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Thread: Cataraft or raft

  1. #1

    Default Cataraft or raft

    Hello,
    I've become addicted to floating down rivers, and so I'm thinking I should buy a raft instead of continuing to rent one. Here are my requirements:

    -float hunting for moose and caribou, but I would like to take it fishing in the summer as well, but that is only a secondary requirement.

    -big enough for two people/one moose, or two people/two caribou

    -at the same time be manageable by one person and able to fit into a cub.

    So I was thinking a 14' Otter or a 16' cataraft. From the research I've done here's what I have gathered thus far regarding these two types:

    -The cat is more maneuvarable, more space for cargo, lighter in the plane, and a little less expensive, and if I wanted I could attach a motor for puttering around lakes or getting me down a sloooow river. But, it drafts more, and is harder to assemble.

    -The raft goes together a little easier, and doesn't draft as much. But, it is heavier and a little more expensive.

    That's where I'm at right now. Any thoughts?

    -bobble

  2. #2
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Some great insights are offered in this old post by one of our moderators, Mike Strahan.

    http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/akf...ting/20902.htm
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks, that was some good info. At this point I ask if there is any reason why I should not go with a cat?

  4. #4
    Member alaskachuck's Avatar
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    Default

    I'm a cat guy. Asking this is like asking Ford or Chevy. Round boat guys love thier gear, cat guys the same. It is just a matter of what fits your best. I have seen Mike do his loading show on his cat. Man it will haul some gear. I like my cat becuase i have such good control over it. Roundboats are a little more sluggish to me. Then again Im on the oars of the cat all year long and only jump in a round boat a couple of times a year
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

  5. #5
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Chuck makes some good points. I am new to rafting, but I recently went with a 14'4" Sotar non-self bailer. Reason why is low weight. It only weighs 93 lbs. I needed a raft for remote fly in trips. That is what this custom raft was designed for. Obviously, being a non-self bailer is not an issue unless you are in heavy (and continous) whitewater. I will use mine on class I and II mostly with just some sections of class III. Point is, for my needs, it is more than enough boat. The lightweight allows me to fly with it (100 lbs is max limit). I have a custom 6 piece frame being fabricated that will weigh about 20 lbs. So for my needs, this made sense. I needed something I could fly easily with. You will hear different thoughts of course and I am sure others will chime in on this soon. But the one thing I would suggest is to give your intended usage considerable thought. That will dictate which craft is best for you.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  6. #6

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    I would say for most people a cat is a good choice for all the reasons stated. And, I would like to add one more: you really don't have be that strong of a boater to run one as they are very easy to control and move from one shore to the other. For about 75% of rafter experiences, it is by far the best choice.

    Mike brings up some points. But, with that said, there is one that wasn't stated in anyone's compare and contrast. And that one is that a raft when fully loaded is really hard to flip. And I mean really, really hard. Sure it can be done. But it is tough as the weight is right at the waterline, or even below. When I first started on extended trips and used to load up my old yellow 12 foot non self bailer with a skirt for week long trips on the Salmon, Selway, or the Deschutes it handled like a tank. The weight made it blow through holes like a freight train with all the momentum you could get going in. The weight being so low makes them very stable. Cats on the other hand have their weight significantly higher than rafts do and start to handle like a top heavy SUV. I have watched some really big cat that were heavily loaded flip in some surprisingly wimpy whitewater.

    Clearly, most of the time it won't matter at all that a CAT is a top heavy SUV on the water. They have great attributes. I think overall they are the best choice by far. But, being heavily loaded on a class IV-V river on a long term trip just isn't one of them in my humble opinion.

  7. #7
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    Default

    AlaskaChuck is right that this is more a personal decision than anything. But that said, I take issue with a couple of bobblehead's statements about the advantages of cats.

    Generally round boats are more maneuverable than cats, as they turn quicker, and so can make short moves in less time. But cats rows faster in a straight line, so can make long moves in less time.

    Also, a cat generally weighs at least as much, if not more than an equivalent round boat. The depending on the cat frame's design, it will usually more than offset the lighter weight of the cat tubes. I think the lightest weight option is still the tub floor (non-bailer) round boat. I'm not sure you can even get a 14' self bailer in a Supercub, but I've never tried it. I'm sure someone else knows. In any case, a cat can load in smaller pieces.

    You can use a small motor on either boat, but the cat can actually take a pretty large one and really get up and scoot. Without some serious modifications you will likely get very wet doing so, but travel time can be very short.

    A cat will need a wider channel, but can often straddle small obstacles, so two narrow channels can occasionally work instead. But generally the round boat works better on smaller streams.

    Cats, being wider, are inherently more stable, but as T.R. points out, loading them heavy can remove this advantage.

    I have both, and have used cats far longer, but for an all around boat, or a hunting/fishing boat, I prefer a round self bailer. For whitewater, the cat is nearly always the best choice.

  8. #8
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Mike's tunnel vision

    I used to think that catarafts were the only way to go. I'm sure that was influenced by my first float hunt, which took place on the Noatak River, in a cataraft.

    I now own both types of boat and have learned that for me, the choice is determined by the river and the load. I could write ten paragraphs explaining that (come on, you know I could), but this is the bottom line for me. On narrow, brushy rivers I prefer a round boat. On larger rivers where we have to cover long distances, I prefer an outboard-rigged cat.

    I agree in part with the cat being top heavy, but only those cats without drop floors. Some floaters rig their cats with flat frames, so everything is loaded on top of the tubes. But most float hunters rig with a frame that drops down in between the tubes. With this kind of setup, equipped with a floor system, the cat is no longer top heavy. The load should be about the same distance from the water as with a round boat using cargo platforms at each end.

    If you're looking to buy, you might try renting first, to see what you like best.

    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/
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  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Non bailers

    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    Chuck makes some good points. I am new to rafting, but I recently went with a 14'4" Sotar non-self bailer. Reason why is low weight. It only weighs 93 lbs. I needed a raft for remote fly in trips. That is what this custom raft was designed for. Obviously, being a non-self bailer is not an issue unless you are in heavy (and continous) whitewater. I will use mine on class I and II mostly with just some sections of class III. Point is, for my needs, it is more than enough boat. The lightweight allows me to fly with it (100 lbs is max limit). I have a custom 6 piece frame being fabricated that will weigh about 20 lbs. So for my needs, this made sense. I needed something I could fly easily with. You will hear different thoughts of course and I am sure others will chime in on this soon. But the one thing I would suggest is to give your intended usage considerable thought. That will dictate which craft is best for you.
    Dan,

    It should be pointed out for the new folks that the reason non-bailers are so light is because they don't have an inflatable floor. While a non bailer will certainly haul more weight than a bailer, I prefer the bailer for the following reasons:

    Cold floor. The non bailers will freeze your feet if they are resting on the floor. The bailer offers an insulating cushion of air between you and the glacial temperature of the water.

    Waterbed syndrome. Walking on the floor of a non bailer is like walking on a waterbed. It's very unstable, and wherever you are standing is the lowest part of the floor. Therefore the water in the boat (there will always be some) will pool around your feet. Walking in a bailer is much more stable.

    Performance issues. Most bailers have either ribbed floors (which offer better tracking) or flat floors (which offer better spinning). Either one is a better performer than the non bailer. With the non bailer, the water pushes up on the floor, so it is actually higher than the tubes in relation to the water. This means that you are maneuvering a rim of air (the tubes) down the river, as opposed to a boat where the floor is at or close to the same level as the tubes. The bailers offer better performance.

    It's all a trade-off. A person's choice in these matters will always involve a calculation of the differences and a compromise of some kind.

    Regards,

    -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

  10. #10
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default

    Mike,

    Self bailers have some advantages, but flying one up from North Carolina is certainly not one of them

    100 lbs is the max limit of any piece of checked luggage. Looked at the weight of any of the 14' self bailers lately? Most are in the 130 lb range. Take that and a conventional breakdown frame with a cooler seat, oars x3, etc.. and you are at 200 lbs. My needs were very specific. 93 lb raft, 20 lb frame, + oars.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  11. #11
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Red face The Pefect Raft

    Bobblehead - The perfect raft... it does not exist.
    In your original post you asked for guidance in finding your ideal or perfect raft to meet all or most of your needs. It is a great question and we have all asked that question, and we have all worked towards finding that do-it-all raft, and even with todays technology and space-age materials....it does not yet exist.

    For two rafters, their gear and food for a ten day float-hunt, and one big dead moose I like having an 18 foot Leopard with a breakdown frame. You can get the parts in a cub and it will handle the "heavy end" of your to-do list. But the "light end" of your tp-do list will suffer.

    The solo rafting and fishing trips will suffer because you, the rafter, needs that other person to help crew the boat. An 18 foot AIRE leopard with breakdown frame weighs in at 165 pounds with only one passenger seat and with three (relatively heavy) Carlilse oars. Without large eddies, that big boat is difficult to lanch and stop by oneself. Without a partner, it is even difficult to wrestle it up onto a snowmachine trailer.

    A better solo boat might be something like a AIRE Puma or Super Puma. When floating light and even with one passenger I can ferry it across the Kenai River and end up upstream of where I started. And even moderately loaded and with a deboned ram or caribou it is still light enough to crew by myself.

    So I believe that the perfect raft for you, and for me, does not yet exist....which is why I have four boats. Perhaps the next generation of rafts will be made with lighter, stronger, more flexible plastic or rubber. Perhaps some new super light and strong composit materials will replace aluminum and steele frames. Then we will have the perfect boat for both "heavy and long" and "light and short" floats.

    Just what I need.......more rafts!

    Dennis
    Alaska True Adventure Guide Service.

  12. #12
    Member Daveintheburbs's Avatar
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    Default

    Bobble, why a 16 ft cat? If you go with one get an 18' model to handle your specs. I wound up with a Lepoard for bigger rivers and a traveler for small. Comments Gents?

  13. #13

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    While I have never owned one, my favorite cats are those little dinkly 10 foot surf cats with the huge tubes. I believe they were SOTAR tubes. They are a BLAST on short floats. And they were special order with a Bob Roxle stainless steel lightweight frame. Incredible fun. Even if you flip them, they are painless to flip back over. I wish I had one.

  14. #14
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Yes, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    Mike,

    Self bailers have some advantages, but flying one up from North Carolina is certainly not one of them

    100 lbs is the max limit of any piece of checked luggage. Looked at the weight of any of the 14' self bailers lately? Most are in the 130 lb range. Take that and a conventional breakdown frame with a cooler seat, oars x3, etc.. and you are at 200 lbs. My needs were very specific. 93 lb raft, 20 lb frame, + oars.
    Dan,

    Yes, I'm aware of the weight differences. We've talked about this before. But your situation is unique in that you are trying to bring all your gear, including boat, to Alaska as checked luggage. This is not a practice I recommend, primarily because I don't believe it is possible. By the time you pay the excess baggage fees, overweight limits (anything over 50# is considered overweight), etc, you're going to spend more money than if you just shipped it as cargo or through parcel post.

    I say this, having nearly 25 years in the airline business here in Alaska. I have also shipped thousands of pounds of gear all over the state, and quite a bit into and out of the state, so I have some experience with this. Not saying I can't learn something new, but I can't see getting all your gear, plus raft, plus frame and accessories, plus food, as baggage. But if you did make it work, that just gets it to Anchorage or Fairbanks. If your air charter is based in one of those cities, you might be fine. But if you have to catch a hop out to Aniak, McGrath, etc, you're flying in a very small aircraft and the planes are typically full. Translation: your gear will be bumped due to space limitations.

    Finally, keep in mind that you are charged top dollar for excess baggage but the baggage travels standby. Yes, that means that you pay a high price for potentially arriving at your destination without your stuff. More than once I have waited several days for my hunters' gear to arrive in a village as a result of this situation. Now I just ship it as cargo well in advance and I have had no trouble.

    As I said, your requirements are unique. I would not recommend this practice.

    -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

  15. #15
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Cool Correction

    Correction to post #11 above......an 18 foot AIRE leopard with frame weighs about 265 pounds. And that is why is requires two people to crew it, that is why a raft that size is not appropriate for solo floats. An AIRE Super Puma with frame weighs about 150 pounds, and that is why it is great for solo floats, but totally insufficient for long, heavy floats. Which is why I still think you need two boats to do the stuff you want your boat to do.

    Dennis
    AK TAGS

  16. #16
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Mike,

    I was not recommending that the OP do what I do. I tried to be extremely clear that my needs were rather unique. The point I made was that we all have specific needs and he should give lots of thought to that before buying anything. My needs were for a super light raft oufit that I could bring up from NC.

    And as far as shipping gear as cargo from North Carolina to Alaska, it would cost me a fortune compared to the $50 or $100 I pay in overweight charges (going each way of course). I hope you don't think I would have went through the considerable stress and expense if it cost more. After 9 round trip flights to Alaska from NC, American Airlines and Alaska Air have yet to "bump" my bags. Been to Kotz, Nome, Dillingham, and Fairbanks. Hopefully I won't run into any of the trouble you warned me of. It would be frustrating to arrive and find out my bags had been "bumped". I will keep my fingers crossed on that one

    And for what it is worth, I will only be traveling with one bag that is overweight. I have put a lot of thought into this man. Just had to think outside the box to get it done. And convince the frame fabricator. He, like you, was very doubtful at first. I will have a duffle bag with frame/oars and the raft in its bag. Total weight guessing to be 150 lbs (I have not picked out the oars yet).
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  17. #17
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaTrueAdventure View Post
    Correction to post #11 above......an 18 foot AIRE leopard with frame weighs about 265 pounds. AK TAGS
    I thought that sounded pretty light
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  18. #18

    Default

    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it.

    If I wanted a large craft for moose and extended hunts I'm looking at a 18' cat. What about for the solo caribou/sheep/bear hunts? Could I get away with a 12' non-bailer? (maybe a dumb question) Would I need an oar frame or could I just use a paddle to save on weight?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobblehead View Post
    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it.

    If I wanted a large craft for moose and extended hunts I'm looking at a 18' cat. What about for the solo caribou/sheep/bear hunts? Could I get away with a 12' non-bailer? (maybe a dumb question) Would I need an oar frame or could I just use a paddle to save on weight?
    Yeah a 12 footer for one guy would be fine in my opinion. In fact, I have gone on lots of 3-4 day trips with a 12 footer with 2 people. I have no idea how you'd get by without an rowing frame with one person. In my opinion they are a must have even with a rowing crew. Yet, with that said, every once in a while it is fun to run a paddle crew, hit the big stuff, get the thow bag wet, and go for a little swim in the right conditions.

  20. #20
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Not sure how well you would do in a 12' raft and a paddle if going solo. That could become an exercise in frugality. I would suspect you would need an oar frame to use a raft if going at it alone. For solo hunting trips, a SOAR inflattable canoe with a kayak paddle would be easier.

    http://www.soar1.com/soar_pro.htm
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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