3 vs 4 Bay Frames - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-03-2011   #1
goldcamp's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 354
3 vs 4 Bay Frames

I'm biting the bullet and getting the frame I want this year. I'm still debating between 3 and 4 bay frames. I will probably mostly be doing shorter duration trips (1-4 days) mostly. The way I see it both have advantages and disadvantages.

3 Bay
Slightly cheaper
Slightly roomier cockpit (I'm 6'3)
Slightly roomier passenger area
Simple arrangement of gear (1 box, 1 cooler)

4 Bay
More expensive
Smaller cockpit area
Smaller passenger area
More tie in spots
More versatile

What am I missing? Is the overall length actually smaller on 3 bay vs. 4 bay?

As a side note what are people’s opinions on the diamond plate sides?

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Old 01-03-2011   #2
frisco, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 75
my opinion is if your boat is 14' or less go with the 3. 16 foot or more go for 4. Diamond plate sides are both plush and swanky. If you want to look like you stole P-Diddy's frame get the diamond plate floor and hatch covers.
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Old 01-03-2011   #3
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The Road, Colorado
Paddling Since: '07
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 610
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I have two sets of side rails for my frame. One that makes it a "3.5" bay and one that makes it a full 4 bay for my 14' avon. I made my own side boards out of plywood and spar varnished them. Usually run it in the shorter config because I don't really need the frame room.

For an extra $100 or so you get the best of both.
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Old 01-03-2011   #4
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HSS, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 53
4 bay frames give you more organized storage and happier thwart queen. If you do multi day trips, 4 is the way to go. We've got quite a few 14 ft boats in our group running 4 bay frames with plenty of room for oarsman, passenger and drybags. The front bay is usually shallower in the 14's, full size in the larger boats.

I look at a 3 bay frame as an overnighter frame, or for situations that might require breaking down your frame for travel ( flight, mule, etc.).

I've steered away from diamond plate mostly from the cost and weight perspective. I think the diamond plate is generally welded in, limiting frame configurations. I don't run different side rails, but do have a couple of "extenders" depending on which boat or what I'm carrying in the 4th bay ( drop bag vs drybox etc.). They swap out with a couple of snap pins.
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Old 01-03-2011   #5
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Bayfield, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 113
That fourth bay with a drop bag and a table or such strapped over the top of it not only makes a great place for passenger seating but also stores a lot of stuff that may otherwise be difficult to secure to the boat. I have a four bay that I had built by Down river Equip in Denver. I had it built too long for my 14' Avon knowing that I wanted to go to a 15'. Its perfect on that boat. As for the Diamond plate, I like it a lot but think that side rail platforms made from plywood or whatever work pretty well. 4 corners River Sports used to sell a table that mounted as a side board that was pretty slick.
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Old 01-04-2011   #6
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 151
why the debate?

you've obviously spent plenty of time thinking about/visualizing this- and i'd imagine you've done some serious sketching on paper.
do yourself a favor and create a frame that can be EITHER a 3-or 4-bay frame with some easy adjustment. using nrs parts, and creating your own rather than just buying a stock "bighorn" or one of their other frames makes this pretty simple.
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Old 01-04-2011   #7
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Not sure what size boat you're running, but I'm 6'4" and the 4 bay DRE frame on my 16 footer has a cockpit that's plenty big. I can even sling a ammo can on either side - makes it more cramped, but the length to the footbar is still fine.

I'm a fan of the diamond plate for the pure reason of getting heavy cargo (cooler, kitchen box) in and out. The slip resistance is great, and the way I instructed DRE to weld them on (cutouts) gives all my cross-pieces about 5"+ of adjustment. Seems to be plenty of play, given that my kitchen box isn't likely to ever change dimensions & one of the other bays is dedicated to a cooler. Most of the major cooler manufacturers range between 18" to 22" in width for the 100 to 200 quart sizes, and anything smaller can be secured in a drop bag.

The frame is heavy, but still manageable for me to put it on top of my truck by myself. If you have a 15'+ boat, I would think that the 4 bay just gives you better options. I have 2 plywood pieces that cover the 2 bays in front of the cockpit on day trips- cover them in pacos and it's a perfect lounge deck (with the day cooler in a drop bag under my rowing chair). Now if you're using your cooler or drybox as a dedicated rowing seat, then maybe that screws up your configuration flexibility. I can't go 3 bay, but I also can't think of a good reason that I would want to - the weight isn't that much of a factor on a 16 footer IMO. Plus I usually trailer it inflated anyway.

I did the attached PDF sketch a few months ago and it doesn't include the diamond plate cutout dimensions, but generally the crossbars have about an 8" cutout width along the rail. I can measure that when I get home tonight. Also - make sure you get them to cut out the plate adjacent to where your D rings are on the boat, plus the corners. I also opted for all the cross pieces to be pinned, so I can break it down somewhat if necessary....although I don't plan on it.

Hope this helps.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Josh's frame.pdf (14.9 KB, 432 views)
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Old 01-04-2011   #8
Beaverton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2010
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All depends on the size of the boat and the hauling requirements. I built the frame for the 16' similar to Josh's, but with a fifth bay on a daughter frame in the front.
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Old 01-04-2011   #9
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pollock pines, California
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 28
Something else to consider is the shape of your boat. Traditional "round " boats can handle a longer frame for a given boat length. Diminishing tube designs will not accommodate the same frame length on the same boat length. My 14' diminishing tube boat has 3 bays with a small forward hatch and drop bag for a width of only 7 inches inside. Nice place for easy access misc. stuff.....but not really a 4th bay either.
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Old 01-04-2011   #10
Longmont, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 156
I am looking at having a new frame built this spring also, and I am think I finally decided on a break apart 3 bay with a rear trailer. I currently use a 3 bay with a trailer and it works great on my 15' raft, but I would also like to break the three bay down to just a 2 bay to use as a day frame.

On longer trips it is great to have the extra space, I can pack 6 rocket boxes or 4 buckets and 3 rockets in my front bay, and that gets covered with a 3x6 table and a couple of paco pads. Talk about the super lounger, my wife can lounge there all day. My rowing seat is a foam covered 128qt cooler, and then I have a 165qt cooler in the trailer behind me. In the stern I have an "everything bag" that holds all our personal gear bags.

This setup worked well for us last year on the Grand for my wife and I, as well as a week on Deso with the wife and 2 kids. Drop the trailer and the front bay and I can easily row the Poudre and Colorado with a raft full of people.

Maybe I am asking to much for a single frame

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