Another "Which Raft Should I Get" Post - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 05-13-2017   #1
 
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: May 2017
Posts: 1
Another "Which Raft Should I Get" Post

Hello boat people!
For my first post, I will ask the classic question: which raft should I buy?

I am not an expert oarsman by any means, but I am looking to change that. My experience consists of only 2 grand canyon trips (as a passenger), brown's canyon (paddle team passenger), a few private paddle trips down the Gallatin (with me at the helm), the Smith in canoes, and rowing drift boats in low consequence water (Madison, Yellowstone, etc).

I want to buy a new raft that I can use mostly as a 2/3 man fly fishing rig 65% of the time for day trips in MT/WY/CO, and 35% as an oar rig that I can eventually learn to row through class V whitewater on day, weekend, or longer multi-day trips (UT/ID/MT). I know that there is no 'silver bullet' boat, but I'm sure that's what it must sound like I am looking for.

I've read so many reviews and forums online it's overwhelming, but I am happy to rely on the opinions of more experienced boaters. I want 'made in America' but not if it's over $6k. That said, I think I am focused on Aire for their outstanding warranty, affordability, and positive reviews. However, I am open to all suggestions and advice!

Focusing on the Aire lineup, it would seem that the 136DD, SDP, 130D, or even the 143D are all good choices. But I am naive and do not have experience with the subtleties these boats!

I am interested in maximizing maneuverability for lower flow rivers (~500 cfs?) as an oar/rowing rig. Alternatively, it seems that most boats can handle big water with the right setup and crew if needed.

Considering this, it seems like the 136DD may be the right boat. However, the number of reviews on this boat are lacking (I read the '136dd prototype' thread). As far as I can tell, it seems the larger diameter (21'') side tubes would help for max flotation and maneuverability with a light load (although I wonder how much so considering the added width (6'8") as compared to say the SDP). The added width though seems GREAT for gear hauling on a longer trip AND added stability through larger rapids. I also wonder about the safety & performance of the 'snub' DD bow & stern in larger whitewater. I may be naive, but the higher 14" rise seems like it would be a safety benefit in large hydraulics, despite the big kick (I know nothing though, is this correct?). The narrower SDP seems like it would be easier to flip in a less-than-ideal line, comparatively. Whatever the case, I would be interested in a safer design.

Thank you for reading this post! Hearing your views will undoubtedly help me make a choice, and possibly future boaters as well!

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Old 05-13-2017   #2
 
curtis catman's Avatar
 
Rivertown, West Virginia
Paddling Since: 9:45
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 644
Once you learn to row and run whitewater, the boat is just a vessel to take you to the river. That being said, Aire makes a damn fine craft! I am a Cataraft man myself, I do own one raft. Welcome to the world of whitewater. Now you can spend the rest of your life wondering what river run you are going to be missing next week cause you have to go to work. Also welcome to the buzz. You will probably get some more input first of the week. All these Buzzards are out on the river now. I just came off a trip. Anyways you can not go wrong with an Aire.
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Old 05-16-2017   #3
 
elkhaven's Avatar
 
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 2,177
I think the SOTAR SL is the best fishing boat design out there. It's a pretty nice WW boat as well. But the price will be pushing your stated upper threshold.

With that said, if my SL went away and I couldn't get another I'd get a DD in a heartbeat, even though I haven't rowed one. One reason is I think wider is better and the DD is really wide for it's length. a 136 DD will float way higher than a SDP and in my experience (especially on most of the rivers you've discussed) shallow draft is key to getting to places where other boats (driftboats mostly) can't get to. The narrower boats are also more sensitive to balance but they are popular fishing rigs.

At any rate, I think your thoughts that wider might be better for you are well founded for all the reasons you stated. As far as the kick, the DD is really fairly similar to both other Aire diminishing tube boats (a couple inches more than the 143D and the same as the SDP). I think the kick issue is highly over rated. What's important is how the transition from vertical tube section to horizontal straight section takes place. Having a smooth low angle section at the water line is what I think sets the diminishing tube boats apart, especially for rowing efficiency. Some say it's a wetter ride and that may be true, but most of that is how you hit a wave anyways and I think that it's a non factor for your stated use.

Long story short, I think you'll be happy with what ever you get (many people are happy with all the choices you've stated) but I think the DD is the best boat for the mix you're thinking.

Good luck
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Old 05-16-2017   #4
 
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 205
Couple questions:

Is your total budget 6K? Because you can easily spend 4-5K outfitting a raft (frame, oars, oar towers/locks, pumps, cooler, straps, camp stuff, paco pads, dry boxes, ext) I would rather have a really nicely outfitted cheap raft than a nice raft with no nice gear.

Are you planning to trailer the raft or de-rig? What kind of storage space do you have? Having a trailer is worth its weight in gold, I can't imagine trying to rig and de-rig all the time, but a good trailer is around 2K so keep that in mind. If you are going to roll up your raft often then you should really look at a Hypalon raft (NRS, Hyside). Otherwise Im not sure if it matters all that much

Do you have a preference on material? PVC vs Urethane vs Hypalon, each has advantages and disadvantages. But do not be fooled into thinking PVC rafts are bad, they are great values and the weight and roll size are not that important to many boaters. A rocky mountain raft for example would give you a great boat for a good price and you could instead buy some nice oars, cooler, trailer instead. And believe me you will appreciate the difference in quality oars, cooler and trailer far more than the difference in a 3K raft compared to a 7K raft.

I think your on the right line of thought with a 13-14' raft to do everything you want to do. I just upgraded my raft to a Sotar SL from a RMR and Ill say that if I were buying my first raft again I would buy another RMR. There is so many little purchases to make in rafting and saving some cash on the rubber to put towards other stuff is well worth it. I hear good things about AIRE, everyone loves them and their warranty is good, but they are just PVC boats with weird zippers and urethane bladders, kind of goofy to me, but they make some nice shapes.
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Old 05-16-2017   #5
 
utah county, Utah
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 62
Look at Jacks Plastic Welding. you can pick from a standard boat or design your own. pick the features you want from other boats and add them together.

they are a very standup made in USA company.

just a satisfied customer.
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Old 05-24-2017   #6
 
Montrose, Colorado
Join Date: May 2017
Posts: 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Treswright3 View Post
Couple questions:

Is your total budget 6K? Because you can easily spend 4-5K outfitting a raft (frame, oars, oar towers/locks, pumps, cooler, straps, camp stuff, paco pads, dry boxes, ext) I would rather have a really nicely outfitted cheap raft than a nice raft with no nice gear.

Are you planning to trailer the raft or de-rig? What kind of storage space do you have? Having a trailer is worth its weight in gold, I can't imagine trying to rig and de-rig all the time, but a good trailer is around 2K so keep that in mind. If you are going to roll up your raft often then you should really look at a Hypalon raft (NRS, Hyside). Otherwise Im not sure if it matters all that much

Do you have a preference on material? PVC vs Urethane vs Hypalon, each has advantages and disadvantages. But do not be fooled into thinking PVC rafts are bad, they are great values and the weight and roll size are not that important to many boaters. A rocky mountain raft for example would give you a great boat for a good price and you could instead buy some nice oars, cooler, trailer instead. And believe me you will appreciate the difference in quality oars, cooler and trailer far more than the difference in a 3K raft compared to a 7K raft.

I think your on the right line of thought with a 13-14' raft to do everything you want to do. I just upgraded my raft to a Sotar SL from a RMR and Ill say that if I were buying my first raft again I would buy another RMR. There is so many little purchases to make in rafting and saving some cash on the rubber to put towards other stuff is well worth it. I hear good things about AIRE, everyone loves them and their warranty is good, but they are just PVC boats with weird zippers and urethane bladders, kind of goofy to me, but they make some nice shapes.
As another newbie lurking on this post, I really appreciate your thoughtful response. I'm getting a RMR at the end of the summer (the local guide place sells off used rafts each season). I hope to save money on the raft to leave room for the associated gear you mention. If rafting works out I can upgrade later when I know better how I actually use it.

OK Thread hijack over. Thanks
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Old 05-24-2017   #7
 
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 537
Agree on the post talking about gearing up a boat. You'll easily spend $2k, and more than likely $3k to buy all of the necessary gear you'll need. At the very least you'll want a frame, one drybox, a large cooler, straps, oars, blades, spare oars, oar locks, towers, a pump, ammo cans, drybags, repair kit, etc. And those are just the bare minimums... haven't even got to river camp gear yet.

Also, I cannot recommend a trailer enough. We played the derig, roll-up and put away game for a few years, and it made rafting not worth it 90% of the time. Buy a solid trailer that won't break on the road. You're looking at spending at least $1k, but probably closer to $2k.

So that leaves the raft. I also agree with most people that the raft is probably less important than you think. I would be scouring the classified ads looking for some deals. We picked up an Aire 156R, few years old, for a really nice price. Sure, I'd prefer a Maravia, but its rare those come up for sale. I love my Aire, and the company is top notch. But even used NRS or RMR rafts might be worth it for the right price.
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Old 05-25-2017   #8
Gary F
 
Philipsburg, Montana
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 45
Aaahhh...the fun begins! Thinking about gear for the up coming season will become a disease that is hard to get rid of! At this point in your "career" as a boatman, get what you can get. The RMR the other poster wrote of sounds great as it is used and therefore, cheaper. We all have different needs and those needs change. Until you have some experience you won't really know what you like, need, or suits your life. Further, as a rookie, you are going to do rookie things, shoot, you might even pungee the tube on something. If the boat is used you won't feel as bad. i had a buddy whose knife was coming out of his scabbard. As he sat on the tube he was in for a loud surprise. had to patch the boat right there at put in with 12 customers watching..haha. For example, I had a 16 foot cat before but for me, I couldn't hold enough gear on a long trip AND, I felt it was not passenger friendly. When I ran as a commercial guide, i had peeps that could never stay in the boat AND that was with a full bottom raft. Because I am always introducing the "river" to newbies, I wanted tubes in front and a floor. fishing wise, I like the floor too, otherwise, the line is always somewhere under the boat, if I wasn't the one rowing. If I was the one rowing i would use a spinning rod. Pretty exciting to have a multi-line hook up on top of a rapid and you are trying to row and not lose the fish or the oars going through the rapid..haha..oh forgot..and not spill the beer! I've had a couple of bucket boats and many different size and make self bailers. Now, I have a 12, a narrow 14 NRS, and a 16 and am looking for an 18. I use them ALL.

With the smaller rivers you are talking about, a 13 sounds like a perfect all arounder. It would be small for a week long trip if you have much more than a buddy on the boat. And, if it is an early season trip, with the small tubes, it will be a cold trip for the passenger. I have done the Yampa at high water and that was a blast, definitely, bigger water on that trip; a June trip that ended up being the coldest trip I have ever been on...snow, sleet, wind, rain, and finally, sun at take out. If going down an early big water trip like on the Salmon, just rig your boat for a flip and make sure you have a flip kit and you dress for it. 13's and big water will be quite "sporty" . You end up using what you have or you don't go AND that is not an option. I (we) did a (not smart) one boat trip down the Rogue in Oregon with four guys. Man were we packed! We had swimmers but didn't flip. I had 2 of the guys paddling up front though.

As far as gear, don't get caught up in the latest and greatest either. Buy them when you can on sale. For example, we didn't have these fancy coolers and still did 17 days down the Grand. The 100qt coleman was the biggest thing for awhile. It was thin so we would wrap it in a wet blanket and glue an ensolite pad on top. the ice would keep for a week like that. If you kept the cooler covered and duct tape the lid and added dry ice we would have fresh ice cream on day five with the old 80 qt Gotts! Sportsman's warehouse (I think) has this real reasonably priced waterproof plastic box of different sizes. Hell, it is a 1/4 the cost or less than my aluminum ones. I'll get one of those next.
As far as frames, I weld so i always built mine out of round tube steel because it was cheap as I was always cutting and modifying it or scrapping it all together. I have had buddies use 2X6's and bolt oar locks and tie down "D" rings. The last time I did the Grand one of the guys had a 2X6 frame. He too was an ex-commercial boatman. He said that is what they used on the Green at his company he worked for. The frames worked just as well as anything else. It just isn't glamorous...big deal Just know that you don't have to spend a grand on a frame to get started.
If you buy some walmart cooler, some 2X6's some poly-urethane, some straps, learn to tie gear down with webbing its cheaper and fun, oarlocks, eye bolts, you are not talking a whole lot of money. I once built a frame out of 1" pipe with 90 degree elbows, and T's, hose clamped and duct taped the oarlock assembly on. My buddy used that frame for years!
Have Fun and good luck!!!
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