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Old 02-22-2009   #21
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
I've rowed both for many years. To say one holds more gear than the other is a farce. The same holds true for their agility when loaded (a pig is a pig). A raft is much easier to run as a paddle boat. A cat is much more fun to row as a solo (as you saw in the video).

I don't have many opportunities to have a paddle crew, so my personal boat is a 16' cat. I've pieced it together over the years and it is pretty sweet. If I had it to do over again, I'd still go with the 16' cat, but I'd have the frame set up with a complete front to rear 1/8" diamond plate floor and as few crossbars as possible (one for the captain's chair). I've seen one that riverboat works makes that is tough to beat. (Light, tons of floor space, easy footing, etc.) Good luck!

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Old 02-22-2009   #22
Northern Colorado, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 115

I've rowed cats and rafts commercially and privately now for going on 16 years and there are pros and cons to both.

On class 4 and above a cats shine. As stated earlier, they don't carry passengers very well and are not user friendly for kids or people who tend to drop things(as they simply sink unless you have a floor). On multi day trips watch your load capacity as they do become pigs if overloaded. They are more modular and the pieces are generally lighter however, a burly frame is needed for a cat because that's what gives the boat its integrity. Cats can punch massive holes and are more responsive to hysiding. I originally bought a cat set-up many years ago because I was running steep, technical rivers. I'm generally happy with it, but sometimes I feel its a hassle to deal with.

Rafts are nice because they are simpler to load/rig. Rafts can also tackle burly water. Lots of folks use self bailers on all kinds of tough class 5. With a center rig and paddle assist, or simply a good paddle crew, a self-bailer can do just about anything a cat can do-except surf the faces of waves to ferry across the river really quick-but skilled rafters can do this too.

If I had $ to get a new set-up I would strongly consider a self bailer. It all depends on what kind of water you'll be mostly running. But for what you mentioned, a 15' self bailer sounds like a solid choice.

PVC or Hypalon? If you're going for a cat-PVC without a doubt because its a stiff material that will take a high psi so its stiff and responsive(sotar,aire,wing,jack's plastic). Raft- I'd spend the bucks on an avon (hypalon).
I also like aires for either a cat or raft. Ultimately, pvc will develop pin-hole leaks over time and the urathane bladder aire greatly improves air retention over time, but they are a tad heavier than some other boats.

Hope this helps and what ever you get, getting out on the water is what matters most!

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Old 02-22-2009   #23
prescott, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 276
It was easy to find a raft for sale, used, "turn key". Now that I am looking for a used cat (ocelot in case anyone has tubes for sale), you usually just find tubes and getting the frame is separate. Not as straight forward for a beginning.

Check NRS gear swap. there's an ocelot.
NRS Gear Swap=*
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Old 02-22-2009   #24
Parachute, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 34

You have just described the frame that is drawn out on graph paper at home. 120" (NRS suggested max), 10" double rails with diamond floor bow to stern, except captains footwell which will be polymax to help drain. 48" between the tubes, with 2 x 27" tubes that equals the 102" maximum width for a trailer. Any pictures of your set up? PM or post here?

As to what works well, my 14' SB raft is not going anywhere. I am sold on that length and a rafts diversity. Last year it ran Slaugterhouse with a bunch of friends paddling one weekend and was set up oar rigged for 6 days on Cataract at 52k the next.
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Old 02-22-2009   #25
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
Great info in this post. A bit of conflicting info too. Rich said that cats spin faster, tyaker says rafts spin faster - depending on the boat and the load - they're both right. A long heavily loaded cat with straight tubes spins fairly slowly, slower than a raft of the same length and load. Remember that rafts in general have a larger total gear carrying capacity in terms of weight, and therefore won't draft as deep as a cat with the same load. A light cat with short rockered tubes spins really fast, faster than a similar length raft. But rafts don't have rockered main tubes as often as cats do. And the extra surface area of the floor generally slows down the spin rate in comparison to a lightly loaded cat. It also makes the raft slower in general than the light cat. A light cat can make ferries a raft can't due to its very small surface area in the water.

You also heard that both cats and rafts are better for low water. With a cat frame you have to choose how to set it up. Will the lower part of your frame be right at waters level with a heavy load? Or will you set up your frame to be 6 or 8 or10 inches inches above water level even with a fair load? This will determine your rock straddling ability. But the higher the center of gravity the more likely you are to flip in a hole, so you usually don't see the lower cross bars too high off the water.

One more thing, you will see rafts on plenty of class V runs, both as paddle boats and oar rigs, and as oar paddle assists. It just happens in Idaho (where the NF Payette is) that there are a lot of Cat boating fans, however if you go to the Upper Gauley in West Virginia or Cherry Creek in Cali, you will hardly see any Cats. However if you primarily want to row class V w/o passengers the Cat is the better choice in my opinion. If you want to take two friends with you down that class V - then a raft, with them acting as a paddle assist, is probably the way to go. I own a raft because I like the gear hauling ability, the paddle boating ability and the ability to take 8 of my friends boating or just go by myself. If I usually was the only person in my boat, or only liked to take one or two people boating with me, the Cat would be very tempting.
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Old 02-23-2009   #26
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,346
Originally Posted by 86304 View Post
It was easy to find a raft for sale, used, "turn key". Now that I am looking for a used cat (ocelot in case anyone has tubes for sale), you usually just find tubes and getting the frame is separate. Not as straight forward for a beginning.

Check NRS gear swap. there's an ocelot.
NRS Gear Swap=*
Thanks a lot, but I saw that already, I'm wanting to go with a newer boat, 14', and the bigger tubes. I've got a line on two from this decade, but no frames, and neither are the newer tube designs. I hope I find something used, so I don't act rash and buy brand new!
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 02-24-2009   #27
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,929
I have owned two different cats and rowed several rafts. I think most of the initial choice comes down to how many passengers you most often plan on carrying and your budget. I picked up a Jack's Plastic Cutthroat years ago and grew fond of cats and their maneuverability. I recently got married and upgraded to a 14' AIRE Ocelot. It works well for two folks on multi-day trips, solo, or 3 people on day trips. It definitely acts like a stubborn pig when overloaded, as I learned as I drifted into Skull Hole last march. I started with cats by chance and have sense remained committed to them because I know them. While I would love to have some of the carrying capacity of a raft they are cost prohibitive and I hate rowing anything larger than a 14' when they are loaded.

enjoy the float whichever way you chose.

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