Author Archives: Chris S

Preview: Decathlon Itiwit Packraft 100

See also:
Itiwit 500 Packraft

Itiwit inflatable kayaks were one of the few IKs that remained available (and without price hikes) during the Great Lockdown IK Shortage of 2020. In 2021 Decathlon’s initial entry into the packraft market with the 12-panel, semi decked ‘500’ model got off to a lumpy start, or at least ended up not being sold in the UK for more than a couple of weeks. However for 2022 the cheaper and plainer Packraft 100 model is definitely here in the UK (and probably everywhere else) for £380.

Itiwit Packraft 100 and 500

What they say
Designed for packrafting beginners, this packraft can be carried in a backpack! Cover a calm water course or a lake then descend or cross it!
This extremely compact packraft will enable you to enjoy your hikes in a whole new way, travelling along a calm class 1 river, or across a lake: Create your own tailor-made adventure.

(It’s not easy to locate the X100 pdf manual)

Decathlon/Itiwit kept things simple on the 100 with a basic, six-panel Kokopelli-like design and a flat hull with no rocker (bow uplift). The boat is made with 210D? TPU tubes and a 420D floor measuring up, we’re told, at 204cm long by 97cm wide, a bit shorter but a lot wider than Anfibio’s similar Alpha XC. Using graphic extrapolation developed in Bletchley Park, I estimate the interior width at the seat is 45cm and 25cm at the feet, with an interior length of 118cm, although the pointy ends will make that feel a bit less.
Weight rating is 110kg and the claimed weight of the entire package: boat and hose in the carry/airbag, is 2kg.

In that second video, product engineer Julie tells us with English subs that the Packraft 100 runs 1psi right over an image (left) that clearly states 1.5psi around the valve. Then again, the preceding action vid shows 1psi at the valve and on the air bag too. Perhaps they decided to play it safe at the last minute, but assuming it’s sewn and welded with tape like most packrafts, it should be able to handle a bit more for a better ride. Of course there’s no way of measuring pressure without a low-psi manometer.

As with their IKs, Itiwit have their own way of doing things with seemingly little reference to competitors. So Packraft 100 looks oversquare and with long hand straps front and rear, rather than the usual grab loops (there are two up front inside). It’s possible hand straps are a requirement of paddle craft safety regulations in France.
Unless I’m missing something, the very wide seat with a handy one-way valve uses an oddly clumsy securing strap, but the carry bag cleverly doubles as an inflation bag and then a roll-top dry bag once on the water. The orange floor is 420D TPU. In an emergency, flip the boat over and wave.

To inflate, you clamp a hose from the bag to the Boston valve, catch some air, roll up the ends then kneel on it (above left or watch the second vid). Top up by mouth only (see video below on this link), as they advise a hand pump may risk over-inflation. Then again we all managed packrafting for years with just air bags and mouth tops-ups long before mini hand-pumps came on the scene.

So there it is, Le Packraft 100 for le packrafting beginners, as long as they’re at the lighter and less tall end of the spectrum. And one good thing is Itiwit always make it clear spare parts are available.

At £380 I’m pretty sure it’s about the cheapest of the proper TPU packrafts (as opposed to PU nylon ‘crossrafts‘) and ought to be available wherever you find a Decathlon outlet.

Tested: 4-part kayaking paddles: Anfibio Vertex and Wave review

Two good-value, four-part paddles from Anfibio ideal for packraft or IK travels. The yellow Vertex Tour is a newer redesign and a lot lighter, even with a longer range of length adjustments and has a better clamp. But the black Wave (left) has the classic dihedral (two-faced) blade. What is the difference and does it matter?

What they say

Anfibio Vertex Tour
Our new, redesigned Vertex Tour paddle comes with a classic double blade, fine shaft and sub one-kilo weight. Equally suitable for lakes, calm rivers and moderate whitewater. The position length is adjustable from 210cm to 225cm at free angle.

Anfibio Wave
High-quality, lightweight carbon paddle for long tours on calm waters. Freely adjustable in length and angle.

I’ve done several hours with both paddles and for this comparison we took both on a 15-mile paddle down the Wey in Surrey in the TXL. It was a hot day but water doesn’t get any flatter unless it’s an ice rink. Below some weights and measures to mull over.

Weight gLength cmShaft cmShaft
g
Shaft øBlade gmLongest piece cmBlade cmPrice
Anfibio
Vertex
851g210-225118cm303g
fibreglass
29mm274g63cm
(blade)
44 x 19.5cm€125
Anfibio
Wave
1011g210-220108cm283g
carbon
29mm365g65cm
(blade)
44 x 16cm€125

I didn’t notice until I weighed the blades, but the two are made quite differently. The larger Vertex blade – about 650cm2 – has a molded central ‘corrugation’ to stiffen the blade. The Wave has a classic dihedral (two-faced) power face which is said to power smoothly through the water better than a plain flat blade. The Wave blade is also smaller – 600cm2 at a guess.

People ask: what is the the weight of a large banana?

So the main differences are weight, blade size and blade face, and I suppose adjustable length and the texture of the shafts. Will you notice the difference in a packraft? I very much doubt it but I think I’d prefer to paddle all day with the smaller bladed and dihedral Wave, even if it’s 160g heavier: the weight of a large banana.

I have a theory with length-adjustable paddles that into the wind or upstream (ie; max effort) you can ‘lower the gearing’ by shortening the paddle and leverage. Meanwhile downwind you can get the most of your paddle by setting it at full length overdrive. It’s good to have the option and one day I will test this theory but really, we paddle as hard as the situation demands. Sometimes easy, sometimes more efortful.

Wave shows the carbon weave; both are 29mm ø, good for smaller hands

Feather angle alignment
My Vertex came with no alignment line on the lever clamp to set the angle against a grid. It took me a while to work this out until I couldn’t and a couple of yellow tape arrows set at my preferred 45°R. Anfibio have since told me this was a production flaw and current Vertex have an alignment marker on the clamp. A permanent alternative to my stick-on arrows would be melting a slot into the clamp with a hot knife. It would be easiest to do this with the paddle feathered at zero (no offset) which is easy to estimate. Think before you melt or use tape!

The Wave’s alignment system is as you’d expect. In fact there are two ways: a slot on the clamp to align with the grid; and pre-set angles molded into the clamp to align with the zero line on the grid. As it is, on both paddles the white alignment grid gets slid over at each assembly and will probably wear away over the years so you’ll end up with a tape marker anyway. That’s what I’ve done on my old Werners which had a grid sticker on the outside which eventually peeled off.

The blades on both paddles felt a little loose once mounted on the shafts. Maybe they’re made that way as the shaft may swell over the years as it did on my carbon AquaBound. It’s unlikely you’d notice on the move but no movement is best. A small bit of thin tape (left; not a full wrap) was enough to remove any play and if the tape wears or pulls off it’s easy to apply some more. Once clamped down there was no play at the shaft join.

On the Wey you might notice the weight swapping from one to the other, but after a while you’re just paddling. In a way the ideal combo would be fitting the smaller Wave blades on the longer, better clamped Vertex shaft, but oddly they’re not interchangeable.

In the end, for €125 you will not be disappointed because either paddle will proper your boat forward, adjust readily and fit easily in your pack.

Incidentally, I did an IK&P survey when I paddled the Wey in 2021. 2022 numbers in red. In over a decade I saw my first every packraft actually being used on the water! An underinflated MRS. I got the feeling the owner didn’t know that airbagging was not enough; you have to top up too. Has he not read my book?!

  • Hardshell canoes: 1 1
  • Hardshell kayaks: 1 8 (group)
  • Hardshell SoT: 1 0
  • Vinyl IKs (rock-bottom cheapies): 5 1
  • PVC (bladder) IKs 3 0
  • Packrafts 0 1!
  • iSUPs: 10+  (mostly women or mixed groups goofing off) 10
  • FDS IKs: 0 (IK&P most read page) 0

Preview: Aquaglide Cirrus 150 TPU hybrid kayak

I hope to be testing a pre-production version of the Cirrus later this year

See also:
TPU The Mis ing Link
Hybrid IK Buying Guide
IK Fabrics

Nearly two years ago I predicted TPU IKs could be the next step and wrote:

[synthetic rubber is good but] … Packrafts, meanwhile, are mostly made from TPU (as well as PVC), a different sort of polymer coating which has many of the benefits of synthetic rubber: odour-free, smooth texture, light, UV resistant, supple (crease-free), not environmentally toxic. But, like PVC, it too can be heat welded. Since Alpacka got the ball rolling, there are now loads of brands banging out TPU packrafts. In this time the fabric and seam technology have proved themselves to be as durable as PVC or rubber, and capable of running higher pressures too. As someone on the internet observed: ‘Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is the link between rubber and plastic’.

Now that TPU packrafts are well proven, it could be time to ditch PVC and make TPU IKs, assuming the costs can be bearable. The benefits are principally nothing less than a huge reduction in weight.

Aquaglide Cirrus TPU IK
On the face of it the new Cirrus IKs seem to be copies of Aquaglide’s three PVC Chelen models (120, 140, 155) – never seen one but they look to be a decent hybrid. The PVC ‘155’ 15-footer weighs a hefty 42 lbs (19kg) and I bet will fill a large suitcase. Although that weight’s unverified, it actually compares well with other long hybrid PVC IKs and even my old 4.5-m Seawave at 17kg. But unlike a Nitrilon rubber Seawave, in my experience the rolled-up bulk of big PVC IKs can be off putting.

The press release claims the new Cirrus 150 will weigh just 18 lbs (8.1kg); a staggering <50% reduction on the PVC Chelan. Price is said to be $1700, $400 more than the 155 Chelan which today goes for £1150 in the UK. The boat is 15 feet (4.57m) long, 35 inches (89cm) wide and claims to handle 600 lbs (272kg). You won’t need a wheel suitcase (left; Sandbanks) to cart a Cirrus around.

According to the video above, the tubes are double-coated 70D nylon TPU. This sounds low compared to a packraft’s typical 210D hull, but remember denier is thread weight not coated fabric thickness (’70 x the weight of silk’). In the UK IronRaft sell 70D TPU and this MYO chap used it too. It’s at the very lightest end of the scale; 70D PU-coated nylon is what Supai use, though I’m not sure you can compare PU coating with TPU. The fact that the Cirrus will be double coated (most packrafts are now single coated) ought to provide extra support (more rigidity/less sag) without needing to resort to seam-straining higher pressures. One good thing about PVC is that it’s innately stiff once pumped up – good for performance if not packability.

In the vid you can spot the floor pressure is rated at 0.41 bar (5.9psi) and the sides take a healthy 0.21 (3psi) which ought to be enough to give a rigid form without ruptures.

Unlike the Chelan, there appear to be no ‘have-your-cake-and-eat-it’ closeable self-bailing ports which I suspect have dubious value outside of white water paddling to which a 15-foot IK is ill suited. You just get the usual drain port in the back when flipping the boat over will achieve the same purpose. The floor is removable too according to a video comment; a huge benefit for quick rinsing, drying and cleaning. And we’re told the whole boat fits into the shoulder drybag as pictured below.

Price was always an issue with more sophisticated and less widely-used TPU, but now everything everywhere has become expensive, perhaps this matters less? Radical economic analysis apart, let’s hope this starts a trend towards more TPU IKs for folk who want the benefits of a lightweight tandem packraft like my current Sigma TXL, but in spacious and faster IK form.

Let’s end with something else I wrote two years ago:

A few years ago I predicted that full drop-stitch IKs would become the new thing. This has happened and has driven IK design and sales a long way forward. But, PVC aside, I’m still not convinced by the boxy profiles and packed bulk of FD-S IKs. Until FD-S forms can evolve (as the Itiwit X500 has shown), I think hybrid, drop-stitch floors (D-SF) are certainly the way to go, if an IK is to stay undecked, unlike the X500.

There will always be a demand for cheap vinyl or PVC IKs but I predict the next big thing in high-end IKs will be TPU, including removable D-S floors in TPU. TPU is now well proven with packrafts and blends the heat-welding benefits of PVC with nearly all the better attributes of ‘hypalons’.

Thanks to a couple of IK&P followers who spotted and passed on news of Aquaglide’s new Cirrus range of hybrid TPU IKs.

Book review: South West Sea Kayaking (+ Reeds Channel Almanac)

In a line
[SWSK has…] Loads of ideas and detailed information covering 50 paddling itineraries along hundreds of miles of England’s fascinating southwestern coastline.

What they say (about South West Sea Kayaking)

This revised and updated third edition provides guide to the entire South West’s coasts and islands. It is packed with great photography and detailed route maps, alongside descriptions and anecdotes unveiling the region’s rich tapestry of maritime scenery, wildlife, history, geology and culture
April 2021; 272pp; Pesda Press

South West Sea Kayaking and Reeds Channel Almanac

Review
Although I’ve only done a couple of routes, this is an essential and comprehensive handbook to safely plan a paddle along this complex but accessible and populated coastline. Or just browse through to get some ideas of what’s possible. Of the 50 suggested routes, 14 are grade ‘A’ for easy, 25 are ‘B’ and the other 11 are ‘C’, like Cape Cornwall, Lundy Island or the crossing to Scilly Isles which are probably outside the comfort zone of a solo paddler in an IK, even without a gale blowing. Any IK or even a packraft party could manage a B in ideal conditions – but of course even an A-grade paddle could get too lively at the wrong tide in nasty weather. That’s UK sea paddling for you; a lot of sitting about watching the weather forecast.

Suggested start and finish points are given with a postcode and OS map coordinates along with the given OS sheet. It would be nice to also have more easily copied and interpreted GPS decimal degrees (for example: 51.2025, -4.6777: tip of Lundy) which most people use these days over OS coordinates, even if they’re likely have OS maps in their phone or GPS.
Nearby tidal ports are a way of calculating the time of the tide in your area, and there’s a detailed paragraph on tidal times and what might be happening where and at what stage of the tide and how fast it runs during stronger springs. Some of this information was probably collected from a Reeds Almanac (see below) so it’s one less thing to buy or consult. As it is most of us will check and bookmark local tide times online before reception gets lost.
In particular the Pedsa book will point out where the water can get turbid at spring tides around headlands – important information you’ll struggle to find or interpret easily online and especially important in a less agile, if stable, inflatable.
A detailed description follows, you can tell most if not all the routes have actually been done by Mark Rainsley the author at least once, and that’s followed by Tide & Weather and Additional Information, all adding up to a comprehensive guide to what you’re taking on. In between you get boxed asides, most often describing terrible maritime tragedies or badly behaved smugglers with chime with the author’s sometimes dark humour, as well as background reading: that’s the sort of guidebook we like!

One annoyance in search of a clean design is putting the captions of the many colour photos deep in the gutter of this thick and thick-papered book that’s about an inch thick. Along with the uncluttered colour maps, most of these photos work well in visualising the region described.

I can see myself using this much more than Pesda’s North West Sea Kayaking guide I bought years ago and hardly ever used (as I mostly paddled in one small rea). Even if you just end up doing a handful of Southwest routes in your IK or P, you’ll set off well armed with what need to know and so won’t regret spending the typically discounted 16 quid. It’s a lot of book for that money.


It was sailer Barry who alerted me to the value of a ring-bound Reeds Almanac prior to our Jurassic paddle. I’ve heard of Reeds of course, but assumed it was strictly for yachtsmen.
In print since 1932, there’s loads of little value or interest to a fairweather sea inflationeer – the most useful thing kayakers want to know are locally intensified tidal streams and the Pesda book covers that better on the included routes.
Still, it’s reissued every year with annual tide predictions (easily found online anyway) so you can pick up a recent used edition, like the ‘Channel Almanac’ (south England and NW French coast only) for a fiver, ditch the tide and French pages, and learn all about harbour features, the meaning of buoyage and big-picture tidals streams in the Channel over the 12-hour span of a tide (below left).

Packrafting the Jurassic Coast (video)

See also
Sigma TXL Index Page
MRS Nomad
Rye to Hastings
Newhaven to Brighton
Chichester to Bognor
Hayling Island
Swanage Stacks
Studland to Swanage
South West Sea Kayaking guidebook

I’ve done a few IK paddles in Southeast England between Rye and Portsmouth, but the Sussex and Hampshire coasts aren’t that inspiring. So it’s about time I started exploring the far more interesting and much more extensive Southwest Coast. From the Isle of Wight to Cornwall and back up to the Severn there are scores of inshore excursions possible in an inflatable. Just as in the far northwest where I mostly sea paddle, all you need is a fair tide and paddle-friendly winds, the latter a bit less rare down south.

In a blobby packraft? You cannot be serious!

So in the face of predicted moderate winds I cooked up a 50-km Jurassic overnighter from Weymouth to Swanage in Dorset. I’m pretty sure they opportunistically rebranded the plain old Purbeck or just ‘Dorset’ coast as the ‘Jurassic Coast‘ soon after that 1993 movie and haven’t looked back since.
Like much of the Southwest coast, the beaches and country lanes become a logjam of holidaymakers on a warm summer’s day. On the water, our paddle would pass below sections of cliffs a couple of miles long and take us to the famed landmarks of Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door arch (top of the page) and Dancing Ledge. We could even carry on back north past Old Harry’s Rocks and across Studland Bay right into Poole Harbour to catch out trains home.

TXL at sea

Compared to using regular (solo) packrafts, my confidence in my TXL for sea paddling is a revelation. After all, it’s still just another blobby, single-chamber packraft. It must be a combination of the added size giving a kayak-like perception of security (as I found in my MRS Nomad), as well as the responsiveness and speed from a longer waterline and, I now recognise, the sometimes noticeable added glide from the Multimat floor. There’s also the fact that paddlechum Barry was up for the Dorset run in his similar MRS Nomad, making this untypical packraft outing less daunting.

Lulworth tides – all or nothing (of not much).
Modest, two-metre tides off Purbeck

For some bathymetric reason – possibly the Atlantic tidal surge backing up in the Straits of Dover, plus hidden offshore shelves – the tides off the east Dorset coast are very odd: they can rise or drop all day, but have a range of just two metres, about as low as it gets in the UK. That ought to mean moderate ebb flows pushing up against prevailing westerlies, plus we were heading into neaps. And while often cliff-bound, if we stayed alert to escape routes we could easily bail and walk or climb out with our packrafts.

East of Lulworth Cove the Jurassic Coast‘s bucket & spade Babylon is interrupted by a 5-mile wide Danger Area – an army firing range. This was probably not one of UNESCO’s criteria for World Heritage status, but the SW coastal path also gets closed for a similar distance. Barry’s Reeds Almanac had a page or two on this (left), as well as useful tidal flow charts (drops to the west; rises east). I left it to Barry to call the ‘0800 DUCK!’ number, but imagined surely they’d leave the target practice to the off season. In fact they’re all it most of the time Mon–Fri, including an evening session 9pm to midnight: all we had to do was click this.

fishing.app – handy and similar toa Reeds Almanac but free
Early train to Weymouth

With a plan taking shape, I in turn bought a copy of Pesda’s South West Sea Kayaking in the hope of being alerted to local anomalies. I’m glad I did. It turned up with just hours to spare and identified that the run from Kimmeridge Bay round the Purbeck corner to Swanage was a grade up from the easy section from Weymouth. With headlands, submarine ledges and long lines of cliffs, without a foot recce I decided we may be better off skipping this bit.

It’s noon in Weymouth, but with offshores now predicted by late afternoon, we fast forward by taxi to Ringstead Bay, 5 miles in. That first section from Weymouth looks nothing special.
Put in at Ringstead. Ten mph westerlies blowing against an ebbing neap tide.
My Mk2 transverse bowsprit for a wide WindPaddle sail mount to limit swaying in stronger winds.
I’m giving the Multimat floor yet another go too, all the better to skim over the water.
We’re on the water at 1pm, hoping to reach Chapman’s Pool, about 21km away.
But around 5pm winds are said to veer offshore and strengthen, so we’ll see.
We sail at about 5-6kph – not much faster than paddling – but I note my TXL creeps forward about half a click faster than the MRS – must be the stiffening Multimat.
Propelled at paddling speed by his inflatable AirSail, Barry casually checks his investment portfolio.
The cliffs below Chaldon Downs. At times we paddled as we sailed to make less work for the wind.
Forty five minutes in, I pull in the sail and line the TXL up to thread Bat’s Head arch.
Note how the layers of chalk beds here have been pushed up to nearly vertical.
Give it half a million years and Bat’s Head will be as big as nearby Durdle Door.
Approaching the famous Durdle Door arch alongside a crowded beach.
The TXL still weathercocks a bit under sail; I keep having to steer hard inland, but the bowsprit ‘stick’ limits the sail’s ability to twist. Or maybe the wind’s bouncing off the cliffs and blowing us offshore a little.
Sitting further back to weight the back end over the waves may help.
Sunbathers watch spellbound as Barry smoothly ‘Durdles the Door’ – a Southwest kayaker’s rite of passage.
The Door has been durdled. Some claim ‘Dorset’ (formerly Wessex) was named after this famous arch.
In high summer young bloods jump off the 60-metre arch. Appropriately, it’s called ‘tombstoning’.
Near the entrance into Lulworth Cove things get choppy. Sat high on the airmat floor, if I feel unstable I can easily let it down. As we head through the Cove’s narrow neck a patrol boat circles back and instructs Barry we can’t carry on east; the army ranges are firing.
‘I thought you said you were going call them, Barry? You had one job to do…’
‘But you said they hardly ever do this on a balmy, July’s day!’
And so it went on…
A salty-eared boatman tells us the army pack up about 5pm, about 2.5 hours from now by which time the offshores may be on us as we cross the Kimmeridge Ledges mentioned in the Pesda book.
As we slurp a 99 with sprinkles the odd gust blows offshore.
We can’t even pack up and walk the cliff path; it’s closed too, and so is the B3070 road.
Barry wants to paddle on a 5pm, but I propose we bus to Swanage rather than risk being be left high and dry.
Tomorrow we’ll paddle north towards Poole – or as far as the predicted headwinds allow.
So a paltry 5 miles – but the classic stretch of the Jurassic Coast.
But there’s no campsite till August, so we pitch for free up in Durlston Country Park to the sound of beery revellers and Tuesday-night hoons doing burn-outs along the seafront. What can it be like on a Saturday night?
Six am next morning, a light breeze blowing from the northwest means no condensation ;-))
The Anfibio Multimat passed the sleeping test, too.
I walk a mile south to Purbeck’s corner at Durlston Head to inspect the tidal stream. Two hours before LW, it’s negligible, but further west, St Albans Head just out of Chapman’s Pool is said to be stronger. I must do that walk sometime.
Above, a ferry heads from Poole to the Channel Islands.
Looking back north you just see our tents on Peveril Point,
Ballard Down chalk cliffs and pinnacles stretch out beyond, and Bournemouth’s at the back.
At the cafe we meet Rach and Mark setting off on the final day of a staggering 630-mile walk along the Southwest coast from Minehead in north Devon. Their picture above taken a few hours later.
Meanwhile we prime our boats for the 6.3 miles past Old Harry to Poole Harbour Entrance.
We may carry on to Poole itself, but a strengthening wind may nix that idea.
No sailing today, Barry inches into the light morning breeze across Swanage Bay.
We reversed this trip a couple of months back.
Ballard cliffs in the wind’s lee at glassy low water.
Ballard’s spike, thought by some to be a fossilised Dendrosauraus tooth.
We approach the Pinnacles to the squawk of agitated seabirds.
Arches ripe for threading as far as the eye can see.
But this morning the tide is too low.
And it means there’s a lot of this string-weed floating about. It catches in our skegs but I have a solution.
Leaving Harry’s, Barry’s is a bit of a Lethargic Larry cutting across Studland Bay.
Halfway across, I remove a metre-long, kilo of Swanage string-weed caught in his skeg.
It’s all going nicely until 10.30am when the wind kicks up, then picks up some more.
But the GPS revealed we kept plugging on at 5kph, just with a lot more effort.
As Barry observed, it was a slog but good to know our packrafts can progress against this sort of wind.
With brain-out jet-skiers, sailboats, motorboats, working boats and the rattling Sandbanks chain ferry, we have to time our crossing across the busy vortex of Poole Harbour Entrance. Hitting 8kph, we cross a sharp eddyline where the incoming tide clashed with still-draining Poole Harbour. Barry hops out quick before the chain ferry trundles back. (Turns out it’s actually free for northbound pedestrians).
From Swanage to Sandbanks, followed by a 90-minute walk to Poole station for the train home.

Anfibio Sigma TXL • Top 10 mods & tips

Sigma TXL main page

I’ve owned the Anfibio Sigma TXL for a couple of months now and have done several day trips two-up, solo and sailing. They’ve all helped give me ideas on how to refine the boat to my needs.
On purchase I got the optional Multimat airfloor, additional foam block seat, paddle leash and use my old Anfibio DeckPack on every trip. I also got a spare skeg patch and mounted a second skeg under the bow – it made things worse.
Here’s a quick reappraisal of the Sigma TXL followed by a list of modifications which have worked for me. Got packraft tips of your own? Let’s hear them.

Spacious solo
Light for its size
Room for 1.9
TubeBags very handy, even for day trips
Level solo trim (unlike Rebel 2K and similar)
Multimat floor’s benefits are just noticeable (good to sleep on, too)
Broad, thick front seatbase spreads the load: less floor sag when solo
Thicker 420-D floor extension ‘bumpers’ over bow and stern
Variety of set-ups and sitting positions, solo or two-up.

Stock skeg mounted too high (or too small)*
Inflatable front backrest lacks support
Optional foam seat block too hard
For me, the paddle leash was inferior to a regular mooring line
A dump valve in the seatbase would be nice (instant deflation)*
Reduced floor space when two-up with Multimat (depends on your sizes)

*Skeg repositioning on TXL and lock-open seat valves for all are scheduled on future Anfibios.


Best Sigma TXL Modifications & Tips

1

Fit a thin foam backrest (+40g) for better support.
Fits with no mods bar some helpful zip-tie slip-rings at the back. Works best with a footrest (6).

2

Fit a skeg mount to the floor so it’s fully submerged. Needed for sailing.
Otherwise reversing the stock skeg improves submergence a bit, or make a bigger one.
[Both skegs shown, only one needed for paddling]

3

Not really a game changer on flatwater, but knee straps improve boat connection and balance when waves get lively and help when bracing into a headwind. Plus they’re handy handles on land. Above is the old Anfibio version which requires gluing on 4 tabs as none of the stock ones line up or are robust enough. Anfibio do a ‘5-P’ thigh strap – even more gluing needed but better for whitewater.

4

Fit protective floor strakes before scratches get too bad (sea shore use; heavy paddler).
Any thick tape will do; I used expensive Gorilla Tape Patch & Go.

5

There’s a lot of volume in a TXL: a Flextailgear electric pump works while you do other prep.
Using rubbery, self-amalgamating tape, I adapted a spare nozzle to fit both Boston valve ports (top).
The soft grey adapter supplied (bottom left) fits the main port but could pull off and fall inside. Glue it on.

6

7

Consider Anfibio’s Lite Seat base for two-up only (-176g). Besides being less than half the weight, the curved rear edge gives a little more footroom for the rear paddler compared to the broad, rectangular stock front seat base (see backrest picture 1).

8

The TXL’s frontmost tab mounts are close together. If you’re sailing with a WindPaddle or Anfibio AirSail/PackSail, consider a Transverse Bowsprit (‘stick’) so the WP’s mounts are spread wide. It stabilises the sail which can flutter side-to-side when winds get strong.

9

Any strap will do, but I like to roll the boat up with a chunky Rovaflex belt.
Threaded through the back for paddling, it then makes a handy grab- or carry handle.

10

Sigma TXL: seat and sailing sorted (videos)

Sigma TXL Index Page

The winds here have been belting out at up to 40mph for days, but I grabbed a quickie during a lull the other afternoon to try out some final mods.

Foam backrest: much better

My centrally seated TXL is like a small TPU kayak – the missing link, some say – so it needs a backrest that works. I was never won-over by the Anfibio inflatable backrest on the Revo or my boat; it manages to be both mushy and wobbly.
But once on the water it was soon clear that, combined with my Lomo holdall wrapped into a footrest bundle (below left), the foam SoT backrest felt much better. The broader, firm pad spreads across the back supportively and is held up with straps, not thin elastic. Plus being able to press feet side-by-side against a flat, firmish surface, not jam feet into the bow, is also much more comfortable. It felt just like my old Seawave!

I was giving the Multimat air floor one more try. It must do some good and I admit it may have helped replicate the IK feel. And unlike initial impressions, the half-inflated seat base is actually pretty stable sat on the stiff floor, not wobbly as I originally thought. Plus the pad protects the floor from impacts below, and heel scuffing inside.

I did feel again that the TXL skates across the water a little, bobbing on the stiff air floor. This flat-floor effect makes sense on a shortish 3:1 ratio boat and was one reason I thought a front skeg might be helpful (it wasn’t with the stock rear skeg). The air floor lifts the boat a bit higher in the water and the sliding left to right is more from wind and waves than in reaction to paddling strokes (like normal packraft bow yawing). But until conditions get too rough I don’t think it really hampers paddling progress that much. It’s a packraft after all, not a jet ski!

While I had the floor in, I tried the 15-cm thick seatbase fully inflated and sure enough, like Anfibio say, it’s too high and may get unstable on anything other than flatwater, even with my repositioned knee straps for added support (left). That’s why they offer the 5cm foam block (it’s on ebay, fyi). A thinner inflatable seatbase would be less agonising but it seems, like on an IK, the half-inflated stock seatbase actually works fine.

Only one skeg needed

The other test was a skeg repositioned on the floor for full submergence – this is only needed for sailing; the TXL tracks well enough with the semi-submerged stock skeg position and goes OK without one. Had I not seen the selfies (left) and not tried sailing, I’d probably not have noticed.

The afternoon’s glassy calm had turned already. I pushed into the breeze out towards a low-tide skerry just off Tanera Mor, then heeled round for the mile back to Badentarbet beach and flipped out the WindPaddle. I left the stock skeg in place which was cheating a bit, but I’m pleased to say my earlier problems with weathecocking (stern blowing round, side to the wind) have been solved. No surprise a fully submerged skeg makes the TXL sail as well as my Rebel 2K and MRS Nomad.
This was an important thing to pin down as I want to be sure my bloaty, IK-replacing Sigma TXL has something up its sleeve when the wind allows because, like any inflatable, in the other direction it will struggle as headwinds reach 15-20mph. Sailing still needs constant micro-adjustment, but it’s great to feel a gust tugging at the handlines as the Sigma ploughs a trough through the surf like a water buffalo wading across a mudhole. The boat was definitely hitting 7kph or more at times.

I was also trying an idea I didn’t get round to testing on my narrower-bowed Seawave before I sold it: a WindPaddle transverse bowsprit™. Those cunning Chinese will be copying it on ebay any day now.

TXL vs MRS Nomad spacing

A WindPaddle disc sail starts bobbing madly left to right when winds get much over 10-15mph – it can’t unload the air fast enough. This is a side effect of mast-less downwind sails, but I figured if the bow sail attachments were further apart and more taught, the bobbing might be constrained. You want a downwind sail at the very front of a short boat, but on the TXL thr frontmost mounts are quite close together (compare to a Nomad, above left).
My ‘transverse bowsprit‘ is a stick which extends the sail mounts out to the sides, like ship rigging. I used a foot-long bamboo stick with some Rovaflex loops on the ends and for the weight and minimal faff, I like to think it worked. A bit longer would be better; I have a 50cm rod lined up for next time.
A few days after posting my sailing vid, YouTube thoughtfully directed me to a ten-year old video where a bloke with a hip-wide surf ski had the same idea (above right). Only he managed to zip along at a breathtaking 15kph in a 40kph breeze!

Heading towards shore, again, I aired-down the Multimat but again, can’t say performance deteriorated noticeably. After all, the MRS Nomad manages fine. The stiffening breeze rushed me towards the rarely exposed sands of Badentarbet beach and a short walk home.

So. Good to know the TXL is now largely sorted. Weather-wise, it’s been a wash-out in the far northwest this year, but there’s still enough summer left in the heatstruck south to do some trips.

Sigma TXL: floor-mounted skeg and foam backrest

Sigma TXL Index Page

After various trials I decided for sailing the TXL would benefit with a skeg on the floor where it would be fully submerged except momentarily when cresting bigger waves. The standard position angled on the stern (left) sits too high on the buoyant TXL so doesn’t have much effect, though the TXL tracks pretty well on flat water, with or without the air floor, solo or two up. You can mount the skeg back-to-front (right) for more bite, but I hope tracking when sailing will be greatly improved with a fully immersed skeg. When the wind allows, I want the TXL to be a reliable sailer on longer paddles.

Under the floor stays fully submerged, even with the air floor.

I could’ve simply made an extension to the stock skeg, but decided having two positions for the stock skeg would be less bulky. Like on an IK or a SUP board, the long but shallow Anfibio skeg would work well mounted horizontally under the floor (above, left). I’d already tried a skeg under the bow, but that did not work well at all. Waiting for good glue, I’d stuck that front skeg patch on with Aquasure and was surprised how easily it peeled off with less than a minute with the hairdryer.

Just as I was about to clean the removed patch and glue it on with Helaplast (recommended by Anfibio), I thought super tacky Gorilla Patch & Seal tape would be even easier, using the spare Anfibio skeg patch as a template. But I decided P&S is just thick ‘rubber’ tape suited to sealing, not supporting a knocked about skeg. In fact regular, string backed Gorilla ‘duct’ tape would have worked (a good way to test the idea), and I’ve found lasts surprisingly well on a packboat. In the end I decided the liberated fabric-backed Anfibio patch would be best.

The most important thing is to mount the patch straight along the centre line otherwise you’ll be going round in circles. This is best judged with the boat inflated. After that, it’s the same Helaplast sequence as detailed here. While gluing, I decided to add a couple of tabs low in the front to make the thigh straps hook more effectively over the knees.

The benefit of having two positions for the rear skeg instead of a bigger fin is that you can choose: use the standard position for shallow rivers (if a skeg is even needed) and use the floor mount on open water where wind and waves may push the boat around more, and if you hope to sail in a straight line.


Foam backrest
Sat up front, the stock inflatable backrest (below left) does the job, but in a low-pressure boat, the air cushion just adds more mushiness where you want support. As I say in the book or on Seats: sit on air; lean on foam. There is no advantage to inflated backrests other than saving a bit of packed space (might they also be cheaper to produce?). In this way, regular solo packrafts, where you lean on the back of the boat are better. Seated centrally in the TXL, you need a supportive IK-style backrest.

After a few outings I’ve decided to replace it with a spare foam SoT backrest (below), an idea which has worked well on my IKs for years. IK makers too have a blind spot when it comes to front seats. Today’s price for the backrest on ebayUK is 17 quid (left). Once I ditched the heavy ‘brass’ clips which came with mine, it weighs 200g, only 40g more than the Anfibio item (the ebay one shown left uses lighter plastic spring clips).

The foam backrest fits right on the TXL: the long tapes reuse the TXL’s front buckles and, less well, the rear straps come back through the flat tab mounts. A slide ring would work better here. I could have reused the thin, cinchable elastic cord which came with the Anfibio backrest but I suspect it was part of the problem (and thought so on the Anfibio Revo too). Counter-tensioned, non-elastic straps attached to a firm panel add up to better support. Up to a point the thinner foam backrest also makes more room behind it, too. And I won’t miss deflating the stock backrest to save on packed space, neither!