Yeti’s New Submersible Duffel: Is the New Panga Worth The Price?

Yeti’s New Submersible Duffel Is the New Panga Worth The Price (2)

If anyone should be price conscious, it’s me. That’s because my two daughters are in the thick of it with sports, and soon I’ll be the one forking it out for their first vehicles and, shortly after, college tuitions. Single father/single income with two daughters who hope to attend UCLA equals all sorts of trouble.

That’s why the sticker price for Yeti’s new Panga submersible duffel is so hard to swallow—it retails between $300 and $400 depending on size, meaning 50, 75 or 100-liter models.

However, if you spend a lot of time on the water—whether kayaking, whitewater rafting, paddling your SUP or kayak, or fishing from a Watermaster, a full-size raft, a hardboat, or a jetsled—a waterproof bag of some sort is essential. And not just because you want to keep your extra socks dry—keeping gear dry, including matches and lighters, extra clothing, even sleeping bags, can be a matter of survival. Think 70-mile long float down a remote Alaskan river, or even a five-day march down Montana’s Smith River in April, when rain, sleet, snow and a hard-driving upstream wind may turn this typically tame adventure into a logistical and dangerous nightmare.

In addition, it’s safe to say we’ve become a plugged-in society and that our tech devices—right or wrong—now rule us. Consequently, most of us pack multiple devices on our trips, including cell phones, GPS units, solar charging stations, and battery packs, none of which carry insignificant price tags.Which means a single exposure to water could cost us, literally, thousands. Finally, some of us try to say that our experiences outdoors are part of our job descriptions (my friends still aren’t buying it) and we take our laptops and photography and video equipment into the field. A single lens for my digital DSLR camera could cost a few thousand dollars. My full setup might be worth $20,000. So, when considering how to protect our equipment, and how we might survive if luck flies south, maybe price point shouldn’t be our top concern, especially for enthusiasts. If that’s the case the Yeti Panga might be the right bag for you.

Check out the Yeti Panga 50 Quart Duffel Bag, or go bigger and buy the 75 Quart Panga here.

Yeti’s New Submersible Duffel Is the New Panga Worth The Price (4)

The Yeti Panga: Is it really airtight and/submergible?

Here’s the dirt: As mentioned, the Panga is available in three sizes, each promising to be airtight while offering full submergibility. The zipper is the key to this functionality and Yeti incorporates a Hydrolok zipper and U-Dock to provide this. Basically, the zipper is the water barrier and it clicks into the U-Dock station. You can check this airtight promise, as I did, by docking the zipper and adding weight-bearing to the bag. To do this I dropped the shades on my windows so my neighbors won’t become more skeptical of me, then knelt on the bag and rotated it under my knees for 10 minutes. After that, I propped the Panga against a wall, stabilized the outside of the bag, and then stacked 100 pounds of weight on top. After 24 hours I checked the bag and determined that no air had escaped from the zipper and U-Dock.

I also checked the submergibility aspect by loading the Panga with weight, followed by gift-wrapping paper (which I figured would best show any sort of leakage) and submerged it in a deep bathtub and turned on the jets, my simulation for that bag going through a rapid. I left the jets on for an hour, then turned them off. But I left the Panga completely submerged for 24 hours. When I removed the Panga and drained the tub I dried the duffel with a towel and then used a hairdryer to remove any water drops remaining on the bag or on the zipper. Then I opened the bag and checked the paper. As expected, not a drop of water had penetrated the zipper and the paper was absolutely dry.

How durable is the new Yeti Panga?

Like other Yeti products, this one is built to last. The bag is made with Thickskin Shell, which is a high-density nylon and thick TPU lamination that is puncture and abrasion resistant. This is the same material Yeti’s soft-side coolers are made with. In addition, this duffel can serve as a backpack because it comes with removable, high-quality straps and equally bombproof metal clips. Let’s be honest, however; although the straps are comfortable and efficient, you aren’t going to head into the Crazy Mountains with this bag, figuring it to be a replacement for your standard high-country pack. But, this will get you hands-free from the boat to a campsite and serves superbly in airports as you negotiate security and race to gates. If you need to carry your camera gear all day and hike into some remote bull trout, cutthroat or steelhead stream, this backpack capability earns big props, too.

If you are going to carry the bag with your hands you’ll find eight different handles to choose from. These also serve as lashpoints so you can strap your bag down when the need arrives. These also allow you to pitch the bag from the beach to a boat if needed.

Yeti’s New Submersible Duffel Is the New Panga Worth The Price (1)

How much gear can the Panga carry?

You can jam a lot of gear into these bags, especially clothing, and a “zip assist” on the inside of the bag helps you get as much in as possible. The zip assist is a hook-connector that connects both sides of the bags, just under the zipper. This keeps the zipper nearly tight, even with the bag stuffed full. This allows you to zip the bag tight without having to pinch the zipper closed.

The inside of the bag is pretty straightforward—it’s a single open space, i.e. not partitioned, and offers two small mesh zip pockets. Because it is a single space you can’t place a single camera in the bag and expect it to sit tight—you would need to pack items around it to keep it from shifting and possibly being damaged. Ditto for any other items you place in the bag. If you’re only placing clothing in the bag, or a tent or a sleeping bag, etc., no worries.

One more thing: the Panga is made with a molded bottom, which allows it to sit nearly flush in the bottom of a boat or in an overhead, and keeps it from rolling around.


Should I buy the new Yeti Panga?

Really, the new Panga submersible duffel is exactly what you would expect from Yeti—a highly engineered piece of equipment that is built to survive in the outdoors and function in the most demanding situations. That does not mean it’s for everybody—there are scads of rolltop bags on the market that cost significantly less and function well, although I do recall that rolltops can easily fail, as mine did on a trip down the Devils River in Texas last spring. I ended up sleeping in a wet bag and had to dry all my clothes, overnight, by hanging them on thornbushes.

Additionally, there are other submersible duffles on the market, but you might pay just as much or more for these as you would for the Yeti. So, the choice to spend a significant sum on a duffel comes down to this: How much of an enthusiast are you?

If you—and possibly your life—depends on clothing and equipment staying dry, and you are going to take this duffel onto the water and expose it to harsh elements often, and you need peace of mind, the Panga is probably for you. On the flipside, if you just need a bag to keep the kids’ clothes dry until after a fall or spring soccer match, I think you can find effective and cheaper options.

So, why did I add a Panga to my arsenal? And how did I justify the price when I bear the financial responsibility for my children? I looked at it this way: the Panga comes with a three-year warranty and I expect the bag to survive long beyond that; if it functions perfectly for 10 years the annual cost for this bomber 50-liter duffel comes out to $30 a year, which is basically the price of one visit to Jimmy Johns after a soccer match.

I could easily build our own sandwiches one day this fall, instead of hitting Jimmy Johns, and I would eagerly pay $30 on every single fishing trip to know that my clothes, survival equipment, and camera gear is safe and sound.

Ever wondered why Yeti coolers are so expensive? (Spoiler: There's a bear in here.)

Want free eMags, exclusive access to gear and fly sales, and updates on the latest river reports in WA, MT & ID? Join Our Email List
Author Image
Greg Thomas grew up splitting time between southeast Alaska and Seattle, Washington . . . and never moved away from the Pacific Northwest. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his two daughters and serves as Editor-in-Chief of North 40’s creative department. Thomas has penned five books on fly fishing, including Fly Fisher’s Guide to Washington and Fly Fisher’s Bible Montana. His byline appears in regional and national publications, including the New York Times, Forbes, Outside, and Field & Stream. He has no trouble admitting that he’s a steelhead addict and loves pursuing these fish with two-hand rods wherever they swim.

Latest posts by Greg Thomas (see all)

Leave a Reply