First Time Raft Buyer - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-28-2016   #1
mackay's Avatar
salt lake city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 28
First Time Raft Buyer

Hi Folks,

I am looking at buying my first boat and need some advice.

I have run the westwater a few times with the boys and am looking to buy for this season!

I have decided that a I need a cat as my roomates have vetoed the idea of having another trailer in the driveway.

Looking at a 14 foot cat, is this boat too small?

I want to do 1-4 day trips with up to three people if possible, is a 14 footer too small for this?

There is a guy selling NRS tubes nearby me for pretty cheap and another fellow selling a downriver 'gunnison' frame for $850.

Will older NRS tubes perform well, or should I just go ahead and purchase new Hyside 14 tubes?

Am I correct in understanding that some types of tubes cannot be deflated to be stored while Hypalon material can be safely defalted?

Main reason, again, that I am deciding on a cat is that it can break down and I can mount the frame on top of my tacomas topper.

Sorry for all the questions but I am pretty much a river virgin at this point.


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Old 03-28-2016   #2
Sembob's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 506
Way too small. Even a 14' raft is too small if your multi days are one boat affairs. You need to think about a 16' raft. Cats aren't that awesome for riders on multi days. I know they work and people will defend them but rafts are way better for passengers on long day multi trips. Also much better at hauling gear. A Hypalon boat will roll pretty small. Frame for a raft should be easier to carry than a cat frame. Plus you always have the paddle boat option.

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Old 03-28-2016   #3
jakebrown98's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 206
Raft, raft, raft! A raft frame is almost always considerably easier to store and move than a cat frame whether broken down or intact. A rolled raft is no bigger than a set of rolled tubes. A 14 foot raft will haul twice the gear and people as a 14 foot cat. It will be far easier for you to load properly, will be far more comfortable for passengers and you. It will also perform more predictably for a new rower. A 14 foot raft will easily carry you and two people for four days as long as you don't bring a bunch of really stupid stuff.

Yes, hypalon boats will roll tighter and store better than PVC or urethane. No boat requires a trailer. I have multiple rafts and IKs and a trailer but I NEVER end up trailering my inflated raft so don't think you have to. I, like you, have limited space to store my fleet so rolled up and disassembled is the way for me. This brings me to another point, cats take twice as long to get on the water as rafts when starting out dissassembled which is part of the reason why, around here at least, it is the Catboaters who roll around with trailers everywhere.
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Old 03-28-2016   #4
Rockgizmo's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 99
Sembob is spot on. The 1st boat I picked up getting into rafting was a 14' cat. I still have it and row it when I'm the only one on the boat, such as MFS trips. We've also used it on day trips with one passenger (no gear) down the Ark for a few years and it's ok at that. I have also used it on a few Lodore trips with me and the wife, but it's gets loaded quickly and a pig.

Ended up getting a 14' raft for the multi day trips we take, but as our group grows a 15' raft would be nicer.

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Old 03-28-2016   #5
TriBri1's Avatar
Tigard, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 784
I would vote for a raft as well, it is much more versatile. You can set it up as a paddle raft or drop a frame on and use it as an oar rig. If you pack a reasonable amount of camping gear, you should have plenty of space in a 14ft for a captain and two passengers for a 1-4 day trip. If you are not a kitchen sink type of camper you will may want a 16ft. The only advantage I see with a cat is the ability to break it down into lighter pieces for easy moving. It will take longer to setup and break down than a raft though. It seems like more friends with cats keep them inflated on trailers for this reason.
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Old 03-28-2016   #6
Great Falls, Montana
Paddling Since: .3
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1,044
Are you saying 3 people including the driver or three passengers? I'm one of the guys that will stick up for the cats although 14 is too small for three if you want any gear. You will have to frame it correctly (which is easy to do and modify if you go with that DRE frame) and rig for the people and gear, but a 16 NRS boat would handle that need nicely. Especially a Kodiak. The others make good points though. A 16' raft will carry more gear and be more compfortable.

It's not that the other materials don't fold but Hypalon folds the best and repeatedly and yes tubes will stow easier than a raft. Watch craigslist and here on the swap. You will see good deals on 16' NRS cats frequently. Good luck.
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Old 03-28-2016   #7
Paul7's Avatar
Post Falls, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 861
I have a very similar thread about 4 years deep. I ended up with an Aire 156D. Couldn't be happier there are other boats that would work equally well not saying mine is the best out there. It does however check all the right boxes. I can run as long of multi days as I've got time for and does well for day trips. I've got three kids. Don't forget that you will end up with more people than 3 at times. I'd say 14 foot raft minimum for multiday with 3 but give the 15 some thought.

Raft in my opinion is easier for a beginner less fussy with weight, easier to load, less straps, less likely to loose stuff...

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Old 03-28-2016   #8
East MT, WestMT, Both sides of the Yellowstone
Paddling Since: 09
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,149
Cat boats are socially one step up from a kayak, only because you can carry your own beer.

Cat pros: high water, light weight, sporty handling, look cooler.
Cons: can't carry as much, loner mobiles, must always be rowing due to lack of tracking, need a dry suit, don't drop the pipe.

This relates to more to 14' cats.

Love my cat in the spring, enjoy a raft more in the summer.
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Old 03-28-2016   #9
SpeyCatr's Avatar
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 446
Get an 18' AIRE LION
15' AIRE Wave Destroyer - MadCatr Frame - Sawyer MXS oars w/Duramax blades
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Old 03-28-2016   #10
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 2,181
I think the horse is sufficiently beaten down. Interestingly you have 3 or 4 folks here that spend a bit of time on cats, suggesting raft. I couldn't agree more. Cat's have their place, but simplicity of setup, storage and transport are not at the forefront. Heed to their advice and go round, you'll be way happier. If you're pretty settled on staying in the sport, skip the upsizing step and go bigger than you think.... if you're thinking 13, go 14. 14=15, you get the idea. Or screw your buddies and go mini, that seems to be really popular these days.
"If you dont do it this year, you will be one year older when you do"
-Warren Miller
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