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Old 04-09-2009   #1
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 111
Vanguard Raft Opinion...

See if anyone here has an opinion on Vanguard rafts. 14 ft new price does not seam to bad compared to others. What is their material? Hold up well and handling. Looks like they come in at 144lbs. Can you really tell a big difference lugging around/paddling a 144lb boat versus 120lb boat. Does it roll up well or better to store/travel inflated.


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Old 04-09-2009   #2
flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 11
Here is a limited review on a few 14 ft rafts. However personal experience posted by others could be be more useful. Nevertheless a start!

2008 Raft Gear Guide - Canoe & Kayak Magazine Gear

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Old 04-09-2009   #3
The Box, ~
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 199
If I were willing to buy a glued plastic boat, Vanguard would probably be the only option I would consider. For the same price you can get a welded raft from Tributary. I've not been able to get my mind around why some of these companies would glue plastic, when AIRE and Jacks has proven that welded seams are bomber. Eventually in time we'll know!

Also, Tributary/AIRE performance on the water seems to be dialed, whereas, Vanguard has not dialed in their designs. Vanguards really thick floors 21" tubes on a 14' is over kill. Last summer one of the companies on Alpine Canyon were using Tributary's.

If you're looking at 14' boats and for a few hundred dollars more than Tributary and Vanguard you way want to also look at this new hypalon on sale:

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Old 04-09-2009   #4
striker's Avatar
steamboat Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 71
We had someone bring a 16 foot vanguard on a lodore trip last summer that they borrowed from an outfitter. The vanguard had some slow leaks, but it had been used commercially and may have seen some abuse. It also has a high floor, so getting coolers and rocket boxes to drop into the frame can be difficult with out them sitting very high. Otherwise it was a great boat and they were very happy with it proformance. I own a 14 foot tributary that I starting my second season with. It is a great boat and I am very happy with it. I feel that the added durability that comes from the internal bladder is a bonus as oppose to the single wall design of the vanguard.
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Old 04-09-2009   #5
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
I've been very happy with my Vanguard and haven't seen any deterioration of the seams as I'm going into my 5th season with the boat. The only drawbacks are that the boat is really stiff/difficult to roll (I keep mine rigged and on a trailer) and the high floor issue Striker mentions. A lot of folks will raise the ages-old issue of glued seam failures in PVC boats, however materials/gluing advances in the last decade or so have resolved this, at least with the materials/glues Vanguard uses. I've heard from a rapair shop that the seams in the floor I-beams are nearly impossible to get apart and assume that this is true of the rest of the seams on the boat. Other detractors will raise the issue of some problems Vanguard had with their D-rings and handles in the first couple of production years - this was also taken care of long ago. While PVC isn't as durable as Hypalon, the Vanguard has wear pads all the way around the top of the boat, and the bottom is as thick as elephant hide.

On a recent Grand trip I had to top off my VG once, I believe this was due to the elevation difference from the put-in rather than any slow leaks. All the tubes and the floor had lost about the same amount of pressure. I have never had to top off the boat when there wasn't an elevation or temperature difference to deal with - the boat sits inflated all winter without losing air.

If cared for a Vanguard PVC boat will last many years and is a good value for the money.
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 04-09-2009   #6
The Box, ~
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 199
Why Glue?


I believe of the manufacturers gluing PVC that Vanguard will become on par with AIRE at some point soon. I believe they are committed to the core industry. A few kinks to work out, but what company hasn't. There really is a market for a budget boat that is dependable. At the same time, folks need to be realistic that they're still going to have to put some big bills down for one of these.

It's good to hear your positive experience with the glue. For once, I know I'm getting the info from a good source!

Do you know why Vanguard has chosen to glue instead of weld? I would think that welding would be cheaper, cleaner, and better quality control. Maintaining quality control in glue is rocket science.
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Old 04-09-2009   #7
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 4
Vang Nation

I have had a 14' for 5 or so years. Its a handful to roll up, and the floors are high. It is exceptionally stiff, well made, and handles very very well. Holly and Peter, the owners are great to deal with. I have 3 other friends with the same boat, not only do most of them still talk to me but they all love their vanguards. No issues with any of them.

It can take some thought to set up and Oar mounts should be a little higher or the seat a little lower then your average cooler. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-09-2009   #8
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 212
I used Vanguards when I guided commercially. The boats are solid. Rarely did we have to do much raft repair and when we did it wasn't difficult. What has been said above about them being stiff and harder to roll is true. As well, the floors are a little high so rigging can be more challenging. The boat doesn't have a lot of rocker so it offers a wetter ride than most boats. The stiffness of the PVC is nice for punching holes where a hypalon boat has a tendency to taco. I found the Vanguards tracked quite nicely. The weight is the biggest drawback of these boats. We liked them on the river but hated carrying them.
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Old 04-09-2009   #9
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 683
ditto the others, great value boat. I did have manufacturing issue with my floor after I first got it but took it to Inflatable Tech and Holly had me a whole new boat in two days. They stand behind it. If you look at the construction to me it looks like a PVC version of an Avon. The guys at Inflatable Technologies had great things to say about them too as I was standing in a warehouse of other brand boats being fixed. I think I've had mine for about 4 seasons now and it's been solid. The bottom is so thick since it's a full, double wrap on the bottom half, so like the top but two full layers. That adds to the weight too but it's a good thing. Holly worked at DRE and I think it was Hyside for something like 20 years before they started Vang so she knows boats.

From what I've read and talking to Holly their belief is that a glued boat is better than a welded one. The heat welding changes the structure of the plastic and makes it less strong supposedly. Like he said, the technology has come so far in gluing and epoxies that it doesn't seem to be an issue anymore. They are stiff and the floor is nice and hard to they are super popular in the fly fishing crowd. I know at least 10 guys with this boat and they all say good stuff.
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Old 04-10-2009   #10
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Wild Wild West, Colorado
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 214
Not much to add. Same comments at all put-ins last year when trading notes with other Vanguard owners and the gear-curious.

"The only drawbacks are that the boat is really stiff/difficult to roll (I keep mine rigged and on a trailer) and the high floor issue Striker mentions."

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