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Discussion Starter #1
My wife and I have been renting for years and are finally ready to buy a new boat but could use some advice...

Here's our criteria:

We have the budget for only one boat.

We don't mind buying a new boat. We prefer to buy the right boat the first time and keep it til it dies. We'd like a well-built, durable boat that will last a very long time.

We love paddling. We'll probably do more day-trips with an R2-R4 setup than we will multi-days with a frame/oars.

But we would also like a boat that's good for shorter multi-days with 2 kids. Most of our multi-days will be local (S & S/W Idaho) 1-2 nighters. There will be an occasional 3 and maybe 4-night trip, but not often enough to make it the primary criteria in our decision.

Choosing a boat that provides a balance between performance/having a blast while paddling R2 or R3-4 (or more) and having the capacity for multi-days is our primary goal but also our toughest dilemma.

We are not partial to any manufacturer. We've paddled and rowed Aires, Maravias and NRS and liked them all. We've never been in one but are also considering SOTAR.

Any feedback, advice, tips etc. you are willing to share will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
 

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I think you're on the right track with name brand boats. I'd look for a used non-commercial high quality boat off Craigslist or similar. It'll give you the best quality for the buck. For what you described I'd look into a 13-14 ft range. Shorter if you'll be doing more r2, r3. Longer if you'll be plan on doing much camping trips with the family of 4. Even a 14' for supporting that many you'll need to make decisions on what all you take. But really you'll find the gear/space you need and bring is close for an overnighter vs 3-4 day trips.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, OR.

Our biggest decision-making dilemma is size and trying to balance the cargo needs for 4 people on a multi-day trip and the desire to have a boat that's a lot of fun for paddling with 2-4 people...
 

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Will you be rolling your boat or trailering? I assume you will get an oar frame down the road for multi days. Aire, Maravia, Sotar are all great boats, made here in the US. Unless you are in a financial pinch, I'd stick with those three brands. Based on your location, I'd highly recommend AIRE. Their 10-year no-fault warranty is unique in the industry. That means if the boat falls off your trailer and gets destroyed, they will repair or replace it. From your description, something in between 13' and 14' will serve you well. For if you see more R2 than R4, 13'. If you see yourself taking a couple paddlers along, 14' will be nice and double as a great multi-day boat for a family of 4. If I were you, I'd pick 14', but I don't paddle. I love the expedition aspect of rafting more than the paddling one, so I may be biased. But, either will serve you fine. There have been a few discussions on this topic recently. Go for the diminished tube design if you love paddling. Even for rowing exclusively, I love the design.
 

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Aire 143D

You should definitely consider an AIRE 143D. I have rowed and paddled many 13-16' rafts, including NRS, Maravia, Avon and Hyside, and the 143D is a very sporty boat with its 20" diminishing tubes and little more rocker than normal, but still packs a big payload when needed. You can R3,R4, & R5 on the Lochsa and then load it up and take it down the Main or Lower Salmon. It holds almost as much cargo as an AIRE 156D or a Williwaw 1.5, but is almost as sporty as super puma or a spider. I am pretty sure AIRE has demo boats you can try out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Verendus, that for the reply.

We'll eventually get a trailer. We have a truck with a 6' bed, so transportation isn't really a concern.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The Aire 143D is a boat we've been thinking about. We've also been thinking about teh Maravia Diablo. Anyone have experience with both, (paddling or rowing) that they can share?

We've been leaning toward a 14' boat for paddling, but have been afraid of having to limit our cargo too severely on multi-days. That's why we've also been considering a 15' boat.

Does anyone have experience using a 14' boat on multi-day trips with 4 people? Any feedback you can share?

Thanks again, everyone!
 

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I have the NRS Otter 140 (14' long, 7' wide). They also make the Otter 143 (14' long, 6' 6" wide). I got the 140 for the extra width - a little more cargo room for multi-day trips, a little more stability. We also have two kids, and we've done as much as 7 day trips so far (in groups, but can get all gear we need to go solo if need be). We also paddle it on occasion, at least until I got the mini-Max. I've never R2ed it, but I've paddled it with 4 to 6 paddlers (plus a guide). Paddling, rowing - doesn't matter. I really like the NRS that I have.

That being said, everyone seems to like the boat they own among the top brands. I think 14' is a good size for what you are looking for, the brand is somewhat less important if you stick with the major brands. Probably the biggest consideration there is material. That will determine weight and stiffness and how hard it is on your ass when sitting on it paddling all day.

Don't forget Hyside too. Been in quite a few of those and those are nice boats too.
 

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There are several threads about raft choices in the raft gear forum. One I started and another I've been posting in and following. You seem to be in the same ballpark as me. I'm looking for a multi-day boat that's also sporty enough to replace my cataraft that I've been rowing for 16 years. I mostly run solo, no passengers. I'm looking at diminishing tube design rafts. Sotar SL is the one I'm leaning towards. Most folks have recommended a 14 footer for me, but some think a 13'6" would also work. Seems like the diminishing tube rafts have a good amount of cargo space, although they can't carry as much weight as a standard tube raft of the same size. A 13-13'6" would be a great paddle raft, and maybe an ok multi-day raft, but tight. All the major brands that have been mentioned are great and have lots of size and style choices. Since you are in Boise you can look at Maravia and Aire easily.

Threads to look for - WWJRD and Sotar SL, who has one?
 

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Haven't rowed a Diablo before, but have rowed a Williwa 1 & 1.5, and a Zepher, I am pretty sure the Diablo will be more sporty, but won't hold as much people/gear. The 15' Zepher was almost as sporty as the 143D, it might be your best best if you want to go 15'. My wife and I took our 3 kids and dog down the main with our 143D, but that was probably about max load for it.
 

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Some of the larger companies offer a package deal that will save you some money over buying everything separately. If you were near Denver I would recommend Down River Equipment or AAA Inflatables but there is probably a similar one stop shop in your area.
 

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I am a big fan of 14' boats if you're not planning on owning a quiver of rafts. Both my current and last rafts are 14ers and I think that size allows the best compromise if you plan to both row and paddle it. I do both paddling day trips and camping trips with a frame on that raft. I have r2'd on 14' rafts. I don't know if I'd call it "fun". It's okay and it'll get you down the river. Paddling a raft that size, 3+ people is more enjoyable. But I couldn't imagine going smaller then 14' if you plan on rowing multi days. I have done weeklong trips for 2-3 adults, and plenty of 2 adults and 2 kid family trips, out for 2 to 4 days, on that same raft. I try to keep a pretty efficient and organized raft and have never been uncomfortable as far as people or cargo space on a 14er. There's lots of fun to be had on that size raft.
 

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I have a 143D and if I was buying new I'd be looking hard at the Zephyr. I think a Diablo is too narrow for what you've described. Zephyr was/is on sale at Cascade now. If you need to see a 143D rigged shoot me a PM...its inflated on the trailer with the frame on.
-JP
 

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I have a Maravia Diablo. Love the length, but it is much narrower than other 14'ers. I have 35-36 inches between my tubes - seems the standard dry box is 38". I like the narrowness for rocky, technical low water.

I don't have a trailer currently, but will be buying one this winter. This boat is a b*tch to roll up. Had an AIRE 130E prior to this one - it rolled down to 1/2 to 2/3 the size of the Maravia.
 
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