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What size raft do I need?

9061 Views 22 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  OregonRafter
I'm sure this has been asked before but I didn't find anything in a quick search, so I apologize for asking again!

I am considering getting into rafting with my family and wanted to get some feedback on boats. I have kayaked for years but with little kids and a larger family it doesn't make sense anymore.

I have 5 kids from 10yrs - 2yrs. I am thinking a 14' or 16' with rowing frame. We would most likely be doing primarily day trips but I might like the option to take some overnights.

I am definitely on a budget and will be looking used. Is a self-bailer worth the extra cost? I am going to start with the boat, frame and paddles (and life jackets). I'll add more gear if we really like it. Hoping to fit it all in my Subaru for now (trailer would come later). Anything else I need to consider?

Any input would be great!

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I don't think you'll get 5 kids + yourself and all rafting gear in a subie??

If your planning on backing your raft in a subie, you'll want a hypalon boat and I'm thinking 16 or 18 feet self bailer. Good luck DBK
Inflate the raft, put it on the roof and strap the kids in... I don't see the problem! The subi is just a gear and shuttle vehicle for now. We have a mini-van for the crew.

You don't think we could all fit in a 14 ft? Just for day trips?
No way a 14' boat would work for overnights with 5 kids. 16 minimum and possible 18 - unfortunately you will rule out some rivers in Colorado with an 18' boat unless high water.
Thanks for the input! 16' is what I was thinking (18' sounds really big!). We'll mostly be on the Animas and San Juan.
14' is a great, all around size for Colorado. That being said, 5 kids and 2 adults is a lot!
Find your best deal on a 14 - 16' raft and then start looking for duckies or other ways to offload people. 7 people is crowded on a raft of any size for any length of time. The older kids can soon learn to use a ducky safely and you can often put two kids in a one person ducky on flat water.
Make friends with other boaters. If they can take a couple kids in their boats it will make a big difference in yours.
Thanks for the input! 16' is what I was thinking (18' sounds really big!). We'll mostly be on the Animas and San Juan.
How about one more opinion: Get a hypalon bucket boat. Hypalon because it is easier to fold than PVC, and bucket boat because (a) it will be a lot cheaper, (b) a self-bailer will be too big to stuff in the back of the Subaru, (c) you don't need a self-bailer on Class II water, and (d) you're going to be upgrading or quitting after your first year.

You'll need a frame and oars, because the kids aren't old/big enough to be of any help paddling, and you and your wife alone won't be able to control a big raft.

If you decide you LOVE rafting, you'll be buying another raft (and probably a trailer for it) within three years. For serious expedition rafting, you'll need two rafts to carry all of the people and equipment. Teach your wife and 10-year-old to row so that when you get another raft, you'll have someone to row it.
That's quite a group. 14' is the most versatile size boat you can get for CO. 16' does take away a lot of options. You won't likely (and shouldn't) be taking the youngest kid(s) on most of your runs, so you'll prob be ok with a 14' for a while, but not for overnighters. While the comments on bucket boat are accurate, get a self bailer.

You might also consider a stern frame to allow for everyone to hang together up front where you can see them all. You will also need first aid and patch kits, throw rope, pump, cooler and plenty of straps, and a bag for warm clothes, that's pretty much the bare minimum.

Sounds like the subaru will work since you are strapping kids into the boat on top of the car. :)

But frame and oars can go on top with cooler and rolled boat in the wagon, I bet you can make that fit. Good Luck!
Great ideas, thanks! I think I'll look for a 14' with the stern frame for now. If we love it, I might just get another 14'! :p Definitely will not be taking the 2yr old on many trips, just the flat and low water runs.

Thanks again!
You will love it if your family likes the water at all. If camping is your thing than even more so. I say don't waste your time and money and look for used 16 foot with a good gear frame. Don't pass on a good boat deal trying to get them at the same time (but it is ideal). I would suggest self bailer not because of whitewater but the easier sand removal (unbelievable amounts with 5 kids) at the takeout when your kids are done and ready to leave. Especially if you have to roll every time.
from your post count you obviously have not been on the buzz long, so you are forgiven for not realizing that boat size does not matter as long as you have a yeti cooler.
I have 7 kids (ages 11 and under) and fit all of them into a Aire 156R for day trips. In warmer weather they spread out into a couple of IKs as well.
Hypalon, urethane, pvc.......or latex?!

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If you are looking to do day trips with a small frame and paddles, a 14'r will work. I've been on a couple of day trips with 9 in a rig that was light on gear. If you are looking to oar up and throw dry boxes, coolers, rocket boxes, etc... you have no chance with a 14'r. That said, a 14'r seems like a good size for CO water... And great for fishing. I guess it's going to depend on if you want to grow with the sport and start doing the overnight thing.

IMNSHO, hypalon is the way to go. It lasts pretty long and it rolls up nice and tight. The roll is good especially if you are not ready to commit to a trailer.

Just my .0002.

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As someone who rowed the Animas for years I would suggest the 16'.

In another month there wouldn't be a problem with taking the 2 y.o on the Animas.

Personally I don't care for stern frames, especially if you want to do overnighters.
In my 14'ers I can hold 3 people including me and all our camp gear comfortably. I can do 4 with gear...but 1 person has to basically ride facing me with our legs interlaced...very uncomfortable.

I can also take the 3 people, gear and boat in my subaru legacy sedan with the cargo rack....but there is no room for a 4th person.

Day trips and running a stern frame I still prefer 3 people including me on the boat....4 is ok but it's harder to fish. I CAN take 7 including me but I feel cramped although it's not too bad if people are swimming or if you are beaching alot for lunch, drinks and swimming.

Not that I can ever drum up 7 people to go....hell I asked 21 people to come float the New River with me last week and didn't have any takers. The tomato fences can wait folks!!!
If you'll be doing day trips only, 14-15' will work well with a stern frame and the rest of the family paddling for fun. If you have multi-day in mind (even an overnighter), you should consider 16'. I run multiday trips with my family of 6 for 4-5 days in Aire 156D. I will be sending my oldest (12) to a kayaking school this year, so that she can eventually be our safety or weep.

One word of advice. Never go on a 1-boat trip. If you are thinking of taking your whole family on your own boat, don't. Even in class II, you could get yourself and family in some serious trouble. If you are doing multiday, you will always be with at least one other boat. I would never run any river just with my whole family in one boat. Some may disagree, but I rather err on the safe side. If you have at least another boat in your trip, things get a lot easier. You can share the gear load, and will have more room for passengers. As you add more boat, your expedition will be more manageable with more options. If you are starting out, I would recommend going with an outfitter and you row your own boat with older kids or your wife until you get competent in your rowing skill. It doesn't take a lot to row a boat, but to be responsible for the lives of your loved ones, you should take every caution. I've learned that most fun and safe way to raft with the family is to meet other rafting families/friends. If you want some further suggestions, feel free to PM me.
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when looking to buy a raft, always get something that can do it's most demanding task.

in your case that's hauling 6-7 family folks for a 16-18ft would be my recommendation. 18ft being my strongest suggestion. it will also be the most pleasant for the passengers too. i'd imagine that would be important if you want to do it more than once with a wife and kids.....;)

for hauling that many people + gear for multidays, look at loading the gear pile mostly in the center, just in front of the rower, row on the cooler and put your herd in both the now mostly open areas on the bow and stern.

keep in mind, 18fters are common on low water runs like the MFS so they can get down some bony shit with a skilled oarsman. they will also ride higher in the shallows vs punching down in a overloaded 14fter. also, upgrading is expensive as you need a new frame, oars, bigger cooler;),ect not just the boat.
Your story sounds similar to mine except we only have one kid at 1 1/2 years. We had gotten into a 14ft self bailer this year and have done multiple day trips and one evernighter. A 14ft would probably work ok but will be crammed with a frame and gear. Children add a bunch more gear. As mentioned above float with others for safety and stick to mellow waters with the young ones on board. I found that a row frame is a must so that one can row while the other adult keeps a watchful eye on the little one. A self bailer is a must. Spend more time watching the kids rather than bailing water. Shade for the raft is a MUST for longer floats. Hope this helps and enjoy.
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