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Old 08-24-2015   #1
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 436
Raft Size Question: Sweet Spot for gear hauling vs. maneuverability and speed

Hey guys,

I've been doing river trips since I was a little kid, but have been away from most things whitewater for the last 5 years or so. I was VERY into kayaking from the age of 12 till my late 20's. Lately, I've had a hankering to get on the river again but rafting seems more appealing to me these days. I'd like to focus on multi-day stuff, but also want to get out on a day trips too.

For years I've only really considered catarafts, mostly because I like that they seem to be sleaker and just fit my style (percieved style). Seems to be a popular view, but I get the feeling they are great for carrying enough gear for 1-4 people but not as a Grand Canyon gear pig unless you get crazy big with them.

There are some pretty great deals for complete packages on the gear swap page in the 16-18 foot self bailer category, but I'm concerned that those might be TOO big for my needs. I've rowed a 14 foot raft down Cataract at super low water (Spring break....I think it was like 5000 cfs or less...class III at best at that level) and felt like that was just on the small side. I went to Andersen Camps as a kid too, and they had some VERY big support rafts that were great for multi day hauling gear for a large group but definitely overkill for stuff like a day trip down the Arkansas.

What do you guys think the sweet spot is for a heavy gear hauler vs. speed, maneuverability and just fitting down varied size rivers? Mind you, this is for an Oar Rig and not something that will ever be just a paddle boat.

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Old 08-24-2015   #2
East MT, WestMT, Both sides of the Yellowstone
Paddling Since: 09
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,112
15' with diminishing tubes.

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Old 08-24-2015   #3
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Post Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 781
I have three kids and wanted a boat as you describe. I ended up with an Aire 156D. It's 15.5 ft with diminishing rubes. I'm really pleased.

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Old 08-24-2015   #4
Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1966
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 427
How many passengers do you want to have on a multi-day?
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Old 08-24-2015   #5
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 40
I have an Aire 156 D. It's a great boat, but it is "diminished" and doesn't haul as much gear as the 16's that are on most of the trips I go on. You can stack it deep, but it is obviously smaller/narrower when parked side-by-side at camp.

Coupled with my bigger cat (17'x28") and an inflatable kayak on a recent 6-day trip with 4 adults and 3 kids, we were pressed for space for people and gear.
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Old 08-24-2015   #6
Clarno, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 22
The best all around raft in my opinion is a 14 or 15 foot self bailer. You can get two full size dry boxes and a 120 quart cooler in both. Plus a couple prices of group gear. The 15 ft gives you a little extra foot space for two passengers.
I would also look at the larger tube diameter for weight capacity and drops/holes.

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Old 08-24-2015   #7
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 728
Buy for the runs and conditions you will be floating the most. For the Ark, the 14' SB raft is the most versatile, good to go as paddle boat or oar rig/gear boat from 400cfs up to 5-6K, both extremes depending on experience of course. You will have no problem supporting 3 and perhaps 4 people for a week long trip in a boat like that. A 14' er is also adequate for a Grand trip for 2.

If you will spend more time on the larger Colorado Plateau Rivers, perhaps a 16' could be more suited, and it will easily carry your load down the Grand. But that boat is a little too big IMHO for the Ark outside high flows, which is usually more often than not.

If I want an 18' boat for the grand, I'll just rent one as they only come along every few years and an 18' boat does me no good locally.

A raft will hold as much gear as a cataraft that is 2 feet longer.
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Old 08-24-2015   #8
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 103
NRS Otter

In the NRS Otter series, the width of the 14' and 15' is the same (or was 3-years ago).
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Old 08-24-2015   #9
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 436
Thanks for the input guys. I honestly don't know what the most common use will be for the setup. I'm pretty busy in the summer and don't have a lot of time, but my main use I think would be multi-day stuff. I also don't know exactly how many people I would be supporting, but since a main goal would be to get on the Grand Canyon, I figure having a big gear rig type boat might land me an invite more easily. I guess if I had to guess, it would be an occasional day trip on the Arkansas or Colorado (Upper C or Glenwood area) and trying to get on Westwater or another multi day once or twice a year.

The main reason I was asking is because there is an Avon SuperPro for sale and it has most of the stuff you'd need to go do a Grand trip or any of the multi-day trips. Its a sweet setup for a decent price but I just don't know how usable it would be for day trips.
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Old 08-25-2015   #10
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 337
Well then you need 2 or maybe even 3...


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