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Old 01-06-2016   #1
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 29
DIY Raft Pads - am I nuts?

I'm getting into rafting on the cheap, and after a few runs down the San Juan and Desolation I really want some good pads for the kids to sit on and us to sleep on under the stars. I have a hard time stomaching the 150-300 dollars that companies are asking for pads and I'm looking at making some myself.
My plan is to source some PVC fabric from a local (Salt Lake) company that makes PVC tarps for long haul truckers. They hand heat weld their product so I thought I'd do the same. I would source polyurethane foam (medium/Firm, either 3 or 4 inches thick) from a local upholstery company , or get it off the internet. The pads friends have are just a PVC sleeve, welded together down the seam and at the ends with a C7 valve on the side or in a corner.
I expect I'll need to practice on some scrap PVC material, but after that I think I could get it air-tight. Maravia doesn't guarantee their Silverbacks to be airtight and Jack from Jack's PVC Welding says after a few thorn holes, he doesn't sleep with the valve closed any more. So perfection is hoped for but not essential.
The math works out like this:
PVC fabric: $10
Polyurethane Foam: $25ish
C7 Valve: $20 - I could use a cheaper valve to cut costs but this is for comparison.
Inexpensive adjustable heat plastic welding gun (not industrial quality, I don't need it to be): $50
If successful, the first one would run $105 and every one thereafter would be $55 (or average it, I don't care). I could make the 3 I need for well under the cost of one Maravia Silverback and could make them fit my raft and family.
Has anyone done this? Is there something I'm missing? Thoughts? Suggestions?

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Old 01-07-2016   #2
NIMBY, Oregon
Paddling Since: Womb
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 97
You forgot to factor gas to and from any store, wear and tear on your vehicle, and time invested in research and building.

A quick Google search... Cascade Outfitters has AIRE pads for $112. Not a bad price. I paid $75(pro-deal) for a couple sotar pads at the warehouse in 2004, because a single raft guide can't have one awesome sleeping pad... IMO, they are on the "top 5 must haves list" for overnight trips, and when my back goes out at home I sleep on one in the living room. Now that I think about it, my sleeping pads are the best gear investment I've made.

If you're into building them and you have the free time, go for it. It wouldn't be that hard and your plan sounds like mine looks. However, mine have a strip of webbing sewn onto the ends. I assume this is to cover the sharp edge and to prevent separation when rolling. Either way, I would like to see pics of your process if you decide to do it.

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Old 01-07-2016   #3
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 221
Poor people should stay home. Poverty and rafting don't mix. Use the search function to read more.
Please drain your cooler daily though. Oh...... What kind of river toilet do you use?
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Old 01-07-2016   #4
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 129
I haven't made sleeping pads, but I did once sew my own drybags for a couple of bob trailers. You can sew through two layers of PVC and a strap with a regular sewing machine. The key is to buy some heavy duty jeans needles and some upholstery thread and take your time.

When I made the bags I sewed all the joints, then came back later with seam sealer to water proof them. It worked well, until a squirrel chewed a hole in them the second night out. I guess that's what duct tape is for. I got my fabric as scraps from a canvas sign maker, in case that helps you.
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Old 01-07-2016   #5
yesimapirate's Avatar
Denver-ish, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 739
Please post pictures of your finest product if you do go thru with making your own camping bed!

“HOLD THE DOOR!” — Hodor
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Old 01-07-2016   #6
Buffalo, New York
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 109
I bought some used Paco pads from pro in flagstaff at their end of season yard sale. I think I paid $60 each and they were in good condition. Call around to some outfitters.

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Old 01-08-2016   #7
Cowie's Avatar
Escalante, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 3
If you can find PVC for $10 I'd say go for it. I built one for my toddler out of Herculite, 2in foam and a C7 valve. I don't have a welder so I glued the seams with CH-66. It turned out fine. However, it probably wasn't cheaper than finding a good deal on a factory built one.

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Old 01-08-2016   #8
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,879
I like how the OP is thinking - there's a definite upside to custom-fitting to cooler tops or dryboxes; where a standard 6' pad just hangs off the sides and creates one more thing to trip on as you're walking around the boat. Frankly I'd also build a King-sized pad for my pop-up camper.

I'm interested to know how it turns out- good luck & please post pics.
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Old 01-08-2016   #9
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Right near the beach...BOYEEEEE, Brahbrobrahdo
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 442
PVC for multiple sleeping pads..for $10?

No way.
Wear shoes in the Safety first, then teamwork.
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Old 01-08-2016   #10
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Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 401
Originally Posted by Brotorboat View Post
PVC for multiple sleeping pads..for $10?

No way.
I agree with this... I doubt you could even get a used truck tarp for under $100

"Thats what" - She
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