Updated September 2021
After briefly trying one in 2020 and then flogging my rather good MRS S1 Nomad to pay for a new Seawave, I decided Anfibio’s new Rebel 2K would be a good packraft for 2021. It comes with a lot of useful features you don’t have to use: a skeg which has proved good for sailing; an integrated zip-back deck, and novel zippered storage pockets in the side tubes. The tasty lemon & olive colour scheme comes free.
So far I’ve done a few overnight tips in the UK and it’s proved my sort of boat: a versatile do-it-all packraft.
Differences with the prototype include no frontal skeg. Shame, I would have liked to try that properly to see if it reduced yawing at a possible cost to quick turning. I mention in Do You Need a Skeg that the now widely copied Alpacka Extended Stern from 2011 helped reduce the yawing of my previous Denali Llama (first generation Alpacka) by positioning the paddler more centrally, (like a kayak) to reducing the pivoting effect. But now I think about it, it’s the asymmetric, upturned white-water-riding bow of a typical Alpacka which may lead to flatwater yawing. To be honest over two days on the Wye without the skeg fitted, I didn’t notice any untoward bow-yawing once the knack of packraft paddling had been reacquired.
The Rebel 2K – like many Anfibio packrafts – is a symmetrical design: you could put the seat at either end were it not for the deck. I suspect the benefits of this are in simplifying design and assembly and so reducing production costs to spend elsewhere. Adding an 83-gram rear skeg has the same effect as an extended stern.
The 2K comes with the usual air bag plus a mini-pump (left) which enables you to top off to a good firm fill via the Boston valve without needing lungs like Tarzan. These mini-pumps are an important innovation: a firm packraft paddles a whole lot better and the hulls can handle the 2-3 psi pressure.
Tube Bag in-hull storage
Other refinements in the production model include much more voluminous side-tube storage pockets. I remember thinking on the prototype these weren’t very big, but they were perhaps just a proof of concept.
On my boat they are huge: 70 litres each side is claimed, same as a typical rucksack. With the pockets at least a metre long and a diameter of about 30cm, that adds up. Either way, there’s more room in there than you can comfortably carry on your back.
I was never convinced by that other Alpacka innovation: the airtight Cargo Zip which allowed you to store gear directly inside the hull tubes while improving stability and visibility and reducing windage. A packraft only has one chamber and if that critical zip plays up – as zips do – your boat is compromised.
Anfibio’s Tube Bag system is more like a huge IPX7 zip pocket in each side tube and separate from the hull chamber. You pack them, then zip up leaving a small gap so excess air can escape. Inflate the boat in the usual way; as you do this air is squeezed out of the pockets and all the contents gets pressure-sealed in place; no need for internal straps. You then do the tube zip right up and off you go (the zips are still quite stiff). Warnings remind you not to open the zips when inflated; do so and the contents will be expelled by the hull pressure, your boat will sag and it’ll be a struggle to put it all back in without going ashore. But that’s no different to not being able to access a Cargo Zip-type set up.
The zip is airtight but, because it seals the PU-coated pockets, not the hull, the zips’ seal is less critical. Despite limits in solo portaging when full of gear. and the need to reinflate after accessing the pockets each night, Anfibio’s Tube Bags are cleverer than I thought and when full, effectively add two big chambers to the boat. Whatever you need during the day, put it in your lap or in a DeckPack (left).
I had a couple of zip decked Alpackas years ago but never really used them. They felt flimsy and I feared they would tear easily. The zip on my Nomad with two parallel zips and a coaming hatch, was a better design but I’ve changed my mind and am now very pleased the 2K has a deck.
I sure appreciated it on the Wye in chilly May while not needing to wear dry pants. And I appreciated it again being hurled down Loch Arkaig by F5 winds. The zip comes back halfway down the side; the rest is velcro leading to a tall tunnel round the torso topped with a cinch cord that seems a bit hard to use effectively. The deck has a red ripcord to get out quickly and rolls up out of the way to both sides with securing tapes. During heavy rain water or rough water, water does trickle in through the imperfectly sealed velcro or down the tunnel. In those conditions you want to be wearing a dry suit.
I do worry the zip might pull apart as you do it up round the curve, especially when the boat is fully inflated, but unlike the side storage zips, it’s loosened up quite a lot since new. It helps to push the left tube in to lessen the strain until it’s all done up, then pull the velcro right across to share the tension. You want to be careful with this zip as repair will be costly and complicated.
I like the seat too: a big-arsed cushion about six inches thick, and an attached backrest, both using one-way oral valves. In a packraft you need a thick seat base to counter floor sag from the paddler’s weight. If it feels too high, drop some pressure. It jams in tight but straps to a buckle at the back of the floor. I added a plastic clip to make fitting and removal much easier
Other than that you get four + two mounting tabs on the tubes for gear, handles or perimeter lines, and two more on the floor inside.
Sailing with the Rebel 2K
With a breeze as low as 8mph, a WindPaddle or AirSail works very well on the 2K with the skeg fitted. At that speed it won’t be any faster than paddling, but you’re saving energy and have a chance to look around. At low speeds you can clip the sail lines to your pfd or put it in your teeth or behind your head and have free hands to take photos or even make a sandwich. You can even paddle-sail like this to give yourself a little more speed as you may find the lack of movement cools you down. Depending on waves there is always a little correction required and the sail will work up to about 45° either side of the wind.
I’ve paddled the 2K in squalls gusting to 25mph or more and was amazed how well the boat handled while being hauled alone at over 6kph or 4mph. I’m sure the low-loaded baggage contributed to this feeling of security, and the deck stopped me getting too drenched. In such conditions you want your hands on the lines, but also need to be careful not to let go: the boat running over its own sail and stopping suddenly might tip you over.
With a DeckPack on the bow, not only can the tethered paddle be securely slipped underneath it, but a WindPaddle-type sail can be folded in half and the lower half stashed under the Pack and the paddle grabbed in a few seconds – and be redeployed just as quickly. There are times when you need to do either quickly, so for that alone the DeckPack or similar arrangement is worthwhile.
I think the Rebel 2K will become a classic packraft: the skeg, storage, deck and colour scheme all combine to make an unbeatable package to deliver everything that makes packrafting fun and worthwhile.