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We Test – Yeti Panga Dry Backpack

Trying out Yeti's ultimate backpack...as a camera bag.

August 6, 2020
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Yeti Panga out on the docks
The Yeti Panga, out in the Bahamas. Garrett Cortese

Yeti’s line of Panga dry bags is well known as one of the most durable and versatile out there. They’re fully submersible and designed to take the beating of the most vigorous adventures. When I got invited to go on a journey through the Bahamas with the Roswell Marine crew and their customized Invincible 37 Cat, I wanted to see if the Panga Backpack could work as the type of bag I’ve long desired: waterproof camera bag.

In my nearly two decades as a working photographer, I’ve been through my fair share of bags and cases, but I’ve never found a comfortable, capable backpack that is completely waterproof. There are hard cases that float and keep everything completely dry, but they aren’t designed to be worn like a backpack (at least not comfortably). Other waterproof backpacks have been made over the years, but never to the specs and size a pro photographer needs. Of course, the Panga is not designed to be or marketed as a camera bag, but given its dimensions, I thought it might work.

Yeti Panga backpack with F-Stop Gear Large ICU inside
The F-Stop Gear Large ICU fits nicely inside the Yeti Panga backpack. Garrett Cortese

By using an Internal Camera Unit (ICU) from acclaimed camera bag maker F-Stop Gear, the Panga quickly converted from empty backpack into capable camera bag. I used a size Large ICU, which was a tight squeeze getting into the Panga, but I wanted as little wiggle room as possible. It fit side-to-side perfectly, and left some room at the top of the bag to store extra items like a jacket or miscellaneous gear. The semi-rigid structure of the Panga and the padding on the back made it more comfortable to carry than I was anticipating. I knew I wouldn’t be carrying my gear for hours at a time on this trip, so I wasn’t worried about not having a hip belt, torso clip or other features normally found on adventure-ready camera backpacks.

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Pulling camera gear out of the Yeti Panga
While the Panga’s zippers don’t allow for a full opening, camera gear was still accessible. Garrett Cortese

Throughout the trip the Panga proved useful in just the ways I needed it to. I didn’t need to worry about it taking a beating, getting wet, being placed on a sandy beach or much else. The F-Stop ICU added enough protection that, when combined with the materials and rigidity of the Panga, I wasn’t worried about gear getting damaged in transit. With all the walking around and exploring we did in the Bahamas, the Panga proved much easier than a hard case, while offering the waterproof benefits. Because the Panga isn’t designed as a camera bag, there are downsides. For one, the zipper doesn’t run all the way down the sides of the bag, which means it doesn’t open as wide as a camera backpack. This meant accessing some gear at the bottom of the ICU was trickier, but not impossible. There are less pockets/stash areas for storing camera-specific gear like extra batteries, chargers, cords, etc. But for what I was expecting and needed it to do during this trip, it more than exceeded expectations.

The Yeti Panga has wonderful durability
Thanks to the Panga’s durable build, water, sand and sun were no problem during our week in the Bahamas. Garrett Cortese

If you take camera equipment out on your boat regularly, and like to easily take it from boat to beach, marina or anywhere else, the Panga, when combined with a camera insert, is a great solution. Plus, when you don’t need to worry about your camera gear, you can take out the insert and have the versatility of one of the best dry backpacks on the market, which is what it was ultimately designed for in the first place.

Yeti Panga Backpack: $299.99

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F-Stop Gear Pro ICU – Large: $99.00

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