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Thread: 14/15' round vs 16/18' cataraft for AK hunting?

  1. #1
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    Default 14/15' round vs 16/18' cataraft for AK hunting?

    I'm going crazy trying to figure out what raft I should buy (round vs cataraft)!

    I want a good raft for float hunting and fishing here in Alaska. I've read a lot on this forum and I understand each type of raft has advantages and disadvantages.

    I emailed the owner of AK Raft and Kayak in Anchorage and he said that he would recommend a 14' or 15' round raft w/ frame. He said the Aire Leopard (18' cataraft) is just way too big.

    My main concerns with a round raft are:
    1. keeping game meat cool and dry
    2. Price vs. comperable cataraft
    3. storage space for gear

    It seems that a 16'/18' Aire Cataraft would come out to be less expensive than a 14'/15' round raft???

    Please help me make this decision. Either way, this is a big purchase for me and I want something that I can use and enjoy for a long time.

  2. #2
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    The choice is yours with pros & cons either way, but I tend to prefer the 14-15' round boat for hauling loads. I prefer the way they handle when loaded down. Also, a cat will generally draft more water, but their tubes are a lot bigger too, so it's not that they can't carry the weight. But it is more of a personal preference anyway.

    Looking at NRS cats, rafts & frames I came up with a quick estimate of costs - all rounded off. The NRS Otter series costs $3800-4100. ($3300-3500, plus a $500-600 frame) The NRS catatraft would cost $3600-4000. ($2600-2900 plus a $1000-1100 frame) So the cat is $100-200 less money. (These are from http://nrsweb.com so you would have to add freight) Not much difference really. You could add or subtract frame size, complexity and costs, but those are about average for each. Of course you could add another $1000 to the round boat cost by upgrading to the NRS Expeditions Series. Oars & other gear are extra.

    Another possible consideration that isn't often mentioned is that a round boat can be paddled with a crew of 3-5 people on moderate rivers, where the cataraft is really an oar boat only option. The removal of a frame makes a big difference if flying to remote rivers. Personally, I don't like the lack of control with all paddle power, but I have done it a few times. It does save weight.

  3. #3
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    I find boats to be like fishing rods and guns, you can't get by with just one. I have an 18ft cat and some days I wish I had a 14 round, but then you learn to make due with what you have. I also have a 12 ft Zodiac and a 17 Almar so I am covered on most water. I've only loaded my cat up once with a big moose and 3 people and we did a lot of dragging where a round boat would have floated. During summer floats I prefer the cat when my friend is hanging up on rocks in his round raft.
    The advantage I find with the cat is storage and portability, My tubes weigh 50 lbs each and roll rather small, the full frame I have accumulated is over 100 lbs but I rarely use it all. I also never store my boats outdoors in winter and keep some air in the tubes so they take up a lot of space in the shop hanging from the ceiling.
    IF, I could only have one boat, it would be a zodiac, if I could only have one whitewater boat, it would be a cat. And if I could only have one gun, I'd be going crazy like you to decide which one. good luck and I'm sure you will truely enjoy whichever one you pick.

  4. #4
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    Lightbulb 14/15' Self Bailer or 18' Cat Rafts

    Truth be told --- both boats will haul quite a bit...

    In making this decision - it's never an easy one, yet generally an expensive purchase either way.

    I'm gonna give you the short & quick advantages version... what I tell our customers @ Alaska Raft & Kayak or anyone else. It is a response not based on sales, brands, and what may be stacked up in anyone's present inventory.

    Advantages in Self Bailers:

    a 15-16' will easily haul even out-haul every 15-16' even most 18' Cats

    Initial weight of the boat, plus frame, and oars including all accessories... comes in @ 150-180 pounds... compared to an 18' Cat w/ all mods running 275-300 pounds!!!

    Simplicity and fewer parts... easier/quicker/more brainless to set up --- less stuff and sequencing to forget.

    Oar-rigging and paddling or both

    Loading and unloading ease on floor

    Wear & tear over the long haul,,, a Self Bailer will stand up to heavy loads and return home in working order more often than Cats needing more attention over time to bottom abraisions just behind tips and tails.

    Advantages w/ Cats:

    Much Greater Margin of Safety!!!!! I will not go into all the details and leave it at that!!!

    More Elbow room and a commanding point of view

    Multiuser --- flat water, whitewater, saltwater, engine power, oars-paddles-both, whatever

    Multi-use components, seating, flooring, tops... etc.

    Straddling or bridging obstacles, low surface tension, stability, more aggressive lines on any water... etc.

    Lastly:

    Look at overall expenditure.. believe it or not, in the end-game of things a larger Cat with mods to haul will cost around $6500+. A Self Bailer fully decked out (of the same quality and capacity) while initially seeming to cost more, will go $5500 or less.

    If you are really looking for a haulin' rig... go w/ at least 15-16' (not 14') Self Bailer and convincingly stop nothing short of an 18' Cat!!!!!

    Hope this helps -
    Brian Richardson

  5. #5
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    I have a Aire Leopard 18' Cat and love it. I have had mine load pretty good on several hunts and I'm still happy with my choice with it over the round. If your planning on using it for fishing the cat is the way to go. The cat(18') will fit in a bush plane alot easier than a smaller round raft. It breaks down into smaller pieces instead of one large pile. Mine is set-up to do just about anything(motor or no motor) and I have $5000 or less in it. You can make alot of your extras yourself and save alot of money for the cats.
    I would suggest trying both of them out before you buy. You might have to wait until summer but I'm sure their are enough people on hear that have both that would let you try them out. Where are you located?

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    I'll add a comment on fly-in trips. Cats do break down in smaller bundles, and do load easier because of it, but you really can fit a 16' self bailer into a 180 or 206 class plane. The only time size of the bundle(s) becomes critical is when using planes like Supercubs - which does happen around here - so it's not a non-issue, but it's not often a serious issue. And when you're standing on the bank with a pile of gear, the self bailer will set up a lot faster.

  7. #7
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default One more thing-

    I might tag in on what Jim said concerning the advantages of cats. They are MUCH easier to portage, because they break down into small pieces. With a round boat you have to pack the whole hunk of rubber. I have also had good success sliding the boat through narrow braided channels by simply picking up one tube and walking the whole boat through, allowing it to float on the other tube. Of course this usually takes two people, and you have to take the heavy stuff off first, but it beats taking the whole rig apart. I have also gouged out "channels" in the shallows for dragging the boat through really skinny water. You can't really do that with a round boat.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  8. #8

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    Wouldn't the addition of Oar Saddles cut down on weight and costs? Or are they not suitable for a Cat??

  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Oar Saddles on a cataraft

    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    Wouldn't the addition of Oar Saddles cut down on weight and costs? Or are they not suitable for a Cat??
    Unlike a round boat or an inflatable canoe, a cataraft requires a frame in order to hold the tubes parallel to each other. Since a frame is already required, the Oar Saddles don't really make sense for a cat. In most cases, all that's required to row a cat is the addition of a couple of oar stands to your frame, topped by your choice of pins or oarlocks.

    The intent of the Oar Saddle is to rig a round boat or inflatable canoe for rowing without the use of a frame. This has the added advantage of reduced cost, and reduced bulk on flyout trips.

    Hope it makes sense?

    Regards,

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 10-15-2007 at 18:41.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  10. #10

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    Yeah, makes perfect sense. I have only floated on a cat once and forgot all about the need of a full frame, kinda hard to hold a cat together with those saddles.....

  11. #11
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    Well, thanks for the help. I'm going to wait and try before I buy, I guess. I live in Eagle River, so hopefully this spring I'll get out and find somewhere to rent some different rafts before making my choice.

    I CAN'T WAIT for next summer!!!

  12. #12

    Default bucket boat/self bailer/cataraft

    Any way you choose to go, the major suppliers likely will have mid winter sales that will save hundreds of dollars. In 2003 I got a 16 ft. Aire Jag cat with break down frame, oars & acessories for less than $3000 ( not incl. shipping) Prices are higher now, but not by much.

  13. #13

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    Is there much of a market up here for used boats? It just amazes me how much a fully loaded raft can go for......

  14. #14

    Default used

    Absolutely, Seems as though I see more and more boats every year on the water. Especially since there are so many different needs for boats that fit different scenarios.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by whitepalm View Post
    Absolutely, Seems as though I see more and more boats every year on the water. Especially since there are so many different needs for boats that fit different scenarios.
    I've been looking.. Maybe some will pop up this spring...

  16. #16
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    There were a number of very good deals last fall both here and on Craig's List. Now that we're seeing more of the Sun the deals aren't so great. I suppose most sellers are holding off until more buyers get a stronger itch. Also most boats are stored cold, so moving them now could be destructive if there's ice in the tubes.

    If I was selling an inflatable this year I would probably wait until April, or possibly May. In fact, that's what I'm planning.

  17. #17
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default Good Info 2 cents

    Great informations guys I would like to offer a slightly different idea when making the choice.

    I love running Cats 14-18ft all AIRE Lions or Leopards fun fun fun and multi use no question about it.

    I also run 14 and 15 NRS Otters. Now you ask who gives a roaring &^%&* well I also rent alot of boats and depending on the water and the over all expierance of the person utilizing the inflatable I use a rule of thumb.

    If you have little to no expierance I like to suggest a 15ft -16ft round boat for a rental verses a cat. Jim had mentioned earlier about over all ease of operation i.e. handling better I agree 100 percent.

    So Zeb just food for thought if your looking at over-all ease of operation with a more forgiving platform stick to the 15ft round boat an NRS Otter will get you into a good boat with a great warranty that has decent performance and will meet most of your needs. If you think you need the multi options of a Cat for Lakes, and Rivers with motors and plane rides into tight spaces lean towards the cat.

    Sorry for rambling.

    Tight Lines and Best Wishes

  18. #18

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    Check out my 18' Aire cataraft in the swap n sell forum.

  19. #19
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    Wow, this thread just crawled out of the grave. Again, thanks for all the info guys.

    For the last few months I've been researching various inflatables. I've been trying to decide on the best all-around hunting rig. I love the idea of a Cat because they're well suited to mounting a motor, which adds a lot of versatility (lakes, trolling for salmon in salt water, etc). The downside, seems to be that you can't take a 18' cat on narrow or VERY shallow water. Being limited to larger rivers, it seems one runs the risk of competition from motorized boats.

    I think I'll eventually end up with both an Aire Leopard (or 15' NRS Otter) AND a Soar ProP.

    What raft I end up buying first depends on a lot of things. Right now I'm saving $ for a house, so I can't buy anything (unless it's a great deal). I'm also trying to book an Air-Taxi for caribou and/or moose for '08. I don't know if I'm hunting alone this year, or if 1-2 friends will be coming with me. If I'm hunting alone, and/ or if I don't have a lot of $, I'll probably buy the Soar. If after I buy a house we've got some cash left over, or if I'm hunting in a larger group, I might get the bigger boat. We'll see...

    Again, thanks for all the info. Hopefully this all ends with a freezer full of meat, a trophy on the wall, and lots of pictures and memories of the adventure this fall.

  20. #20
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Canoe thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by zeb View Post
    Wow, this thread just crawled out of the grave. Again, thanks for all the info guys.

    For the last few months I've been researching various inflatables. I've been trying to decide on the best all-around hunting rig. I love the idea of a Cat because they're well suited to mounting a motor, which adds a lot of versatility (lakes, trolling for salmon in salt water, etc). The downside, seems to be that you can't take a 18' cat on narrow or VERY shallow water. Being limited to larger rivers, it seems one runs the risk of competition from motorized boats.

    I think I'll eventually end up with both an Aire Leopard (or 15' NRS Otter) AND a Soar ProP.

    What raft I end up buying first depends on a lot of things. Right now I'm saving $ for a house, so I can't buy anything (unless it's a great deal). I'm also trying to book an Air-Taxi for caribou and/or moose for '08. I don't know if I'm hunting alone this year, or if 1-2 friends will be coming with me. If I'm hunting alone, and/ or if I don't have a lot of $, I'll probably buy the Soar. If after I buy a house we've got some cash left over, or if I'm hunting in a larger group, I might get the bigger boat. We'll see...

    Again, thanks for all the info. Hopefully this all ends with a freezer full of meat, a trophy on the wall, and lots of pictures and memories of the adventure this fall.
    Hello Zeb,

    I would not consider an inflatable canoe an entry-level boat. It is a specialized craft that works best on certain types of rivers. If you are on a river with lots of turns and logjams (like many of our western Alaska streams), a canoe can get you in real trouble. It is narrow, and can overturn easily if you broach against a logjam or other obstacle. The round boat and cataraft, on the other hand, are much more forgiving in this regard.

    You will encounter people who have had good success with canoes on certain rivers, and who promote canoes as wonderful for float hunting. But if you check, you will find that most of them have experience limited to just a handful of hunts, on non-technical rivers. While I don't recommend technical rivers for float hunting, my point is that most experienced float hunters will acknowledge that there are too many variables to make inflatable canoes a great choice for a beginner float hunter. Even a Class I river can have trouble spots that spell disaster for someone who doesn't really know this stuff. This is especially true on smaller, narrow streams where some of these folks are going. I hate to say it, but it's just a matter of time until we read about some of these folks in the newspaper...

    Also, you might be over-stating the idea that cats are suitable only for big water. The width of a cataraft is completely driven by the frame size. My 18' Leopard has 18" removable extensions on all the crossbars of the frame, specifically so I can narrow the boat for smaller rivers. Truth is, I've never used that feature and have floated dozens of rivers with this boat, ranging to wide open-channel rivers like the Goodnews, to narrow, winding, timbered rivers like the upper Aniak, the Swift, and others that fit the same criteria. The boat has done well on all of them. There are literally thousands of miles of rivers in Alaska that you can float with a Leopard cataraft without seeing a single powerboat. Most of them are just too far from a village, or offer prohibitive water conditions at the lower end, so powerboats cannot ascend them. The Melozitna is a great example of this, with a Class IV canyon at the lower end.

    Do your research carefully and don't let someone talk you into or out of something, without having all the info first. The "try before you buy" option is a great idea, but I would try the boats on a variety of rivers before making a firm decision.

    I would avoid the AIRE Lion and the NRS cataraft if you're planning to run an outboard. Both have a very blunt bow section and will plow like a barge. Instead, get the AIRE Leopard for your hunting rig, if you're using an outboard.

    Regards,

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 02-13-2008 at 08:00.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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