributes, you won't mind the price. If you can make another product work, that product will potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
— Jediah Porter