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Discussion Starter #1
Hi I'm new here and was hoping i could get some answers on a couple things. I'm looking to buy a 12 or 13 ft raft pretty soon, I was looking at the Aire rafts earlier, they are very nice but quite expensive.

My questions are: 1: What are other popular rafts out there that are durable yet somewhat affordable? I don't think I'm ready to drop 4 grand on a raft right now.

2. How do people typically haul these bigger rafts around? Do they roll them up and put them in a pickup and blow them up at their destination? Or is it better to keep them inflated and use a flatbed trailer to haul them around?

I have a cheapo 10 ft Intex seahawk2 right now, its small enough to deflate and blow up at the river, but I have my doubts about doing that with these bigger more versatile rafts. Thanks for any input.
 

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I went through this last year. I ended up with a 14 NRS Otter series, but I also looked at Aire, Hyside and Tributary, among others. I ended up spending a bit more than I originally planned, but that sucker is going to be my kids' raft when they bury me... lol

Get it to the river any way you can. Buy an inflator that hooks to your car battery and save your back. Last year, we hauled the new raft in a minvan with the frame on top (it comes apart and could have gone inside even) and we bought a fold up utility trailer from Harbor Freight to tow it behind a Mustang convertible. Yes, I had the coolest ride at the takeout in the Mustang... LOL

My 14' raft would fit in a lot of trunks even when deflated and rolled up. It's all the other gear that's the issue - PFD's, coolers, oars, frame, etc.
 

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What kind of car do you have? Do you have a truck with a hitch? I would also say it depends on how far you are traveling to the river. If you're going 200 miles on I-80 at 75 mph you might not want to trail an 13 ft inflated raft.
 

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NRS, Aire, Hyside, Avon - all good boats - I have a 30 yr. old Avon and two old Aire cats that never need topping off - even on 7-day trips - when you buy quality, they last. I would recommend shopping around on the swap sites and finding a good used one that comes with most of the gear you're going to need. I would also recommend getting at least a 14 footer if you're thinking multi-day - small boats are fun, but they get overloaded in a hurry.

I agree with Boilermaker - get it to the river however you can - the age old argument of half-inflated vs. rolled up will live forever - I store and haul mine rolled, just because I'm usually bringing three boats. We did haul a 16 footer fully inflated on a flatbed from Salt Lake to the Salmon last year -worked fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the info everyone. My car is a 99 Subaru Impreza Sport Outback. I have a hitch on it already that I installed for my bike rack, so getting a trailer isn't a problem, and I checked out the utility trailers on harbor freight as mentioned, they are incredibly affordable!

As of now, my drive with the raft would be about 170 miles, averaging 65 mph. I'm sure I could roll it up in my car, but fitting all my other camping gear and what not would become an issue.

Jamwin, do you have any suggestions of these swap sites you speak of? I did see the for sale section on this website and their is a pretty good selection on there. Any others you recommend?
 

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This site, Craigslist, NRS Gear swap, Cascade has a used boat section, RiverBoat Works used to (not sure if they still handle used gear). Patience is the key, and you will have to be willing to travel a bit. Good luck.
 

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I can roll up a 14 foot hyside that is 7 feet wide, pretty much the same dimensions at the newer NRS 140's , and fit it in my passat wagon, with all the gear I need for 5 and the paddles strapped to the roof rack, and still have the rear seat up and drive with 5 people in the car. Trailers have sharp edges and bolts and screws so be careful with the cheap harbor freight trailers, make sure you puncture proof it. Also be aware of leaving your inflated raft on the trailer in the summer or while going over mountain passes. As it gets hotter or higher in altitude air molecules expand and the raft will inflate a bit, so always burb the valves a bit if you have it super pumped up as you drive or it may blow a seam or valve. I think rolling is a simple way to go, the raft is easy to carry, store and put into just about any vehicle, and store it out of the sun as well so you limit the boats exposure to uv rays which over time will degrade the raft. As for pumping it up, just buy a 5 inch bison pump and a 14 hyside with 20 inch tubes can be pumped up in about 10 minutes with two people. I have pumped up a ton of boats and the electric pumps are nice but you still need a top off pump, so why not save the money and just buy a hand pump that does both. People need something to do as gear is organized or shuttles are run anyway, why not pump, plus its a killer work out! Good luck!
 

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If you do get one pump, get a good one. Don't get the cheap $30 Wonder Pump for anything other than topping it off. I made due with that for a year for topping off, but I also bought an inflator for the majority of the work. I did inflate the boat once with the Wonder pump, and that made the investment in the new 5" barrel pump all that more appealing... LOL

As for the trailers, you do need to make some modifications to haul inflated, depending on raft size. I've seen some people take off the fenders so the boat clears on the sides. I opted to put risers across (2x4's) and a carpeted deck on top of that. So now it clears the wheels and it's a nice snag-free surface. A roller or two would be good, but the carpeted deck is nice enough for now.

I think the need for a trailer will depend on what kind of trips you are planning and how you plan to use the raft. If it's day trips and paddle trips, then you may not even need it, even with the car you mention. I couldn't get anything but the raft in a Mustang, so I had no other option. LOL You could probably tie oars to the top of your Subaru, so unless oyu have a huge cooler and other large gear, you mght be surprised how much of the raft and it's gear you can get into the back and still have room for your passengers. I guess if I were you, I'd worry aboutnthat once you have the boat. You can get the trailer in a week if you end up going that route.

You do need to watch the boat when trailering. I usually have to stop so the familly can pee, so I always check pressure before I go over the passes, and often have to let a little out. Trailering it deflated buys you more passenger room, but if you don't need that, then why bother as far as I am concerned (for day trips especially). I do it so I can be faster at the put-in, since everyone is anxious to get on the water. When it's just my family, we take two cars, and it gets deflated on the take out, and I then transfer it back onto the trailer when we pick up the trailer at the put in. It makes for a better ride for the trailer on the ride home over towing the empty trailer.

For a multi-day where yu might drive along way and camp the night before putting in or something like that, I can see towing it deflated, inflating it the night before at a camp somewhere, and then trailering it to the put in. There are lots of options with trailers, so they are a nice thing to have.

But first things first... Get the boat! LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Noted! I'll buy a better hand pump. Another question, what are most of the higher end rafts made of? I see some of those rafts that look like the Aire and NRS rafts but they are considerably cheaper. The Saturn, and Aquamarine rafts look like nice rafts but I question why they are so much cheaper then others?
Like this Saturn below, it says its made of PVC, are the other high end rafts made of something other then PVC???
Saturn RD-1400 - 14' Self-Bailing Raft
 

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I have had my Saturn for three seasons and I LOVE it! Otherwise I would still be saving up for one of the other ones. If you get on the river you will see a ton of Saturns out there. If I have to go and buy a new one after 10 years I am completely fine with that - it costs 1400 freaking dollars!!! I have taken my 14 ft raft thru class four rapids and under - I have wrapped it on rocks, dragged it on rocks, I throw it on the roof rack ever time I go rafting so I don't have to fully deflate and inflate, it has been dragged and pulled across gravel at the storage unit - It is seriously tuff!

I was extremely skeptical when I bought it, but I figured I would either learn a lesson and return it, or be super happy. I am super happy; ever time we cross paths on the river with another Saturn owner it is the same damn comments, 'what an awesome raft for super cheap.' They are a great product that is constantly knocked on this fourm and I really have no idea why. I have lots of great stories and tons of cool memories thanks to Saturn, otherwise I would still be bumming river rides from others.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the input RockRider, I'll definitely keep that in mind before I make my raft purchase.
 

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use the search function

lots of talk on hear about saturn rafts.

a pvc boat does not equal a pvc boat.

Maravia's are pvc but coated in urethane
Aire's are pvc but have a liner on the inside of the tubes

Saturn's are glued PVC. not to bad mouth them, because I have limited experience in a Saturn...but, you get what you pay for. Both Aire and Maravia are made in ID, Saturns are made in China.

IMO, if you can wait (or obsess, whichever comes easier) find a used older raft of higher quality.

use crazedlist.org (search: "raft") for anywhere within a 5 hour drive of you and be ready to jump on something when it comes up. Good used boats come and go fast. someone just had a 14' maravia on the gear swap here a few days ago for $800...not sure if it sold already.

old used boats have soul. new chinese boats have none.

oh yeah:

it takes like 20 minutes to pump up my 14' maravia with a 4" barrel pump. it's really no big deal. get a bravo and and barrel pump and two people can have a 12' raft done super quick. for 140 miles at hwy speeds I'd roll the thing up. just in gas savings alone...even if it goes in the trailer it's still not a giant sail.
 

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Another gear hauling option is to get a trailer hitch cargo carrier.

They make models that swing away so you can still open the back door. It carries a cooler and a drybox - or a rolled raft leaving interior space for people and other gear.

On the topic of what raft to buy - 14 ft is generally the most versatile size, 13 ft is better for paddle boating most of Colorado's rivers, 16 ft is better for multi day trips.

Materials: Hypalon is my favorite and stands up to rolling very well. But it is generally expensive. PVC is very durable but dosen't like to be rolled up, welded seams on PVC boats are bomb proof, glued seams tend to fail after about ten years, but newer glues may not have the issues of older glues. PVC is generally less expensive.

Manufacturers: Ther are a large number of a-list comapnies out there that make quality boats - here are a few: Hyside, Avon, SOTAR, AIRE, Maravia, NRS. There are also newer companies out there with lower priced boats: Saturn, Big Water, Vanguard. Most accounts of folks who actually own boats from the newer companies - especially their latest models have great things to say about them. Big Water is the newest kid on the block and is offering lower priced Hypalon boats - initial impressions are good but they don't have the track record, albeit brief, of Vanguard or Saturn.

Pumps - this one works:

Kwik Tek Airhead High Pressure Air Pump (12-Volt) - $34.47 on Amazon.

AIRE (as far as I can tell) re-brands this pump as the "Hurricane" and sells it for $85-90. The hose kinda sucks, but you can buy 3/4" garden house and force the fittings from their hose onto the garden hose and it is money. You will still need a good quality barrel pump to top off with - NRS, Carlson, WildWater, or K-Pump.
 

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The computers we are on right now were probably made in China (at east parts of them) - and most likely, so is the pump that folks blow up their American made rafts with too. After three seasons my raft has plenty of soul. When an American company comes out with a similar competitive product I will be happy to consider it. As far as 'you get what you pay for,' posters should refrain from giving advice about products they know nothing about.

Should every 16 year get a Porsche? I started with a Hyundai, well actually a Geeley.

Have fun on the river!
 

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I see a lot of boats on the water, and they all seem to be floating. So, find one you like and be happy with it. Everyone has an opinion on what's best, and it's usually what they own... LOL I think one of the keys to being happy with your boat is taking good care of it. If you keep it clean and out of the sun when not in use, put 303 on it regularly, roll it properly if that's what you need to do to store it, etc., any boat made from those listed is going to suit you well.

Think more about hwo you'll use it and what's important to you. For me, having a family with two young children, I wanted something big enough for overnights and something stable. So I went with the NRS Otter, the wider version (14 foot). It's a nice size for our overnights, but small enough to have a great time on day trips (which we do a lot of). It's fine on the Eagle and Brown's, and we are very comfortable in it, both space and stability. So in short, we love it. And being made of Hypalon, if we take care of it, my kids will be taking their kids down the river in it when I am dead and gone.

A friend of mine was given an old Riken from his father-in-law. It is hypalon, but it's a bucket boat. It's got a few patches on it. The oar frame is a double rail steel frame, so it weighs a TON. I think it's a 13 footer, maybe even less. Does he care if anyone thinks it's junk or not? Hell no, he's got rubber that holds air. We took it out a few weeks ago on Pumphouse to test it out, and he had an absolute blast (he'd never been before). That's what's important. Get whatever you can afford and what fits your needs. take all of the advice here of course, but my advice is don't dwell on it too much, or the summer will be gone. Get something and get on the river! You'll be glad you did.

As for the pump, if you get an inflator (wish I would have seen that one from Amazon before), then the cheaper Wonder pump is fine for topping off. It's a bit of a back breaker, but for the few strokes you need to top off once in a while, it does the job. You could have it and the Amazon pump Raftus showed several times over for the cost of a larger, quality barrel pump (new anyway). My point was that if you don't get both, then the quality barrel pump is a MUST in my opinion. Your back will thank you. And yes, with a good barrel pump, you can inflate a raft pretty quickly. They move quite a bit of air with each stroke. The Wonder pump, not so much... LOL
 

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I'm looking to buy a 12 or 13 ft raft pretty soon, I was looking at the Aire rafts earlier, they are very nice but quite expensive.
If you're buying a good raft (and why would anyone buy anything else), and buying it new, it's going to be expensive. But there are some really good deals to be had if you just watch craigslist and be patient.

I got 20 years of hard use out of my Riken Cheyenne before passing it along to my daughter (who will probably get another 20 years out of it). I'm now running a Vanguard, which is a good moderately priced raft.

Do consider going to 14' rather than 12 or 13. If you plan to do expedition rafting, you'll quickly find that the smaller raft will be too small. A 14 is good for two or three people and all of their gear. Smaller than that, you'll be hard pressed to accommodate 2 with full equipment.

As for transporting the raft, I use a low-deck flatbed trailer. I arrive at the river with my rig completely ready, back into the water and slide the raft off the trailer. I'm ready to go in 10 minutes. At the takeout, I float back onto the trailer, pull out and tie down. Others spend an hour or two at the put-in and takeout, assembling and disassembling their rafts.
 

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I bought an aquamarine off of ebay $800 shipped...I sold it 3 months later. I really only wanted it to get a feel for the river, to take my friends on a booze cruise and just be out on the water and for that it was fine. I just didn't feel like I was actually boating, or could do any actually boating in it. I agree with other posts, be patient, check the swap section on this site and really think about what you want to be doing with it in a year or so.
I "upgraded" my ebay purchase to a used Hyside with a blown i-beam and actually couldn't be happier!
Something else that I noticed was that when I actually got behind the oars of a "reputable" boat, for some reason I had slightly more confidance knowing that I was in a sturdier, better built boat. (even with the blown beam)
Just my 2 cents.
Oh, and my Hyside rolled up and fit into the trunk of a '99 Olds Intrigue!!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Lots of good info again, Raftus i was actually considering one of those hitch cargo carriers, seems like a nice alternative to a flatbed trailer.

I have been in touch with someone about a 14' Hyside, in pretty good condition. I'm really considering that option, looks like a nice boat. Nothing wrong with it.

Also what is this I keep reading about some rafts having a blown I-beam? What exactly is the I beam and is it fixable? I'm pretty handy at repairing stuff should I come across one.
 
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