Advice on rafts vs catarafts... - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-29-2017   #1
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: May 2017
Posts: 21
Advice on rafts vs catarafts...

Hello rafters,
I'm in the market for a raft or cataraft. I've been doing the research and I am somewhat familiar with the pros and cons of both. One thing I have noticed while looking for a used setup is that there are lots of catarafts for sale and not a lot of rafts. That's a bit of a red flag in my book. This indicates to me that people get rid of catarafts and keep rafts once they get them. I'm looking for an all around boat I guess. Something I can load up as a SAG wagon for a bunch of canoes and SUPs and float Ruby Horsethief at low water and also do use for fishing like on the Green below Flaming Gorge res. or the North Platte. I don't need a Grand Canyon boat. I probably will never do a trip longer than a week. A dream trip for me would be Dutch John all the way to Jensen on the Green at low water. Not really looking to do much more than III+ rapids. Mostly I will have myself, wife and small dog on the raft, but it needs to be big enough for at least one more. I think I'm starting to get the idea that catarafts are great gear barges, while if you've got kids, dogs, etc, rafts are more comfortable.
Thanks for all your insights in advance. I've been looking on here and craigslist for used rafts. If anyone has any other resources please pass them on. Thank you.

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Old 06-29-2017   #2
utah county, Utah
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 62
sounds like you need a 14' raft. for a given length and tube size, the floor of the raft will allow more gear and flexibility.

My .02
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Old 06-29-2017   #3
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 366
Well your going to get a lot of different opinions here, mostly because there is no right answer. I've always run cats (or dories) and love them. But having said that I can think of three main advantages that rafts have,
1 Generally easier to break down and carry. My cat is big and a pain to break down. I keep it inflated on a trailer all season but if you want the flexibility to break down your boat frequently a raft is the way to go.
2. Cats generally suck in the wind. Don't know why but in a high headwind I'm almost always working harder than the rafts.
3. Rafts generally have more flexibility / simpler gear rigging. I haul a ton on my cat but I have to work at it. A beaver tail net platform helps a lot.

On the plus side there is no doubt cats are more maneuverable, my passengers are more comfortable ( I run seats) and they are great punching big holes etc. I've got mine set up with removable fishing platforms and thigh braces so cats can be great fishing platforms also

I don't buy that the abundance of used cats is reflective of their popularity. I know lots of boaters who swear by cats. All in all if you want an everything boat go with a raft
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Old 06-29-2017   #4
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,763
I have owned cat's and rafts. Usually both styles at the same time.

Cats to me are more fun to row. Takes more time and work to set up or take down. Do not carry the load a much shorter raft will. I just like to row cat boats!!!!!

Having said the above if I could only have one river boat for western rivers it would be my 14 ft Aire. Easier to rig, carries more weight, can be a paddle raft and the list goes on.

A close second in my opinion would be an Aire Super Puma. Just a hoot to row, put two paddlers up front and you have a fun ride down either the Numbers, Browns canyon or royal gorge that is almost as much fun as a kayak. Makes a great paddle raft on WW streams. I have a bud who does rivers like Middle Fork, Yampa, etc etc two people and gear and all the comforts. So if you mostly do bigger western type rivers the 14 ft would be in my opinion a great all around raft, if more back east and you do a lot of paddle rafting no question the super puma is the way to go. If you are a fisherperson, super puma is great for that.

The best combo is an appropriate sized cat boat and raft. May take a while to get there, but sets you up for what ever.
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Old 06-29-2017   #5
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 493
I have owned several (2) rafts and (1) cat in the 15' to 14' size range. Here is my opinion.

1. The cat is more maneuverable and more fun to row.
2. The cat doesn't hold as much gear as a raft the same size, and is much more sensitive to overloading or being out of trim. Just adding an extra passenger to the front seat changes how the boat tracks..
3. Loading the cat is more difficult and requires 2x more straps. Mostly due to a lack of a floor and the need to get the balance/trim just right.
4. Wind, in my experience it has more to do with loading than which boat I'm rowing. Low pile = low wind resistance.
5. The raft, especially with an 'everything bag' is much easier and faster to load. The raft is more adaptable to carrying odd stuff like kayaks and SUP's.
6. I prefer to trailer both the cat or rafts, just too much gear for the truck. The cat tubes are easier for me to lift by myself (2 separate pieces) but the cat frame is a lot heavier.

For a flexible gear hauler I think the raft is superior. For a two person self supported 5 day trip or if I can keep the gear down on a bigger group trip, the cat is my first choice, just more fun to row.
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Old 06-29-2017   #6
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 623
I agree with most of what's said above. Especially the sentiment that rigging/capacity of cats is tougher. I'd say that a cat of a given length feels like a raft 2-3' shorter. Just a ballpark.

However, I'm gonna say you want a 16' raft. 14' rafts are pretty good all around, but really don't carry very much gear. If you want to use it as a SAG wagon for a bunch of kayaks, I'd think you'll want more space than a 14' raft will give you.

As far as low water, 16' isn't too big. In fact, when water depth is the issue, I have found that bigger boats actually handle low water better than smaller ones in many cases. I've had my 18' boats all over the west at all levels- RHT/WW down to 2500, Cat as low as 3000, Royal Gorge at 1000, Yampa at 700, etc. without any real problems caused by the size of the boat.
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Old 06-29-2017   #7
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Salem, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 56
Just get one of each. That's what I did. Start with a raft. Then when $$ allows get a cat.

Best guess on why you see more cats for sale is that the new boat market has leaned towards cats. They look good and are generally cheaper. However, people realize they don't use it as much and put it up for sale.
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Old 06-29-2017   #8
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Laramie, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 499
One thing I've noticed with the cats for sale in the gear swap is that they are almost all massive, 18' or larger. On the other end of the spectrum I've never seen a 12 1/2 SOTAR Legend for sale used...

To me it breaks down to rafts are for gear and passengers, and cats are for play and gnar. All the cats for sale are from people who thought a cat would be a good massive gear hauler.
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Old 06-29-2017   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 205
Get a raft, but pay attention to the different sizes of rafts that are the same length. For instance my friends 14' raft was much smaller than my 14' raft and could not hold near as much stuff. It has a ton to do with width and tube size. For example the Aire Super duper Puma has probably half the carrying capacity of a 14' RMR. Sounds like you need a raft 14-15' raft with a good width. Wide boats are much more stable too, but not near as fun to row.
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Old 06-29-2017   #10
Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 92
Between my BF and I, we own a couple rafts and one cataraft.

I learned how to row a cat, and I love it. That said, I have a very nice frame which makes it AWESOME to rig the hard stuff into, I can carry all the ammo cans and rockets, but then I need my sweet as pie boyfriend to carry all the other stuff (dry bags mostly).

Really I think the feedback here is great, a raft is super versatile, my cat, not so much (though I never leave home without it).

I did have a realization though this summer that cats are the perfect boat if you don't wanna spend time with people, 1 friend is kinda the max capacity on my boat. It's the boat for antisocial people and I love it!
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