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Hello Paddlers,

I am in the process of building out my raft for overnight adventures and I am in need of suggestions. I have a 2016 Aire 143D (14 ft diminished tubes) raft with 3 thwarts which has been used predominately on day long paddling trips. I was a paddle guide in the past but have limited experience with rowing, frames, and multi day trips. My plan is to do multi day trips on II-IV whitewater in this upcoming season once I get the raft built out.

Can someone point me in the right direction on what kind of frame, oars, and general gear I will need to get river ready. Any vendor website suggestions or gear list information is much appreciated.

Thanks Folks
 

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Go modular with your frame. there are a bunch of cool welded frames but you have no idea what you want or even have at this point. NRS is an easy way to go and have ajustability. I bought my own pipe and built a frame for cheap with key light fittings. there are youtube videos on how too. Get some nrs 8" oar towers.

Oars and locks are personal preference, and how much you want to spend.

Get a good drybag, I prefer duffel style watershed, but again you can go a lot of different directions.

Quality life vest that fits, so you will always wear it. Throw rope, and know how to use it.

Bow line, your going to want to tie this thing up.

Cooler and a drybox. again you can go real expensive or real cheap on both. I like both my RTIC and Canyon coolers, but an igloo might suite you just fine. Mad cow boxes look awesome, but not in my price range. Look at frontier play boxes to see if they have one that fits your boat.. I think their 37" box would do just fine.. you can do a drop bag with a board over it for your front bay, rather than a second box to make things cheaper.

I use Cascade outfitter and outdoor play for a lot of things. but i'm in the northwest. outdoor play has a 20% off coupon i think its HFX20. this includes most everything even new aire boats... Had to bite my lip when i saw i could get the 146dd for 3800 but I just bought a new boat.
 

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You are going to get lots of different opinions, here is Mine. If you aren't into going through lots of research and stuff I would go to a raft shop and have them help you outfit the raft. On your own it will look like this:

1. Get a frame. Tons of good frames out there. I think lots of folks start with an adjustable frame like an NRS or DRE frame, and that is a good idea.
2. Get good oars that are the right length for you and your frame. .
3. Get a good dry box, cooler, and other frame accessories...hope you have a good chunk of $$, cause it is going to get expensive (even if you buy cheap up front it will get expensive, cause you will replace all that crap soon).
4. Get some of the multi-day gear (groover, stove, firepan, shade, mats, etc.), and some rafting friends who have the rest...or spend an insane amount of $$ and get it all yourself right away...your choice.
 

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I just put this spreadsheet (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rM8sRUBKwyyjWS6Y5Aa6e3X830DzgaJs) together for a friend to price out some options similar to an NRS Bighorn II frame (https://www.nrs.com/product/92003.04/nrs-bighorn-ii-raft-frame).

The bottom line is there are lots of different options. I run a double rail 5 bay frame on my 14 ft boat using NRS fittings, and a foot bar from AAA Inflatables (who's website is down, but we've got DRE's version here (https://www.downriverequip.com/fram...-river-kickbar-w-o-fittings-amp-pins-pid-2383). There are lots and lots of options.

The key measurements from your inflated raft, ideally on the water are:
Center line to center line from tube to tube (then add 2-3" on each side, this is your cross bar length for a single rail frame)
Front to back flat area, before the tubes start to rise (this is the length of your side rails (+/- an inch or two)
Interior width from tube to tube (the largest drybox or cooler you can fit)
Height from top of tube to the top of the floor (this is the approximate height of how much of a cooler or drybox would sit inside the boat, the rest is above the frame. You don't want a ton of height outside of the boat if you can avoid it).

I'll let others chime in on oars and oar towers and all of that jazz.

Here are a few threads for some ideas:
https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f44/raft-porn-needed-lets-see-them-rigs-40045.html

https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f15/more-games-with-frames-21488.html

https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f11/games-with-frames-13726.html
 

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Says you;re in Denver, go on over to Downriver and talk to someone there, you can see lots of options in their showroom and they are super knowledgeable.
 

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Says you;re in Denver, go on over to Downriver and talk to someone there, you can see lots of options in their showroom and they are super knowledgeable.
...And their frames are bomber and won't fold up when your boat's getting chundered in the Ledge Hole, their customer service is excellent, their equipment is really good, they deliver on time and can build anything you want custom. Did I say their customer service rocks?

-AH
 

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Welcome, OP!

As a past raft guide, you should have a good general idea of how to read whitewater, and safety procedures, no?


Now it's down to adding a frame, oars, and gear. You should know how a boat moves, but you won't have 6 custies pulling paddles. Your boat will be heavier, but you'll be in 100% control at the sticks. Get out in your boat for day runs without heavy camping gear and get used to how your boat responds to oars, and get used to running oars.


Then gradually add gear and increase the difficulty of the water.


Expense of gear should be directly proportional to how often you plan to camp. I know that Outdoorplay dryboxes aren't the highest quality, but I only do a multiday once a year or every other year. Mine works for me. If you're going to be out 3-4 weeks+ a year, then you can justify higher quality gear. Similar rationale for stoves, fly/tarp, drybags, etc.


I think you could get a lot of use out of a quality Watershed duffle. If you go backpacker-style, you can put ALL your gear in a a single duffle and don't need the drybox.

1. Don't skimp on oars. 2. I am also an oar slut. I don't like aluminum or composite, they hurt my shoulders. I like the flex of wood.
If you buy aluminum (Carlisle) oars, look for used ones. They're not amazing, but they make great spares.

I built my own frame, but I agree with the advice to get an adjustable NRS/DRE type frame to start with. I wouldn't recommend a welded frame unless you know your setup will be dialed...and the adjustable frame allows you to dial in your own preferences.

The 143D will be a wet ride with gear.
 

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rowframe.com is a good place to get frame components that are good quality and lower cost. You can source the pipe locally and only buy the fittings. The owner occasionally sounds off here which may have lost him some sales, but generally speaking, he is smart (if highly opinionated), knowledgeable, price conscious, and will customize to your needs. He will make sure you know what length of oar to get, based on his designs and what height your oar towers should be for good ergonomics. If you know what cooler or dry box you will use, it makes the design of the frame easier, but modular is nice because your gear will likely change if you start doing more multiday trips.
If I were doing it, I would get one of his double rail, 4 bay frames for your raft. at 400 dollars with oar towers and oar locks, it's a steal. I would put decking on the side rails for easy walking. I have a drop bag rather than a dry box and get along just fine. My 30 year old igloo marine cooler handles 4 day trips just fine ( can stretch it to 6 days with moderate cooler management), get something nice if you want to take longer trips. Get good quality dry bags. You can find cheap ones these days and you get what you pay for.
 

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rowframe.com is a good place to get frame components that are good quality and lower cost. If I were doing it, I would get one of his double rail, 4 bay frames for your raft. at 400 dollars with oar towers and oar locks, it's a steal.
But why wouldn't you buy the same exact thing from Downriver for $1,255.00 ? Or Riverboatworks for $1,460.00


Seriously, give NRS a try, their frames are super configurable and adjustable, as you don't really know what you want initially, this is one way to go that will allow you to add to, subtract from and change as the need changes. They use a high quality aluminum so that when (notice I said when, and not if) you bend it, you can easily order another piece and be back in business as soon as FedEx delivers it, unlike the super spendy offerings cited above. The NRS LoPro fittings, from a strength standpoint, are much stronger in a lateral twisting motion than a Hollander Speedrail fitting, which was designed for handrail applications. I won't go into the castings which the "slap it together and get it on the shelf" companies use for the oarlock...



Once you figure out just what you want, you can have a custom frame builder such as Ron at Payette river equipment, Kurt @ Coloradoraft Frame Supply in Salida or rowframe.com, or Chris at All Metals welding in Grand Junction or another custom builder make you exactly what you want, specific to you, your tastes and your needs. Off the shelf doesn't compare to what you can have built, and usually for a LOT less.



My 2¢, your mileage may vary.
 

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I think you could get a lot of use out of a quality Watershed duffle. If you go backpacker-style, you can put ALL your gear in a a single duffle and don't need the drybox.

1. Don't skimp on oars. 2. I am also an oar slut. I don't like aluminum or composite, they hurt my shoulders. I like the flex of wood.
If you buy aluminum (Carlisle) oars, look for used ones. They're not amazing, but they make great spares.

I second this, with a clarification. In 38 years of boating I've tried a LOT of things, the watershed duffles are the bees knees of dry bags, the wide rubber zipper opening makes finding that errant sock in the morning a breeze as opposed to a standard dry bag where what you need is ALWAYS at the bottom, even if you packed it on top!


That being said, for items that go in a dry box, the duffles aren't a match for a dry box, and puncture easily with hard metal items inside. Get a quality dry box "dry in theory only" for ANY of those items. You can easily use a Rubbermaid rotomolded type box to get you going, again until you know what you want and either buy off the shelf or have one custom built.



#1 is spot on. If you're tight on money, use a 2x6 wooden frame, but buy good oars the first time, I personally like Sawyer wood or composite shafts with a counterbalance handle and wood blades or handmade wood oars as I'm getting old and like really light at the handle oars.



You can drill the handles in wood oars and insert a corresponding diameter lead slug too. They ain't cheap, but when you figure into the equation all the plusses, and the minuses of aluminum shafts or composite's like cat shafts which cost damn near as much as Sawyer's these days, you'll thank yourself many times over.



Again, my 2¢, your mileage may vary.
 

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I second this, with a clarification. In 38 years of boating I've tried a LOT of things, the watershed duffles are the bees knees of dry bags, the wide rubber zipper opening makes finding that errant sock in the morning a breeze as opposed to a standard dry bag where what you need is ALWAYS at the bottom, even if you packed it on top!

That being said, for items that go in a dry box, the duffles aren't a match for a dry box, and puncture easily with hard metal items inside. Get a quality dry box "dry in theory only" for ANY of those items. You can easily use a Rubbermaid rotomolded type box to get you going, again until you know what you want and either buy off the shelf or have one custom built.
Agree--and if you're going light, you really don't have a big stove or other big/hard items. And that stove can go in the rubbermaid.


The Watershed bag is like a Kokatat drysuit. Buy it once and love the hell out of it for a lifetime. Even as your other gear changes, that will be a piece you will always use...and I don't even have one...started with PVC drybags and have too many of them to justify the Watershed, but it's on my list anyway.
 

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Plus one on saying you're in Denver so just go to DRE and see what the options are. You'll get lots of conflicting/good advice here but nothing compares to talking to someone and touching things. Its a candy store for dirtbags. In the end it boils down to what your budget is.
 

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Another factor is storage space. 4, 5, or more bay frames, plus cooler, boat, and dry box can add up quick and kill your garage.

Alternatives for space constrained storage would be a small frame plus "trailer" add on, or bolt together designs like NRS, et al.
 

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Rental

I bought my own boat and gear the season after retiring from pro guiding for 20 years. What I didn't know, was how reasonable renting raft is. I ran a rental (16'_) forf a private group in Lodore who wanted to take small boats and Ik's. They rented from 'river runners' I think. The company showed up in the morning with completely rigged raft, & took it away at take-out.
Had I known, I may not have purchased...as I'm no where close to breaking even.
Supposedly, they sell their rafts after onl;y 4 seasons, & the rig they brought was identical to my 15'. Really nice, SB expedition grade NRS, (I think I brought my own cat shaft oars) as carlisles are terrible.
I run 'old school,' no big kitchen box at all...(its hardly necessary).
2006, a friend from AZ came on a middle fork trip, & rented instead of hauling his gear up. Fully decked out maravia (yuck) for $50/day. I'm sure its way more than that now, but will give you options...especially if you can only afford one boat. (Still like 18's in grand canyon.
 

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Here's my .02:

I've been rafting 18 years and never owned a Watershed bag. I agree they are fantastic, but they are also a luxury. For roll-top style bags, NRS price is getting closer and closer to Jack's but still not in quality think about that.

+1 on good oars. You can sometimes find deals used but you want the right size for you frame and boat, probably 9.5s. Cataracts are great; Sawyers a bit posher. Counterweights aren't necessary for that size and tend to take oars to the river bottom....

Modular frame. NRS works great; DRE looks cleaner. You can't experiment with overall length with DRE rounded corners though... If you go to a shop (recommended) they can tell you exactly how long your frame can be for that boat and you should probably max it out.

I've owned a drybox for many years and I only use it sometimes. This is a big ticket item and it is absolutely not essential so it is a good way to save money to spend later. I do run rocket boxes in my rower's compartment or drop bag. I have a SOTAR kitchen bag that fits a 2 burner Coleman in the bottom and everything else on top. I switch up my rig depending on the trip but some people don't and will always bring the exact same set up.

For me, having a drop bag in the front bay with a solid river table on top of it is one thing that doesn't change. You can put whatever you want in the bag: cans, jugs, drybags, fuel, crates of fruit, buckets, sleeping toddlers, etc. I always need a place for my wife to sit, or the dog to sit, or the kids to sit and that is the table in the front--unless the sleeping baby is in there. Buy a Paco Pad for it too. I'll leave the cooler at home before I leave the table.

You might find an Igloo Marine on sale for cheap, and if money is tight go for it. It will work fine for almost all your trips. A fancy rotomolded cooler is great but you probably have something else you could spend the $400 difference on. To me, I just don't run the trips where I really need it very often. When I get to day five of 100 degree temps, I'm happy I've got one, but that is pretty rare.

There is a lot of information out there if you look for it and you've got choices. You could piece out everything smartly over a couple months and save a grand or two. Or you can go to a shop and blow 4k in one go. Have fun.
 

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I recommend building your frame. If you Google diy raft frame instructables.com has some plans. They used galvanized line post but it's not too hard to call up your local metal supply and get aluminium pipe. Speed rail fittings can be gotten from zoro.com. and all you need for tools is a tape measure, marker, Allen wrenches, and a pipe cutter(which is cheap money)

I am not an oar slut and would recommend any affordable pair you can get, 9 foot should do it for your boat, 10s would be fine too. You could call your old company and ask if they have some old wood gulls hanging around in a shed. Bet they do, or have some Carlisle's they be willing to part with. I don't counterweight mine cause counterweights are for yuppies. Gonna hear it for that last comment.lol.

For a "not so dry box" I use a DeWalt tool box I found on clearance $35. It's gasketed but will probably leak in a flip, never flipped with it.

Point is you don't have to break the bank.
 

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Another vote for Rowframe if you decide to go modular. I could be wrong, but I really don't think you can build a comparable frame for any less, or at least I couldn't. $400 including oar towers and that's with aluminum pipe, not top rail. That's stupid cheap.
 

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Baby in the bag

Here's my .02:

For me, having a drop bag in the front bay with a solid river table on top of it is one thing that doesn't change. You can put whatever you want in the bag: cans, jugs, drybags, fuel, crates of fruit, buckets, sleeping toddlers, etc. I always need a place for my wife to sit, or the dog to sit, or the kids to sit and that is the table in the front--unless the sleeping baby is in there. Buy a Paco Pad for it too. I'll leave the cooler at home before I leave the table.

You put your baby in the front drop bag? Suppose that saves money on a toddler life jacket!
 

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My kids are never in a boat without properly fitted and secured life jackets. We did do two or three easy floats with the youngest where I rigged the frame in a way that there was a cozy padded and tented dropbag for her to nap in when the time came--still jacketed of course. The table moved forward and still made a nice seat while supported by the tubes. I don't think there was room for the drybox that trip either.
 

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Low cost/multi use: collapsible bucket and dishpans, locking biners, tarps, surplus ammo boxes
None of these are glamorous, but personally, used on every river and camping trip
 
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