what to look for in a used raft - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 06-11-2008   #1
 
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 2
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 8
what to look for in a used raft

I've decided I want to try the rafting thing. The wife is sick of me going on river adventures without her. I need an affordable raft. What should I look for? I've seen a yellow NRS on ebay, an old Avon on this site, and others. I simply cannot pull the trigger on a purchase because I don't know what I'm looking for.

I need something that will handle at two to four people and gear for days of camping. I also need something that I can be a rookie and learn the craft.

Any help is greatly appreciated

T Anderson
Salt Lake City, UT

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Old 06-11-2008   #2
 
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 205
For an oar frame craft, I'd suggest 14' and up, depending on what type of rivers you want to run - I'm thinking big canyons since you're from Utah. With a 14' er you could still run a paddle boat if you want. Get something that is self bailing. My brand preference is Hyside or Avon. Just my two cents.
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Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.

I wouldn't say I've been *missing* it, Bob.
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Old 06-11-2008   #3
 
raftus's Avatar
 
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,165
For any potential boat:

1. check the baffles (learn what baffles are if you don't know), repair is expensive
2. check floor, blown i-beam are expensive to repair
3. Inflate overnight or at least for several hours to see how well the boat holds air - this tells you a lot about the overall health of the boat, its seams and patches.
4. If it is made of PVC and more than 10 years old find out if it is glued or welded. Glued PVC boats fall apart around 10 years. Hypalon, as long as it is intact, not flaking off or chalky, is good to go for decades.
5. Check d-rings and handles, figure out how many need to be replaced. Not a huge deal, but 10 new d-rings and labor can be a big cost on a used boat.

As for what boat to get there are endless opinions out there. Basic ideas:
14' is the most universal size. Small is better for lower volume rivers, say average flows under 1500. Bigger is better for multi-days and bigger volume. Most Cataract Canyon outfitters run 15-18 ft boats, Grand Canyon 18 ft boats. Some places go bigger (especially with motor rigs), but it is very rare to see commercial outfitters run many trips with rafts smaller than 12'.

Self bailing in a small boats for class IV and V is really good. Most people on big water prefer self bailers, but some like the extra weight (of water that splashes or is added into) a bucket boat. I would go for a self bailer.

Both Hypalon and PVC boats are fine. I prefer Hypalon, others prefer PVC. Hypalon rolls up a lot better and can be stored rolled. PVC is stiffer, but dosen't roll well, and should be stored in a partially inflated state if possible. PVC with a harder/stiffer floor is probably a better fishing boat. Glued PVC boats can fall apart after roughly 10 or so years. Welded PVC boats should be just as durable as Hypalon.

Used rafts from major manufacturers hold their value well if you take care of them. So if you see a good deal grab it and try it out. If you don't like that boat sell it and get something different. Newer and smaller/out of business manufacturers boats are more of a gamble in re-sale values.

It's hard to go too wrong with:
Hyside, Avon, Maravia, Sotar, AIRE, or NRS

IMHO
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Old 06-12-2008   #4
 
niwot, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 96
Quote:
Originally Posted by raftus View Post
For any potential boat:

1. check the baffles (learn what baffles are if you don't know), repair is expensive
2. check floor, blown i-beam are expensive to repair
3. Inflate overnight or at least for several hours to see how well the boat holds air - this tells you a lot about the overall health of the boat, its seams and patches.
4. If it is made of PVC and more than 10 years old find out if it is glued or welded. Glued PVC boats fall apart around 10 years. Hypalon, as long as it is intact, not flaking off or chalky, is good to go for decades.
5. Check d-rings and handles, figure out how many need to be replaced. Not a huge deal, but 10 new d-rings and labor can be a big cost on a used boat.

As for what boat to get there are endless opinions out there. Basic ideas:
14' is the most universal size. Small is better for lower volume rivers, say average flows under 1500. Bigger is better for multi-days and bigger volume. Most Cataract Canyon outfitters run 15-18 ft boats, Grand Canyon 18 ft boats. Some places go bigger (especially with motor rigs), but it is very rare to see commercial outfitters run many trips with rafts smaller than 12'.

Self bailing in a small boats for class IV and V is really good. Most people on big water prefer self bailers, but some like the extra weight (of water that splashes or is added into) a bucket boat. I would go for a self bailer.

Both Hypalon and PVC boats are fine. I prefer Hypalon, others prefer PVC. Hypalon rolls up a lot better and can be stored rolled. PVC is stiffer, but dosen't roll well, and should be stored in a partially inflated state if possible. PVC with a harder/stiffer floor is probably a better fishing boat. Glued PVC boats can fall apart after roughly 10 or so years. Welded PVC boats should be just as durable as Hypalon.

Used rafts from major manufacturers hold their value well if you take care of them. So if you see a good deal grab it and try it out. If you don't like that boat sell it and get something different. Newer and smaller/out of business manufacturers boats are more of a gamble in re-sale values.

It's hard to go too wrong with:
Hyside, Avon, Maravia, Sotar, AIRE, or NRS

IMHO
Great advice all the way around- and with regard to size- it's all about the person handling the boat. We have a friend we rrun with who solo'd(!) the Grand in a 14' Hyside. The joke was that he solo'd the Grand- without oxygen. The commercial boatman called him "the last private boater". So bigger is not alway better- unless you get stuck with carrying all the gear. You do get invited on more kayak support trips if you own a bigger boat- assuming you have a reputation of not losing gear, food, beer etc.
wayne
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Old 06-12-2008   #5
 
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 93
Quote:
Originally Posted by raftus View Post
For any potential boat:

1. check the baffles (learn what baffles are if you don't know), repair is expensive
2. check floor, blown i-beam are expensive to repair
3. Inflate overnight or at least for several hours to see how well the boat holds air - this tells you a lot about the overall health of the boat, its seams and patches.
4. If it is made of PVC and more than 10 years old find out if it is glued or welded. Glued PVC boats fall apart around 10 years. Hypalon, as long as it is intact, not flaking off or chalky, is good to go for decades.
5. Check d-rings and handles, figure out how many need to be replaced. Not a huge deal, but 10 new d-rings and labor can be a big cost on a used boat.

As for what boat to get there are endless opinions out there. Basic ideas:
14' is the most universal size. Small is better for lower volume rivers, say average flows under 1500. Bigger is better for multi-days and bigger volume. Most Cataract Canyon outfitters run 15-18 ft boats, Grand Canyon 18 ft boats. Some places go bigger (especially with motor rigs), but it is very rare to see commercial outfitters run many trips with rafts smaller than 12'.

Self bailing in a small boats for class IV and V is really good. Most people on big water prefer self bailers, but some like the extra weight (of water that splashes or is added into) a bucket boat. I would go for a self bailer.

Both Hypalon and PVC boats are fine. I prefer Hypalon, others prefer PVC. Hypalon rolls up a lot better and can be stored rolled. PVC is stiffer, but dosen't roll well, and should be stored in a partially inflated state if possible. PVC with a harder/stiffer floor is probably a better fishing boat. Glued PVC boats can fall apart after roughly 10 or so years. Welded PVC boats should be just as durable as Hypalon.

Used rafts from major manufacturers hold their value well if you take care of them. So if you see a good deal grab it and try it out. If you don't like that boat sell it and get something different. Newer and smaller/out of business manufacturers boats are more of a gamble in re-sale values.

It's hard to go too wrong with:
Hyside, Avon, Maravia, Sotar, AIRE, or NRS

IMHO
Great advice. I would add one more thing. Take a good look at the underside of the boat, that is were most of the wear and tear will show. There is a Yahoo group for the buying and selling of river gear:
RiverTrader : RiverTrader

Also, if you want a professional opinion, for $55, Zach Baird (720-261-1061) will give a boat a very good inspection.
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Old 06-12-2008   #6
 
Parker, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 52
I bought a used Campways bucket boat. I was focused on the bottom floor of the boat which had been cut and repaired a few times due to long gear hauling. Turns out this has never been the issue. The floor keeps out water well enough even with a few small holes here and there, but keeping air in older baffles has made for more repair work.

Instead of looking at the floor, I'd suggest that if you are looking at older rafts, spend quite a bit of time inspecting the baffles where they connect to the floor on the inside of the boat. The exterior cuts and pinholes are easier to find and fix, but those inside spots hold sand easily and can chafe between the floor and the inside edge of the baffle. Fixing these joining areas under a baffle and above the floor requires some interesting maneuvering to get the material into a position where you can repair it. Nothing impossible, but exterior issues are much easier.

I got an NRS raft repair kit and a few extra feet of repair material. While this cost me around $75 it's been money well spent. Keep those tiny rocks and sand out of the floor area and learn how to make good patches and you're on your way. I figure on the trip is the wrong time to learn how to patch/repair so I look at the work I put into keeping more air in the raft before each season as good prep for the trips to come.
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Old 06-12-2008   #7
 
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 2
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 8
Thanks for all the great information. It helps to find people willing to share there experience so people like me don't blow it off the starting line.

Thanks,

Troy in Salt Lake
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Old 06-12-2008   #8
 
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 536
Another quick tip is to bring a spray bottle with soapy water in it. Spray down the tubes with it and any leaks with start blowing bubbles. It's a quick way to get a feel for it's air retention rather that waiting hours or days to determine if it's a leaker or not. You'll know in a minute this way.

Leaking boats suck. If it gets soft over days then maybe okay...deal with it for the right price. Something that gets soft over a day...avoid it. That shit gets old real fast.
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Old 06-12-2008   #9
 
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SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,099
Raft schmaft!

Cock an eye towards a cat.

I won't say anything against rafts. But cats are just as much fun and a lot more adaptable to different trips, particularly if you get a component-type frame (like an NRS or DRE, with simple tubes and joints) that allows you to change the basic dimensions like overall width. Can't do that with a raft.

My personal choice: Jack's Cats <jpwinc.com>. But Maravia, NRS, Aire, Sotar, and other outfits make good tubes.

Here's a picture of my darling, with custom Jack's Flyer Cat tubes (15 ft x 19 inches) with a homebuilt frame, on Deso in 2005.

Click image for larger version

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ID:	536

Besides being able to change the overall width, I can shift the frame from rower front to rower rear, and add stuff like doggie decks with very little effort. Plus the whole thing breaks down and will pack inside a 1998 Ford Escort wagon.

Nothing against rafts. But cats are more fun.

yrs, Chip
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Old 06-13-2008   #10
 
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Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 967
Rafts are better for carrying a bunch of people, cats are probably better performing for rowing around and carry gear better than people. I would love to have one.

Anyways, I bought an older raft, a little rough around the edges, and I took it out for a day trip test drive. This is a good way to see what you think, and you will see how well everything holds air. I think soapy water and all of that is a good idea, but nothing tells you more than a day on the river, and seeing how much air is left at the end of a trip, or in the morning after.
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