The Panga is the most waterproof bag in our test and a unique product in the entire market. Its water and airtight construction are what sets it apart; it is most closely compared to river gear, in terms of waterproofness. Even as compared to the plethora of water-sports-specific gear, the Panga is unique in some ways. It isn't perfect luggage, but it is the best thing going for keeping water off important equipment, for years and years of service. In this niche, it tops the charts and earns a Top Pick award.
Before we could do a full submersion test of the Panga we had to give it a try. One rainy morning in Pucon Chile, taking a day off from high and wild ski mountaineering, we had opportunity to do some testing.
Ease of Transport
Of the major carry modes, Yeti has about half. What it lacks is 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 set 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.
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, its portability score suffers greatly. 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.
The backpack straps, especially on the large 100 liter Panga, are much appreciated. The most portable bags we assessed have backpack straps or wheels. Anything else is a compromise.
Ease of Packing
In evaluating the ease of packing, we consider the 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 other straight-zippered bags are easier to load and unload. All of them have straight zippers, but the softer fabric opens wider. Many other duffels have a great selection of organizational pockets that the Yeti lacks.
One of two identical internal organizing pockets. Otherwise the construction is simple; one big compartment.
Here the Panga excels, especially when we consider that it is waterproof. In a couple of 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 North Face Base Camp, this is actually saying something - that the Panga is as durable as this proven choice is admirable.
All the hardware on the Panga is metal. Shown here, the backpack straps adjustment buckle.
The fabric and construction are 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 almost on par with that of the other backpack-style durable bags. The occasional use duffels weigh much, much less, while wheeled luggage weighs up to twice as much.
In a big pile of expedition duffels, the Yeti Panga likely has a place. For holding crucial electronics and clothing, the waterproof construction brings great piece of mind. Here it holds exactly such equipment at a transition in Santiago, Chile.
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.
The waterproof zipper of the Panga. To truly seal, the closed zipper must reach the very end of the track.
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.
A couple award winners, navigating Dallas-Fort Worth airport. The Base Camp in yellow, on top of the Top Pick Yeti Panga.
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.
Yeti isn't kidding about the waterproof nature of the Panga. Even when submersed the bag keeps out moisture. It is even air tight.
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 save you hundreds of dollars. No bag in our review approaches half the price of the Yeti Panga 100.
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.
Yeti includes this label tag holder tied to one end. It seems as robust as can be expected, but the dangle factor increases.