YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Review

The YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack is comfortable for taller travelers and offers great waterproofness for adventures, though it's overbearing for some.

Our Verdict

8.0 /10
Great info

Form

80/100

Design

80/100

Value

80/100
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Pros

  • The exterior is durable and completely watertight (when lubed properly)
  • The main compartment has enough space for big travel or outdoor gear, like a tackle box
  • There’s padding on the harness system, which isn’t always the case for waterproof packs

Cons

  • Smaller testers on our team found the harness system overwhelmingly bulky on their frames
  • Limited internal organization may frustrate travelers who prefer every piece of gear to have a home
  • No strap keepers enable the extra materials to roam rampant

Technical Details

84 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 122/145 Airlines

33 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    28l

  • Weight (lb)

    3.9 lb (1.8 kg)

  • Dimensions

    19.7 in x 12.5 in x 7 in (50 x 31.8 x 17.8 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Nylon, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware

  • Manufacturing Country

    Philippines

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Warranty Information

Buying Options

Brand
Price
Deal
YETI Logo
$300.00 
REI Logo
$300.00 

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Amazon Logo
$300.00 

Full Review

YETI’s Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack is big, beefy, and claims to be submersible. When we first got our hands on it, we were amped to put that to the test, as well as the other organization and harness features on the pack. Before we get started, we should give the same disclaimer as YETI: this product is not a cooler. Let’s dive in!

External Components

YETI uses a lot of trademarked names to describe their materials and hardware. We’ll say the proper name but then review what that means afterward.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Back
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The pack is (and looks) waterproof.

The pack has a ThickSkin™ Shell exterior, which is highly durable and watertight. It consists of high-density nylon with TPU lamination, which has held up to rugged use and hasn’t allowed any water permeation. So far, so good.

There are a handful of colorways to choose from, so you can hit the river, lake, or city in style. The Orange/Black colorway is a limited edition at the time of this review, so you’ll have to pounce if you want that one. However, it’s a little too much for our taste. We like to blend in when we travel, and this one doesn’t do that very well. The Black, Storm Gray, and Tan models are more our style, as they’re more sleek and polished. However, we can imagine situations that make the highlighter orange more appealing, like fishing during hunting season.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Full
ETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | In the studio!

The pack features a HydroLock Zipper™, which is large, in charge, and sharp. It isn’t any pointier than other zippers we’ve tested; it is just huge, which is why it is more noticeable. The zipper track has a YKK logo, so it at least comes from the Japanese fastener company, which is a solid inclusion, as they’re the best in the business. The pack comes with a tube of YETI zipper lubricant, essential to ensuring the mechanism stays in working order. In testing, we’ve had no issues with it drying up yet. Still, it’s nice to have a tube included!

The zipper is pretty challenging to work with, and there are loops on either end of the track to assist you in opening and closing it. You can attach gear here, too, but our primary use was opening and closing the bag. Our method works like this: first, grab the loop with one hand and the zipper pull with the other. Then, pull it all the way down the vertical side of the backpack. Next, move your stability hand onto the side handle and pull the zipper across the top of the bag horizontally. Then, move your stable hand to the top handle and finish the job. When closing the pack, do the same thing, but in the opposite direction. Even after you figure out a method that works best for you, opening and closing the zipper is challenging, so it probably isn’t a great shout for people with range of motion or arthritis issues.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Top Handle
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The zipper is beefy.

The adjusters on the shoulder straps are MetalLock™ Hardware, which is a fancy way of saying they’re metal. They’re durable and easy to work with, which is all that we care about! The buckles are from Duraflex, which is a solid shout, as these are some of our favorite clasps in the game. They’re durable, easy to use, and don’t get in your way, which is imperative when you can see a big trout rising to take your Parachute Adams.

The front of the pack has a Hitchpoint™ Grid, essentially a rugged daisy chain. There are two on the pack’s front face, which helps attach different equipment. Some of YETI’s gear is designed to fit here, like their Gear Cases, or you can attach something else, like trekking poles or a collapsible fishing pole, using a carabiner or strap.

As we mentioned when explaining how we operate the zippers on this thing, there are three handles to work with. The two side handles don’t have much depth and lack padding; however, we like them better that way. We use these less often, and their lack of depth and padding ensures they stay out of the way (and out of reach from sticks and branches on the trail). The top handle is a little more comfortable but isn’t going to get waterlogged, which is a bonus.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Handle Top
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The top hand is comfortable.

In testing, the backpack never let water into the main compartment, even after we tried to force it underwater and poured water onto it in various places. Because of its size, it will float most of the time. That said, if you load it with rocks, it might sink, which may cause issues as it gets further underwater and pressure builds. For most use cases, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Fit Notes

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Side By Side
Left: Lauren Maternowski, Height: 5’6” (168 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

The back panel on the Panga feels very industrial—it’s much more rugged than we’re used to seeing on travel backpacks or hiking daypacks. It feels like commercial rubber, so it will hopefully last a long time. It has some padding, but isn’t as comfortable as we’re used to. That’s one of the prices we’re willing to pay for waterproofness; however, we wouldn’t want to wear this every day year-round. That said, it doesn’t absorb water, which is essential.

You carry the Panga using the DryHaul™ shoulder straps, which have padding and mesh but, like the back panel, don’t hold much water. These will get a little wet but dry quickly enough for our liking. They’re comfortable but wide, so smaller-framed travelers may find them more uncomfortable.

The sternum strap and hip belt are easily removable, which is handy for people who dislike using them. Neither have padding or mesh for breathability; they’re very basic. Still, they’re an excellent addition if you’re hiking a long way to the river or are trying to get away from other people fishing on a crowded opening day. There are no strap keepers, which may deter some travelers, as some extra materials will be floating around.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Strap
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The sternum strap and hip belt are removable.

Overall, the taller members of the Pack Hacker team found the harness system to be comfortable enough for something that doesn’t have much padding, aeration, or mesh. That said, smaller team members felt it was too big and wide on their shoulders, and the pack was overpowering. Still, that might be worth it for someone looking for waterproofness over all else.

Inside The Pack

The Panga has no secondary compartments, which makes sense, as it is a waterproof backpack. More pockets would likely mean more fabric and openings, which are the Achilles heel of waterproofness. With just one opening, there are fewer places for water to sneak in.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Side
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The pack will keep your gear dry.

To get into the main compartment, you’ve got to go through that oversized beefy zipper we mentioned earlier. It’s no fun to rub your hand against, which will inevitably happen when you use it. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and avoid scraping yourself on it, but it’s worth mentioning it a few times. Seriously, this thing means business!

There’s very little organization inside here for a few reasons. First, organizational features mean stitching, which often is a way for water to sneak inside the pack. Second, this pack is intended to be used in a utilitarian fashion on the water. That isn’t to say this pack is ugly; however, you can use it for various things, and usefulness takes priority over looks and style. No, there aren’t a lot of pockets here. Still, you can use it for fishing, a day at the beach, or walking around an unfamiliar city without issue.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Interior
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | The main compartment when empty.

We used a liner pocket on the backside for a laptop in a pinch. There isn’t any padding, so we wouldn’t use this as a long-term option. This pocket is better suited for smaller items like books or folders.

A mesh pocket with a zippered closure is on the front side. It is a solid spot to stow smaller items you want to avoid getting lost in the hubbub of the main compartment, like your phone, wallet, keys, or fishing license.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Cubes
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | Loaded with gear.

The bottom of the main compartment is flat and wide, which is essential for a few reasons. First, this enables the pack to stand up on its own. Second, it makes it much easier to stow larger gear inside, like a camera cube, tackle box, or emergency kit. The pack is large enough to stow more oversized items, so having a flat bottom makes it easier to keep things more organized, too.

Due to the lack of pockets and other segmentation inside the Panga, we recommend using organizers like packing cubes, a tech pouch, and other devices to ensure you can quickly and easily find your gear. Locating a cable inside this pack’s 28-liter capacity may be challenging, but finding a small tech pouch should be easy.

YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack Zipper
YETI Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack | One last look at the details.

Organizing the pack can be difficult; however, we think that’s a worthy trade-off for waterproofness.

Remember, this product is not a cooler. However, who is stopping you from using it as one?

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • The zipper feels durable and appears to hold up to the submersible claims from YETI
  • No issues with the materials yet, but they don’t seem like the easiest to work with
  • We’re curious how the laptop compartment works over time
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • The materials have proved incredibly durable and waterproof
  • No issues with the hardware; however, the zipper can be uncomfortable if you rub it the wrong way
  • There isn’t much internal organization, so external segmentation devices are helpful
mm
By Eric Hergenreder
Created May 16, 2024 • Updated May 16, 2024
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