Need Advice: VanGuard Raft - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-29-2006   #1
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 79
Need Advice: VanGuard Raft

I am real close to buying a 13' Vanguard raft.

Just wondering if anyone had any input on its drawbacks or its benefits?

I am getting a pretty good deal on a new one because I know the owner of the company.

So I just want to know if there are any major drawbacks or reputation that the Vanguard might have. He tells me they are a real stiff raft. I think it has a PVC coating. Sounds like a decent boat. Obviously, I do not know the most about the rafts. So besides the arguments of getting a bigger or smaller boat, if you buzz-ards had any information, it would be greatly appreciated.

Much Grass

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Old 08-29-2006   #2
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,707
I've got a Vanguard and am pretty happy with it. The only thing that I'm not totally satisfied with is that I wish it had more gear storage capacity. The boat's slightly narrower than a Hyside of the same width and the floor is thicker so there's not as much room inside to carry gear. That said, my feet never get wet because its such a good floor.

Vanguards are constructed to hold extra air pressure so you can run it VERY stiff. You may get some negative feedback that's held over from when the company was working the bugs out several years ago but their production quality has improved dramatically. Additionally, the floor is designed to also hold high pressure and I can tapdance on mine when its aired up, its so tight. They're engineered to hold at least 2.75 psi rather than 2.0 like most boats. This should be something that fishermen would like too for standing and casting. They also track very well.

The downside of PVC, as you may know, is the lack of durability compared to hypalon. The Vanguard boats have chafer pads all around the tops, and are very heavily reinforced on the bottom - everything that's in the water seems like its about 1/4" thick. The key to making a PVC boat last is, if you'll be rolling the boat up between uses, to store and especially transport it in a bag or wrapped in a tarp. This prevents abrasions due to handling (like sliding it into and out of the truck) from wearing a hole in the material. I've had mine for three complete seasons and its holding up beautifully considering the number of days on it and abuse its taken.

If you take care of it it should last a long time from what I've seen with mine. I think that for the price you can't beat it.

PM me if you want to talk about them,

--Andy H.
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 08-29-2006   #3
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,085
I don't have a whole lot of experience with rafts and even less with stiff ones, but a guy on my Middle Fork trip this summer had a Maravia (the stiffest out there, I believe). He had issues (compared to his previous, softer Hyside) with the raft being so stiff that when he was plowing through a hole or over a big wave when he reached the top, the boat would still be completely rigid and linear in its shape, instead of flexing and rolling over the back of the wave. As a result, he would often either fall back into the hole or when he reached the top of the wave, the raft would want to spin sideways to pull over the wave. I'm not saying that this stiffness is necessarily a bad thing but it definitely takes some getting used to. I'd be curious to hear whether other people have had similar issues and whether they like the way a stiffer raft paddles better or not.

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Old 09-02-2006   #4
tyaker's Avatar
Jacksonville, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 148
Thanks to some of the advice from Andy, I bought a 16' vg this spring, and it's been kickin' some butt... 9 river days total, and I'm sold. I haven't had quite the same experience with the really stiff floor (Andy- I think they must have put in a pressure release valve that opens sooner...hmmm?), but the raft is tough as nails, and I'm planning on getting it on the Middle Fork Salmon next year, the Grand eventually, and many more trips out here- westwater, lodore, cat, etc.

So far I have been able to support a 12 person 4 day Rogue trip with tons of spare room, I just finished a 7 person westwater, with my boat being the only gear boat. One thing I would suggest is getting a good frame with lots of drybox space... it really helps to not have the thwarts in the raft. I'm sure there are boats with more room in them, like Andy was saying, but I've got two dryboxes that hold tons of food/camping gear. That's been a big help.

The quality of the material seems to be pretty damn tough, the floor feels heavy-duty enough to be bulletproof. If you end up getting one, let me know cuz they will most likely give you a bunch of d-rings to put on yourself... I've mounted three so far and the technique I've been using is bomber. Good luck, and let me know if you need more beta. -Tyler
4 out of 3 people have trouble with fractions.
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Old 09-02-2006   #5
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 6
air pressure...

As far as the Vanguard quality, I'm not familiar with, but air pressure I am. One of the differences between PVC and hypalon is that generally, you can put more psi s in a pvc boat-that's why cats made of pvc are IMO, better. A tighter boat means less energy being absorbed through the flex of the material. However,too much air pressure in the floor of a raft can make it less flexable, and tippy-so it you're hitting a giant lateral before dropping into a large hole... the boat won't "absorb" the river as much and may be more sensitive to a rafter's skill level.-Hope that helps
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Old 09-28-2006   #6
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 93
I've guided these a few times on the Ark. They're super hard, but are quite responsive. It's also a lighter boat, so it seemed easier to maneuver than the hypalon boats I'm used to. From my experience however, I'd still rather go with an nrs or hyside. I felt like it was tossed around when hitting the bigger stuff. Alot of other guides I work with feel share the same opinion. I'm a hypalon fan overall, I like the tracking and punching power of the two brands I've mentioned a little better.
I guess the choice would also depend on how often you're going to use it. After a full day trip I could barley walk. My ass was a hurt'n from how hard these boat are when topped off. I imagine day after day of that would get rough on the bod. If you're rowing that won't be an issue. Overall they're pretty decent boats. If the price was right though, I'd go for it. It's a boat, and if it gets you there that's what counts.
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