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Hello rafters,
I'm in the market for a raft or cataraft. I've been doing the research and I am somewhat familiar with the pros and cons of both. One thing I have noticed while looking for a used setup is that there are lots of catarafts for sale and not a lot of rafts. That's a bit of a red flag in my book. This indicates to me that people get rid of catarafts and keep rafts once they get them. I'm looking for an all around boat I guess. Something I can load up as a SAG wagon for a bunch of canoes and SUPs and float Ruby Horsethief at low water and also do use for fishing like on the Green below Flaming Gorge res. or the North Platte. I don't need a Grand Canyon boat. I probably will never do a trip longer than a week. A dream trip for me would be Dutch John all the way to Jensen on the Green at low water. Not really looking to do much more than III+ rapids. Mostly I will have myself, wife and small dog on the raft, but it needs to be big enough for at least one more. I think I'm starting to get the idea that catarafts are great gear barges, while if you've got kids, dogs, etc, rafts are more comfortable.
Thanks for all your insights in advance. I've been looking on here and craigslist for used rafts. If anyone has any other resources please pass them on. Thank you.
 

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sounds like you need a 14' raft. for a given length and tube size, the floor of the raft will allow more gear and flexibility.

My .02
 

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Well your going to get a lot of different opinions here, mostly because there is no right answer. I've always run cats (or dories) and love them. But having said that I can think of three main advantages that rafts have,
1 Generally easier to break down and carry. My cat is big and a pain to break down. I keep it inflated on a trailer all season but if you want the flexibility to break down your boat frequently a raft is the way to go.
2. Cats generally suck in the wind. Don't know why but in a high headwind I'm almost always working harder than the rafts.
3. Rafts generally have more flexibility / simpler gear rigging. I haul a ton on my cat but I have to work at it. A beaver tail net platform helps a lot.

On the plus side there is no doubt cats are more maneuverable, my passengers are more comfortable ( I run seats) and they are great punching big holes etc. I've got mine set up with removable fishing platforms and thigh braces so cats can be great fishing platforms also

I don't buy that the abundance of used cats is reflective of their popularity. I know lots of boaters who swear by cats. All in all if you want an everything boat go with a raft
 

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I have owned cat's and rafts. Usually both styles at the same time.

Cats to me are more fun to row. Takes more time and work to set up or take down. Do not carry the load a much shorter raft will. I just like to row cat boats!!!!!

Having said the above if I could only have one river boat for western rivers it would be my 14 ft Aire. Easier to rig, carries more weight, can be a paddle raft and the list goes on.

A close second in my opinion would be an Aire Super Puma. Just a hoot to row, put two paddlers up front and you have a fun ride down either the Numbers, Browns canyon or royal gorge that is almost as much fun as a kayak. Makes a great paddle raft on WW streams. I have a bud who does rivers like Middle Fork, Yampa, etc etc two people and gear and all the comforts. So if you mostly do bigger western type rivers the 14 ft would be in my opinion a great all around raft, if more back east and you do a lot of paddle rafting no question the super puma is the way to go. If you are a fisherperson, super puma is great for that.

The best combo is an appropriate sized cat boat and raft. May take a while to get there, but sets you up for what ever.
 

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I have owned several (2) rafts and (1) cat in the 15' to 14' size range. Here is my opinion.

1. The cat is more maneuverable and more fun to row.
2. The cat doesn't hold as much gear as a raft the same size, and is much more sensitive to overloading or being out of trim. Just adding an extra passenger to the front seat changes how the boat tracks..
3. Loading the cat is more difficult and requires 2x more straps. Mostly due to a lack of a floor and the need to get the balance/trim just right.
4. Wind, in my experience it has more to do with loading than which boat I'm rowing. Low pile = low wind resistance.
5. The raft, especially with an 'everything bag' is much easier and faster to load. The raft is more adaptable to carrying odd stuff like kayaks and SUP's.
6. I prefer to trailer both the cat or rafts, just too much gear for the truck. The cat tubes are easier for me to lift by myself (2 separate pieces) but the cat frame is a lot heavier.

For a flexible gear hauler I think the raft is superior. For a two person self supported 5 day trip or if I can keep the gear down on a bigger group trip, the cat is my first choice, just more fun to row.
 

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I agree with most of what's said above. Especially the sentiment that rigging/capacity of cats is tougher. I'd say that a cat of a given length feels like a raft 2-3' shorter. Just a ballpark.

However, I'm gonna say you want a 16' raft. 14' rafts are pretty good all around, but really don't carry very much gear. If you want to use it as a SAG wagon for a bunch of kayaks, I'd think you'll want more space than a 14' raft will give you.

As far as low water, 16' isn't too big. In fact, when water depth is the issue, I have found that bigger boats actually handle low water better than smaller ones in many cases. I've had my 18' boats all over the west at all levels- RHT/WW down to 2500, Cat as low as 3000, Royal Gorge at 1000, Yampa at 700, etc. without any real problems caused by the size of the boat.
 

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Just get one of each. That's what I did. Start with a raft. Then when $$ allows get a cat.

Best guess on why you see more cats for sale is that the new boat market has leaned towards cats. They look good and are generally cheaper. However, people realize they don't use it as much and put it up for sale.
 

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One thing I've noticed with the cats for sale in the gear swap is that they are almost all massive, 18' or larger. On the other end of the spectrum I've never seen a 12 1/2 SOTAR Legend for sale used...

To me it breaks down to rafts are for gear and passengers, and cats are for play and gnar. All the cats for sale are from people who thought a cat would be a good massive gear hauler.
 

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Get a raft, but pay attention to the different sizes of rafts that are the same length. For instance my friends 14' raft was much smaller than my 14' raft and could not hold near as much stuff. It has a ton to do with width and tube size. For example the Aire Super duper Puma has probably half the carrying capacity of a 14' RMR. Sounds like you need a raft 14-15' raft with a good width. Wide boats are much more stable too, but not near as fun to row.
 

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Between my BF and I, we own a couple rafts and one cataraft.

I learned how to row a cat, and I love it. That said, I have a very nice frame which makes it AWESOME to rig the hard stuff into, I can carry all the ammo cans and rockets, but then I need my sweet as pie boyfriend to carry all the other stuff (dry bags mostly).

Really I think the feedback here is great, a raft is super versatile, my cat, not so much (though I never leave home without it).

I did have a realization though this summer that cats are the perfect boat if you don't wanna spend time with people, 1 friend is kinda the max capacity on my boat. It's the boat for antisocial people and I love it!
 

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Luckylauren makes a good point about stowage on a cat vs raft.

Rectangular hard shell objects pack well in cats frames. Water jugs, ammo cans, dry boxes, coolers stack well. Round objects like dry bags are harder to work with.

Rafts can be the opposite, fewer places for a cooler but the round stuff fits great in the oval shaped front and rear bays.

If you really want to row the SAG wagon I would look at a self bailing raft in the 15' range with a simple 3-4 bay frame. With a rig like this you can load it heavy and haul gear for a whole group, or load it light and take 2 fisherman plus a rower on a day trip.

Keep the frame simple. You can always add anchors, folding seats or a fishing platform later. Defiantly get one of the giant mesh bags for rigging, cut my loading time in half.

If you are rowing the cargo boat you will also end up hauling (and maybe purchasing) all the required stuff needed for an overnight group trip on most western rivers. Make sure you plan on enough space!

1. water jugs
2. safety equipment, Z-drag kit
3. stove, pots and pans
4. river toilet
5. fire pan
6. major medical kit
7. raft repair kit
8. propane tanks
9. tables, chairs, tarps
 

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I'd agree that a 14' raft might be on the small side. I had much this same debate with myself for a long time, and eventually went with an Aire 156D--the "D" standing for tubes which "diminish" at the bow and stern to a slightly smaller diameter. It seemed like a good compromise between the maneuverability of a 14' boat and the load capacity of something bigger. So far (eleven or twelve years on), it seems like it was a good choice, nicely handling everything from day trips on the Stillwater to four days in Ladore to a week of plush camping on the Missouri.
 

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I have owned several (2) rafts and (1) cat in the 15' to 14' size range. Here is my opinion.

1. The cat is more maneuverable and more fun to row.
2. The cat doesn't hold as much gear as a raft the same size, and is much more sensitive to overloading or being out of trim. Just adding an extra passenger to the front seat changes how the boat tracks..
3. Loading the cat is more difficult and requires 2x more straps. Mostly due to a lack of a floor and the need to get the balance/trim just right.
4. Wind, in my experience it has more to do with loading than which boat I'm rowing. Low pile = low wind resistance.
5. The raft, especially with an 'everything bag' is much easier and faster to load. The raft is more adaptable to carrying odd stuff like kayaks and SUP's.
6. I prefer to trailer both the cat or rafts, just too much gear for the truck. The cat tubes are easier for me to lift by myself (2 separate pieces) but the cat frame is a lot heavier.

For a flexible gear hauler I think the raft is superior. For a two person self supported 5 day trip or if I can keep the gear down on a bigger group trip, the cat is my first choice, just more fun to row.
Two Thumbs up for the above assessment. Pretty much says everything I was going to say. I rowed nothing but cats for 17 years. I thought I'd never row anything else. I switched to a 14 foot raft with diminishing tubes 3 years ago and I'm very happy. I was tired of all the straps & effort that went into rigging my cat frame & gear. As a single female who loads & unloads my boats & gear by myself, I agree that the tubes were a lot easier to deal with for transport & storage, but the frame was heavier and more cumbersome. I rarely ever carry a passenger, so a 14 raft raft is plenty big enough for me and the load of group gear I carry on multi-day trips. A 15-16 footer would be better if you intend to be the gear barge on 5-7 day trips.
 
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Do you want a sports car or a mini-van?

For your listed uses, get the mini-van.


And Brian is right, it is very rare to see a whitewater sports car for sale.
 

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One reason, IMO, why more cats are for sale is that there have been drastic changes in the design starting about 10 years ago. So many people that have the older "flat top" style are getting around to moving away from them and getting newer boats. I would avoid the old flat top style.

Cats are super fun as solo boats, but less so with passengers or a dog. They carry less gear for a given rated length, so if your focus is gear hauling multidays you may want a raft. We have both, the cats are what we use whenever we don't take the dogs. With the dogs, the raft comes out.
 

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I have a 14' Diablo raft and a 16' Jag cat. The raft will carry everything the cat will. The raft is easier to rig. The raft is more maneuverable. The raft is prettier. The cat is a bit slower, takes more straps to rig, but will go through a lot bigger water if you miss a line. Just got off the Selway at 5.6' in the cat. I know I hit stuff I would have flipped my raft in. But I also think I would have avoided it in a raft. My special lady friend rather ride in the cat because she sits behind me when I row.

I've ran multiple Main Salmons and Middle Forks at most flows in a 13' Spider. Same with a 14' Diablo and Willy 1.5s and 2s.

If I could only have one boat, it would be a 15' Zephyr. I've owned 13', 14, and 16' boats. I've rowed up to 18' boats. I think for your purpose, a 15' round boat would be ideal but pretty much any of these boats will work for you...just depends on how creative you want to be rigging and skillful you want to be rowing.
 

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I learned to row on a cat, so that was always my comfort zone. I was worried about losing speed and maneuverability when I switched to the raft. A low water MF trip proved to me that my worry was unfounded. I was just as maneuverable in my raft, and I actually got stuck less. I have a badly messed up knee and I've found that loading gear in my raft, and getting on & off the raft is easier for me than the cat. A lot less climbing around to strap stuff down and to get on & off.
I still own a small cat (10 footer) for fishing and easy weekend trips. Too much fun to ever part with that little cat......it's the boat that got me hooked on river running 20 years ago.
 

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I bought a large (18') cat from my neighbor a couple of years ago. He'd bought everything brand new, decided he didn't want it, and sold it to me for a deal. I was excited, and spent a month dialing it in...floor boards, custom tables, etc, etc. Then we (3 adults, 4 kids) hit the river with my new cat and our 156d for a 5-day trip down Desolation: I don't have a trailer (now, the only way I'd ever consider having a larger cat) and the set-up was a pain! Crawling about on the ground and working myself and hands into uncomfortable positions to strap-down the floor was no-fun. As mentioned above, the tubes were a breeze to move, but the frame was definitely a two-person job. A lot of my anticipated "ground" clearance under the floor promptly disappeared as dry bags, cooler, groover and random gear were loaded. During lunch, when five of us sat on my raft to eat, the water was above my floor in the cockpit. To be fair, it rowed just fine and slithered through holes with no problems, and carried gear (groover, rocket boxes) more conveniently than on a raft. But, I was not in love and sold it the next spring and bought a raft to replace it.
 

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I would get a 15' Sotar SL for your purposes. A raft to haul gear and SUPs for the reasons stated above. The SL feels a little smaller than its length and is a very nimble raft. I rowed a 13' SL on the lower Rogue in early May and it was a blast to row. Too small for your purposes.
 

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Cats are more efficient with respect to unit price per pound of buoyancy. This arises from the simple construction geometry. Cats are generally more efficient at passing water through the hull and therefore exhibit higher stability from overturning events.
Rafts are better at corralling kids and cargo.
Cats are lighter in mass for the respective components and therefore less likely to give you a hernia.
Cats are easier to repair since the simplistic geometry allows easier access.
 
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