Large cat tubes - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-04-2015   #1
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 794
Large cat tubes

I've read as many threads on this as I can find w Google searches but still would like some newer advice.

I'm looking for comments on a set of large tubes for Grand and other big water multiday trips. Specifically interested in any of the Jacks offerings such as El Tigre and a large set of Sotar 18' tubes in say 27 or 28".

I've also looked some at the Lion and Leopard.

These will not be for day trips or smaller, technical waters. I have a smaller set of tubes for those. Looking for stability and gear hauling plus carrying a passenger or three now that I've sold my raft.

Would appreciate any comments on maneuverability, durability, rowing with and against the wind, speed down the river, etc.

My recent experience (although others may disagree) suggests that even a large cat, if not too overloaded, is more fun to row than a 16-18' raft.

Thx for any help.

- Jon

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Old 08-04-2015   #2
West of Boulder, CO
Paddling Since: 1996
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I love my 16' Lion (27.5" diameter). Don't really notice much difference from my previous 25" diameter tubes except that, with the more shallow draft, fewer rocks are hit.
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Old 08-04-2015   #3
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Duct Tape,

I do not think you would go wrong with any of the tubes you mentioned in the original post.

I had Aire Leopard Tubes and so far they have made three Grand Canyon trips and no problems.

I have close friends with Sotar and Jack's Plastic tubes who have done the same and very pleased with them.

All three brands perform really well. My experience with my Aire Leopard is I could carry a big load and it did well. The size of my NRS frame tho allowed me to overload easily. So keep that bottom out of the water. I used a plywood bottom as that worked best for me. One big water trip down the Yampa early in my experience with cat boats, I kept getting requests to help out with gear bags. Just piled them on no problem with space. I had a good sized gent as passenger and when he came on board on the front seat side tube setup, that bottom went under a bit. The cat boat was a pain in the back to move around. On the good side, if I lined up perfectly it just blew thru whatever was there like a freight train. On the bad side, several times it took all I had to get back on line. It was a learning experience that I suspect all big cat boat drivers have.

Bottom line, I am a very pleased Aire owner, with river buds who are just as pleased with Jack's and Sotar. I like the Aire bladder setup for ease of repair, altho I never had a puncture myself.

I agree on your comment on big cats versus big self bailer rafts. Both are fun, but I like the cats better long as the load is reasonable.

Make your best deal and go enjoy!
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Old 08-04-2015   #4
Walterville, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1977
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I am old and not particularly tough. I have a set of 30" x 20' tubes that I have rowed down the Grand twice. This boat is not for the adrenalin junkies. It rides like a big old Cadillac, a very smooth, stable and dry ride. It rows surprisingly fast in a straight line and tracks very well.
Cons - It is a bitch in head wind or cross wind.
Pros - Most of the ladies on the Grand trips loved the ride and migrated to my boat .
Bonus - It converts to a sweep boat for the MFS and a couple of rivers in Oregon.
I'm not happy about being over the hill, but I am grateful there wasn't a cliff at the summit! - Frank and Ernest
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Old 08-04-2015   #5
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Tabernash, Colorado
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Okie boater probly summed it up, i will say i have all ways been stoked with my jpw gear, have 11' culebra tubes that cary a LOT for there size, little bugger seams to just go through every thing. Very manuverable, course it is a small cat.
Cats just seem to float slower in the current then rafts, Guessing smaller tubes should be faster then large tubes, including upstream breeze, just would get stuck more often.

After rowing a small cat, it makes me want a big one now! They are so much fun to row!
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Old 08-04-2015   #6
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salmon, Idaho
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,102
I love my 16' lion. as mentioned above you sit way out of the water so you catch a lot of wind and that is it's one downfall.. The boatpeople.con have new 18' lion tubes in stock.. They can be a bit borring on water that used to be fun and splashy.. they Just a big smooth ride and blast through and ride up over things.. They also draft very little water. on low water middleforks just load it a little light and air down the tubes and you slime over everything.. There is a lot of room for air displacement in those tubes..
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Old 08-04-2015   #7
Old Guy in a PFD
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
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Schutzie had probably the second cat rig in Colorado that wasn't built from surplus J tubes.
21 feet long, 20" tubes and each tube had 6" "stabilizer" tubes along the water line; that thing would carry anything put on it and still ride high.
The problem I always had with Cats was that they rode high; the thing I loved about them was; they rode high.
You could move that rig anywhere you wanted in the creek, precisely where you wanted it, even against a strong current. They tracked very nicely, and were as responsive as anything I have rowed. The thing was, in flat water with an up canyon wind you earned your keep for the day; the damn things caught the wind and didn't catch the current.
Like I said, they rode high.

For the Grand it is a perfect rig.
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Old 08-04-2015   #8
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Thx all. So any thoughts about Sotar or Jacks tubes for durability and maneuverability?
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Old 08-04-2015   #9
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Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jun 2015
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Originally Posted by duct tape View Post
Thx all. So any thoughts about Sotar or Jacks tubes for durability and maneuverability?
I've had both; PM me if you want my thoughts/opinions.
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Old 08-10-2015   #10
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
We have a 16' Aire Lion that we built up for a Grand trip. Love it. We have a trailer frame for long trips, which we don't use for day trips. Keep in mind that a cataraft cannot carry as much weight as a round boat of similar size. Also wind is an issue, as previously mentioned. If you are taking the family out on the river, I'd suggest a 16' round boat for seating comfort.

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