Anyone who knows me knows I get excited about gear. They also know that once I find a piece of equipment that exceeds my sometimes brutal expectations, I’m in love. And that it doesn’t happen often. But that’s precisely what happened with the Yeti Panga Backpack. This is the designer, sailor, and devil-may-care traveler in me’s dream.
I’ve been a designer basically my whole life. Always sketching, imagining, and later finding a career creating things and experiences that I hoped people would love — not just because they looked great, but also because they felt and functioned great. Yeti’s Panga Backpack checks all those boxes for me.
The pack’s exterior is this somewhat hard to pin down “storm gray” color. Not too dark, not too light. In some photos, it looks a little blueish, while in others, it comes off as a warmer color. Meanwhile, the interior and accent stitching is Uncommon Caribbean blue! Bright, beautiful, and perfect for me. The bottom line on looks is this thing’s a winner.
And once you’ve slung the pack on, the shoulder straps and padding on the back just feel right. Solid. Highly engineered.
While there may be plenty of bags designed solely for sailing, I don’t want a bag just for sailing and nothing else. I want a bag that can go from land to water to land to water again without slowing me down because that’s how I really live my life. It’s in this area, fitting into my real life, not being designed for a single activity, that Yeti’s Panga Backpack really shined for me.
Completely airtight thanks to a high-density shell and “HydroLok” zipper, this pack is as at home on the beach keeping sand away from your belongings as it is splashing along in a dinghy towards some new adventure while keeping your belongings dry.
Another huge benefit of the shell that I don’t see mentioned anywhere on their site is that it dries very quickly. It’d be nothing for me to place the bag in the bottom of the dinghy, motor through splashing waves, pull the bag out of the dinghy all wet and have it be practically dry moments later — sometimes even before I walked to the end of a pier.
Devil-may-care traveler’s backpack
OK, it looks and feels incredibly well designed plus it’s waterproof, but seriously… How tough is it? And how waterproof?
Listen, I do not take care of my things. I don’t buy things to take care of them. I buy things to take care of me! (And in the case of a bag, my other things.) It’s not enough to me for this bag to look and feel good, if it’s going to break or get my stuff soaked.
So, I performed my own tests…
For durability, I dragged it through the mud. I kicked it around in the dirt. I threw it high into trees. I even kicked it over a waterfall.
Seriously, I tortured this beautiful bag. And when I think of what I put the Panga through in the wilds of Belize, I guarantee you, my previous bags would have given up the ghost. The Yeti Panga Backpack just takes its beatings in stride. In fact, after the waterfall, it came out looking like new as if to say “thanks for the wash.”
They call the seriously tough shell “ThickSkin” and I can assure you, it’s bound to take practically anything you’re likely to throw at it during your outdoor adventures.
To test the waterproof claims, I was a little more radical.
It was while I was out on a snorkeling trip with Splash Dive Center out of Placencia, Belize that I had the idea. We were anchored in a shallow sandy area for lunch. Turtles, rays, and fish swam here and there.
“I’m going to test the bag!” I declared!
I promptly shouldered the pack, ran to the end of the dive boat and leaped off. Then I did it again. And Again. And again.
Something that happens again and again when traveling for this site is I find myself on a boat unable to get into shallow water or close to some rocks forcing a swim from the boat to the shore. This always turns into me carrying a GoPro ashore to capture photos to share with you all and those photos never look as good as if I could bring my bulky DSLR. So, my test was simulating this eventuality.
Well, how’d it perform? Almost too good!
Every time I jumped in, the bag, being completely airtight and strapped to my back, jarringly stopped me from entering into the water. So, I unslung it and climbed on top. I used it as a flotation device. I sat on it. I shook it. All things I really might do when cliff jumping or doing some of the other crazy stuff we get into.
Nothing. Not a teeny tiny bubble. Nothing.
Back on the boat, I opened it up, and it was bone dry inside. This bag is good. I mean really, really good. I’ve had roll top bags perform similarly, but never one with a considerable zipper granting so much access to me… And potentially water.
Seriously, this bag could probably save your life if you were ever desperate for a flotation device, it’s that good.
The Yeti Panga Backpack is my backpack
Sailing often feels like it’s all about coming to a mutually beneficial relationship with wind and water. Those two forces drive everything, so a sailor’s backpack needs to fit seamlessly into this balancing act without causing any friction. And to fit into my life, it has to look great and function like a champ without me spending a second worrying about it.