The backpack serves a strange utility for the PFD-clad paddler, relegated to the ranks of random land transport before strapping down or stowing away.
For the portage prone and tumpline averse, comfy straps and even waist support are a must. Whereas most kayakers value minimalism for the sake of squish- and stowability into strange small hatch spaces. Enter Yeti’s Panga Backpack. (3.9 lbs., $299, YETI.com)
While the premium cooler purveyors made a splash last year with the introduction of their zipper-closure Panga dry duffels, the shrunken down backpack version had us initially scratching our heads. At 28 liters, it has the relative size of a larger day-touring drybag, but features heavier-duty straps that you’d consider for a longer pack-in approach, or that you would see on a bag built for stowing overnight gear (with a removable waist belt and chest strap).
We exposed the pack to open decks in both salt- and freshwater environments, first on a California offshore yellowtail hunt, and then through unexpected summer squalls canoeing a lake crossing in northern Maine. Trusting the Hydrolok zipper will come as second nature to any drysuit veterans, and it lives up to its billing as a fully waterproof, simple-access closure. There’s no purging, rolling, clipping necessary, however, the zipper is no one-handed affair. With wet hands, you certainly need to use the nylon lash point to jerk open/close.
Yeti’s knack for over-building for the sake of supreme durability also means that the Panga can be a tough squeeze in confined spaces. For better or worse, the pack retains its rectangular shape due to a molded back panel. We therefore found its best application as a deck bag, with plenty of rigging points on all sides. That ability to retain shape also came in handy for storing a DSLR camera bag. Extras on the inside include an internal mesh pocket, as well as a molded sleeve (that fits a laptop perfectly) for photographers who can’t leave electronics behind. Other paddlers might recognize the thicker-walled bag’s ability to keep moisture in as well — making it a perfect impromptu cooler solution as it can hold two 12-pack boxes of canned drink, with an ice sleeve nested in the pocket. Either way, whether keeping contents cold, or dry, the added heft of the Panga means you’re packing with extra assurance of a bag that doesn’t need to be stowed away from the elements.
Drybag Stress Test