Tag Archives: Anfibio Sigma TXL packraft

Sigma TXL • bow skeg and thigh straps

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Glues and Repairs

Years ago I remember when the value of fitting packraft rear skegs was debated. Then the now common longer sterns (introduced by Alpacka) positioned the paddler more centrally and greatly reduced excessive bow yawing. On a packraft you’d think a skeg under the bow would eliminate the yawing endemic to short, wide rafts but turning agility would be lost. In fact, I wonder whether a packraft might yaw nearly as much at the back but you never notice. You’re actually pivoting from the middle of the paddle shaft, or perhaps a bit behind, at the centre of mass.

Rear skegs certainly improve tracking on IKs; you can manage without, but with a skeg you can paddle harder without constant micro-correctioning. On rivers I’ve found solo packrafts paddle fine without a rear skeg; or they’re too short to demonstrate noticeable improvements. There’s a b it of nodding as you move off which soon settles down with momentum. Even my symmetrical Rebel 2K (left; stern same identical to bow, not extended) paddled fine down the Wye without a skeg. But whengetting pushed around by the swell or on sea lochs (especially when sailing) fitting one was worthwhile.
Either way, rear skegs are a thing now with packrafts and you don’t have to fit them every time. Certainly on my longer TXL I like to think the stock rear skeg aids coastal paddles; though we found a brief stint with no skeg was only slightly noticeable, paddling into the wind in a sheltered loch (no swell). Anyway, I’ve been curious to see what effect a frontal skeg has, so on buying my TXL I ordered a spare skeg and patch which Anfibio also sell separately for €21 + €6.

Goop no good; Aquasure OK; Helaplast better

Gluing on a skeg patch
As stick-ons go, this is not a mission critical job but you want to line it up dead straight which I now see is better done with the boat inflated. I just used the rear seam, hoping it was along the middle line. Anfibio recommend Helaplast which they can’t post outside of Germany but which you can buy on ebay.uk (from Germany…) for €7 for 50ml.
There must be something similar in the UK, but the problem is identifying it against something that provenly works. I had some Goop contact adhesive, but whatever the ‘Automotive’ variant is, it did not stick at all. So I decided to try some Aquasure+FD, leaving it to cure for half an hour before sending in the roller. That seems to have worked.

Using stock TXL mounts sort of works

Thigh straps
Part of me likes to think I’ll be using my nippy TXL the way I use my IK: fair weather open water transits rarely more than a mile from shore. As this might require sustained periods of paddling I figured some thigh straps would help, as they do in my IK. It’s not so much for hardcore bracing or even rolling, the way they are used in white water, but just to fix the legs so the core is more responsive and you can get good drive, as with knees pressed up under the deck of a hardshell sea kayak.

Anfibio sent me their latest 5-point thigh straps which I tried and liked on the Revo (left). But to make full use of them would require gluing on up to 8 extra patches (if not ideally the ladder patch).

I decided my old Anfibio 3P straps which I’ve used in my IK would be OK for my low-tension, flatwater use and require adding just one pair of loop straps. If I was really lazy I could have got away with the unused flat patch by the seat, but the direction on tension was off centre and would eventually wear, stretch and maybe break. The small patches are not really designed for such loads and now my Helaplast has arrived I decided to try it. An old post on the Anfibio blog explains how to use Helaplast:

  • mark off area on hull
  • mix hardener 20:1
  • clean surfaces with solvent
  • apply a thin layer to both surfaces and wait 30 minutes
  • apply another thin layer and wait another 10 minutes
  • Position patch; it won’t adhere properly
  • Heat with hair dryer to reactivate glue and press down hard (it’s better if the boat is deflated to do this on a hard surface).

The heat reactivation trick was not one I’ve heard of before with glues (expect to loosen stuff), but you could see it worked. Where the positioned patch was lamely stuck to the boat, a bit of heat saw it bond down well with some some rolling. You can tell when something looks well glued and this feels like that, though I’m sure glad I didn’t have to do that another six times. Next task: go and do some actual packrafting.

Sigma TXL • Tandem sea packrafting

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Up in northwest Scotland’s Summer Isles we are having a one-day break from the wind and rain – a chance to try the TXL in tandem mode. We could have gone somewhere familiar, like just outside, but decided to explore the coastline of Eddrachillis Bay near Drumbeg, an hour or two away. We planned to cross from one inlet-loch to the next.
On the day winds were 10mph but building, and the tides were nearly 4.5 metres (14-feet) springs (there was a rare blood moon / eclipse that night), so in the packraft we had to pick our moment.

Full of northern promise: the isle and inlet riddled south shore of Eddrachillis Bay around Drumbeg

The great thing with the TXL or any packraft, as opposed to my IK, is it weighs 80% less, so walking cross-country to the water and getting off pretty much anywhere is easily done. With the longer hull you get at least 80% of an IK’s speed, but the reassurance of a larger boat compared to a most of my previous solo packrafts. I already knew from the recent Dorset run that the long TXL was better in choppy seas than I expected, even without the stiffening floor airmat. It remained to be seen how we’d both manage in the boat on the wilder northwest shores.

We size the boat up in the kitchen; looks like we’ll fit
The roller-coaster single-track road to Drumbeg. Turn right at the bridge into the woods
We follow a faint path and animal trails west along the Gleann Ardbhair to Loch Ardbhair
Nice to be in some native woodland; not a lot of it in the northwest
Narrow trail above the stream; I should have deployed my packstaff
First sight of Loch Ardbhair
A path on the map does not mean a way of crossing any dry stone walls at the end
A herd of 20 deer scattered just as we got here
My Flextail electric mini-pump packed up after just a year so it’s back to old-school airbagging
Just 30 mins before low water a lethal sea-rapid still rips out through Loch Ardbhair narrows
Out in Eddrachillis Bay it’s choppy but manageable. The boat feels a little sluggish and soft so we’re paddling hard. Like the high-volume MRS Nomad, it needs a second top-up once on the water
In fact we’re doing 6-7kph with the wind at near slack water which makes things appear deceptively slow
I decide we’d left it too late to get round the spikey headland of Rubha na Maoile (left of pic)
Who knows what the turning tide does around there
So we turn into the in-between-bay of Camas nam Bad and make for the far shore
There’s still too much of a swell to rest the gorillapod on a rock for a passing selfie
Faster than we felt
In Camas nam Bad the Mrs nips ashore and I go for a little scoot-about. Feels nippier solo, but no faster.
Need to watch out for spiny sea urchins exposed at very low tides
Awkward scramble to the grass to deflate in comfort
I know they’re better than twist locks, but sometimes I wish these seats had a fast dump valve
It’s an easy mile’s walk to a point on Loch Nedd where I could be sure access was easy
This time I pack the gear in the side tubes for more room
And this time I remember to re-top-up once on the water a few minutes
The boat now feels more responsive but we’re into a headwind now so only do about 4.5kph with the tide
Loch Nedd was a bit boring or over too soon. We should have put in further up after all
Next time it might be fun to leave from here at HW and head west to the isle-filled bay of Loch Drumbeg
A long hike back to the car
At the back, Quinaig mountain, 809m
On Quinaig one time, looking back towards Drumbeg, Oldney Island and Point of Stoer
Need to do a bit more floating next time

Sigma TXL • Packrafting Swanage

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Kayaking Swanage
MRS Nomad S1 main page

I’ve been looking forward to getting back to Dorset’s amazing chalk pinnacles near Studland which we paddled in the Seawave one calm morning back in 2019. Today the tide was right and the sun was out; it was just a bit chilly and on the windy side; a good day to see how my Sigma TXL might perform at sea.

A couple of paddlechums were also up for a pre-dawn departure; Barry rode down with his similar MRS Nomad S1, while Nimbus – yet to fully embrace inflatable paddlecraft – brought his 17-foot, plastic P&H Scorpio sea kayak (left). Even at ~30 kilos, it was a proper boat for the conditions and we imagined he’d run rings round our packrafts.

The plan was to paddle the four miles from Studland beach to Swanage town, leave the kayak somewhere then retrace the route over the downs to the vehicles.
Half the length, over twice the width, but a tenth of the weight of a sea kayak.

Early all-day parking is a problem at Studland as the car parks don’t officially open till 9am and anywhere else you’ll get towed and Twitter-shamed. But we slipped into Knoll Beach parking at 8 and were on the water before 9am.
By this time a one-metre tide was about 90 minutes after HW, and we set off into a steady onshore 12-mph northeasterly which would stop Barry and me running away with ourselves. By the time we turned the right angle at the Point for the run SSW along the cliffs, we ought to be able to put up our sails to catch up with Nimbus, except I forgot my WindPaddle. Oh well, I’d just have to paddle the full four miles and get medevaced out.

Swanage tides

The tides at Swanage aren’t the classic sine wave. Every other tide rises and falls normally, but in between is a mini low and high. Who knows how or why but I suppose the reservoir of Poole Harbour, plus the English Channel funnel have something to do with dampening every other surge. Either way, the range was only a metre today and is hardly ever more than two down here; not enough volume to raise any strong currents. Nimbus later calculated a southerly flow of around 1mph which may help explain our higher than expected packraft speeds.

Nimbus sets off for the Point, far right.
Could the packrafts keep up?

Part of the reason I got the longer TXL was to try more coastal packrafting, even if the extra bulk and weight (actually only 450g more than my previous Rebel 2K) might set me back on overnighters. This is not a paddle I’d have attempted in my backheavy 2K, even with a deck; it’s just too slow to be enjoyable. But having owned a 2.9-m Nomad S1 like Barry’s, I was fairly sure the TXL’s near identical length, buoyancy and similar ‘footprint’ would make a difference. There is something about sitting in the middle, not the back end of a boat, that makes it feel more reassuring.
Unlike my Thames paddle a week earlier, I decided not to fit the TXL’s inflatable floor pad in search of a better glide. As things were, in today’s wind and chop the stability from a lower seating position would be more important.

It was about 1.5 miles to the arches at Old Harry’s headland, so I set off directly across the bay, hoping for flatter conditions further out. That wasn’t the case; the odd wave was breaking, but the TXL moved across the water purposefully. Sure, it rolled, pitched and yawed in the side waves, but sat down low I felt completely at ease, maybe even more than in my Seawave IK?
Barry was clearly having the same bouncy fun in his MRS and I’d assumed the P&H would have raced off, if for no other reason than to maintain stability. But later Nimbus said the Scorpio felt a little on edge in the high-frequency chop and couldn’t have gone much faster than us on this stage.

You’d think the two long, light packrafts’ would have been blown about, but the central, kayak-like position and added buoyancy made them easy to control (with skegs fitted) and the high sides kept most of the water out. I picked up maybe a litre over a mile and a half and didn’t miss a deck at all (though I did appreciate the drysuit).

Swanage Bay sets off a tidal eddy

Even with photo faffing, we reached the stacks of Old Harry in about half an hour, and it hadn’t felt like any more of a struggle than in an IK. It was really quite a revelation how well the TXL (and Nomad) were performing with just an extra 50cm or 20% in the waterline over a regula packraft. The lightness of the boats must have something to do with it.
Round the outside of the Point the wind and tide were fighting it out in a tidal race. It made me realise how well timed our visit in the Seawave had been three years ago. We’d arrived here in much calmer conditions but also around mid-tide with a less nasty looking race. Going round the outside today may well have been doable but set aside unpredictable currents, waves can also stand up and break out of nowhere. It was more fun to slip through on the remnants of the outgoing tide between the mainland and Old Harry’s stack. Next time I come here, I’ll make sure to arrive at the top half of the tide so all the arches can be threaded.

View from above about three hours later. Low water but still a bit of a race off the point.

After a bit of promo filming for the new book, we turned 120° to the southwest and expected to have the wind behind us, but it remained a case of dealing with sidewaves plus cliff rebounds, so we kept out to sea. Despite the packrafts jigging about like popcorn in a hot pan, we managed to make progress south along the cliffs, the Scorpio now edging ahead.

After being jostled around, Barry decided to air up his AirSail, but even with two of us, pumping it up properly in the chop proved too tricky. For easy deployment on the water, the sprung-hooped Packsail (like the old WindPaddle) is a much better idea, even if it’s more bulky to carry.

We rounded Ballard Point where the cliffs turned into Swanage Bay, and with the wind now on our backs, the GPS recorded 6kph (see graph below). As usual though, it didn’t feel that fast as the boat squirrelled around from the stern. I thought about moving myself further back (relatively easily done in the TXL unlike the fixed solo Nomad) so the lightened bow trailed downwind, but it wasn’t really that bad, it just felt sloppy. Sailor Barry was now keeping up with Nim until we all rolled up on Swanage Beach, aired down the packboats and made a beeline for the cafe for a superb Full Swanage Breakfast.

The cafe let us leave the boat among their bins out back, but I was overruled on walking the four miles back over Ballard Downs back to Knoll Beach. Barry clearly had a liking for taxis which I consider more of an emergency service.
“It is not the Packrafting Way!” I squealed as he put a bag over my head and shoved me in the back. Nimbus kept a diplomatic silence.
Back at Knoll Beach, Barry roared off on his motorbike while Nim and I wandered back the way we’d paddled to check out at Old Harry’s from above. The tide was now at its extended low period and the wind had swung to the southeast, sheltering Studland Bay. Down below, a lone kayaker was just setting off.
“That looks fun, a. We should try that sometime.”

Judging by this outing, the TXL has proved to be just what I’d hoped: a dependably agile coastal cruiser with all the other benefits of a packraft. More sea paddles to come.

Sigma TXL on the Thames

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Anfibio Revo on the Thames
Gumotex Seawave on the Thames
Gumotex Sunny Incept K40 on the Thames

Order! Orrrrdeuuuurrr!!
TXL on the riverbank

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.

Skeg half out but does the job. One thing I like about longer, centrally positioned packrafts is the the trim is level, not back-heavy as in a conventionally sized rear-sat packraft like my 2K, (unless you are light or it has a hugely voluminous stern, like a Revo)

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.

Seat
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.

More seats than the O2 Arena

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.

OMG – non-locking krabs! (fear not, a solution is at hand)

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.