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Old 09-10-2013   #1
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 3
Help with getting started..

Hello all, I really enjoy reading all the posts and forums on this website. Here is my dilemma I use to canoeing in the Midwest for 25 years and love it. I have been in Denver now for about 10 years and hate the fact of driving 15 hours to do a river trip. I am determined to conquer the water out west though. With permits being limited and dog restrictions I am having a hard time dropping 6-10 grand on the works with a new trailer, raft, frame, jackets, fire pans, dry boxes etc… It is my gf and I and two kids 13yo and 11yo with a 100 pound dog, should I get a 16, 15 or 14 for 3-4 day trips? Any help would be great for this is all I have been thinking about and it is roughly 9 months away.

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Old 09-10-2013   #2
TriBri1's Avatar
Tigard, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 768
I would recommend starting with rentals. Figure out what you like and what works for your family before jumping into a huge $$$ commitment. Then do lots of day trips. If there is a whitewater club in the area hook up with them and do a few club trips. If not then check out commercial companies and see if they have a guide training that you can jump into and learn to read the water. There are many fine stretches of river that do not require a permit.

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Old 09-10-2013   #3
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 165
Rent or buy used and do day trips and local overnighters to determine true interest before going for "full" setup and the multiday trips. Dogs are not welcome on many of the permitted stretches .
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Old 09-10-2013   #4
JustKip's Avatar
Fresno, California
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 177
I'm going to join the other 2 in recommending renting to start out. I also agree about taking guide training, unless you're already very proficient...and it seems like you wouldn't be asking in that case (no offense intended).

IM(often not so humble)O, a single raft isn't enough for 4 people without being part of a group. That way not every boat needs a firepan or groover or kitchen box or cooler. One of each for the group is pretty customary, unless it's a large group. A 14 foot is typically used for 2 people, their gear, and some group gear, but I've seen 3 peeps in a 13 footer more than twice.

And, with all that opinionated "expertise" spouted out, I just got back from a 3 day, ONE boat trip on the Rogue, with a friend...2 people in a 13.5 foot raft with all our gear in 3 drybags, a cooler and 2 rocket boxes. My passenger rides on the cooler and another passenger might fit. I do that often, but it's a very Spartan trip using backpacking gear. For a pair of teenagers I'd recommend more "personal space" in the boat.
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Old 09-11-2013   #5
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 665
I would say 14 footer is bare minimum. With the dog, I'd go with 16 footer.

I disagree that a single boat isn't enough for 4 people and a dog. I have a 14 footer for my wife and two kids (no dog), and I can comfortably get all 4 of us in it along with all the required gear (cooler, kitchen box, firepan, groover, captains boxes, dry bags, water jugs, etc). A 3-4 day trip in my boat for the 4 of us would be zero problem.

However, it is a lot more fun going with more boats and more people! Start with the basics (the boat, frame, etc) and join some others on some trips. Gradually add gear over time. Aside from spreading the investment out over time, you'll get a lot of ideas from those that you are with as to what gear to get.
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Old 09-11-2013   #6
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,120
2 adults, 2 teens, and a large dog on one raft, to me = 16 ft. raft. However, if your teens are the adventurous types, they may be happier in a ducky, rather than on the raft all the time. Do you think your GF might like to ducky or maybe row her own? I'd rent one or two duckies along with a 14-16 ft. raft and see what your family likes. Maybe they'll all take a liking to it, and you could end up with a flotilla.....15 ft. raft, two duckies, and maybe even a small raft for the GF ??? Just a thought.
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Old 09-11-2013   #7
Helena, Montana
Paddling Since: 1976
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 65
Ducky for the teenagers is a must. 15-16 raft and maybe even a small cat for GF
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Old 09-11-2013   #8
goldcamp's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 337
I definately think a 16 footer is going to be most comfortable. Also I don't think you really need to spend 6K at a minimum to get into the sport. My first cooler cost was a 125 coleman extreme I bought at Walmart for $55, dry box from $275, surplus ammo cans for $15 each, old small grill converted to a fire pan <$25, Walmart toilet seat and wag bags <$25. Either get a used boat or one of the cheaper brands ($1500-3000). Check out for the least expensive frames on the market (Four bay frame and oars for ~$700). A trailer is awesome, but also optional depending on what type of vehicle you have.
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Old 09-11-2013   #9
The Russian
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SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,380
Rent first, then get a full setup from mtnbuzz classifieds for 2-4k. Then once you realize what you want, invest your 6k+ into exactly what you want.

With that family , go with 16 for the first boat. Even with duckies, you will be carrying all kids/dog/wife's crap.... and their gear.
-ALEX [ youtube ][ my boat ][ ]
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Old 09-11-2013   #10
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 3
Response to "Help with getting started"

I would like to thank all of you for the information and I appreciate all the feedback with do' s and don't s and gear information. With a Ducky I am interpreting that you mean a one or two seat inflatable kayak.. I am still up in the air with what brand of raft or even Ducky/inflatable kayak.. I feel drawn to AIRE for their 10 year warranty.. Thank you again this information it has been beyond helpful in planning my summers to come!
Wes Salley

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