In a line Huge 1.3m downwind disc sail supported by an inflatable hoop and which rolls down into a small bundle.
Cost €149 from Anfibio Store. Also at Tirio, UK.
Weight (verified): 513g.
Where used Loch Hourn, off Knoydart, Scotland.
Rolls up compact (unlike framed versions)
Big surface area
Unexpectedly stable, controllable and steerable.
Uses the same valve and pump as the packraft
Doubles as a tent footprint or mini-tarp
Can’t be quickly taken down or flipped back up when wind or direction changes (unlike framed versions). This is a big drawback
Window is too high (on a fat-bowed packraft)
On a regular sized packraft, sailing is slower than you think
About 20% more expensive than Anfibio’s PackSail
Punctures or twisted bladder might be more likely than a broken batten?
The AirSail was supplied free by Anfibio for testing and review.
What They Say
The first packraft sail of its kind! The light, inflatable AirSail gets your packraft going and lets you experience speed even on calm waters. The sail creates completely new possibilities to be on tour with the Packraft. Only 466g and minimal packing size.
On a multi-day packrafting trip or where you’re not returning the same way into the wind, sailing downwind is a smart means of conserving energy while enjoying a look around. At any other time, it’s just plain fun. Until now the only options for packrafts were flexible, spring-out WindPaddle disc sails and their many inferior knock-offs. I’ve made my own and tried both, and currently own a WP Adventure 2 which has been OK on the Seawave and my old MRS Nomad.
The Anfibio AirSail differs by using an inflatable bladder ring inside a fabric rim casing which you inflate via a Boston valve using the same 10-euro mini hand pump you use to top up the boat. The sail’s outer diameter is 137cm, so the sail is close to 130cm, as stated. Surprisingly, it seems to be possible to achieve as effective levels of stiffness to a flexible batten disc sail – a key to consistent performance – while an AirSail packs down to the size of a sleeping pad. My WindPaddle folds down to a flat, 40-cm disc which some might find more awkward to pack on the trail.
Alone, out on the water in windy conditions it would be tricky to deploy the AirSail. Assuming a skeg is fitted and the sail’s already hooked to the bow via a couple of mini-karabiners, you need to reach forward to unstrap the sail (hard with a deck zipped up), unfurl to unkink it, plug in your mini pump and give it two dozen jabs to fully inflate – all without being blown to kingdom come or losing your paddle. Were I doing this, I’d add a short ‘haul-line’ to the base of the sail so I could pull it back into reach.
Instead, I chose to do all this by the shore in the lee of a headland. This was my back-up plan after a rising wind made it too hard (or increasingly slow) to paddle my Rebel 2K the 15km from Barisdale to the mouth of Loch Hourn. I started with my electric Flex Pump but for some reason it didn’t do much, considering the small volume (it was the same later). That done, another 15-20 mini-pumps gets the sail rim good and firm (I probably only did 10-15). But as mini-pumping from flat only needs 25-30 pumps, you may as well not bother with the added clutter of electric pumping, if that’s an option.
From my experiences with the WindPaddle on kayak and packraft, I was a bit nervous the even bigger AirSail might be a handful. I needn’t have worried. Funnelled down the steep sided loch, winds gusted to 15mph, but the Rebel 2K with the AirSail was easy to manage in a way the WindPaddle 2 never has been so far. And this was with a few more pumps needed in the air ring. There was no violent see-sawing from side to side, little need for constant correction and, considering I was out in the middle of a windy sea loch, I felt safe and in control. My paddle was leashed to the mooring line but also slipped securely under and out of the way underneath the DeckPack.
This plain sailing was partly because the 2K could not break into a gallop. I doubt I was going much faster than paddling, but it sure was effortless and relaxing. Had there been a signal I could have easily updated my profile on Insta or checked the forecast. The 4km which had taken me an increasingly slower 80 minutes, was covered downwind in an effortless 60 minutes
I also think the low centre of gravity of the loaded 2K helped it sit on the water and – crucially – the lack of slack between the sail and boat fittings kept the under-inflated sail in check. I must try this on the kayak next time. I usually hook the sail to the slack deck lines in a bid to gain a bit more height; that could have been my problem all along.
With the line clipped to a karabiner on my pfd or behind my head, most of the time I was sailing hands free which made filming easy. The line was just the right length, too. Only tiny tweaks were needed to keep the boat on line, due to the back getting blown round. This was most probably down to the small skeg, but it was all much less frantic than my recent sail with the WP on the Seawave. I suppose with free hands, the paddle could have been used as rudder to maintain a heading, but I didn’t think to try that as I was going vaguely in the right direction. Something to try next time.
One problem with the Air Sail: because the bow on a 2K is high and the seat is low compared to a kayak, the window is too high to see what’s ahead; it’s the lower third which needs a clear PVC pane. Most of the time it doesn’t matter; you can lower the sail or look around. In fact, it would be great if the whole thing was made of clear film, but weight, rolled volume or strength may not add up.
With the line clipped to you, it’s easy to try and add a bit of speed by paddling as well, but the packraft hull shape holds you back; at best paddling will keep you warm and might add a tiny bit of speed. Once you’ve had a good look around, sailing slowly might even be said to be a little boring, after being used to having to paddle every hard-won metre. But on a long day on a multi-day tour, you’ll welcome the break when you get a chance.
Having said all that, assuming it performs near-identically, I still think I’d choose the cheaper, same weight, batten-rimmed PackSail. For me the value in being able to stow or release a sail in a few seconds is not offset by the slight awkwardness of needing to stash a 40-cm disc. But it’s nice to have the choice.
Thanks to Anfibio for supplying the AirSail.