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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, new to the forum and novice rafter. Was informed of this forum site from a friend who said it's a great resource for all things rafting. I just recently took a two day instructional class with plenty of river time running the raft on class II-III on the Arkansas just south of Salida, CO. I'm now officially hooked and want to make the plunge buying my own set up, but pretty overwhelming with all the brands and options.

Live in Summit County, CO so I have great access to rivers all around. Main use would be day trips with buddies and shorter overnight trips. Would want frame and oars, sticking mainly to class II-III and chill float trips. Buddy I'm splitting it with has two kids and would like to do some low key family trips.

Was looking at the Aire 143R (which we used on our recent instructional trip as well as the 13' version) and found a shop in Washington St that has some in stock. Talking with some buddies yesterday and swore by Hyside and that's the only option. Can't find any in stock and crazy expensive. I know NRS is also solid and used by a lot of outfitters. A lot of people seem to not like the bladder system in the Aire rafts, which adds stability but also weight and have to drain it after. The Aire 10yr warranty is appealing though.

Looking at the Big Horn I or II as frame options

Seems like buying skis where people get fixated on a certain brand, but plenty of solid options out there

Thanks all, any advice or suggestions is much appreciated! Excited to take the next steps in rafting!
 

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I think all three manufactures you listed make good boats. Here are some other things to consider and are just my opinions. Others may disagree. Personally, I'd look for a used boat and frame setup rather than purchase a new one. Once you have all the other gear and setup, and you are sure you'll love it, then sell the used stuff and buy a new one.

Size
Fishing only 13 or smaller
Multi-day trips excluding the grand canyon - 3 adults comfortably - 14 ft - 4 adults comfortably - 15ft.
Grand Canyon - 2 adults comfortably - 14-15ft 3 adults 16 ft to 18ft.
Day runs in Colorado and most places - I can fit in most flows - 14 ft and below. 15-16 you lose maybe 15% of runs.

Materials
  • Glued PVC - Vanguard, Star, Saturn - Lasts for 10+ years, maybe 20 if you keep it out the heat and sun. "Lowest" build quality
  • Welded PVC - Newer Vanguard and RMR - A good boat, more durable than glued PVC. Seems to last a long time. Heavy.
  • PVC and Bladder - Aire rafts - 10 yr warranty, pretty bomber. The tributary aire rafts have a 5 year warranty and have a thinner PVC, but my brother in law has one for the last 10+ years and its been great. I wouldn't hesitate to buy one (see storage constraints).
-Hypalon - NRS, Avon, Hyside - gold standard used all over the world. Just as good as Aire.
- Urethane - Maravia and Sotar - You love it or hate it. A great boat and very durable
-Wing Rafts - The best money can buy. I think they are Urethane...

Storage Considerations
  • I want to roll my boat and travel small. - Hypalon - NRS and Avon.
  • I want to roll sometimes, and don't mind a bit more bulk. - Aire, a Hyside coated in Urethane (that's what I have).
  • I want to trailer or roll very infrequently - the rest (i.e. PVC and Urethane).

Durability - It all depends on how it was taken care of.
  • Was it left out in the sun. Has the fabric faded?
  • Was it a PVC or Urethane boat that was rolled every year for storage and now has creases.
  • Was it a commercial boat that was ridden hard and put away wet?
  • Are any of the ibeam's blown in the floor? If so, that could mean the glue is starting to go. That's a big repair.
  • Are any of the baffles blown (that could mean the glue is going, not good).

Good luck!
 

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Your sense is good - there are a lot of good rafts out there. They have pros and cons (hypalon vs. PVC, bladders vs. not) but they'll all get you down the river. In my mind, a 14' boat in Summit is in the category of "good at everything, great at nothing." A smaller boat will be more nimble for smaller water (the Blue, the Arkansas). A bigger boat will be more comfortable for overnights with a family (Ruby/Westwater, Desolation, etc.). So you could go either direction if you want to maximize one of those use cases, or split the difference with a 14 footer. A bighorn frame is fine; you can do better with a DRE frame with diamond plate etc. but you increase weight and cost.

Rolling vs. trailered may impact hypalon vs. PVC.

If you can find a turnkey package you can save a fair bit of money, but the used market is pretty tight right now. Even so, building out a new package can feel like death by a thousand cuts. For one small example, cam straps are more expensive than you'd think and you need more of them than you expect. And oars and spares and dry boxes and on and on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks all, great info!

We already have a trailer so was planning to use that the majority of the time, then whatever is the proper storage method for winter. I could get a tarp or something so it's not exposed to sun when on the trailer and not in use.

My plan was to buy the raft new (if can find any in stock) and then try and find used frame, oars and accessories. Not sure I feel comfortable buying used and then ending up having durability issues, but open to anything really. I've got some buddies that said I could use some of their extra gear while I slowly acquire my complete rig.
 

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I bought a used (nearly 20 year old) Hyside. I had a friend who has run hypalon boats join me to inspect it, since I wasn't super sure what I was looking at. So far so good. It may be tougher to piece together a used frame and all the other bits that fit together vs. finding a turnkey package and maybe reselling the rubber.
 

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There's good advice here already, but will offer an affirming opinion of your plan in terms of new boat vs used....as the price discrepancy between them has likely never been smaller. Sure, for a good turnkey package ($5k MAX for a boat, frame, oars, etc), it might be worth it since you get everything needed to get on the water rather than having to buy/borrow gear...but otherwise for a first boat, I'd say you couldn't go wrong with a new RMR.
 

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Hey all, new to the forum and novice rafter. Was informed of this forum site from a friend who said it's a great resource for all things rafting. I just recently took a two day instructional class with plenty of river time running the raft on class II-III on the Arkansas just south of Salida, CO. I'm now officially hooked and want to make the plunge buying my own set up, but pretty overwhelming with all the brands and options.

Live in Summit County, CO so I have great access to rivers all around. Main use would be day trips with buddies and shorter overnight trips. Would want frame and oars, sticking mainly to class II-III and chill float trips. Buddy I'm splitting it with has two kids and would like to do some low key family trips.

Was looking at the Aire 143R (which we used on our recent instructional trip as well as the 13' version) and found a shop in Washington St that has some in stock. Talking with some buddies yesterday and swore by Hyside and that's the only option. Can't find any in stock and crazy expensive. I know NRS is also solid and used by a lot of outfitters. A lot of people seem to not like the bladder system in the Aire rafts, which adds stability but also weight and have to drain it after. The Aire 10yr warranty is appealing though.

Looking at the Big Horn I or II as frame options

Seems like buying skis where people get fixated on a certain brand, but plenty of solid options out there

Thanks all, any advice or suggestions is much appreciated! Excited to take the next steps in rafting!
Jordan River Boatworks has Hyside Rafts in stock. @BGillespie
 

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To upacreek's point, the linked NRS package (rubber and frame) is 6.5k; a RMR frame and rubber package is $5k new. 14' boat vs. 15' boat, and PVC v. Hypalon, but yeah, the used market is tight.
 

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Getting a new Hyside through Hyside usually involves a preorder so some waiting and planning ahead of time. Just call’em but if you want one for this summer might be SOL. and yeah, they are getting spendy. I think mine is $1500 more than it was just a couple years ago. Worth it if you have the time though. Generally, I think the big pre order time is in the fall and winter with the next spring/early summer for delivery times. I think they get a second batch but eh just call’em.

used frames and oars that fit your rig exactly might be tough to come by in a short timeframe. Just a heads up and personally wouldn’t bother going that route.
 

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Arguing raft brands(as well as skiis) is akin to a Ford, Chevy, Dodge debate.

Most of it comes down to personal preference. So I'll throw in my(not so humble) opinion. (You know what they say about opinions....)
Sotar, Wing, Maravia are the premium brands.
Aire, NRS, Hyside, etc are second class(but still good). Then there's everything else RMR...(budget, ya get what you pay for)
If you've got the loot, can store it inflated on a trailer (COVERED!!) get one of the top three I mentioned. If you're gonna roll it, get a rubber(hypalon) boat.
Buying new, and a boat\frame package is ideal. If you can make it happen.
I'm a firm believer that a 16' is more comfortable, especially for overnight trips. There aren't many places a 14' will fit, that a 16' won't also.
If ya need nimble, get a 12'.

My .03¢ (inflation, ya know)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Like what I am seeing with the RMR rafts and seem to be in stock and certainly easier on the wallet. Is there a big difference with the drop-stitch floor or not? $400 difference

Looking at the
SBDS-140 14' Drop-Stitch Raft or
SB-140 14' Self-Bailing Raft
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
RMR also has frame packages. For $5,339 you get the 14ft drop stitch raft, two bay frame, oars, Sawyer components, a poly deck, drop bags, cam straps...tough to beat

 

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Get the drop stitch if you want to stand up and fish from the floor. If not get the standard self bailer; it will track better. You could probably run the drop stitch soft but save your $400 if you don't need it.

I think pretty much every manufacturer has had QA issues at some point. From my understanding RMR did an excellent job taking care of their customers during that period and that's about all you can ask for. I believe they are welded now too. Not sure if that is good or bad but they won't "come unglued" since they aren't glued. Not to say welds can't fail. I don't have an RMR so I could be off base though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Per the website
Welded I-beams, baffles and seams, triple-fused with welded seam tape inside and out which eliminates the need for glue... and its problems. The best seam technology in the industry--durable, consistent, reliable

3000-denier PVC which I believe is higher than Aire

Does seem like a decent option if I can't fine used or drop the $10k for a higher end package
 
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