Frames for Catarafts - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-31-2009   #1
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 213
Frames for Catarafts

So I think I finally decided on what cat to buy...I am going to the the 15'2" Wave Destroyer (or maybe the 14' not sure yet). I want this boat for both day trips on big water (hopefully Idaho if everything works out for next summer ) as well as multiday trips including the Grand next Oct.

I have been thinking about my frame now that I know the boat I want and had a couple of questions.

I know that for rowing single day big technical water people love the Madcatr frames and other smaller, lighter frames with fewer bays. I think one of these would be great for single days but would not allow me to carry enough stuff for multi-days.

I have seen pictures of additional bay frames that one can have in front or behind the rowing frame for additional storage. I was thinking if I had a small rowing frame that I used for single days I could get one or two additional cargo bay frames to store more gear (cooler, drybox, etc).

My question is would this set up be as strong and durable as a single frame with multiple bays in it? I think having a couple of frames would add a little weight (but probably not too much) but the frames would already be smaller for breakdown and packability.

I was wondering if anyone has used this style of set-up or knows/has an opinion about this type of set up (strong, weak, good idea, not a good idea, etc)...any and all comments would be great. Thanks.

There is always a reason not to...
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Old 08-31-2009   #2
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 17
I have two sets of tubes, a 14' and an 18' set. AAA Inflatables built me a frame which I can take two sections out for day tripping but use the big frame (with bumper and trailer) for extended trips. They also suggested a couple extra shorter cross pieces at the bottom to make the entire rig 6" narrower
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Old 08-31-2009   #3
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,600

Here's Shelly's latest video, with her 15' WD running Dagger Falls. Note the storage bay/deck on the front. I believe her frame is made by her hubby, and is similar in design to madcatr and others.

It seems strong enough, and a good idea to boot.

Call Dave Nissen (madcatr), he'll tell you what you need based on what you tell him you want. His lead-time is long, so don't delay! He'll make the frame to whatever dimensions you want, longer bay in the back for example, multiple bays too maybe? His welding skills are like an artists, and he's the guy that can tell you what bay dimensions/configuration are too weak, and when to go to separate modules, pros/cons, etc. He's plenty busy with work, not seeking it out (he works full time too), so don't worry that he's going to give you the sales shpeel.

For a less expensive (steel) option (and no killer-foot loops) you could try Ted Day's payette river equipment in Boise/Meridian. Watch out, both of those guys are SOTARians! (just teasing). While there were a few people on this group that assisted and reinforced my decision on choosing my tubes/frame, I urge you to talk to those Class V cat boaters to get what you need for what you want. What you are looking for is right in line with what they do and know. Get it right the first time, I'm glad I bit the bullet and did so. Their help to me was invaluable, their experience is second to none.
Living in Montana, boating in Idaho
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Old 09-01-2009   #4
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
Up until this season I used the modular frames for my 14 ft. Cat. A row module which I could use alone for day trips, and two cargo modules for multi-day trips. They worked pretty well, just took some extra strapping when using everything. My problem was that I do a late season, low water Middle Fork a lot, and fly in to Indian Creek. My row module didn't fit in the plane. A hair to big for the door of the Islander Twin prop. So I'd have to borrow a frame for that trip. This year I got an NRS frame that I can break down to fly, and I can reconfigure for different trips. I've used three different set-up this year (fishing, day trip, multi-day). I've never done the Grand, so I don't know how the modular system would hold up in big water (strength, flex, etc.)?????
Don't you just love getting new stuff. It's so fun & nerve racking all at the same time!!!!!
Now if I could just eliminate the part where I get the credit card bill for all the new stuff, it would be perfect.
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Old 09-01-2009   #5
Ever_Cat's Avatar
Evergreen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 101

I suggest that you go with the 15' WD. It will be big enough for the big stuff and load hauling but not too big for the smaller technical stuff; both are illustrated well in the Marsh Creek/Dagger Falls video by Shelly. (Laura thanks for the link. It brought back memories. I also loved the Wind River videos!)

Frame design is critical so you are doing the right thing by considering your options. IMHO, the Madcatr and Payette River Equipment (PRE) frames are the two that will best suite your needs. Both are designed and built by experienced hard-core boaters that put their frames through the paces. Both are truly custom frames built to your specifications to match your needs. Plus, the cost of these custom frames isnít out of line when compared to the (sometimes higher) cost of other more standardized frames. As pointed out, talk to these guys. They know what they are doing and can provide invaluable insight into your fame design. For the record, I have PRE frames for my cats.

The tubes on the WD are so stiff that a modular frame configuration wonít be an issue. I have used a variety of modular frames on a variety of tubes over the years and have never experienced a problem with tubes flexing. Just keep the tubes tight (spent $35 and get a pressure gauge).

As I recall from one of your earlier posts you need to carry a passenger both on day and multiday trips. The manner in which you achieve this requires consideration. Does the passenger merit a high-back drain-hole seat or are they relegated to a cooler or dry box top? My wife has a definitive answer to this question and she is absolutely correct. A seat is more comfy and more bomber in the big stuff but it does eat up compartment space. A seat also eliminates the need to carry a big cooler or dry box on day trips. A passenger is a heavy item so the placement of the passenger is crucial, as are the placements of the cooler and dry box for multiday trips. For carrying a passenger on day trips, your row module will likely need to accommodate this person so that you donít always have to have an extra module just for a passenger. Another factor to weight distribution is your rowing position (front or middle or either one depending on your module configuration). Load balance is the key in a cat so scratch your head until it hurts on this in order to get it right. And then run your ideas past the best cat boaters that you know and those that you donít know (Buzzards and the like).

As for breakdown frames, you donít need one 99% of the time. But classic trips like fly-ins to Indian Creek and the MF Flathead, as well as trips to parts of Alaska and Canada require these. PRE makes their frames in breakdown versions and I suspect that Madcatr can as well. I had the PRE frame for my 14í cat made as a breakdown for those rare cases that I want this option, although I have to admit that I havenít utilized this option yet.

Frame design is fun, enjoy it!
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Old 09-01-2009   #6
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
Another Alot of the custom frame makers make sick frames, but if they do break, you have to go back to the original builder for parts and repairs. While I defintely drool over my dream custom set-up, my old nrs set-up does the trick and the small kit of spare goodies I keep has always kept me floating.
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Old 09-10-2009   #7
Willi..., Willimina, OR
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Sounds like a NRS retailers convention.
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Old 09-10-2009   #8
fort collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Oct 2008
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I used to have an NRS cat frame. I found it to be alot heavier than an equivelent custom frame. Additionally, the yoke design really limits the width. You want a big cooler that fits under a rower's seat, you are out of luck. The seat design of the NRS is also poor. The welded seat bar really limits you to what you can store underneath. Of course you can get a flip-seat and put it on an NRS frame. If you do this, you are going to need taller oar towers than what NRS has... Start tweaking the shortcomings and retty soon you have spent more $$ than you would have needed for a nice custom frame.
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Old 09-10-2009   #9
fort collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
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LOve the NRS tubes, though!
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Old 09-11-2009   #10
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
Originally Posted by garystrome View Post
Sounds like a NRS retailers convention.
What would be great is if someone would take the NRS parts and tweek them a bit into a little more workable design. An engineer with experience working on cataraft frames would be sweet.
Do you know anyone?
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