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Old 03-13-2006   #1
tyaker's Avatar
Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
Raft brand opinions?

I am looking into buying a raft, and I wanted to see other rowers opinions on how different brands handle: tracking, spinning, even load vs front/rear heavy. I've rowed a lot of 14-18' Sotars, 18' Rogue Inflatables, and a 16' Downriver. Anyone with experience on maravias, aires, hysides, etc...? Thanks!

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Old 03-13-2006   #2
earthNRG's Avatar
Snowmass, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 429
It's been awhile, but I've guided a 14' Incept. Handled great. Tracks decent, but spins and manuvours wonderfully. We even surfed it, with a couple of spins, in Chili Bar hole (at the put-in, SF American). I'd like to give you more info, but like I said, it's been awhile since I've been in the boat (over ten years). For all I know, the design has changed radically and performs totally different! Check out thier website.

"A witty saying proves nothing."
- Voltaire (1694-1778)
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Old 03-13-2006   #3
JCKeck1's Avatar
Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1999
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I have lots of experience with 14' Miravias. They suck. Mostly I've used them as paddle boats without really heavy loads. They have far too much rocker which makes them spin around in circles really well, but they won't track at all. Also they don't have baffles in the floors which further prohibits the tracking. I also have experience with 14' Hysides. They will take an absolute beating, but are generally more expensive. Make sure to get one without the old military style valves (twist lock) and with the one way valves. The Hysides don't do anything super well but they are work horses. Great boat for things like the middle fork salmon, cataract, westwater, browns. It's not the latest and best boat for things like pine creek, numbers or gore although it'll do them. For the price and versitility I recommend the NRS boats. They're fairly durable, track well, turn well, and deal well with an oar rig or as a paddle boat, plus they're on the cheap end. It'll get you down class V- and take a load for multiday trips well. If you want the high end gore/pine creek/cherry creek boat, nothing beats the Wings. Hard to get, super pricy, super durable, super high performance (baffled floors, perfect rocker, ridiculously stiff), but not what most private boaters want or need. It doesn't hold a whole lot of gear.

If you need the very best boat for the hardest water buy the Wing, if you need a work horse for 60+ days of abuse over 10 years buy the Hyside, if you plan on only paddle boating class III and want to get people wet every time buy the Custom Inflatable, or if you're the average private boater running III/IV, maybe a spice of V, and use it for multiday trips, paddle trips and looking out for cost buy the NRS. Don't buy the Miravia (they do look pretty).

That's my non-biased opinion after a measley 6 years guiding and multiday tripping spent fairly well divided between Hyside, NRS, Custom Inflatables, Wing, and Miravias.
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Old 03-13-2006   #4
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 10
I have a Maravia, and I LOVE it.

I have paddled and oared Maravias, Sotars, NRS Catarafts, and Aire Catarafts.

The thing I love about the Maravia is the material (PVC + urethane coating). Pump it up to recommended pressure and it's stiff and solid. VERY responsive... more so than softer Hypalon boats. One HELL of a paddle raft. That's an advantage in technical water, and less important in Grand Canyon-style big brawlers.

Personally, I don't worry about tracking... how hard is it to go in a straight line ?

To me, it's all about responsiveness in combat. I think all name-brand boats are probably good. But for me, Maravia is the best.

I think JCKeck1 makes some good points re: rigging (valves, etc). Another thing I like about the Maravia is the cleat / knuckle arrangement of the thwarts. It's easy to take 'em out or put 'em in, so it's easy to switch modes 'twixt oaring / paddle rafting.

Good luck, man. I hope you get a great boat.
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Old 03-13-2006   #5
GWS, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 486
I have a 14 ft aire and love it. I just bought this one three years ago but I guided the same raft on the Upper Animas for a number of years. It is super solid construction.

There is a balast system in the floor that passivly absorbs water and adds weight to the floor. The benefit of this system is that it makes the raft that much harder to flip and it tracks like a champ. In my years on the upper i never flipped (knock on wood).

The raft is very fast in the water. If you keep the raft in the current you don't even need to paddle to stay ahead of the avarage joe.

I use mine with an oar frame and as a paddle boat.

I think the raft comes with a 10 yr warranty.

The only downside is that the zipper on the tubes can get sany an hard to open. I have found that blasting the zipper with a hose prior to openiong claewns a bunch of the dirt out.
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Old 03-13-2006   #6
tyaker's Avatar
Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
thanks for the info, guys... i'm leanin toward a maravia, the oregon based company i used to row for would have switched to maravia if they hadn't been in sotar's hometown. hey, slickricky, how long have you had yours (i.e. wear and tear of material over time)? I've got a line on a fairly old, well stored maravia. Mucho appreciato!
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Old 03-14-2006   #7
Join Date: Feb 2006
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yo... tyaker... I've had the Maravia since 1994. One Grand Canyon run, three Selway (Idaho) runs, Middle Fork, Colorado, New Mexico. Lots of fun.

Anyway COMPARE WARRANTIES. Also, if you're buying a USED one, check the floor carefully. I stored mine wrong and got some separation in the floor... the drop stitching separated in the 11th year of ownership.
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Old 03-14-2006   #8
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,910

If you've got a line on a nice Maravia, that's great. If I won the lottery I'd get one in a heartbeat. The dropstitch floor and urethane coating are awesome. If its not encapsulated in urethane its pre-1988. Before making your offer on the boat don't forget to air it up in a way that'll allow you to see if any baffles are blown (air up one chamber than the opposite so there's an empty chamber between each of the inflated ones). Also, check the bottom for wear if the floor has a bend up at each end - this is a frequent wear point.

I've got a 14' PVC Vanguard that's a great boat, can be aired up really stiff like a Maravia, and has a floor that's firm enough to tapdance on (good for fishing). A new Vanguard's about half (or less) the cost of a Maravia and is a really fun boat to row. My opinion is that the 14' length is small enough for headwaters rivers and big enough for multiday trips. IMHO once you get to below about 14' (I used to have a 13' SOTAR that was great) you lose critical gear capacity.

While there's a lot of good advice here on the 'Buzz, if you're still doing research you may want to take the question to a rafters' forum rather than one dominated by kayaking. Between Raftzone on Boatertalk-dot-com, the GCPBA listserve, & UtahRafters listserve you'll access well over a thousand rafters with lots of experience. Each of these have websites where you can sign up for the lists and there are lots of folks that know tons about rubber boats & willing to share info.

Happy shopping!


EDIT - PS: DownRiver Equipment and the other shops (AAA & Alpenglow) are having their spring swaps soon. DRE is on March 24-26, Alpenglow's is on April 1 & 2. There are often good deals on used rubber at these. Aplenglow lets folks sell all kinds of accessories in addition to rubber so you may be able to pick up frame & oars and all the accessories you can carry away from there.
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 03-14-2006   #9
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Paddling Since: 1994
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Posts: 884
ditto on one way valves. ditto on baffle check. it seems you are looking for a used boat at a good price. if this is the case look for just that. who cares what brand. you seem to have all the popular and good brands listed, barring avon. you seem to have experience in rafts so undoubtedly you can tell a shitty one from a good one. decide on a size and a use, then look at rafts till you find one that makes sense. do take time to inflate and look it over. decide what price and how long you want it to last. then look it over again. remember outfitter boats are beat to hell and back and usually they dont sell them for no reason. i bought one (12' avon $1200) and and feel lucky to be getting a 4th season out of it as much as i abuse it (40 + days/yr). if you are rolling it up everytime i would lean toward hypalon over pvc. you can bend rubber back and forth a lot more than plastic before it breaks, right? if it has blown i beams in the floor more will blow.

if i were going to buy brand new i'd get an nrs expedition or an avon. ouch! the price tag of any new outfitter quality boat is staggering. (at least to my poor ass)

on maravias. i tried to break a brand new one on the poudre a few years back. some guy wrapped hard in some little riffle. i bent the thing over its dry box almost in half with a z drag to get it out. in pictures from the other side of the river you can see the outline of the dry box in the floor bent over it. when it flipped and peeled it sprung right back to life and was hard as drum. of course the guy looked like he had just come from the shop, all new gear and seven or eight g's poorer. i think the price tag was still hanging off the stern D ring. makes me laugh every time i see a maravia. still cant believe i got out of that with no poison ivy.
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Old 03-15-2006   #10
tyaker's Avatar
Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
one more ?

grats for all the beta, muchachos. the raft websites will come in handy, and the tidbits of tips, too! i've seen so many worn seams and blown i-beams that a pvc/ureth boat is really what sounds good. wow, the poudre wrap sounds like a product test if i ever heard one, zbaird! One other question for y'all, though... is a ten yr old pvc boat gonna develop stiffness/cracking issues? It's been stored inside 'n inflated it's whole life. Cheers to future grand trips!

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