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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
I like sitting on the dry box and having the cooler in the second bay with the latches facing me. Having control over the cooler is good psychological leverage over passengers.
 

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I have a 15' SOTAR with a 4-bay Down River frame.

First hatch with drop bag in front for chairs, fire pan, water jug, roll table, and other stuff.
Second hatch with bag fits 5 rocket boxes. When the boar is in the water they might hit the floor a little bit but sit in the drop bag nicely.
Third is the floor that can take a couple ammo cans, rocket boxes, and/or Yeti 45.
Fourth is my Orion 85 cooler. I wish it was larger but it is what I have and it works great to sit on with or with out a pad.

I like to avoid rigging hard things anywhere my hands could smash into them, you could fall on them while walking around the boat, or cause more problems if a wrap. So I have a double front hatch that gets covered with a paco pad. The other reason is my dog enjoys trips much more when he has easy space to walk around, sit, and lay down. Also aways nice to just sleep on the boat and not have to unload as much gear. Also no need for diamond plate/wood platforms on the sides.

I have a couple friends that have diamonds plate on their frame and while they love it find it really heavy and a pain at low water as well as when they don't have the boat full rigged on a trailer.
 

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I love our RTiC 110. We love our tractor seat on the 4th bay dry box. But we didn’t get it on a flip forward hinge so if you have the back bay stuffed with gear you can’t open the dry box. It works- we are just careful what we put in there. We have a dry box up in front of the cooler, too. Sometimes we think about a gear drop with a cover for day trips, but we have never got it done. It is nice to just keep that dry box locked and loaded. We have a drop floor in captain’s area and it is the best thing we EVER did. My cooler sits on it and we have captains boxes there too on big trips. It is wood and we just refinish it every couple years. Don’t like the heat of diamond plate so we went with wood and love it. Will never go without a hard floor again. As a short woman I am often needing to stand to read the river and it is so great to have the floor.
 

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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 do a drop bag with passenger paco in bay 1, a cooler in bay 2, footwell with captain slings in bay 3, and drybox upon which to sit in bay 4. It's what I would do again. I don't like having my oars right behind passengers. Get one jerked out of your hand and they can get hit pretty damned hard in the back or back of the head. Obviously a lot of people do run them that way and make it work, but I feel better with a little more room between me and my wife, kids, friends, dog, etc.
 
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