After briefly trying one last year 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 may be good for sailing; an integrated zip-back deck, and novel zippered storage pockets in the side tubes. The tasty lemon and olive colour scheme comes free.
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 acting as a skeg and 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 reducing production costs to spend elsewhere, but adding an 83-gram rear skeg (plus patch) may have the same effect as an extended stern. (Yes it does).
The 2K comes with the usual air bag plus a mini-pump (left) which enables you to top off with a good firm fill via the Boston valve without needing lungs like Tarzan.
Tube Bag in-hull storage
Other refinements in the production model include much more voluminous side-tube storage pockets. I remember thinking on the proto these aren’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 sounds right 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 them up leaving a small gap so 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 (currently the zips are 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. But that’s no different to not being able to access a Cargo Zip-type set up. Whatever you need during the day, put it in your lap or in a Deck Pack (left).
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.
I had a couple of zip decked Alpackas years ago but never really used it. It felt flimsy and I feared it 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 pleased the 2K has a deck. I sure appreciated it on the Wye in chilly May while not needing to wear dry pants. 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. The deck has a red ripcord to get out quickly and rolls up to the sides out of the way.
I do worry the zip might pull apart as you do it up round the curve, especially when the boat is fully inflated. 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 using 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.
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.
More 2K adventures to come this summer, once the gales abate.