Chandlery June 2004 Issue

Chandlery 06/04: Tape Wars and Defender Stow Bag

Tape Wars: Tommy is Still Tops

Self-bonding tape is very handy, and in the past couple of years we have become mildly addicted to the stuff. Known more formally as elastomeric, self-amalgamating tape, it's usually just silicone containing tiny bubbles of a chemical plasticizer. When you stretch this non-sticky tape (and it really likes stretching), the bubbles break and the gas contained therein permeates the silicone and morphs it into a ductile solid. Out of the sun, it lasts for years; in sunlight, it tends to dry, harden and tear. 

Here in a pre-joust photo are, at the bottom, two cards of X-treme tape. The black and red X-treme samples are 1" wide (the only width available); black was used in the test. Across the top are one card surrounded by six rolls of Tommy Tape, which comes in widths from 1/2" to 2", thickness running from 10 mils to 50 mils and a lot of colors, including clear and glow-in-the-dark. If you use the 50-mil tape, you'd better have forearms like Gordie Howe to stretch it properly.

It's much better, for most purposes, than duct tape or electrical tape (either plastic or cloth), all of which get brittle, crack, leak, or go gummy.

With this water-tight silicone tape, you can seal electrical connections, do emergency fuel or water hose repairs, insulate, make pressure bandages (even splints), whip rope ends, stop leaks, reduce vibration, pad wear points, wrap tool grips—anything on which you can get a couple of wraps. It has an amazing temperature tolerance (-60° to 500°F) and a dielectric rating up past 10,000.

Back in the March 2001 issue, Practical Sailor reported test results for seven tapes of this sort—Navtec's Rig-Rap, Simpson Lawrence Rubbaweld, Tommy Tape, West Marine Rigging Tape, and three from Mariner's Choice, called Mast Boot, Rigging Tape, and Safety Wrap.

Only two of the tapes—Tommy Tape and the West Marine Rigging Tape—survived a full year of outdoor exposure. The rest lasted from 3 months to 11 months.

Price isn't a big factor with these tapes, but Tommy Tape, which does not suffer from being a "yachting" product, was clearly the Best Buy. It's available in hardware stores and on the Internet.

As so often happens, products that top out in PS tests often are challenged by others brought later to market and said to be better.

In fairness, we always give these plaintiffs a good bit of leeway...but unless a product is sensational we don't let it take up too much space in your magazine.

In this instance, the challenger is called X-Treme Tape, from Vypar Products, a division of Mocap Inc. Mocap's website ( indicates that it's "an international manufacturer of dip, injection, and compression-molded and extruded plastic and rubber products," with a U.S. facility in St. Louis, MO.

Vypar sent two rolls of 1" x 10' x 20 mil tape, one black, one red. It also comes in white and gray (and one suspects that the white tape would better resist the sun's ravages).

To make it a match race with what was in hand, we used black Tommy Tape with the exact same specifications. We had to get fresh Tommy Tape because what we had left from the prior test seemed somewhat dried out. A Tommy Tape spokesman said we got that right: unless tightly sealed, these tapes tend to gradually lose their morph.

Let's adjourn to the joust.

Using a piece of triangular teak scrap and a 3/4" oak dowel, three wraps each of X-Treme and Tommy Tape were applied. One with two wraps overlaid, are on the dowel alone. One has six wraps spiraled on both the triangle and the dowel. The third has four wraps around the triangle and dowel. 


The differently configured wrappings give the air, rain, and sun several ways to degrade the tape—on, along and under the tape.

For exposure to sun, wind, rain and snow, the test piece was hung outdoors—revolving slowly on a single piece of small stuff.

Although checked at weekly intervals, nothing happened until six months had passed. The X-Treme tape developed a tear, with others appearing at 11 months. The Tommy Tape, at that 11-month mark, displayed its first slight tear, as shown and explained in the lower photo caption. Tommy Tape remains the test champion.

A single roll of the X-Treme tape (1" x 10' x 20 mil ) sells for $6.99, and there are progressive discounts for multiple rolls. Tommy Tape of the same specs is almost identically priced, with a single roll at about $6.97, down to about $3.97 per roll in multiple-roll packs.

Get used to these self-bonding tapes, and you may find that the old electrical tape is a bit of a yawn.

• Tommy Tape, 860/378-0111,
• X-Treme Tape, 866/652-9462,


Defender Stow Bag
In our May 1 issue we carried an article about airdeck inflatable boats. In the course of our research, we learned of Defender Industries' new solution to the marked lack of stowage space that plagues virtually all inflatables. It's called the Under Seat Stow Bag, and goes a long way toward solving this stowage problem.

The Stow Bag (Defender's catalog number is #453295) is designed to fit the thwart of any inflatable that has in inside beam of at least 27". This covers most popular models. 


Essentially, it consists of a heavy-duty polyester sleeve that wraps around the seat and is held on with a strip of hook-and-loop tape. The top surface is padded, and there's a 28" x 10" x 7-1/2" bag that hangs below the seat. This bag has two stainless drain grommets at the bottom and a mesh panel mounted high up against the seat at the rear. On later-model inflatables with tubes larger than 15" diameter, the bag's bottom hangs clear of the sole.

On the bag are two zippered mesh pockets measuring roughly 5" x 7" x 3" deep, flanking a central water-resistant 5" x 9" x 3" zippered pocket. The center pocket is ideal for stowing items like cell phones, radios, GPSs and papers—items which must be kept dry. The outer pouches can handle flares, flashlights, keys, air horns and other important small stuff that tends to get lost in duffels or winds up underfoot.

The padded top has an inch of foam, and should make for more comfortable seating in a bumpy ride. You can easily remove the entire bag.

The zippers are plastic, and (according to Defender) are self-repairing; the bag is made of UV-resistant nylon. The whole assembly seems to be well made and sturdy, although we'd exercise those zippers frequently and rinse them with fresh water. In any case, the Stow Bag carries a three-year full replacement warranty.

We think the Under Seat Stow Bag serves a real need, and is well worth the introductory price of $59.99. Note that the price is due to go up to $79.99 later in 2004—still worth it.

• Defender Industries, 800/628-8225,


Also With This Article
"Battery Boxes and Trays"


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