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Buzzards,

I'm in the midst of building out a 16' raft setup for multi-day trips in Colorado / Utah / Arizona. Hoping to get input on a few questions and other considerations related to designing and building a custom 4-bay frame...

1. How are folks allocating the bays with coolers and dry boxes? I like the idea of having a hatch with drop bags upfront that is a catch-all and serves as a flat service for passengers to sit on (+paco pad) - see attached for an example. However, I'm guessing with the dry box and cooler in the rear two bays that this would make the boat backloaded for most use cases (especially shorter trips)? Alternatively, I was thinking about having the cooler upfront, sitting on the dry box, and putting the hatch in the rear. The latter seems the more practical to me but I haven't been able to crack a flat and comfortable passenger space with this option.

2. Any preference on rowing from the top of the dry box (with foam top), cooler, or added tractor seat? Is a tractor seat much better (i.e. comfortable) than a cooler with a pad or foam covered dry box? The tractor seat is intriguing but I like the lower profile of a cooler or dry box option.

3. Motor mount - I haven't had much experience on motor rigs but would like to keep the door open for an attached motor mount for shorter Cataract trips. Anything special to consider? Can this be sorted out later?

4. What other design nice-to-haves are worth chewing on? I'm leaning toward a diamond plate side rails and spending the extra cash to powder coat the frame.

5. Lastly, any recommendations on RTIC (110 qt.) or Canyon (103 qt.) coolers? No allegiance to either brand but wondering if the geometry for one is better than the other.

Any thoughts on the above would be much appreciated.


Cheers,
Casey

Screen Shot 2021-01-08 at 6.31.37 PM.png
 

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I sit in the rear bay on top of my dry box (with a pad). Captain’s bag and water jug in the next bay with my feet. Cooler goes in front of that, with latches facing me. Most forward bay has a drop bag covered with my river table. I use a cloth cargo floor in the back or front depending on whether I’m rowing solo or have passengers.

It’s not very creative, but it is very practical.

I use a Canyon 103 cooler, which I really like due to the rail that lets me just set it on my frame and strap it down without any drop bags or other tomfoolery.
 

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My name isn't Will
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There's so many ways to do it. Drop bag has lots of advantages. I don't have one. I run two dry boxes.

Front bay is one box that contains the kitchen if I'm bringing it. Passenger sits on that.

Second bay is the cooler. It's still forward of center.

Third bay is rower's bay; I have two captains' boxes in there.

Fourth bay is the other dry box I sit on.

Gear pile behind that.

I need a better way to rig my water jugs, but whatever.

I didn't have a lot of choices on coolers. I have an old welded steel frame designed for an old Gott. The Yeti 110 would fit, but I went with a Way Cooler.

Side boards would be nice, but my frame design makes them a little challenging.

61892
 
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Will Amette has the right order. Swap out the front dry box for hatch cover if you prefer that.

That picture you posted is a disaster, don't follow that.

If you use NRS pipe, the motor mount is easy to add. Recommend side rails in whatever your flavor is.

Best cooler for that size is Canyon 150 Navigator. Whatever it is, make sure it's full width. 100 ish is too small for 16' raft.

Just say no to tractor seat in this case. Foam on dry box is the way to go.
 

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Buzzards,

I'm in the midst of building out a 16' raft setup for multi-day trips in Colorado / Utah / Arizona. Hoping to get input on a few questions and other considerations related to designing and building a custom 4-bay frame...

1. How are folks allocating the bays with coolers and dry boxes? I like the idea of having a hatch with drop bags upfront that is a catch-all and serves as a flat service for passengers to sit on (+paco pad) - see attached for an example. However, I'm guessing with the dry box and cooler in the rear two bays that this would make the boat backloaded for most use cases (especially shorter trips)? Alternatively, I was thinking about having the cooler upfront, sitting on the dry box, and putting the hatch in the rear. The latter seems the more practical to me but I haven't been able to crack a flat and comfortable passenger space with this option.

2. Any preference on rowing from the top of the dry box (with foam top), cooler, or added tractor seat? Is a tractor seat much better (i.e. comfortable) than a cooler with a pad or foam covered dry box? The tractor seat is intriguing but I like the lower profile of a cooler or dry box option.

3. Motor mount - I haven't had much experience on motor rigs but would like to keep the door open for an attached motor mount for shorter Cataract trips. Anything special to consider? Can this be sorted out later?

4. What other design nice-to-haves are worth chewing on? I'm leaning toward a diamond plate side rails and spending the extra cash to powder coat the frame.

5. Lastly, any recommendations on RTIC (110 qt.) or Canyon (103 qt.) coolers? No allegiance to either brand but wondering if the geometry for one is better than the other.

Any thoughts on the above would be much appreciated.


Cheers,
Casey

View attachment 61865
I would put the drop bag in the very front bay with a hatch or table as the passenger seat. Then, put the cooler in the next bay (in front of the rower), then a dry box in the rear bay as a seat for the rower. Put a poop deck in the very back for baggage and other items like the groover. This is how I run and it trims out fore and aft very nicely. Recretrec makes a pretty nice dry box seat mount. The NRS one isn't quite as versatile. I have foam which is comfortable, but would get a seat next time.

Running another bay behind the rower is more common using a trailer frame on 18 footers in my experience.

Things I would do differently on my 4 bay.

1).Get the highest oar towers you can. I had to swap mine later and it was expensive.

2). If go with latch in dry boxes, like Recretec style, be sure to add two inches or so to your depth measurement so you box isn't resting directly on the floor. I ended up having to make shims. since my floor lifts slightly when the boat is in the water compared to say sitting on the garage floor. I made it work, but wish I would have got it right.

3). On a 16 foot boat I'd go with at least a 120 qt cooler or bigger if possible. I have a 90qt on my 14 footer and space is tight.

4). I have diamond plate side rails and it opens up a bunch of options for rigging things like ammon cans. and makes getting around the boat easier.

5). I love my drop bag!!! Excellent for storing camp chairs, pump, fishing rods, and every other odd size thing.
 

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Kind of an old picture but for the first bay, dry box, where my wife sits. Behind that is the drop bag, with table hatch where the dogs sit. Footwell behind that. Then the Navigator 150, where I sit. Small 5th bay where I have 2 rocket boxes.
 

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There's so many ways to do it. Drop bag has lots of advantages. I don't have one. I run two dry boxes.

Front bay is one box that contains the kitchen if I'm bringing it. Passenger sits on that.

Second bay is the cooler. It's still forward of center.

Third bay is rower's bay; I have two captains' boxes in there.

Fourth bay is the other dry box I sit on.

Gear pile behind that.



That is my favorite setup if carrying kitchen box

Bighorn
 

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There's so many ways to do it. Drop bag has lots of advantages. I don't have one. I run two dry boxes.

Front bay is one box that contains the kitchen if I'm bringing it. Passenger sits on that.

Second bay is the cooler. It's still forward of center.

Third bay is rower's bay; I have two captains' boxes in there.

Fourth bay is the other dry box I sit on.

Gear pile behind that.

I need a better way to rig my water jugs, but whatever.

I didn't have a lot of choices on coolers. I have an old welded steel frame designed for an old Gott. The Yeti 110 would fit, but I went with a Way Cooler.

Side boards would be nice, but my frame design makes them a little challenging.

View attachment 61892
I would recommend the following next to both dry boxes - worked well for ammo cans. Don’t know if you can get those Scepter Jugs on their side though - mine always leaked a bit.
61894


Timmy at Recretec made these out of the replacement for skid guard - I had some homemade ones that were used as a template.
 

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My ‘Dream’ setup for 16ft boat as follows - will have to be right boat though as this is pretty much maxing out length of frame.

Bow to Stern...

Bay 1: 18” Drybox or Dropbag - do what you think is best, no wrong answer / no right answer

Bay 2: Navigator or RTIC 145; thinking the RTIC will win though given dimensions - allows slightly smaller bay width 😀 which translates into taller cooler 🙁

Bay 3 with floor: Cockpit wide enough to fit a 35qt Canyon and Captain’s box on opposite side built to fit full width of bay

Bay 4: 16” drybox - 40” to 44” inches in length with Recretec seat

Bay 5: Dropbag or the like 10” wide for ammo cans or water jugs; This one kind of depends on what toilet set up you go - I think it’s a no-brainer with an ecosafe with other groovers may consider deleting

Stern: Large Pacific river bag and probably a floor
 

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My ‘Dream’ setup for 16ft boat as follows - will have to be right boat though as this is pretty much maxing out length of frame.

Bow to Stern...

Bay 1: Drybox or Dropbag - do what you think is best, no wrong answer / no right answer

Bay 2: Navigator or RTIC 145; thinking the RTIC will win though given dimensions - allows slightly smaller bay width 😀 which translates into taller cooler 🙁

Bay 3 with floor: Cockpit wide enough to fit a 35qt Canyon and Captain’s box on opposite side built to fit full width of bay

Bay 4: 16” drybox - 40” to 44” inches in length with Recretec seat

Bay 5: Dropbag or the like 10” wide for ammo cans or water jugs; This one kind of depends on what toilet set up you go - I think it’s a no-brainer with an ecosafe with other groomers, may consider deleting

Stern: Large Pacific river bag and probably a floor
This is my exact setup. I have a 92” frame and Duck has it right. This is very ideal.
 

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That's also what I do but instead of a small 5th bay I have a trailer frame that can ride up on the tubes thats 19" wide. If I don't need to use that the the PRB gets thrown in. The hatch cover on the first bay also fits perfectly over the captains foot well so that I can sleep on the boat.
 

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I have a trailer frame at the rear that can be used or not depending on the trip, if it's used it usually carries the groovers and propane bottles. sit on my cooler with a white paco pad over it to both pad, and reduce the sun's rays on the cooler, in the footwell I have a padded bag to my left that houses a pelican 1600 box (used to be a rocket box) with the major 1st aid and trauma supplies, to the left an aluminum captains box, and in front of me, a dry box, and to either side of that in the bow, I lash 2 scepter water bottles in for that "hole punching" weight, helps to keep the front down as I rarely have a passenger.
 

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I like a seat so have mine on a flip mount that rests on the dry box for support. Flips forward for easy access to the dry box. Front is a 19 1/2" wide drop bag space with a riser to clear the rocket boxes without them being on the floor. I can get 5 rocket boxes in this space, useful on Grand Canyon trips. I also have a dry box to fit this space if I want to run one instead. I have Partner Steel Jonny Partner groover boxes and can get three plus a rocket box in the front drop bag in lieu of rockets when needed. Next is a 17 1/2" cooler bay for a I50 qt Yeti. Rowers bay is 24 inches wide with two side boxes and a suspended floor. Rear is a 16"X44" dry box. Stern is everything bag resting on a suspended beaver board. Diamond plate side rails. If I was doing it again I would make the frame 4" longer than it's current 86" length to be able to run a wider cooler. Most newer coolers are wider than 17 1/2 inch. If you want a motor mount later just incorporate a couple of speed rail fittings on the rear rail in the design so you can add a couple of NRS style tubes later. I made a custom mount but you can get the idea. This picture isn't too clear but it mounts to the frame with the other end of the offset tubes pictured on the mount.
61901
61904
 

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Started like this (big patch is in the stern)
Drop bag, hatch and paco pads for seating in the front
I swapped the cooler and the drybox. With the gear pile, the cooler, and myself and only one passenger the thing was pretty poorly trimmed with too much weight in the rear. I miss sitting a little higher on the cooler and might get a flip mount seat for over the drybox.
20mm Rocket Boxes around the captain's bay
20lb propane bomb strapped to the side boards
Gear pile in the back.

Considering a motor mount soon, will likely cut out a new rabbet on the rear of the deck boards and go with the DRE.
 

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My name isn't Will
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I would recommend the following next to both dry boxes - worked well for ammo cans. Don’t know if you can get those Scepter Jugs on their side though - mine always leaked a bit. View attachment 61894

Timmy at Recretec made these out of the replacement for skid guard - I had some homemade ones that were used as a template.
I've thought about building something similar. I like the cut-outs to access the drybox handles. What I'd really like is full side boards, but I have a longish unsupported section where those beefy oar towers come up from the boat. It's likely a home-made frame designed after the old Cambridge frames. Strong, but not set up for side boards.

Timmy is no longer using skid guard. He's moved to pretty much just using diamond plate. He added a foot bar to my frame as whoever built it left that part off. When I win the lottery, I'd love to replace the frame with one that would accommodate wider dryboxes; these are just 13". It wold be nice to have bays that could accommodate rockets if needed. and both dry boxes; they are pretty narrow. And there's wasted space along the sides of the cooler where the frame comes into the boat. It could hold a much bigger cooler otherwise.

All that aside, it's been a great boat, and I see no reason to replace it any time soon.

61914
 

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If you don't row from the 4th bay at some point your passengers sitting on the front bay could easily get an oar handle to the back or head, I row from the 4th bay with an option for a small 5th bay trailer frame on my 16' raft. My passengers prefer 4 bays so that there is more legroom in the front. 1st/front bay drop bag with plywood cover-paco pads for seating, 2nd bay old rubbermaid 150 cooler with frozen inserts, 3rd bay is rowers footwell, 4th bay is dry box, 5th optional bay can be narrow drybox.

The photo the OP posted is interesting, the rower is probably(?) sitting on the drop bag bay covered by aluminum sheet and the passengers are up on the Engel cooler. An interesting arrangement, the dunnage in the stern hopefully balances out all that weight up front but the heavy bags of mostly water aka passengers are raising the center of gravity by sitting on the cooler. This is why I haven't gone with the two dry box setup (one at 1st bay/front, one at 4th bay/rear) on my boat, plus I use a AAA mesh seat similar to the Down River mesh seat but with legs cut down so it is about 1.5" higher than the aluminum dry box in my 4th bay. It is nice to be able to see over the passenger's heads without raising the center of gravity too much.
 

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I have no affiliation but here is the why on the setup in the OP’s picture; only reason I know where this comes from is because I follow this blog....

 

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Obviously there are a million different ways to do this. People tend to recommend what they're doing. Here is my setup, from bow to stern:
Bow: Legroom for passengers. A couple internal D-rings for personal dry bags etc. String of pockets along the frame rail for sunscreen etc.
Bay 1: Drop bag for miscellaneous stuff covered by a DRE table, which is then covered by a Truck paco pad that covers this bay and Bay 2. Often water jugs, groover, etc. find their way into this drop.
Bay 2: Big drybox, covered by paco.
Bay 3: Rower's feet on a diamond plate captain's floor. Day cooler and captain's box with first aid, pin kit, day stuff.
Bay 4: Cooler topped with mesh flip seat.
Stern: Gear pile on a hard floor topped with a clamshell.

It's worth rowing with and without a seat to see what you like. I bought my boat as a near turnkey package, and it had one. I like not having a wet butt, and not sliding around in bigger whitewater. But it raises your center of gravity. Pros and cons to either setup.
 

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I've got the front hatch with a drop bag and I absolutely love it. I have been amazed by how much I can cram in there. Stove, stove stand, repair kit, pump, spare life jackets, propane tank, sand stake, hand wash station, didgeridoo...
It also is where I sleep most nights, unless the bugs are atrocious. I strap the paco pad for passengers during the day. Bed takes less than 5 minutes in the morning and evening, no racing for the best tent spot. I do take a little more care when parking the boat. Rafts squeaking together all night makes for poor sleep for me.
My frame is an Eddyline creation, and I can't speak highly enough for their craftsmanship. Everything is well though out and bomber.
I have the drop bag with hatch, rowers bay, drybox, then cooler. It is heavier in the back, but not terribly so, unless the transom and motor are on. If I did it again, I might put the cooler in bay 2, row in 3 off the drybox in 4.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Big thanks everyone for the solid feedback! Leaning towards a 4-bay setup as follows...
  • First bay - hatch with drop bag
  • Second bay - dry box with a separate wood or plastic cover that can be swapped out for the dry box on day drips. Having a paco pad lounge area for the dog & Mrs. on day trips is super appealing. I was interested in the the split box option but can't justify the added costs.
  • Third bay - footwell sans captain boxes and no added floor. Definitely will have a smaller soft cooler handy.
  • Fourth bay - cooler to sit on (likely Prospector 103)
    • *Note - there's a small chance I may switch the cooler and dry box positions.
One follow-up question related to the cooler...A few folks chimed in on getting the biggest cooler possible (e.g. Navigator 150 vs. Prospector 103). I get the rationale for filling the width of the boat but I'm still leaning towards the 103 so that I don't have an oversized cooler for two people or have to shell out an extra couple hundred bucks. The only use case that I can see myself wanting a bigger cooler for is on the GC and on large group trips. Outside of that, I'd probably have a ton of void space and end up needing lots more ice on every trip. Am I missing anything?

Cheers,
Casey
 
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