Best Raft for Alaska rivers - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-05-2018   #1
laramie, wy
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 80
Best Raft for Alaska rivers

Moving to Alaska soon and wondering what the most versatile raft for the Anchorage area might be? In Colorado, I've found a 14' raft to be a pretty good one boat quiver, is that still true for up north?

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Old 07-05-2018   #2
the grove, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,784
If you got room for a trailer to store a boat on full time inside when not in use, I would recommend a 16' cat cause you can more easily put a big motor on it to cruz on the lakes and allow you to go up and down rivers for fishing (i.e. more versatile).

If not, the 14' raft would be good.
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Old 07-05-2018   #3
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 253
Yeah, I've rented rigs out of the fly in only towns up there and they are pretty much always 14fters that are offered. No complaints about that size from me. Works well up there like everywhere else.

Go hypalon, as well, is my other suggestion. Rolls the smallest for fly out trips, back of ATV trailers, boat pickup/ drop offs,etc. And it is the least susceptible to damage from the extreme cold out of all the materials out there.

Great way to utterly destroy a PVC boat is try to unroll it in AK winter temps.
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Old 07-13-2018   #4
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1968
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 16
Lived in AK and floated both fly-in and road system rivers for many years. Now live in Golden. A 14 works fine and lots of my friends had them, but I prefer a 16 for more space on extended fly-in trips. A 14 just takes a little more discipline when trip planning. But will admit it fits in float plane easier and weight is also an advantage. I looked at trips as major expedition so liked to take a couple of luxury items and used larger planes. Yes a few more $$$ for the trip but that wasn't my priority. In the end it is probably a personal preference just like here in CO.

Roads have improved since I lived there but distances on the road system can be far. I didn't use a trailer but might change my mind since I've gotten used to it here in CO.

I was fortunate to have a large heated garage. Always stored my raft in a controlled climate. Don't have any experience with cold storage but can't see where that is a good idea. If space limited you could look into warm storage options. Might be worth it. Winters are longer - don't forget that.

Lots of great rivers - especially off the road system. Fishing is awesome. You'll learn to deal with the bugs. Best wishes. My advice is to resist the temptation to spend vacations outside of the state and dedicate time to some in-state vacations.
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Old 07-14-2018   #5
Norwood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 64
Lived and guided rivers in Alaska since 1985. Used both 14' and 16' Avons in the early years but most outfitters use the 15' Sotar Alaska series nowadays or a similar sized Cataraft for its ability to use an outboard motor as already mentioned. The down side to the cat is the usually larger and heavier frame. A smaller light weight break down frame is critical for fly out trips which is where the best fishing and adventure really is. Southwest Alaska has some of the most awesome rivers in the world! Floated the Chilikadrotna last summer, a seldom run river out of Lake Clark National Park. Great hiking, wildlife and fishing. Can fly there direct from Lake Hood with Regal air.
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Old 07-14-2018   #6
the grove, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jul 2008
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I recommended a cat with a motor cause the OP said he would be out of anchorage and that rig would be most useful.

If he had mentioned fly-in trips, I would recommend a hypalon boat with a whitewater machine works breakdown frame. I would also recommend a 14' boat or less for fly-in and going as light weight as possible to maximize your options.

On a side note, though aire boats are a bit heavier and don't roll as well, the outer hull/inner bladder system is most easiest to field repair after a bear chomps on your boat.

Realistically, you have to ask yourself, how many fly-in trips are you actually going to do compared to road side trips out of anchorage. Might be best to get a good rig that fits on a trailer that can take a motor if you have storage space, then rent a boat for the few times you might do a fly-in. If you are like most folks that are regular working joes you might do 1 fly-in trip a year, but use a motor rig every other weekend all summer long.
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Old 07-14-2018   #7
West By God, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 329
Great discussion. Get a packraft, it opens up lots of opportunities. I just did a 12 day, 170 mile trip in the Brooks Range, about 50 of it was hiking, the rest boating. We paddled the Marsh Fork, Sadlerochit and the Hula Hula.
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Old 07-14-2018   #8
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 253
Yeah, from my perspective, I never found the road system only access Alaska all that interesting thus the unexplained jump to fly out trips. That's where it all gets pretty incredible.

So your mileage may vary if you are intent on just the ANC area.

Also, bigger rigs are useful if you plan on hunting and meat hauling.

Another point,if you do get into fly out trips that involves a commercial flight to a off road system town then bush flight to river headwaters,etc. then it's almost somewhat a wash to just rent gear in the no Road Town, if available, when you get done with hassle, time and shipping costs.

Kind of a big reason I never moved to AK.... The difference in getting out to real Alaska type fly out trip costs are only a couple hundred in airfare different doing a trip from Denver vs Anchorage. All the expensive parts remain the same.

Anyway, typical buzz thread drift but maybe it helps in your decision.

And there is allot of cool stuff road system. Off the system is what the dreams are made of though.

Good luck.
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Old 07-16-2018   #9
Los Anchorage, Alaska
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 33
I live in Anchorage & have a 14' superduper puma and have used it for several week+ trips plus a couple fly-in trips. As someone else mentioned - the ease of repair on an Aire boat makes them pretty popular up here. Bear claws through a rafts is possible (and it has happened) but you're more likely to puncture a hole when attempting to slip through a tiny channel lined with sharp spruce trees.
In regards to fly-in trips - you could take pretty much any raft on a plane - but the weight adds up so the bigger your raft the more you'll pay. Most people stick with a 14' and have a frame that they can strip down for trips where weight is an issue. If you pair down your frame and gear and go backpacking style you can squeeze 4 people and a 14' raft / frame into a beaver (max load 1200lbs).
One thing you'll find after living here for a couple of years is that if you love the water one boat won't be enough. Sooner or later you'll find you want a raft for bigger rivers, a packraft for hiking and some sort of motorized craft for flatwater / ocean. As you start to get old you'll want a sailboat. Eventually you will end up like my neighbors who have a collection of boats and blue tarps in the backyard.
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