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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #1 
I've been pondering the idea of purchasing a raft for float trips.  I have no experiencing floating/rowing a raft personally.  I have done one float trip on Henry's Fork of the Snake River about 10 years ago with a guide.  I have spent plenty of time kayaking and fishing from a kayak though.  I'm hoping some of you might be able to recommend an entry level raft that would meet the following criteria:
-easily portable (maybe inflatable? towable?)
-best suited for non-whitewater areas (primarily fishing Greenbrier between Marlinton and Lewisburg, but also venture to Jackson River in VA, South Holston in TN, and Cumberland in KY)
-middle of the road budget-wise
-could also be used for recreational floating (I have young children)

Am I stupid for even wanting to spend money on a raft?

Thanks in advance!

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highfly

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Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grousegunner
Am I stupid for even wanting to spend money on a raft?

Thanks in advance!


No. Never.

Best investment in family fun ever

Get a self bailer even if you’re mostly doing flat water

I’m partial to AIRE products, Super Puma for the win lol
The E series is a lil roomier but more spendy

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curmudgeon

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Reply with quote  #3 
AIRE is the way to go.  

Their 10 year warranty on all parts is incredible.

Whatever you do don't get one of those worthless Cat-a-rafts.

Get a self bailing boat, and go a little big with it, so you can do overnight trips.

I have the CD Model which is one size up over the Super Puma.

For those folks who whine about the cost of an AIRE, keep in mind my boat is 20 years old, and still going strong.  I have only had a few minor issues with it, all of which AIRE was happy to help me fix them.

I don't think you will get that same performance out of the cheaper knock off patent violating of an AIRE boat, named for a mountain range in Colorado.
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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #4 
Awesome!  Thanks for the recommendations.  Are there any specific accessories you suggest?  Racks?
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2kanzam

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Reply with quote  #5 
If people called me stupid for wanting to own rafts, I wouldn't own 9 of them....oh, wait... I think they *did* call me stupid... well, whatever...

There's lots of good options for an entry level, but Aire really does stand out in their warranty, customer service, rollability (size-wise, weight, ease) and ease of repair. 14' boats tend to be the most versatile, depending on your family you *might* want to go 15, but not necessary.

Don't get a cataraft.

RMR makes a good boat (I'd love to have a storm) at great prices,  but can't hold a candle to the upsides I mentioned for Aire.

This may be an unpopular opinion, as not many run a stern frame as I do.... But for family fun and leaving more open and "bouncy" space for the kids to play around in would be a plus.  Also a stern frame is more versatile in it's uses and boats they can fit in... plus its just plain fun in a big rapid. If you get an NRS stern frame you can later buy all sorts of parts and kind of have a "modular system" for different setups as your boating evolves, plus you can make some pieces from galvanized steel fence posts since they are compatible with the hardware.

Get a drink holder!  It's also nice to have a nice sturdy cooler you can stand on, sit on etc without warping the lid.

The new carbon fiber oars from sawyer are incredibly light, if you have the funds it might be a nice upgrade.

I'll stop now as I could go on forever about inflatables.

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Tazmanme

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Reply with quote  #6 
You might look up “the Boat people “ they have a review of practically every raft made . Nice for more information,I have 2 rmr boats , like them very much, , I would also really, really, really, say get drink holder , spilled so many beers that first year, well I’m a little tearful just thinking about it. Good luck, whatever you pick you won’t regret it .
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AnglinsCreek

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Reply with quote  #7 
Call Bobby Bower of Rocky Mountain Rafts. It will be cheaper than some great models such as AIRE but hold up well to your usage.

Robert Seay also has some used maravias at times. He can be found at fishnhuntwv.

A trailer is a great investmwnt for a raft but not totally necessary. There is beauty in being able yo roll a raft and carry a frame in a Toyota or Subaru.

You might want to tag along in a raft float to see for yourself. Where are you located?

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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #8 
Thanks everyone for all the good recommendations and advice.  I live in Lewisburg and I'd love to have a chance to tag along on a float trip sometime.  
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traveller2926

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Reply with quote  #9 
I have a Star Wonderbug that is great.  I used it on the SoHo and Watauaga before I bought a drift boat.  I kept the raft for the local warm water floats and the Jackson.  I also use the raft for the upper Watauga...  one rapid I am not confident enough to do in my Boulder low side... at least not yet.

You are welcome to join me on a float of the SoHo but will not be in a raft.  But, I will expect a Woodcock hunt in return.

You may recall previously I reached out to you in prior years to see if you had info on a Ryman after I had just lost one of my Setters.  Very glad to report I found some pups.

Rymans, Side x Sides and floating cold h2o... nothing better!

Let me know...


And, options...  get a fishing frame with an anchor assembly.  You would not regret it.  

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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #10 
Traveller, I'm game for a SoHo float for sure!  I haven't fished there since I graduated college.  I used to love chasing browns down there!  

We can definitely go find some woodcock this Fall.  The dogs have been finding lots of them on my farm the past few weeks as they head back North from their winter retreat down South.
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Shep

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Reply with quote  #11 
Brookie says rmr......that is the way to go.....
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Shep

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Reply with quote  #12 
I'm game fish the Soho float anytime.....
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Cheatriver8730

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Reply with quote  #13 
Here's a bit of a contrarian view of raft choice.  Love rowing and the gear associated with it. Have a rowing frame for a 12' self bailing Hyside boat with fishing seats bow and stern. It's my first choice for fishing with 3 people - especially for floats that have significant whitewater.   I use it maybe 4-5 times a summer.  It probably weighs 225 lbs rigged with oars.  Unless you have a truck, trailer or well thought out roof racks you need to disassemble the frame to transport it.  On difficult takeouts(Lower Yough, Cheat Canyon) it's a lot of work and multiple trips for an old fart like me to get from the river to the vehicle.  Even without the frame and oars a 12-14 self bailing boat is going weight at least 100 lbs which is more than I really care to handle by myself.

I also have an ancient 4 man bucket boat that I use probably 20 times a summer.  It weighs around 45 lbs and I can still roll the raft up, put it on my shoulder and hike up pretty much any takeout. The boat and two paddles will fit in the trunk or hatch back of a car. For fishing with two people(which is 90% of my floats) I find padding easier and much simpler than rowing and both people can fish.

I also would dispute the necessity of a self bailer if you are not planning on doing over class II whitewater. Sure a self bailing raft is nice but you are adding 20-40 lbs and at least $1,000.00 for the same size boat plus the added complexity and maintenance.  On Class I & II stuff you will not get much water in the boat.  On bigger whitewater, a self bailer becomes more important, as you are more likely to have a lot of water getting into the boat and a raft with 2000 lbs of water in it becomes awfully tough to maneuver. Another downside of a raft with a rowing/fishing frame is if you happen to get in trouble(pin, flip, surf) you will often break/bend something.  

I would also suggest that any boat from from a reputable manufacturer(AIRE, NRS, HYside, RMR, etc...) will be more than durable enough for recreational use.  All of these boats are designed for commercial use where they are used and abused every day.  The NRS expeditions and AIRE boats will essentially last forever for a recreational paddler.  Just my thoughts.


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McFishin

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Reply with quote  #14 
Personally, as long as it’s self bailing, get whatever brand fits your budget and size needs. I bought a used NRS. It’s 20 years old, has 7 patched holes, doesn’t leak a drop of air, has done hundreds of miles and was a fraction of the cost of a new one frame and all. If you have to go new, I think any brand will suit you fine especially if you’re just casually using it. My only suggestions are: self-bailing, cup holders, electric pump for blowing up and a hand pump for topping off. Trailer does make it easier to load and unload (which is wildly awesome at the end of a tired day) but you also have to deal with it when you’re not using it so think about it you have the space to store it, etc. Size would be your other thing to think on. Rafts can be pretty heavy for 2 people depending on strength. If it’s just me and my wife, she can lift mine with me for loading and unloading but I wouldn’t want to go any bigger than what I have. Personally, I think 14’ is a great size. Small enough that you save some weight vs a 16’+, big enough you can fish 3 or pile in 6-7 for fun runs.
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Jezur67

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Reply with quote  #15 
Cheatriver,

I've never been in a bucket boat and wonder if the floor is sturdy enough to stand up on and fish from ?  I imagine it to be kind of like trying to stand up on a loose trampoline compared to a relatively stiff and solid inflatable platform floor in a self-bailer.  I don't know if that would make any difference to the OP. 

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Cheatriver8730

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jezur67
Cheatriver,

I've never been in a bucket boat and wonder if the floor is sturdy enough to stand up on and fish from ?  I imagine it to be kind of like trying to stand up on a loose trampoline compared to a relatively stiff and solid inflatable platform floor in a self-bailer.  I don't know if that would make any difference to the OP. 


Certainly not as stable as a drop stitched floor blown up tight, that's for sure.  Not bad once you are standing. My floor is attached to the cross tubes so it's a bit more stable than a floor that is just attached to the outside tubes.  

My new favorite raft inflator is a battery power leaf blower.  You definitely need to top off the tubes but it moves a bunch of air fast. Way faster than a "wizzer" style inflator.  My boats have older military valves - have heard that some blowers are not strong enough for the more modern 1 way leafield valves.
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highfly

Brookie
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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2kanzam
If people called me stupid for wanting to own rafts, I wouldn't own 9 of them....oh, wait... I think they *did* call me stupid... well, whatever...

There's lots of good options for an entry level, but Aire really does stand out in their warranty, customer service, rollability (size-wise, weight, ease) and ease of repair. 14' boats tend to be the most versatile, depending on your family you *might* want to go 15, but not necessary.

Don't get a cataraft.

RMR makes a good boat (I'd love to have a storm) at great prices,  but can't hold a candle to the upsides I mentioned for Aire.

This may be an unpopular opinion, as not many run a stern frame as I do.... But for family fun and leaving more open and "bouncy" space for the kids to play around in would be a plus.  Also a stern frame is more versatile in it's uses and boats they can fit in... plus its just plain fun in a big rapid. If you get an NRS stern frame you can later buy all sorts of parts and kind of have a "modular system" for different setups as your boating evolves, plus you can make some pieces from galvanized steel fence posts since they are compatible with the hardware.

Get a drink holder!  It's also nice to have a nice sturdy cooler you can stand on, sit on etc without warping the lid.

The new carbon fiber oars from sawyer are incredibly light, if you have the funds it might be a nice upgrade.

I'll stop now as I could go on forever about inflatables.

I’m with ya on the stern frame for maximum fun lol
I have a fishing frame that, when not fishing, I convert into a stern frame setup with 2 paddlers side by side in the bow. That configuration is bombproof with a couple good paddlers :)

One thing I really like about a raft vs other boats is accessibility for everybody to have fun. I have a buddy who got himself wheelchair bound a couple years ago...he’s a total beast when it comes to outdoor sports and has a custom creature craft/cat that he rows on the big water trips. We’ve had some good times in my Super Puma. One memory that stands out in particular is him rowing stern with me and another buddy up front doing the river road (dry fork above Hendricks) at like 9’

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highfly

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tazmanme
You might look up “the Boat people “ they have a review of practically every raft made . Nice for more information,I have 2 rmr boats , like them very much, , I would also really, really, really, say get drink holder , spilled so many beers that first year, well I’m a little tearful just thinking about it. Good luck, whatever you pick you won’t regret it .

I bought my raft from the boat people like 17 yrs ago :)
U can make a decent beer holder with a coozy, some webbing, and some duct tape lol
works better than shoving it in the gutter

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Cheatriver8730

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Reply with quote  #19 
One more thing. Be cautious of cheaper PVC boats. Welded PVC boats like AIRE are great. Glued pvc boats will all eventually fail.
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AnglinsCreek

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Reply with quote  #20 
Great thread. Zach nailed it in you don't.need anything bigger than a 14ft if fishing is your main recreation.
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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #21 
Man, you guys definitely aren’t doing a very good job of talking me out of this. I already wanted to get a raft, but now I’m super pumped about it! Does anyone fish without a rack? It seems like it would be possible, but a lot more difficult without a rack.
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highfly

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grousegunner
Man, you guys definitely aren’t doing a very good job of talking me out of this. I already wanted to get a raft, but now I’m super pumped about it! Does anyone fish without a rack? It seems like it would be possible, but a lot more difficult without a rack.

U mean a frame right?
Of course it can be done but you are killing a lot of its potential as a fishing boat without a frame
. Doesn’t even have to be a real elaborate setup, just a place for the oarsman to sit/brace and a bench up front for the bow fisherman. Stern fisherman can sit on the tubes.
Then you take the frame off and get a bunch of friends family kids dogs whatever with some paddles n pfds for a great time

It sounds like you need to bounce down a river with someone. All will come clear in 1 trip lol.

Hit me up if you wanna try to get a float going up here in Randolph or tucker sometime

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Tazmanme

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Reply with quote  #23 
If you end up with an oar boat , you might look at “ steep and cheap “ for oars , and other items you’ll need, I would take a couple of rides with people on here if you could , if nothing else , than to think about how you would set up your own boat, that is one of the cool things of a raft it’s really what ever is in your imagination of how it set up , stern frame is a cool way to go , you might look at “ Mad catr” web site for an idea or 2 , also “ Rowframe” has a nice site for geometry of frames and inexpensive frame parts, if I was starting again I would go with modular sections , rectangles if you will one being a row seat with my oar set up , and one or two more with cooler or seat set up on each that way if you’re by yourself less weight to move, if family or friends strap on your other sections and accommodate several others, you are more than welcome to float the cheat sometime with me probably start again in May , I don’t know if it would help you any . I’ve got one of those terrible, god awful , lord help me, what did I do to myself Rocky Mountain Catarafts. Lol good luck John
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Cheatriver8730

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grousegunner
Man, you guys definitely aren’t doing a very good job of talking me out of this. I already wanted to get a raft, but now I’m super pumped about it! Does anyone fish without a rack? It seems like it would be possible, but a lot more difficult without a rack.


I fish most of the time without a frame by choice.  A lot of us love rowing a raft(See Curmudgeon -Will row for beer)however for me rowing is only better for specific trips - more whitewater, good close access points, all day trip,3 people, etc... . For two people fishing I find a paddle raft just as easy to fish from and much lighter, simpler, and easier to get on and off the river not to mention way cheaper.  For example and NRS Otter 12 with their fishing frame package is $5,700 while the Otter 12 is $3,600 and the non self bailing version is $2,600.
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Jezur67

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheatriver8730


My new favorite raft inflator is a battery power leaf blower.  You definitely need to top off the tubes but it moves a bunch of air fast. Way faster than a "wizzer" style inflator.  My boats have older military valves - have heard that some blowers are not strong enough for the more modern 1 way leafield valves.


That's a great idea I might have to try.  The NRS blast is what I use now.  It's one of those that is not powerful enough to fill a closed leafield.  I fill with the valve open.  Only gets up to about 1lb.  It's be nice to get an electric inflator that blows to full pressure. 

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Jezur67

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Reply with quote  #26 
Grousegunner,

I live in Marlinton and fish the Greenbrier a lot. 

If you want, I'll take you for a test ride in my RMR 13'er next time the water comes up. 

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"Anglers must believe they'll catch many giant lunkers each and every time on the water, or else they might not be prepared to catch even one little dinker." -EF Swagee
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Grousegunner

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Reply with quote  #27 
Jezur, that would be awesome!
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AnglinsCreek

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Reply with quote  #28 
And you will have a blast with Jezur67. Man can fish and you will be impressed with his skills.
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Tazmanme

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Reply with quote  #29 
I would double down on fishing with Jezur67 great to fish with!
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Cheatriver8730

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Reply with quote  #30 
This seems to be a pretty good deal.  Tributary boats are actually made by AIRE.

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/452117531995586/
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