Miraculously, a sunny spell spanned the Easter bank holiday weekend so I took the new TXL down the Thames for its maiden voyage. At Putney I caught the remains of a spring tide but dithered too much so only had a hour until it turned at London Bridge and pushed back up the river. Nevermind, I’ll get as far as I get and hop out anywhere there are some steps or a ladder. With a packraft it’s easily done.
Floor pad and skeg
This is a similar run I did a couple of months ago in the dead of the Covid winter with the Revo, but this time I remembered to air up the floor pad good and hard. I’m expecting the 2.8-m long, hard-floored TXL to be nippy, and so it is. Setting off the boat skates across the water so that you can ‘paddle – pause/glide – paddle’ like in a kayak, not spin like a food mixer to keep moving.
I fit the skeg but notice from the pix that most of it is out of the water. Don’t think the 2K was like that, but it’s submerged enough to track well. I did wonder why it wasn’t on the flat of the floor for full effect. Perhaps, as with the Nomad S1, it’s not strictly necessary. Something to try next time. As mentioned, I do plan to fit a second skeg on the front to see how that affects crosswinds and sailing.
They advise using the foam seat block (left) with the floor pad. It feels a bit of an afterthought, adds packed bulk and, as others have reported, is not so comfortable. or effective. After 20 minutes I was getting a sore coccyx which was only going to get worse.
Mid-river I shuffled over the twice-as-large blow-up seatbase but soon found it wobbled around on the hard floor pad (like trying to stand on a soft football) in a way they don’t when sat on regular packraft floors. This must be why the block seatbase is supplied but the foam is too hard for flatwater cruising. I aired it right down (easily done in situ) until I was nearly sitting on the floor, but in rougher waters there would still be a wobble and anyway, by then your butt and heels are nearly level like sitting on an iSup board; not an ideal paddling stance.
Overall, the raised position on the floor pad does aid good paddling as you can clear the fat sidetubes with the paddle more easily. Sat higher, I would expect stability in rougher water to suffer; at that time you’d want either thigh straps – or just sit yourself lower by easily airing down the floor pad. The backrest is easily adjusted in the boat too, and is held up by thin bungies so it’s easy to shift it up your back if it slips.
For the moment I feel the seat in MRS Nomad was a better affair. Partly because I felt it was part suspended/supported from tabs halfway up the side tubes like a hammock, not sat directly on the floor. That means your body weight is spread broadly along on the side tubes, not pressing down solely into the floor, created sagging. However, at around half-a-metre square, the seat base is much bigger than previous packraft seatbases I’ve used. Without the floor pad, this broad base may nearly replicate the advantageous load-spreading effect of a Nomad-style side-tab suspended seatbase. An underwater picture will tell all, but I like to think the TXL may be as functional and not much slower without the floor. After all the floor-less Nomad was nippy enough.
The TXL’s raised floor jams you less well into the boat sides which is 4cm wider than the Nomad. I quite like a jammed-in feeling but recognise that with a floor pad, added height requires a bit more boat width to maintain stability. And up front there’s plenty of room for feet side by side, unlike in the pointy ended Nomad.
There are a few more evaluations to do with the TXL but it looks promising. Comfortable, supportive seating I know can be an issue with IKs so using the floor pad I’m confident I will either get used to it, find a better seatbase or find that the pad is not essential for shorter paddles.
Fyi, I have now become very used to using the Flextail electric pump to air up the boat (and the floor), before finishing off with the handpump. It can vacuum shrink the boat too, for compact packing. As you can see the handy BowBag fits on like it should.
Anfibio Vertex Tour paddle
Anfibio sent me their new, four-part, multi-adjustable Vertex Tour paddle to try. It weighs just 890g on my scales, same as my old carbon Aqua Bound Manta Ray, with same-sized blades. A simple lever clamp allows you to set any offset the carbon shaft left or right, as well as vary the length 15cm between 210 and 225cm which is something new to me. Theoretically I can see using the full length with a backwind or a strong current and a short paddle for battling into the wind in ‘low gear’.
Each piece is 63cm long. The all-round shaft felt a bit thinner than normal, and sure enough, measured up around 29mm ø compared to my 32mm Werners which suit my hands better. Smaller handed persons will prefer the Vertex.
The middle clamps up firmly but there was a bit of slack at the paddles; we’re talking less than half a millimetre here but it’s enough to rattle and be noticeable as you release the pressure on lifting the blade out. Does it make difference to non-competitive propulsion? Not really and better too loose than too tight. I wrapped some thin, smooth tape round the ends to eliminate the slack. The Vertex costs €125 – that’s a lot of light and fully adjustable paddle for your money.