Packrafting [the Revo XL] through London
Anfibio Sigma TXL
Early in 2022, as the UK’s Omicron surge peaked, I had a chance to try out a pre-production prototype of Anfibio’s Revo XL packraft. Along with its distinctive forked stern, the Revo introduces a new idea to self-bailing packrafts: a single ~15cm drain funnel under the seat which can be pulled into the boat then rolled up and sealed, like a drybag.
I tried the XL version with a 135cm inner length and 28cm sidetubes. The smaller Revo CL is 10cm shorter all round and has 27cm sidetubes. As you can see my test boat came in lemon and olive. The production boats are cornflower blue and olive for the CL which costs from just €759. That’s a bargain and may fit taller folk better than they think. The Revo XL which I tried costs €999, but in-hull storage TubeBags come as standard. I think the lemon and cornflower is also a better colour combo. Both models come standard with inflatable floor mats to help displace any water inside, as well as 4-point knee braces. The sides are 210D, the floor is a thick 840D which wraps generously up the sidetubes for WW protection, and it’s all assembled by heat welding and sewing; no glue.
What they say (Revo CL here)
The Revo XL is part of the Revos concept – a combination of (closeable) self-drainage, profiled floor and the new TwinTail . Thanks to bilge (spray water runs out through the floor), the boats come without a spray deck and can also be configured as a light, minimalist boats. This results in a unique range of uses from whitewater to touring. The particular construction is similar to the smaller Revo CL:
VenturiTube – the closable bilge hose
TwinTail TM – the W-shaped double tail of a surfboard
Comfort BackBand – the combination of back strap and rest
5P Thigh Straps – ergonomically adjustable thigh straps
Firm floor mat – for a stiff, profiled hull
The structure of the boat with and without a floor mat and the various (seat) configurations are the same as in the Revo CL or can be found in the supplied operating instructions.
Revo XL/CL Differences
The XL variant uses a larger outline. It is 10 cm longer, which creates space and speed. It has 28cm side tubes for increased buoyancy and stability. [The CL runs 27cm. And the XL has yellow contrast panels; the CL has olive].
TubeBags* are standard in the Revo XL, which ensures sufficient payload. In addition, a stronger base is used, which is appropriate for potentially high loads. The boat is a good choice, especially for tall and heavy paddlers, multi-day tours or if extra comfort is required. In the XL variant, tall people with a load of up to 120 kg can sit directly on the mat without a seat.
In a packraft there are two ways of dealing with getting swamped: seal the boat with a deck and spray skirt like a kayak (below left), or let the water drain out via holes in the floor, like a commercial whitewater raft (below right) or a hardshell sit-on top. The latter method has the advantage of being immune to water ingress while also making exiting the deck-free boat faster. The weight of carried water and a perforated floor are said to slow a self-bailer down a bit on flatwater.
With self-bailing, a thick floor rising above the waterline displaces water carried in the boat, and a seat on top of that means the paddler isn’t sitting in water, even if they may be soaked from waves. Among others, packrafts like MRS, Kokopelli, Mekong and RobFin [link] (more of a small IK) use a line of holes in the floor. You can seal those with some tape, and MRS use valve flaps to smooth the profile and reduce infress. But for the moment only the Revo uses a retractable drain funnel or Venturi Tube, potentially giving you the best of both worlds. They work like similar devices on surf-skis [link]: the movement of the boat over water creates a low pressure zone which sucks water out of the boat provided you keep moving. When you stop the level may rise a bit.
Review: Anfibio Revo XL
Along with a voluminous ‘whitewater’ stern, the Revo has a distinctive and trademarked TwinTail which is said to help the back end bite into the water or catch back surf, like the somersaulting playboat below right. Because using a skeg on whitewater is a bad idea, I can see how the forked stern might replicate a similar digging-in effect, but won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about here. I have seen similar designs on surfboards where it’s called a fishtail.
Either way, a long stern positions you centrally like a kayak, and the high stern volume ought to stop the boat flipping backwards as you exit small waterfalls. Because of the back’s huge buoyancy, I thought I detected a slightly tipped forward aspect to the trim, even with my hibernating 93kg.
Unfortunately, where I live there are no small waterfalls for miles. Were that the case my whole paddling background might be different. So I wasn’t able to test the self-bailing function or the stern’s finely tuned handling characteristics. I suspect there isn’t much more than aesthetics to the Twin Tales design; a cool, 50s Cadillac look, but whitewaterists will have the final say on that.
The seat uses a suspended inflatable backrest, but as this was the XL version, there was not much adjustment left to move the backrest forward enough for me, even at 6′ 1″.
At the back I’d have preferred counter tensioning straps like on the Kokopelli, rather than the thin elastic which makes the backrest wobble about, but you can always use the long packing strap for that. (In fact, the same backrest came with my Sigma TXL which I eventually replaced with a firm backrest and rear straps). The loose seatbase can attach to a strap over the floor pad which is well jammed in. The boat also comes with a hard foam seat base; I didn’t try it on the Revo but did on my own TXL a couple of months later on the Thames and again two-up off the Skye coast: it was soon uncomfortable. I’ve since learned it’s designed to allow bilge water to flow freely to the back of the boat and drain away (the regular air seat would block the flow).
The fitted, Boston-valved floor pad eliminates floor sag and adds overall stiffness to the hull for better response and speed. Sat higher on the pad I thought the Revo might be a bit tippy; not normally a problem with a packraft. On the Thames I soon got used to it; in whitewater not so sure, but too low a centre of gravity can reduce agility.
The four-point knee straps are key to this and I also soon got used to them. Even on flatwater they help your posture and drive by fixing your lower body to the boat. Again, on the XL the mounts were a bit off for me; I ended up using the front tabs, not the daily-chain ladder rungs along the top of the sidetubes.
At nearly 2.5-m long, the Revo looks huge but is actually only 17cm (6.7″) longer than my 2K (left) while having a flatter trim with me in it due to the longer stern adding up to a central seating position. With the stiffer floor, I thought it might have felt faster; perhaps it was but I didn’t notice on the strong outgoing Thames tide. I pulled over and fitted my skeg which reduced some yawing, but realised later I should have topped up the floor mat, as well as the boat, once it had cooled on the water a minute or two.
There’s nothing to stop you using the Revo without the floor pad with drain funnel closed (less bulk when travelling). The backrest might end up a bit high, but you’ll be sat nice and low. I was told the drain funnel’s roll-top closure would be improved on production versions, but after going out of my way to make a really tight roll and clip, only a cup had seeped in over an hour, which is barely more than paddle splash. With the drain tube sealed and with no floor pad but just a seatbase, I don’t think you’ll be swilling around in water seeping up from the funnel. I forgot to try paddling with the funnel open, but all that would have done on the Thames is possibly slow the boat down.
So the Revo: a packraft with a hull-stiffening floor pad, optional self-bailing and knee straps. It ticks all the boxes for playing around in whitewater and sea surf, but with the huge TubeBag storage pockets installed in the hull sides (€140 option on the CL; well worth it), the XL is set up for overnight trips too, with the load providing added stability in the rough stuff or when bombing along under sail.
I knew before I saw it that a Revo wasn’t really a packraft suited to my kind of use. I don’t do challenging whitewater nor sea surf, so can live without self bailing (though I appreciated the deck on the Rebel 2K). Soon after trying the Revo I bought a more conventional Sigma TXL solo/tandem (also with TubeBags and an inflatable floor pad) and so far am very pleased with it on inshore paddles. I’ve fitted some knee straps, but am not sure about the floorpad and did not get on with the inflatable front backrest or the foam seat block.