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Multiday family paddle setup

5945 Views 16 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  cpollema

I have four kids 16, 14, 12, 10 and the wife and want to do some Colorado overnight/multiday trips next year. Has anyone rigged a large raft with gear for paddling? Am trying to avoid the 1 person oar man while the 5 passengers and border collie just hang on for the ride.

Would love to see best practices for such a venture, can imagine a narrow frame down the middle that allows drop nets for the hard/heavy equipment and all of the lighter soft stuff lashed to the top of that frame system.

This way everyone has a paddle and soft tube to sit on and some skin in the game during the rapids.

Not looking for class 4-5 trouble, just beautiful trips where we can unplug, talk/sing and grow together before they kiddos leave the nest. Thanks
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Your kids are old enough. Buy a ducky or two from a commercial outfit. They'll have more fun than paddle rafting a cargo boat. Your frame should put the weight of your load on the flat area of your main tubes anyway.
Back in the 70's that's how my family ran rivers. We hauled our gear on a frame set-up in the middle of the boat. 2 paddlers in the front 2 in the back with the sternsman. It was a great way for me to learn the river as a young teenager.
There are a few ways to do it. If you pack light you can build a cooler frame that suspends on the thwarts. If you boat is big enough, you can typically put a cooler there and a drybag or two, Paddle Frame - Raft Frame Accessories - Frames & Accessories. Then stack gear on the cooler and back in the guide area.

I have also seen commercial trips on the Grand Canyon where they build an I shaped frame with beams crossing at the thwarts and cooler frame. Gear take the place of thwarts and piles on top of the frame. It looks pretty bulky, but is possible.
Here is a similar thread from last year. There is a photo of the I frame used on the Grand Canyon.
I have been on plenty of great family trips and I agree that the duckie is the way to go. We always bring at least 1 or 2 single or tandem duckies and everyone is begging to have a turn. That way you can relax, be less cramped, and let another kid take the oars on the raft.
IMHO paddling a raft loaded with 5-6 people and overnight gear sounds like torture and a recipe for kids who aren't having fun. The leverage of oars is your friend when you are moving that kind of weight. Kick back with a beer and make the 16yo row.

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Thanks all,

I will take the advice and split time between the gear pig and the mini max or perhaps an IK.

See y'all on the river
Them young uns ought be on them oars wilst yall drank and fish
Not looking for class 4-5 trouble, just beautiful trips where we can unplug,

I"m with you brother...getting the kidos un plugged is best:D
Stoked on the Mini Max I have coming (NEO). The kids are going to learn row/paddle. Like they don't have a choice:p
A Mini Max with a frame is a real fun little boat. Letting the kids take that for a spin and having an IK to go along with the Gearpigilac sounds perfect. Kids could even row their own friends or the mutt down the river. I've paddled gear rafts and it pretty much blows. Some outfitters on big water rivers like to rig gear into the paddle boats because if helps them punch the waves and holes even when all the stupid wads stop paddling to splash and giggle...
I really enjoy an overnight paddle setup. Mostly done on Westwater or similar. I would love to do the middle fork with a paddle raft in early June. I suggest (and use) a trailer frame / cooler frame. Mine was originally made of chain link top rail with 90 fittings. I came across some NRS Low Pros and Pipe that were side sections from a ghetto NRS brekdown and footbar pegs. I cut it up and made a nice cooler frame. I prefer R2 or R3 when running paddle with gear rig and have not yet used this for a family trip (Kids are still pretty young). Total cost on an NRS frame for this is around $120. I had 3 2 in lengths of webbing sewn that hold my cooler off the floor and use 2 4ft loop straps to hold the cooler in the frame.
So, here's the thing.
You didn't mention how much gear you need to haul.
If you're a minimalist, you know, a jar of Peanut butter and a sack of bread does your family for 3 days, then yes, a paddle boat is one way to go.
If you're like most families, you'll need a HUGE tent, air mattresses, a shower enclosure, lanterns, stoves, music, a generator, and so on. In this case, no, a paddle rig would probably not work.

Plus, you gotta consider your skills when it hits the fan; will you be OK repairing your only ride if someone somehow pokes a hole in it? If you have a major flip, that you know, leaves you standing on shore wondering; What? will you be prepared to hike out?

On the whole, I would want two or more boats on anything but a Gore or Glenwood run, just to be, you know, safe. And besides, you got a couple of boats, someone gets out of line, you can chuck them on the Mini Max or the IK and tell em to chill. Plus, you can haul more stuff, to you know, please the group with some comforts when it starts snowing on your June Deso trip.

Or, they can tell you to chill and make you row upstream. Or sumpin.
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The only males on these trips would be me and the 10 year old. That means the wife, 3 teenage ladies are on board so a jar of PB and wonder bread wont get it done.

Creature comforts abound so will need quite the barge. Will spill "raft staff" onto the max (at least) and maybe a playboat or two when I need to lighten the load or need some space.

Rafting Water transportation Inflatable boat Lifejacket Oar

This was the photo that led me to inquire if paddleraft/gear rafts are doable even though I have seen few on Colorado rivers.
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Daryl, I've been in a raft rigged like that before in Nepal, since you're interested I'll describe how we were rigged on the Tamur. The raft was a self bailing Avon Pro. There were four paddlers plus the guide. Getting quality gear over to Asia and into the access points over there makes simple set ups valuable. The other raft on the trip had a slant board frame that was quite the POS; the oars were like tree trunks and rowing was a nightmare. The paddle raft had four thwarts installed and a long nylon mesh platform strapped lengthwise along top of them. The platform was probably two feet wide with nylon webbing sewed along the edge and d-rings sewed in every foot or two along the side. There was a bit of extra material, maybe a foot, that hung over the into the bow and stern. There were buckles on one end and straps on the other. Bills Bags and other large drybags were layed sideways on top of the mesh. There was probably room for seven bags but I think we had five most days. The ends were pulled up and cinched tight and then rope was woven back and forth over the top through the side d-rings.

I'm sure Jan over at Stitches n' Stuff would be happy to sew you one and it would be kind of a nice thing to have in the bag of tricks. The bags formed a nice tight bundle that could flex and move and provide ballast. The weight was off the floor so the boat could flex and move. There was plenty of room for paddlers' feet and there was stuff to grab too. It was harder to get down and almost impossible to highside. As I said in my earlier post, a bunch of paying wads that don't paddle (or annoying teenagers and girly girls) can benefit from having ballast in their paddle raft. Amazingly, my wife and I, along with the very skilled guide, were still able to move this raft around in the rapids. We didn't have much for flat paddling stretches thankfully.
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I'm not the most versed at attaching images, so we'll see if this works. I forgot about the straps going out to the sides and around the tubes. They seemed a bit of an entrapment hazard to me and could probably be done away with if you went down tight to the thwarts.

Water Outdoor recreation Boats and boating--Equipment and supplies River Boat
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Daryl, one more suggestion. We run an oar frame with three across the front. Each of my kids has a paddle and my wife is in the middle with the camera. I typically sit on the oars, but we swap if one of the kids wants a turn on the oars. The paddles up front keep everyone involved and it really helps in moving the boat. For you, having a duck along would make sense. You can also go with a group that can take an extra person...moving people can often change the dynamics ( hopefully for the better).

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