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Thread: Gear loading tips for beginners

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default Gear loading tips for beginners

    Hey Everyone, I am outfitting my raft gradually throughout the winter for the longer trips I'll be taking next summer. I can't seem to find much info on gear loading on the web. I know you should try to balance the load, as with any boat, but I thought I might see if any of you would be willing to share your Alaskan float trip gear loading do's and don'ts. It looks like I need to by some loop cam straps, first of all, to sling my cooler off the ground, what about loading all the dry bags? Do I need a mesh floor of some kind that will keep the stuff up off the floor? What's the consensus on rocket boxes? Do I just use cam straps to strap them-up as well? Are they even necessary or recommended up here? I do plan to do some fly-out trips with this boat as well as road trips, so I'm looking to outfit it right the first time. I'm sure I'll fine tune it on my own after a few trips, but my first long trip may be my fly-out this summer, so I don't want to wish I'd set things-up differently once I get there.

    I'm sure you guys can speed up my education. Pictures of your loaded boats would be welcome as well.

    I should note that I have a 14ft Outcast pac 1400/ Aire SDP with an aire steel frame. (I may be purchasing a basic nrs type frame if it seems necessary.)

    Thanks in advance.

    Scott
    Last edited by Scottsum; 11-25-2008 at 20:49. Reason: Boat type clarification

  2. #2
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Cargo net over?

    We used one of those bungee cord cargo nets to cover our gear pile.

    Our raft had inflatable floor, different I believe from yours. We loaded all gear bags with the opening up (one leaked after being mouth-down in water all day), then a tarp on top, which stayed put with the net.

    Danattherock had a great suggestion on another thread (http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...986#post308986) a cool mesh bag idea that looks functional. As Dan suggested, it's on www.campmor.com then type "mesh bag" into search box.

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    Member AK Tubes's Avatar
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    Default Aluminum

    Definitely go for the aluminum frame if you plan on flying out. Saves weight and breaks down nice. Make sure you mark the sections somehow. I have a cat, and round rafts aren't as tricky, but I would definitely find a way to quickly reference what goes where...Good luck!
    Where are you flying out to?
    ...been on a search to top my 30x18 rainbow for 13 years now...I guess it's game time!!!
    13' Aire WildCat, 9' 7wt SAGE RPLXI, 10' 5wt SAGE XP, .300 RUM Zeiss 3x9 when all else fails

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Default

    We did our first trip this summer on the Gulkana in a rented '14 NRS Otter. I loaded too much on the floor and managed to find every sleeper rock in our path. I think slinging the cooler off the floor is a great idea either with straps and/or brackets
    http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.a...05&deptid=1055

    I spread out the sleeping pads on top of the cooler (under a couple of straps) for a nice soft seat. This place makes rocket box slings but I haven't tried them.
    http://www.downriverequip.com/asp/pr...sp?product=363

    We loaded bags differently each day. By the 4th day we had it pretty well dialed in. But, I didn't have the luxury of playing around with different configurations at home. Definitely have a "day bag" that has the essentials you need for that day (lunch, bug spray, sunscreen, etc). If you're taking a good camera invest in a Pelican case and keep it handy. Digging into a deep dry bag everytime you need the camera is a hassle. Plus, you won't worry about stepping on it while climbing in and out. We had 2 Home Depot 5 gal. buckets with lids...they keep non-essential stuff dry and make good camp seats.

    Keep us updated. I'll have my own raft for this next summer and I'm interested in how you set yours up.

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    Default

    There are conflicting views on balancing loads in a raft. Some prefer a slightly front heavy boat to help with any holes or reversals you may run into. Others want a completely flat ride. If you're only running easy rivers it isn't a critical issue, but the rougher it gets the more front heavy I prefer it. On simple rivers I don't even pay attention to the balance. Usually the bodies of the boaters weigh at least as much as the gear, so be sure to figure out where they will be in relation to the gear pile.

    I generally prefer to put the main gear pile in back, and riders in front. If I'm packing a heavy load I sit on the cooler, and put a drybox in front of my feet. I wouldn't do a fly out trip with either the cooler or drybox though. I use space on both sides of the middle (rower's) bay to attach day bags and other small gear.

    You don't really need the special cam straps for the cooler, as you can just just use long standard cam straps doubled and looped between the frame tubes. But it is easier to use the ones with the end loops. They also make straps with aluminum brackets for coolers and dryboxes, but I think the brackets hang the boxes too far off the floor, so I don't use them. I usually want the cooler or box to be only an inch or two above an inflatable floor, or 6-8 inces above a standard floor.

    Since your boat has an inflatable floor you can put drybags and other soft stuff directly on it, as long as the pile doesn't get too heavy. A heavy pile will compress the floor and make it more vulnerable to puncture. I have even put coolers on the floor when going frameless. Not a good practice, but I don't do everyting right. A suspended floor of some kind under the gear pile is the ideal, but...

    Not many Alaskan rafters use rocket boxes. They are heavy and don't pack well on a small plane. Smaller ammo cans are seen all over though. I usually put most everything in drybags or cooler/drybox, but have my camera gear in a Pelican case. I have also started using a couple milk crates for some hard gear. I usually hang those from the frame.

    Make sure you do a couple of shakedown trips to sort your gear and packing system before doing an extended fly-out cruise. You will probably make a lot of changes after the first couple times out.

    I also have a personal packing system using several smaller drybags, rather than one large one. A day bag for sure with things like sunglasses, sunscreen, bug dope, lightweight rain gear, hat, etc. Then a night bag that has only the stuff I will want in the tent, like sleeping bag, pillow, medications, etc. All the rest, clothes, warm gear, etc goes in a third bag. This keeps finding things simple, and helps me find things with less frustration. I've had too many trips wishing I had brought something important, and while unpacking after the trip I find out I really did bring it, but just couldn't find it.

  6. #6
    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AK Tubes View Post
    Definitely go for the aluminum frame if you plan on flying out. Saves weight and breaks down nice. Make sure you mark the sections somehow. I have a cat, and round rafts aren't as tricky, but I would definitely find a way to quickly reference what goes where...Good luck!
    Where are you flying out to?
    We're still trying to decide, but It's between the Kanektok, Alagnak, and Goodnews. I'm also planning some shorter trips down the Gulkana earlier in the summer.


    Thanks for all the good info guys!

    Scott

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Wet dry bags

    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    ...We loaded all gear bags with the opening up (one leaked after being mouth-down in water all day)...
    Leech,

    Not telling you how to do this (you probably have a lot of experience), but there are only two reasons why your dry bags would have leaked:

    1. They were cheap bags with inadequate closure means.

    2. The bag was not properly sealed. This could be because it was overpacked.

    When I seal my bags, I close the flap on top (these are NRS Bill's Bags), then lean over on the bag to bleed all air out. Then I carefully roll the top down in several folds, and secure ALL the straps; the ones on the sides, and the ones on top. Using these methods, I have never had a leak. There are reports of dry bags that were lost in capsizings and recovered after two weeks pinned in logjams that were bone dry inside. YOUR BAGS SHOULD NOT LEAK!

    Not chewing you out at all... I just don't want folks resigning themselves to having wet gear or loading differently because they think getting gear wet is inevitable; it isn't. This is a potentially serious survival issue on remote expedition trips up here, when it's spitting wet snow and the plane won't be there for ten days.

    Take care,

    -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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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Balancing the load

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    ...Some prefer a slightly front heavy boat to help with any holes or reversals...Others want a completely flat ride....
    Jim,

    For the mellow rivers I float on hunting trips, I prefer to be slightly tail-heavy. If I'm bow-heavy and run into shallow water, the stern tends to swing around on me and I'm out of position to deal with the next obstacle. If I'm slightly stern heavy, my bow floats over the shallows before grounding out in the back. This lets me get out and push, while keeping my bow aimed in the right direction. It's worked for me on float hunts, but then I don't do nearly the whitewater you do.

    I like the bow-heavy though process though, and I may try that next time you drag me down through Lion's Head. As long as I'm not the guy in front!

    -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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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Loading your boat

    Scott,

    This is a whole chapter unto itself! Well, here are a few tips for you-

    1. Keep heavy stuff low. You need a low center of gravity.

    2. Keep the load as light as possible.

    3. I prefer a boat that is slightly stern-heavy on shallow rivers.

    4. Always net your load. Tarp it too, for rain or splash.

    5. Loop straps are worth their weight in gold. I use four on each end of my cats.

    6. If you're hunting, secure your rifle with a retractable dog leash. This lets you use it without losing it if you go in the drink.

    7. Passengers should keep a small personal dry bag secured to their seating area for easy access to cameras, lunch, raingear, etc.

    I'll attach a photo of a loaded cataraft because you asked... but the load is tarped, so not sure how much help it is. This is an 18' Leopard cataraft with cargo modules on both ends. That's where the gear goes (and behind the oarsman's seat on the floor). So we get plenty of cockpit space for passengers and oarsmen. Works great, but it usually bends the frame pipe to some extent (it springs back when we unload, but it looks bad in photos).

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    Attached Images Attached Images
    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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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Wet dry bags - dry gear

    Mike, Your experience/advice always appreciated - and I'm sure Scottsum agrees any tip that keeps his gear dry is cool. Still very new at this myself-doing our first flyout 2009. Your diagnosis: overpacked bag prob correct. Was SealLine Boundary 115 Dry Bag - fortunately lined w/compactor bag as recommended by Buck Nelson. I pack differently since. Thanks for the wealth of experience you so willingly bring to these forums. Dwight/Eagle River.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default liners in dry bags?

    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Mike, Your experience/advice always appreciated - and I'm sure Scottsum agrees any tip that keeps his gear dry is cool. Still very new at this myself-doing our first flyout 2009. Your diagnosis: overpacked bag prob correct. Was SealLine Boundary 115 Dry Bag - fortunately lined w/compactor bag as recommended by Buck Nelson. I pack differently since. Thanks for the wealth of experience you so willingly bring to these forums. Dwight/Eagle River.
    Dwight,

    Buck is certainly experienced in the outdoors, however in this case I disagree with him. If you're using a proper dry bag (not a cheaper version), and if you seal it properly, there is no need for a liner, unless you are packing meat with it. It just creates an additional level of difficulty for no real gain.

    There are better bags than the brand you mentioned. My preference is NRS.

    -Mike
    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/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "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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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default All dry bags are not created equal?

    So I take it with dry bags, as with most things, you get what you pay for? The prices for these things vary dramatically. I've seen the same size bags for sale from $10.00 all the way to $75.00. I see Mike likes NRS bags. Anyone else care to make a recommendation?

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Other recommendations

    Scott,

    I don't mean to suggest that NRS carries the ONLY bag worth having; Cascade Outfitters makes an acceptable bag too. The bags offered by Seattle Sports seem a bit light to me, but some like them and the prices are good. AIRE has some interesting bags, as does SOTAR. Jack's Plastic WELDING (JPW) has been around a while and has a following, but to be honest, both the SOTAR and the JPW seem too stiff for my liking.

    I think the challenge is finding a bag that's light weight, pliable, watertight and a good price. I think NRS hits most of that pretty well...

    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.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "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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    Default

    I use a Sotar bag for most things. It is stiff, but I like it. It's very durable, and so far has never leaked. But I also like NRS bags.

    I think one critical key to getting a tight seal, is to make sure, after you have it loaded, to have about 7-9 inches where the top of the bag lays together completely flat. Get the wrinkles out before you start rolling. Like Mike, I squash most of the air out by laying on top for a bit, but I have the advantage here since my belly just hangs that way, and Mike doesn't seem to have one. Then I again make sure I have the bag top flat together with a straight crease on each side and no wrinkles. Then fold it down to where it takes all the space out. The first couple folds have to be real deliberate folds too. Don't start rolling until you have at least three good folds. It's the folds that make the seal. Rolling just allows water to creep in.

  15. #15

    Default

    I use and recommend the NRS bill's bag, heavy duty version (costs $10 more).

    The only other thing to chime in on is that most wear of dry bags is when transporting them packed on commercial aircraft; not much while sitting on a raft or even in bushplanes. I would consider packing drybags inside something else rather than using the drybags as luggage. This is particularly true of anything lighter weight than the NRS bag.

  16. #16
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Packing tips-

    Quote Originally Posted by stevesch View Post
    I use and recommend the NRS bill's bag, heavy duty version (costs $10 more).

    The only other thing to chime in on is that most wear of dry bags is when transporting them packed on commercial aircraft; not much while sitting on a raft or even in bushplanes. I would consider packing drybags inside something else rather than using the drybags as luggage. This is particularly true of anything lighter weight than the NRS bag.
    Steve,

    I couldn't agree more; the quickest fix is to just use a canvas duffel like the ones offered by Cabela's. Same holds true for backpacks, which also have loose straps that become tangled in airport conveyor systems. I did a writeup on this in the Tips section of my website recently.

    Good catch!

    -Mike
    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/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "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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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Moving to proven gear...

    as we get more involved in outdoors pursuits here. Appreciate your comment again Mike. In my case Buck's advice provided a measure of insurance for my inexperience - that was my second ever float. I'll bet overpacking as you and Jim mentioned, is also a common reason for dry bag failure.

    NRS Bill's bags you mentioned also favored by other forum members in past threads, so we've migrated to gear from experienced shops (like Ak Raft/Kayak) more and more because the gear is usually field proven. In fact the one dry bag I purchased in 2008 was an NRS monster called the KOSS Kitchen Bag - a large very tough bag which doubled for collecting clear water on our hunt along the Tanana River.

    Scottsum - this is the time for end of season/year discounts once you know what to buy. Very informative thread. Thanks. Pic of monster NRS bag follows.
    Last edited by 6XLeech; 03-16-2010 at 23:12.

  18. #18
    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default Thanks again

    Thanks for all the good advice once again everyone.

    So I guess the ticket is just to get a bunch of good quality dry bags and fasten them to a mesh gear platform that's strapped across the tubes of the raft, throw another stretch net and/or tarp over top of them to hold them all in place and start floating.

    For fly-outs, do most of you bring a cooler to double as a front seat and dry box?

    What do you all think about folding camp tables for fly-outs? Are they worth the money and weight? It looks like one of these could double as a gear platform and/or seat as well.
    Last edited by Scottsum; 11-30-2008 at 09:13. Reason: Oops, I forgot the tarp

  19. #19
    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default One more question...

    I see in the pic Mike posted earlier in this thread that he has three folding seats attached to his cat. Do most of the round boat users fly their seats out for longer trips or just suffer without backrests to save weight?

    Thanks again

  20. #20

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Scottsum View Post
    Thanks for all the good advice once again everyone.

    So I guess the ticket is just to get a bunch of good quality dry bags and fasten them to a mesh gear platform that's strapped across the tubes of the raft, throw another stretch net and/or tarp over top of them to hold them all in place and start floating.

    For fly-outs, do most of you bring a cooler to double as a front seat and dry box?

    What do you all think about folding camp tables for fly-outs? Are they worth the money and weight? It looks like one of these could double as a gear platform and/or seat as well.
    Yeah - something like that; the "mesh platform" is called a "floor" and I think what you are calling a "stretch net and/or tarp" isn't stretchy material - it's called a "cargo net" - and is cinched down with straps. You can just tie things down with cord instead of using a cargo net/strap system (need to do right, however). I have seen the table/kitchen box w/ leg systems mainly by guides. Or you can take the cooler/dry box off and use that surface; or the ground.

    Seats, backrests, whether for the rower - or passengers - w/ or w/o, vs. sitting on drybox? all that is personal preference - its nice with, but not an a necessity. If using as seat on land, make sure drybox supports weight. Or bring a folding camp chair of some kind.

    There are all sorts of setups you can customize with (or without) seats, floors, nets, coolers, tables/boxes; at specialty rafting shops websites, such as:

    http://www.swiftwatersports.com/

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