How do I choose a raft? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-13-2005   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 106
How do I choose a raft?

I'm attempting to purchase a raft for simple overnight trips and to cart around beer on the Class II-III day trips.

I would need this raft to hold 5-6 peeps comfortably. Can someone give me some suggestions? Obviously a brand new 13'-14' raft would be ok, but I'd rather not drop 4k when I've seen so many used ones out there. What am I really looking for out of a used raft? Self-bailing is a must, but is a raft older than 5 years considered archaic?

I know some brands, Aire, Hyside have a good reputation....any other peices of advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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Old 09-13-2005   #2
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 213
you really need to check out STAR Rafts, they are a self bailer, full floor, cheaper than most new, more manuverable as they resemble a catraft. I think that they look awesome and people ive seen rowing them love them! people rowing nrs rafts, want one! Dude, check them out, 14 ft is ideal for what you want to do and I think you can get the "complet" package shipped for around 2500$??
Worth a look.
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Old 09-13-2005   #3
rivermanryan's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 580
Check out the new Tributary series by AIRE. They are pretty inexpensive and I think they are self-bailing. Also SWW and 4C Riversports here in Durango are unloading some decent boats right now.

It isn't going to hold 5 people, but have you checked out the Culebra by Jack's Plastic? That is a sweet boat! Like a shredder, but looks better. I am going to try to pick one up later this year or next spring. MSRP -$1481
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Old 09-13-2005   #4
WhiteLightning's Avatar
Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 969
I have a 13ft Hyside that is maybe 10 years old. I bought it used from a guy who bought it from an outfitter. I paid about $1200, got some paddles, pump, and vests. The boat has been awesome. I have never even had to top off any of the tubes during the trip. (I've maybe topped off the floor on an overnighter, but floors have overflow valves that make them loose some air). Anyways, something to be said for hapalon (heavier but tough material in Hyside boats, and some others). This old boat holds air like a champ. I can fit max of 7 people crammed on there, or I can do probably guide + 3 max on an overnighter with an oar frame.

13 foot has been a great size. It is small enough for technical and lower water runs (R2ing, and even some large creeks too) but large enough to comfortably booze barge a small group of people, or for me girlfriend and the dog to do an overnighter with half car camping and half backpacking gear.

Vanguard makes quality affordable rafts. Greg at Timberline Tours had an ad in the paper that he was selling used rafts. He also sells Vangaurd boats, probably with some kind of a discount. Check for contact info.
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Old 09-13-2005   #5
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 106
awesome, good info.

glad to hear the older boats still hold up. the 13 footer is almost exactly the type of boat I'm looking for.

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Old 09-13-2005   #6
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Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
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When we bought ours, the guy let us take it out for the day. I think that is a good idea. We got to see that it holds air, got to see how it was in the river, and so on. See if you can "test drive" whatever it is you are buying (if used) for a day or so to make sure you like how well it holds up.
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Old 09-13-2005   #7
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,635
For our first boat you'll most likely want to get a used one and should be able to pick up an old self-bailer for about $1000 or $1500. If you're buying a used boat, be wary of blown baffles - inflate or deflate it one tube at a time and see if air leaks between the chambers.

Though some folks recommend a 13', I'd recommend a 14' boat which will give you a LOT more room for gear on the multi-day trips you'll probably find yourself wanting to do after you have a boat. You can take a 14' on the Grand Canyon and also run the Ark at 600 easily. If you buy from Greg at Timberline, see if he will throw in some PFDs and other gear like helmets or splash jackets - he styled me pretty nicely when I bought my VG from him. Remember that outfitters boats generally get thrashed over their life so inspect carefully.

Other places to pick up used rubber will be end-of-season swaps like at DRE or AAA.

Stay tuned as others will likely chime in on the topic.


Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 09-13-2005   #8
e-town, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 274
I work for an outfitter and we have one boat left to possibly sell, a 13' hyside, no bblown baffles, no major patches. I am also willing to throw in paddles, possibly pfd's and some other swag. give me a ring 970 845 raft ask for karl or doug and the 13' hyside, your welcome to take it for a test drive.
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Old 09-15-2005   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 106
nice, thanks for the offer

I'm needing to wait until early to mid-winter before I fork out the duckets for a raft. Something to do with xmas being over, tax returns, and my winning lotto ticket.

I'll be calling around with my cash in hand come then.

Thanks folks!
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Old 09-30-2005   #10
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 39
I second the notion for a 14'. It's only slightly heavier, but the extra space is crucial. 6 people plus beer plus some day bags gets a little cramped on 13'. BTW I've got a 14' hyside that is in good shape. I'm looking to get a new 15' (the good lord willin') so look me up when you get ready to do the deed. I can send pics; it's been babied.

Also, this is sure to spark debate, but I personally would go for hypalon (NRS, Hyside) rather than PVC (Aire). PVC boats have an inner tube (think bicycle tire). Sounds like a good idea, but patching one is a HUGE pain in the ass. You have to unrig completely, pull out the liner, patch it, put it back in (no small feat) w/o wrinkles, and then patch the outside if needed, then rerig. Whew. With hypalon, there is no tube, but all you have to do is clean the area, put a couple coats of glue on, and slam on a patch.
The engineer from DuPont (maker of hypalon) said that it withstands UV better than PVC, which seems plausible. Ever notice how PVC tube gets really brittle in the sun?
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