Zelgear Igla 410 inflatable kayak

Zelgear Igla Main Page
Zelgear Igla first paddle

See also:
Other Hybrid IKs
Kokopelli Moki II
Aquaglide Chelan 155
Advanced Elements AirFusion

Zelgear in Ukraine sent me their 4.1m (13.4′) hybrid Igla 410 (‘Needle’) to try out and provide some feedback. On the way back their driver picked up a generator to keep the factory running during blackouts. Amazingly, Zelgear have kept producing kayaks despite the war, while at times branching off into making field gear for the Ukrainian army.

I’ve emailed with Zelgear previously about TPU IKs which they’ve experimented with. Modern packrafts are almost all made from lighter, more supple TPU, not PVC like most IKs. Over the last decade packrafts have proved they can take higher-than-lung pressures (> 1psi). Since those exchanges, Aquaglide have previewed their TPU Cirrus which I’ve also been offered a look at.
TPU could be the future of IKs; a bigger innovation than full dropstitch IK which are popular with first timers, less so with me. TPU can reduce weight and bulk by nearly half; a much greater benefit for a portable boat than a boxy, albeit super rigid hull. But the Igla I have here is good old PV&C.

What They Say
Comfortable, fast, light and manoeuvrable. A kayak you’ll want to take on your next trip. The hull’s refined contours produce a sleek hydrodynamic form which sees the IGLA slice through the water.
The IGLA is composed of two parts: a twin side-tube hull for a slim profile, and a removable high-pressure dropstitch floor to tension the structure and improve rigidity and glide.
The side tubes are stacked one above the other with an internal partition. This arrangement not only improves longitudinal rigidity over a single side tube, but at 76cm wide, makes the IGLA one of the narrowest IKs in its class while retaining generous internal space and excellent stability.
The IGLA 410 makes a fast and spacious solo kayak, but at 4.1m long has room for two with a second optional seat. At 4.1 metres, the IGLA is also suited to tandem day paddles with the optional second seat. It’s a great way to enjoy the water with a friend. 

Out of the bag

The Igla 410 comes folded in a huge PVC/Cordura backpack measuring 95 x 55 x 25cm. That adds up to only 130 litres but it looks like more. You could fit a sheep in there, but a perimeter ‘suitcase-lid’ zip makes access easier than a usual bag-style opening. There’s enough spare volume for a pfd and even a two-part paddle (sticking out of the zip, if necessary). Along with the hull, floor and a seat, my boat came with the optional rudder kit as well as a twin-fin 2.5mm alloy skeg, an optional solo deck, thigh straps, footrest tube, repair patches, Bravo barrel pump and an optional valve tool.
As with other massive IK backpacks, you do wonder how much the shoulder straps can take (Cap’n). It’s probably best carried like this the short distance from car to water’s edge but like an IK, the bag has grab handles at each end so two could easily carry it. Nice touch. Luckily my Ortlieb 140 roller duffle backpack has nearly enough room for the Igla.

From top left: knee braces, deck in bag, pump, alloy skeg, footrest tube, valve tool, red tube with patches, seat, rudder kit (in bag). DS floor, hull

As delivered with the ‘platinum package’ bits listed above, the kit weighs just 21.4 kilos. And the minimum on-water weight (boat; footrest; seat; skeg) comes in at only 16.1kg, about the same as my 4.5-m Seawave, once I’d made several weight saving adaptations. Swapping out the Igla’s chunky skeg and footrest tube would get the weight under 16 kilos. This figure compares closely with Zelgear’s claimed 16.5kg which makes a nice change, but with maybe 40% more folded bulk in the Igla over the Seawave once it loses its unreplicable ex-factory ‘vacuum’ packing.

Clip the floor in first. Then pump.

Verified* dimensions
*All in the bag
: 21.4kg (47.2 lbs) • boat + seat 16.1kg (35.5lbs)
*Length: 4.15m (13.6 feet)
*Width: 75cm (29.5″)
*Sidetube ø: 16cm (0.0″) • 30.5cm (12″)
Payload: 200kg (440lbs)
Pressures: Sides 0.25bar (3.6psi); DS floor 0.6bar; (8.7 psi)
Construction fabric: heat-welded 850 g/m2 PVC
Price: 32,400 грн (about £720; without options)

The Igla 410 is a hybrid IK which means a stiff, drop stitch (DS) floor fitted into a conventional tubed hull. I like to think this is the best of both worlds compared to all-DS IKs. But unusually, the Igla uses old-style twin side tubes, like the original Semperit Forelle, the long discontinued Gumo Seaker and my old Incept K40 (to name a few). Twin side tubes are more work to make but take up less space than a single fat side tube such as the huge, foot-wide pontoons of a Kokopelli Moki. That means more width inside or more commonly, the same inside but less overall width which means a faster boat. Most IKs are way too wide and in my experience 30 inches (77cm) is optimal.
To maintain stability on the Igla these tubes are splayed outwards like a rowing boat – and unlike my graphic below. Up to a point two parallel tubes are also stiffer laterally than a single one, but these days higher pressures, let alone DS floors make that element a bit redundant.

DS floor clips in

The Igla’s 0.5-bar removable floor is an unusual 2/3 length plank with two thin ‘horns’ at each end which jam into and support the hull’s bow and stern. It clips down onto to the hull base in six places and once inflated, stiffens the whole structure, much like the frame on a folding kayak. It also allows for a very non-IK like finely sculpted bow and stern which ought to help with tracking. We shall see but as someone at the recent Lyon Paddle Show observed: ‘no [ugly] nose cone – nice!

Skeg strap

A removable floor also means the boat is nearly as easy to rinse and dry as a regular all-tube IK (and unlike many full DS IKs). And I’m pleased to see there are no daft ‘drains’ like on so many Asian PVC IKs. Need to drain the boat? Flip it over and let gravity do the job! Doing so you will see a sleeve under the stern for the optional skeg (260g). It’s possible the Igla may not need a skeg as much as some other IKs thanks to the formed stern and bow shapes. (Actually, it does).

Locking PRV

Because twin side tubes need an i-beam to make the ‘figure of 8’ (see graphic above) they’re vulnerable to over-inflation rupture. So they’re fitted with pressure release valves (PRV) set at around 0.25 bar. With the excellent Bravo R.E.D barrel pump (900g), it took no effort and about 25 strokes before the PRVs were hissing and the side tubes were firm.
I’ve not seen closeable PRVs before; the idea must be you can lock in the 0.25 and not lose any through purging over the course of a day. Though of course the point of PRVs is you want them to do that to protect the sides if it gets hot on land. There is no built-in manometer on the pump and I can’t find mine right now, but of course the sides are self-regulating via the PRVs and the floor pressure is not that critical; just get it super stiff in < 20 pumps; as it is I was told the Bravo pump will stall at a true 0.6-7 bar (a bit less than rated).

Looking over the inflated boat, there are 7 pairs of tape loops along the sides, ending with a pair of plastic D-rings for the cross-bungie net at the back. Small visors at each end deflect over-splash and may help tension the spray deck too (see below). The footrest tube slots into a ladder of loops on the DS floor, but is a bit heavy at 200g (see more below).

The seat (700g) clips to the floor making forward/back repositioning easy. There are fittings for a second seat. The inflatable backrest clips to the sides for proper support and elastic back tensioners keep it upright. I’d sooner have a stiff foam backrest because inflatable ones fold up as you push back on them. But I’ll see how it works; slipping in a bit of plastic board to stiffen it will be easy enough. I also wonder about seatbase wobble on the hard DS floor.
Good thing then that paddled knee straps (180g) come stock with the boat. They thread back directly on the tape loops but here some sort of friction-free interface like a carabiner would be better. The straps have the added benefit of something to grab onto to pick up the boat when alone.

Clip on foam footrest tube and knee straps

Out of the box adaptations
The footrest is thin and heavy compared to my well proven idea of a piece of 100-mm ø plastic gutter pipe. The added diametre works better for my large feet when bracing off the supplied thigh straps. If I got round to adding screw on caps at each end the tube could be used as storage for the half-dozen patches supplied in a oversized repair kit tube (no glue included).
Another idea that springs to mind is replacing the hefty stock alloy skeg (260g) with a plastic slip-on item. Years ago Gumotex used a a rubbish alloy bracket setup that’s been much improved by the current ABS slip-on item. Simple and effective, packrafts have copied this idea. The Igla’s stock alloy skeg is similarly simple in that it slips under a glued-down strap with the boat deflated. But once the DS floor is inflated I doubt it can be removed. And although a broad, twin-fin skeg rests on hard ground without twisting, I’d prefer harmless rounded edges of plastic/ABS which won’t rub through soft boat fabric when in transit.
It might be possible to heat a sheet of ABS to manipulate it into shape, cut down a rectangular plastic container into the twin-fin shape, or even get one 3D-printed. Maybe I just need to try it first.

Rudder and deck
My boat was supplied with a rudder kit (1.34kg) neatly packaged in a nylon case. As a reminder, rudders on kayaks are not so much about steering which can be done with a couple of paddle strokes. They’re for compensating against sidewinds pushing the boat off line. Without one you need to haul hard on one arm for hours to keep on track. Set the rudder angle against the wind deflection then you can then paddling with even effort as normal; the boat will go where you point it.

A bit short? and better in ABS

The chunky wood chip pedal board fits on the footrest tube mount but looks like something I might make. At the back the molded-in pivot tube is thinner than the usual 10mm and the rudder pulls up horizontally backwards rather than up-and-over (and out of the way).
I also wonder if the alloy blade might be a bit short, knowing that’s been a problem on other IKs of mine. With a strong backwind the stern lifts on wave crests, the rudder comes out of the water and the back end gets blown around. On my Seawave 2 Mk3 rudder I fitted a 55cm blade and also used my footrest as a pivot, like handlebars. the whole lot weighed < 1kg. I think I’d try something similar here, certainly for the footrest; the blade would actually be fairly easy to lengthen, but I’d still prefer bend-free ABS over metal. As it is, I am told Zelgear are working on a better rudder set up.

My boat also came with a solo deck (1.1kg in a bag) which attaches to the hull with Velcro over-flaps at each end, like a Seawave. The edges hook down with elastic to low-profile studs glued to the sidetubes. In rough water I imagine that might not seal as well as the full length Velcro on the top of a Seawave’s side tubes. The cockpit is a simple bungie cinch tube like on packraft decks I’ve had. No spray skirt needed.
The Igla deck relies on tension from the visors, side elastics and perhaps your knees to create the doming required to stop water pooling on it; there are no under-deck supports like the ridiculous metal bars on the Seawave. Time and use will tell how well the deck works but while it’s nice to have, I can see me trying it once only. I prefer the easier access of a warm dry suit or just not going out in conditions where a deck is needed to avoid sinking. As it is, the sides are pretty high and the boat will have no sag, so it should be fairly dry.

All we need now is a bit of sunshine and some water. Looks like Father Christmas may be leaving me some of that on his way back to the North Pole in a couple of days time. I find myself back on Dorset’s tidal River Frome where I remember wobbling along in my very first IK in 2005. I didn’t get very far.

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