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Old 01-13-2008   #1
 
Richmond, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 52
Need some advice!!!

Hey guys I'm new to this forum. I have been paddling sea kayaks and open canoes for about 20 years on the rivers in the east coast. I love white water and hate bailing. I have been looking to find a replacement for my canoe that can hold max of four people R4 (including me) paddling for day trips, also me and my wife rowing with room for kids or dogs or a bit of gear for maybe an overnighter (but not all three at same time), and able to haul me and gear for a long weekend rowing solo. Interested in trying some more difficult runs R2 style. Out here inflatables aren't huge and I think this would be the best route for me due to low storage space and fairly lightweight as well as having a very low draft, Ability to haul some gear, and being pretty versatile. I have found a great deal on the Aire Puma. It is a 2007 Demo Boat, is there anything I should be worried about Condition wise? Do you think this boat would work well for me? Once I know for sure this is the way to go I will have a bunch of Newbie questions about transporting the raft, rigging do's and don'ts, and MUST have accessories. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Lax

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Old 01-14-2008   #2
 
raftus's Avatar
 
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,165
The Aire Puma is a great boat. It is good for r2ing all the way up to class 5+. You can put 4 people in it no problem, though personally i think R3 is better in it. You can do an overnighter R2 with it.

As far as conditions goes - after a single season it should be fine. The easiest way to check is to inflate it, leave it overnight and see if it is still full of air, there should be no leaks. If you can't do that, after inflating it, go over it with a sponge, soap and water - look for air bubbles. The only other major check is to inflate each section independently and make sure that the baffles are intact - but after a year they really should be. Otherwise just look over the boat for any obvious wear.

Personally I don't love Aire boats - but there are a lot of people who do. That said if I found a great deal on one I would probably buy it anyway.

As for transporting it - the Puma is fairly light - about 75-80 lbs - so it can go on most car racks inflated. But the reality is that it is easier and more gas friendly to just throw it in the trunk or pickup bed.

Must have accessories:

pump - barrel pumps are nice but expensive ($150-200ish), walmart has electric pumps for about $30 that run on your car battery, and you can get cheap top off pumps for about the same - no where near the quality of the barrel pumps, but for a small boat the electric inflater/cheap pump combo might be a good way to go.

pin kit - at a minimum you need a few caribeaners, two prussics, a couple lengths of webbing, a throw bag or two and the knowledge of how to use them. Tip: I tie my prussics together with my and make a belt out of it - this also doubles as my flip line. I also keep a waist throw bag, caribeaners, extra webbing and a small pulley on my body. Then if my boat wraps and I swim I have everything i need to set a z-drag without having to retrieve it from the boat.

repair kit - NRS sells them in their own little dry-boxes or you can assemble your own

Spare life jacket - depending on where you paddle you may be required to have one of these

first aid kit - for on river injuries sealed in a dry container

River knife - attached to your life jacket, kept sharp and rust free. Tips: Look for a grip that your hand won't slide off of and that will be comfortable when your hands are really cold. Attach the knife to your vest then back that up by securing the sheath to the vest with a thin cord. Also secure the knife to the sheath with a small elastic cord that can be quickly slipped off the top of the sheath. Practice getting the knife out so it is second nature.

Other Things:
It is nice to keep a bucket with a sponge and tarp in you vehicle. At the takeout you can put the tarp down to keep the boat clean, and you can use the bucket and sponge to get off any dirt and other debris before you roll up the boat. It isn't required, but rolling up a dirty boat is less than ideal.

Once a year you should 303 your boat. If you don't know 303 is like sunscreen for your raft, just be aware that right after you do this your boat will be slippery for a few days.

Happy Boating
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Old 01-18-2008   #3
 
Richmond, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 52
Thanks Raftus

Great input and very very helpful.....
What do you think about oars? I got a killer deal on some 8' cataracts and want to make sure that they are the way to go.

Anybody else have input from before or on oars please let me know!
thanks again
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Old 01-18-2008   #4
 
Richmond, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 52
Oh yeah

Raftus what don't you like about Aire Boats? just a preference thing or do you prefer another type of boat? Let me know.
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Old 01-18-2008   #5
 
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
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Cataracts are great oars. 8 foot sounds about right but i have never rowed a boat that small. The rough formula is divide frame width by 2, multiply that by 3, and you have your approx. oar length. Some people like longer or shorter. If you can try before you buy that is best.

The main thing I don't like about AIRE boats is the thwart attachment system. I find it hard to get a good foot wedge with my rear foot in them. Generally I prefer to be guiding anyway, but I usually don't feel secure in the front seat of AIRE boats. I don't worry about swimming myself that much (I can deal with the harassment and beer fines) - but I would worry about my non-guide friends falling out of the front. I would consider foot cups in front a requirement if they aren't already there.

I also generally find that AIRE's have smaller tubes than equivalent length rafts from other manufacturers, or maybe the floors just attach higher. I am 6'5" and that means my knees are higher, my center of gravity is higher, and I am less comfortable. This is a general impression - I could be wrong, I haven't looked up the stats.

All that said their thwart attachment system gives you the flexibility of placing the thwarts anywhere you want. I have never had the need to do this - but I am guessing that some AIRE owners might have found reasons to do so. Like getting just the right spacing for R2ing vs r4ing or even having 5 or 6 people in the boat.

R2ing in a Puma I generally feel fairly secure, just a bit less so that in a Hyside (my favorite boat). A lot of boat preference comes down to individual preference. Good friends of mine who have guided commercially for years love their AIRE boats. As I said previously - don't let my personal preferences stop you from a good deal on a well made raft. For the right price I would get a PUMA too.
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Old 01-19-2008   #6
 
Andy H.'s Avatar
 
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,776
I've never owned an Aire but I just have something nagging in the back of my mind about the whole bladder concept. It probably won't be an issue in the east where you're not dealing with rivers that are "too thick to drink, too thin to plow" but the idea of getting grit in between bladder and outer shell bothers me. I also don't like the thought of what might start growing in between there, especially if you were to take the boat on nutrient-rich waters like the Urban South Platte. That said, I've known enough folks that swear by them and understand they have a fantastic warranty.

If you're getting started rafting, I'll highly recommend "Complete Whitewater Rafter" by Jeff Bennett. It has lots of info on things such as figuring out oar length, river hydraulics, rowing, rigging, etc.

Don't forget looking for boats and gear on CraigsList, and other getting info from forums dedicated to rafting such as Raftzone on Boatertalk-dot-com, gcpba-dot-org, idahowhitewater, utahrafters and others. Often one can pick up used gear from outfitters at decent prices for PFDs, wetsuits, etc.

Good luck getting the right boat and setup for what you want to do!

-Andy
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Old 01-19-2008   #7
 
Richmond, Virginia
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 52
Good info

Thanks Raftus and Andy. Good point on the thick sediment laden rivers out west. Ya we don't have that out here. Raftus ya Im only 5'8" so don't have the high cog problems you get. Great info on the thwarts and oar length. Raftus and Andy, how do you guys rig gear on overnight trips? Do your dry bags go on the floor?
Thanks guys, any more input?

Lax
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Old 01-19-2008   #8
 
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
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On gear rigging for multi day trips:

Yes I put the dry bags right on the floor. Then I stack them up and strap them down. I try to make sure that each strap goes through a loop or strap on each dry bag besides cinching them down tight. The rule is 'always rig to flip.' If possible I put all the people up front and the gear in the back.

Here is info on my setup: I usually run a cooler and a dry box for multi day trips - but neither is required. The frame I use allows me to put both of these in front of me - many frames use the cooler as a rowers seat. Hard items get packed first and usually on the bottom so soft stuff can pad them. In the front I run a Paco pad (inflatable sleeping pad - see INFLATABLE BOATS, PONTOON BOATS, PERSONAL FLY FISHING BOATS, DRY BAGS, CATARAFTS, PACO PADS, INFLATABLE KAYAKS, WHITEWATER GEAR, PADDLE SPORTS GEAR, RAFTING GEAR, JACK'S PLASTIC WELDING INC) over the cooler for people to sit on. Next I put all of the dry bags I can in the back of the boat on the floor and stack them up (I use HD Bills bags from www.nrsweb.com). Dry bags that won't fit on back get stacked over the Dry box in front of me. I run 2 ammo cans sideways right behind the dry box (I use 20 MM rocket box ammo cans available at army surplus stores). The ammo cans are for the groover (porta-potty). I usually rig my 5 gal water jugs to either side of my seat (the rectangular water jugs with two handles, one on top, one on the back, are a lot better than the single handle ones). It takes a lot of straps to rig everything:

2 - 1' for misc items
2 - 2' for the spare oar
2 - 2' for the water jugs (just go handle to frame)
4 - 6' for the frame
2 - 4' for misc items
2 - 6' for the ammo cans
2 - 6' for misc items
4 - 9' for the cooler and dry box
2 - 12' for the front dry bags stash
2 - 15-20' for the rear gear pile

And I probably have a few more straps too. For your boat being smaller and probably not hauling as much gear you probably need fewer straps.

As a side note - it probably won't be an issue for you, but with bigger boats and multi day trips you generally want to put the weight on the frame and not the boats floor. This is more of an issue when you are hauling 1,000 lbs of gear, not just overnight gear for a few people.
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Old 01-20-2008   #9
 
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Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,776
I also put soft bags on the floor of my boat and always "rig to flip." I've even installed D-rings in the front and back on the tubes down near the floor to lash gear down with. My setup is very similar to Raftus' in the configuration. And yes, I've got tons of straps which I keep organized with one of Zbaird's handy strap trees which allows me to find and pull out whatever length I need very easily, rather than dealing with a Medusan mess of straps. Shorter straps used for gear I always bring or that I use for lashing stuff down during transport just live on the frame where they're used.

-- Andy
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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 01-20-2008   #10
 
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Boulder, Colorado
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What is Zbaird's strap tree?
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