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Old 06-18-2014   #1
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 4
What size raft do I need?

I'm sure this has been asked before but I didn't find anything in a quick search, so I apologize for asking again!

I am considering getting into rafting with my family and wanted to get some feedback on boats. I have kayaked for years but with little kids and a larger family it doesn't make sense anymore.

I have 5 kids from 10yrs - 2yrs. I am thinking a 14' or 16' with rowing frame. We would most likely be doing primarily day trips but I might like the option to take some overnights.

I am definitely on a budget and will be looking used. Is a self-bailer worth the extra cost? I am going to start with the boat, frame and paddles (and life jackets). I'll add more gear if we really like it. Hoping to fit it all in my Subaru for now (trailer would come later). Anything else I need to consider?

Any input would be great!


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Old 06-18-2014   #2
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,323
I don't think you'll get 5 kids + yourself and all rafting gear in a subie??

If your planning on backing your raft in a subie, you'll want a hypalon boat and I'm thinking 16 or 18 feet self bailer. Good luck DBK

Bound is boatless man
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Old 06-18-2014   #3
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 4
Inflate the raft, put it on the roof and strap the kids in... I don't see the problem! The subi is just a gear and shuttle vehicle for now. We have a mini-van for the crew.

You don't think we could all fit in a 14 ft? Just for day trips?
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Old 06-18-2014   #4
Castle Rock, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 191
No way a 14' boat would work for overnights with 5 kids. 16 minimum and possible 18 - unfortunately you will rule out some rivers in Colorado with an 18' boat unless high water.
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Old 06-18-2014   #5
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 4
Thanks for the input! 16' is what I was thinking (18' sounds really big!). We'll mostly be on the Animas and San Juan.
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Old 06-18-2014   #6
Montrose, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 128
14' is a great, all around size for Colorado. That being said, 5 kids and 2 adults is a lot!
Find your best deal on a 14 - 16' raft and then start looking for duckies or other ways to offload people. 7 people is crowded on a raft of any size for any length of time. The older kids can soon learn to use a ducky safely and you can often put two kids in a one person ducky on flat water.
Make friends with other boaters. If they can take a couple kids in their boats it will make a big difference in yours.
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Old 06-18-2014   #7
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 665
Definitely a 16 foot self bailer.
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Old 06-18-2014   #8
The Mogur's Avatar
Oregon City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 457
Originally Posted by mountainsax View Post
Thanks for the input! 16' is what I was thinking (18' sounds really big!). We'll mostly be on the Animas and San Juan.
How about one more opinion: Get a hypalon bucket boat. Hypalon because it is easier to fold than PVC, and bucket boat because (a) it will be a lot cheaper, (b) a self-bailer will be too big to stuff in the back of the Subaru, (c) you don't need a self-bailer on Class II water, and (d) you're going to be upgrading or quitting after your first year.

You'll need a frame and oars, because the kids aren't old/big enough to be of any help paddling, and you and your wife alone won't be able to control a big raft.

If you decide you LOVE rafting, you'll be buying another raft (and probably a trailer for it) within three years. For serious expedition rafting, you'll need two rafts to carry all of the people and equipment. Teach your wife and 10-year-old to row so that when you get another raft, you'll have someone to row it.
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Old 06-18-2014   #9
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 727
That's quite a group. 14' is the most versatile size boat you can get for CO. 16' does take away a lot of options. You won't likely (and shouldn't) be taking the youngest kid(s) on most of your runs, so you'll prob be ok with a 14' for a while, but not for overnighters. While the comments on bucket boat are accurate, get a self bailer.

You might also consider a stern frame to allow for everyone to hang together up front where you can see them all. You will also need first aid and patch kits, throw rope, pump, cooler and plenty of straps, and a bag for warm clothes, that's pretty much the bare minimum.

Sounds like the subaru will work since you are strapping kids into the boat on top of the car.

But frame and oars can go on top with cooler and rolled boat in the wagon, I bet you can make that fit. Good Luck!
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Old 06-18-2014   #10
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 4
Great ideas, thanks! I think I'll look for a 14' with the stern frame for now. If we love it, I might just get another 14'! Definitely will not be taking the 2yr old on many trips, just the flat and low water runs.

Thanks again!

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