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I'm a commercial raft guide and a kayaker. I've spent more days than i can count in traditional rafts on the upper C and the Arkansas. I've never gotten a chance to row a cataraft. I'm just curious about the differences benefits and downfalls of a cataraft vs a traditional raft. obviously you're not going to get a paddle crew in a cataraft or more than 2 or 3 passengers for that matter. I'm more interested in performance in whitewater, tracking, stability, load capacity for multi-days etc. Tried doing a search, but didn't come up with anything.

thanks,
Jake
 

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Lots of folks will write to tell you that a cat can haul 28 days worth of gear and three other folks. This is true, but a raft can do that too and do it better.

Cats are freaking awesome and really come into their own if you want to row hard/big whitewater with one person on your boat and a minimal amount of gear.

If you want to do big multi-days with lots of folks and gear then stay with the raft. Switch to the cat if you want everyone to have their own boat, step up the difficulty, and lose some of the extra gear.

Kind of the best of both worlds between rafting and kayaking...
 

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My 18' aire cat (120" fame) can carry more weight, will oar easier in a upstream wind (wind passes thru frame between tubes), handles like a sports car, will drive through huge holes, will track straighter in Huge eddy lines easier, punch through raft stopping waves, can carry and mount a 5hp outboard easier (diamond plate cargo floor) than comparable sized self bailers.
Based on my trips down the Grand the 18' cat vs. 17' maravia raft, the cat stands so far above the raft I'm puzzled on why anyone would chose something other than a cat.
My theory in the grand is that you want weight ( can't hardly avoid it) and ease of rowing. Heck I can oar the cat faster with my feet than friends in their self bailers.
That's my $.02
 

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A cat is a sports car (a 12.5' cat NOT an 18' cat!) and a raft is a station wagon. I take the cat on bigger water, or when I'm solo on a multiday. The raft comes out when there are passengers and/or dogs.
 

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My 18' aire cat (120" fame) can carry more weight, will oar easier in a upstream wind (wind passes thru frame between tubes), handles like a sports car, will drive through huge holes, will track straighter in Huge eddy lines easier, punch through raft stopping waves, can carry and mount a 5hp outboard easier (diamond plate cargo floor) than comparable sized self bailers.
Based on my trips down the Grand the 18' cat vs. 17' maravia raft, the cat stands so far above the raft I'm puzzled on why anyone would chose something other than a cat.
My theory in the grand is that you want weight ( can't hardly avoid it) and ease of rowing. Heck I can oar the cat faster with my feet than friends in their self bailers.
That's my $.02

Cats get hung up easier (and more often) in shallow water, but are so stable it is almost like cheating in serious whitewater...
 

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Kind of the best of both worlds between rafting and kayaking...
Never been on a cat, but I raft and kayak--I could definitely see that.

A cat is a sports car (a 12.5' cat NOT an 18' cat!) and a raft is a station wagon. I take the cat on bigger water, or when I'm solo on a multiday. The raft comes out when there are passengers and/or dogs.

Great analogy--not a lot of sports cars seat more than two, either! :lol:
.....and a kayak is a motorcycle!! :laughing:

Are cats for rafters who get tired of schlepping other people around but don't want to learn to roll a kayak?





Huge difference as well between a 13' raft and a 16-18' raft as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
awesome info so far, thanks! might have to get a cat one day when i can afford to get my own boat. really just need to bring the girlfriend and the dog anyway. i can always borrow a company boat if i need to haul some people down the river.
 

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I own both. My opinions don't reflect everyone's. Both can haul gear. Both can do shallow water. Both can haul people/dogs. Both can handle big water. I trust the cat on SUPER high water, but that's because I have more miles on it. There are too many variables to just outright say one's better than the other.

By no means are cats unflippable, but I have put mine (unintentionally) sideways in Seidel's. Whole left tube submerged for a very stressful 30-40 seconds, but no flip. No way in hell would I expect my raft to come out upright.

On the flip side, the raft takes much less time to setup. Many MANY less straps. Less oar rig framework means lighter of my 2. Plus the option to use as paddle boat when 4-7 friends want to go. And for some reason it seems more inviting for the bikini clad lounging on the bow and stern.

In summation - My cat is the big smooth riding cadillac, and the raft is more of the splashy thrill giver.
 

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I've been rowing a 14 ft. Cat for the past 10 years. I've never rowed a raft. I row a 14 X 24 Maravia cat. I rarely ever carry a passenger. I carry my own personal gear, and a moderate amount of group gear on multi-day (7-10 day) trips. For example....on a 9 day Main Salmon trip last week I carried the group firepan, ash box, dutch ovens, and tarps, food for two breakfasts/lunches/dinners (cooler & drybox), plus my own personal gear. I could carry more weight, but room to carry it would be the issue on my Cat.
Pros of Cats: sportier ride, quick handling, fun. Seem to do well in big water/big holes. Two lighter weight tubes instead of one heavy raft to deal with for storage & transport. Oh yeah.....fun.
Cons of Cats: More complicated frame & more straps, handling decreases when over loaded. Not as much ability to carry multiple passengers, but can be done. I personally think they are worse in the wind, but it's a toss-up. As far as getting hung up in shallow water, I think it's 50% boat and 50% operator error.
I love my Cat and wouldn't want to switch. For me it's the perfect river vehicle.
 

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I switched to a cat when all my buddies lost interest in rafting. Now i can either ride solo or take my wife and her playmates if they look good as hood ornaments
 
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Cats are best suited to smaller boats, lightly loaded. In that capacity they are superior to rafts and generally fun to oar. If you mostly do multi day trips with a load and a passenger, rafts are superior in almost every way including manueverbility, tracking, setup and yes low water runs. And as far as an 18 ft cat, why would you get one when a 16' raft can carry more gear and will be more manueverable loaded down based on my experience. This was reinforced once again on my last river trip I was able to oar both a 14' cat and a 16' raft, both with a reasonable amount of gear and guess what, comparing them both side by side the raft moved easier period. I currently own a 16' raft and a 13' cat.
But again my lightly loaded cat blows away any raft that I have oared and gives me much more confidence in big water.


I'm a commercial raft guide and a kayaker. I've spent more days than i can count in traditional rafts on the upper C and the Arkansas. I've never gotten a chance to row a cataraft. I'm just curious about the differences benefits and downfalls of a cataraft vs a traditional raft. obviously you're not going to get a paddle crew in a cataraft or more than 2 or 3 passengers for that matter. I'm more interested in performance in whitewater, tracking, stability, load capacity for multi-days etc. Tried doing a search, but didn't come up with anything.

thanks,
Jake
 

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Do the math and look at waterlines, tube diameters, etc. an 18' cataraft = 14' gear boat. If you try for more you have overloaded your cat.

However, for the same size load i would say the 18' cat has better handling and can get you in and out of more places than the 14' raft. The advantages of the raft are less metal = more transportable, more passenger friendly, shorter front to back distance (can turn around in a narrower space), and will be better in the wind as it rides lower (more contact with water/less height above water). It will also be easier to flip in a hole and be more fun in a wave train.
 

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"Cats get hung up easier (and more often) in shallow water"I would have to disagree with this comment. IMO, Catarafts are far superior in low water.
there is a reason they aren't real popular in the southeast they are too damn big too fit through anything tight and technical like the chattooga, nolichucky, watauga, russel fork, etc.
 

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I have rowed or owned just about every type of boat in the last 35 years.. After owning a raft for 30 years I sold out to cats two years ago, and now own three. They are ridiculously stable and easy to row, and handle gear just fine for a couple of people. Anyone who wants more than one or two people on there boat for a multiday trip should have there head examined anyway.
 

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A great compromise is the culbra granda by Jacks Plastic . It is easy to blow up is fast and great in the holes . I own 2 of them and if you see 2 blue cats that have big thwarts thats me . I use them in tight creeks Richland ck , cossittot or less at flood [arlansas]. Or high or low water on the Ark in CO. .Also on the ocoee and nantahala in the carolina's . They are just a grand daddy shedder . Because they have a floor they are the cross between a raft and cat , best of both worlds
 

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I have a 14' sotar cat with a sweet frame and full webbed floor. It carries enough for a 5 day trip for 2, however, it really shines as a one person. Nimble, fun in rapids, tracks well and very stable. I've also rowed a number of rafts, which handle like pigs in comparison, but do well in the wind.

When loaded up, cats tend to sink in. That makes them deeper than rafts but with the ability to straddle shallow rocks. Hard to say which is better in low water. They don't have anywhere near the load carrying capacity of a raft, because the area below the waterline is limited. If you are considering multiday trips with multiple people, go with a raft. Cats tend not to be as comfortable for passengers, even when cushioned with paco pads.
 

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there is a reason they aren't real popular in the southeast they are too damn big too fit through anything tight and technical like the chattooga, nolichucky, watauga, russel fork, etc.
No, it's just because they have been thriving in the NW, and are slowly spreading. Cats run what used to be kayak-only runs, they are any size you want.
 

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lhowemt said:
No, it's just because they have been thriving in the NW, and are slowly spreading. Cats run what used to be kayak-only runs, they are any size you want.
It would be nice if they could design an oar to "go flacid" in narrow spots (without leaving marks on the canyon walls)
 
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