Cataraft Questions

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by Brett Dean, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. Brett Dean

    Brett Dean New Member


    I've joined the forum to gather some information regarding Catarafts.

    I'm interested in purchasing a 2 person Cataraft and was wondering what's the best approach and recommended sizes. This is my first Cataraft. I'm not really looking to get into whitewater high class runs, but maybe later I might get into it. For now I'm just interested in multi day light rafting with my wife or son, (and maybe solo at times) and only what to buy one boat.

    I'd like to get at least a 12'/14'....maybe larger?

    Questions: And I know I'll have more later.
    Is larger better? Easier, more difficult to maneuver?
    Is it best to buy tubes and frame separately?
    (It seems I'll be saving money if I do)

    I'm looking at either Maxxon tubes, or Jack's Plastic Welding tubes. Separate Frame?
    Or Steelheader, Bad Cat complete boats.

    Any information will be greatly appreciated.

    All the best,
  2. shawn k

    shawn k Member

    For a two person Cat I would go with a 14 ft boat. Sure you could do it with a 12 footer but it can get overloaded very easy. nothing is harder to row than an overloaded cat. Also with a 14 foot boat you can possibly modify your frame and make it a 3 person boat.
    Also look at the Rocky Mountain rafts tubes. They are a couple hundred bucks more than maxxons and they are heat welded.
  3. Don't forget all the "little" things that add up; oars, oarlocks, anchors, straps, throwlines, and a trailer. I'm just finishing a cat that I bought the frame from one source and tubes (Rocky Mountain) from another. Don't know that I saved that much, but I got what I wanted. Lots of good used ones out there that will save you money if you have the time to shop around. Check Mountain Buzz and NRS Community classifieds.
  4. Plecoptera

    Plecoptera Active Member

    I recently built a 2-man cat frame with 12' Maxxon tubes. For a couple averaged sized guys it works great, but is definitely a "day-trip" boat. I chose the 12' tubes mainly to save on bulk and weight, as I didn't really have overnight trips in mind, however I built the frame so that it could be extended if I decide to go with a set of 14' tubes later on. Really comes down to how you expect to use it.

    Would also recommend building your own frame if you have the means. Using speedrail fittings (and a couple NRS fittings) I was able to make mine with a hacksaw, drill, a few standard wrenches, and an allen wrench. Even after adding cataract oars, seats, straps, floor, anchor system, etc. I was able to build the whole thing for much less than any of the commercially made 12' boats. I was even able to add a utility trailer and still be under the cost of a new boat. Something to consider...
  5. Brett Dean

    Brett Dean New Member

    Thank you guys, this really helps.

    I've been working with a fabricator here locally for the last few years, and I'm sure could make a frame for me, as long as I designed it, and I have no problem doing so.

    Another question:

    I don't have a trailer, and my thought was to assemble the Cataraft when I arrived at my starting point, then disassemble when finished. I have a Tundra so I'm sure the Cataraft and gear would fit in the back, or even the second truck or car.

    Ok don't laugh, but, is this unheard of? Do people do this?

  6. [quote="I don't have a trailer, and my thought was to assemble the Cataraft when I arrived at my starting point, then disassemble when finished. I have a Tundra so I'm sure the Cataraft and gear would fit in the back, or even the second truck or car.

    Ok don't laugh, but, is this unheard of? Do people do this?


    You'll be spending a lot of time setting up that you could be fishing.
  7. saffman

    saffman Member

    You don't want to be rigging your cat every time out. It's a pain and time consuming. I have a 12.5 foot Sotar Legend with 2 piece frame they custom built. Not the cheapest but great fishing platform and outstanding big water toy. I put a Thule system on top of my Tundra and although not easy I can load it and unload it by myself. Cat stays rigged other than pulling the dry box and cooler and putting them in the bed during transport. I had them size my frame so my cat is 72" wide to the outside of the tubes. I've done multiday trips with 2 but you really have to watch the weight. Nothing better for day trips though. Happy hunting!
  8. Brett Dean

    Brett Dean New Member

    I thought about extending or modifying the Yakima Rack I have for the Tundra to accommodate the boat, that Is a thought. Or a modified construction rack might do the trick.
  9. BDD

    BDD Active Member

    A friend of mine puts is 12 Maxxon pontoons and frame on top of his Yakima roof rack and SUV. It is a better option than setup/take down every time but not as convenient as a trailer in my opinion.
    Brett Dean likes this.
  10. Wayne Kohan

    Wayne Kohan fish-ician

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing, and I have a Tundra as well. I owned a raft for a couple of years, and sold it as I did not use it enough and I got tired of walking around it every time I needed something from my tool bench in the garage. And I am tired of scraping the ice off my windows in the winter, so I can put my Tundra back in the garage this winter. So how long does it really take to rig a cataraft. With the power pumps, it will take a few minutes to blow up the pontoons, most frames are one or two pieces, but there will be 6-8 straps to attach. Should take 30 minutes? And the gas mileage is better not pulling a trailer. Or am I way off here?

  11. Freestone

    Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

    Brett, from my observation, the majority of fisherman like to arrive with their cats/rafts ready to launch. But go to a whitewater put-in and you will frequently find cats and rafts being assembled as they are pulled out of car trunks, etc. On the Wenatchee, all spring I see big cat/raft frames on top of old import sedans like Civics. Sure it is easier to arrive fully rigged, but don't let it stop you if that is not an option. I've never had a trailer or truck so I often put my frame on top and tubes inside but I have hauled the frame inside too. For shuttles, I have hauled the whole boat on top and left it on top if I was floating the next day. Another option is leave the deflated tubes attached to the frame but when loading, it is critical no part of the tube is under the frame or vibration may wear a hole. Your estimate of rigging time is about right; I can be on the water in 15-20 mins if I hustle but 25-30 mins is more typical if I am not hurrying. But when I am fully rigged, it still takes about 10 mins. as tubes need to be topped off, gear loaded, ect. so the incremental time isn't too much. If you are floating with others, they can run the shuttle while you rig your boat. You'll figure out little tricks to save time like leaving straps attached to everything when you de-rig so you never have to search for them and the right sized one is always at the ready. My tubes, gear bag, cooler and waterproof duffle, etc are always sporting straps and are stored that way. I know people who leave their boat fully rigged with gear pockets, etc (minus the cooler) and simply deflate it to throw on the roof or in their truck bed so there is really no reason to strip it down to a bare boat and frame and start from scratch each time. With your Tundra, you may not even have to deflate all the way depending on the width of your frame vs bed. Another big time savings is to arrive with your rods fully rigged. I have a 10' PVC tube that they arrive in and this simply gets slid under the frame straps. I've sometimes finished rigging my boat before others finished rigging their rods so your idea isn't crazy.
    Brian Miller and Brett Dean like this.
  12. As mentioned above, it's certainly possible, that was what I did/do with my Scadden Sky. I can run it as a 2-person boat with 2 frames connected on a single set of tubes for stillwaters and class II waters. It's harder to do as a double and I'd hate to have to with my 14' cat. Those tubes are big and heavy. Even with the frame only it's not something you'll like much unless you are tall and strong. I carry 2 pieces of 24" long x 1/2" PVC that I put inside my Yak crossbars to extend them out 12"-16" to the side when unloading and loading. It helps relieve strain on the back/neck/shoulders and keeps the side of your shell & truck from getting scratched up. Carrying a Cat with inflated tubes on a rack is going to drag a lot of air, I doubt it's more fuel efficient than pulling a trailer.
  13. ten80

    ten80 Active Member

    I used to assemble and disassemble my 14ft cat at putin/takeouts and it became incredibly tiresome. Added 1hr to put-in time (starting with fully-deflated tubes and no straps on frame) and 30 min to break down at takeout. 10ft long frame was a PITA to put on the roof. I plopped down $1400 for a custom trailer last year and haven't looked back. I personally think 14ft is overkill for just two people. a 12ft cat with 22-24" tubes will hold two average blokes plus all the gear you need for an overnighter if you travel light. 13ft tubes would be even better for overnighters. If you go 14ft, you might as well set it up for 3 anglers so that two can fish while one rows (gas is cheaper split 3-ways as well!).

    Maxxon tubes are OK to start with but you may find yourself wanting to upgrade if you row rivers with sharp rocks and lots of sticks and logs as the material is not the thickest. I'd also recommend keeping maxxons partially inflated during storage to reduce the chances of the glued seams being damaged when stored deflated and folded or rolled up.

    You can't go wrong with "investment" level tubes from Aire, Sotar, Maravia, or JPW; they should all last you a lifetime if properly cared for. Check craigslist for crazy deals.

    I just put together a 1-man 1.5" aluminum tube (1.9" OD) frame using parts from I highly recommend this supplier because I was able to assemble the exact frame I was looking for for $400 and Gary is a very knowledgeable guy. The main drawback to welded frames is that they are not as modular or reconfigurable; I like to be able to switch things around for overnighters or fishing trips.
  14. Brett Dean

    Brett Dean New Member

    Thanks for the tip. I think my biggest investment will be in the tubes, second the frame. I'll be selling a vintage Les Paul to fund this project, and should have no problem getting $2500 for it.
    I figure if I do this right $2500 should get me nice tubes and a frame, what ever is left over will go into oars and accessories, and the remaining will be out of pocket. A trailer might be last, but I will get one eventually. I MIGHT try to customize a contractors/lumber rack, but I need to think a little more deeply on that one.

    I'll definitely look into

    I only want to do this once, and I want to do this right and not spend too much, that's why I joined this forum.

    Everyone here has been very helpful.

    Kind regards,
  15. ten80

    ten80 Active Member

    Feel free to PM me if you have more questions or want photos of my two boats for examples. My first cat was built with a large budget and the second (1-man) was built for under a thousand dollars- I learned a lot of lessons the hard way building the expensive one and would be happy to pass on some knowledge.
    Brett Dean likes this.
  16. Above invitation applies to me, as well. I'd recommend looking at these fittings vs. the speedrail Parts.htm
    more $ but much better casting & come drilled w/pins. I have a source for pins @ $0.68 each (+S/H) for the 5/16" if you need those in any #. You should be able to get 6061 aluminium pipe for less than $3/l.f. for the 1-5/8" o.d. Remember to go with 6063 if you're bending it.
    Something you want to consider is the type of tube design once you settle on a size. Rocker-vs flat. You're going to have a more responsive cat with a rockered tube like Sotar at the expense of less carrying capacity than the flatter design like the RMR.
    Good luck and let us see it when done.
  17. ten80

    ten80 Active Member

    Get an Aire and you'll have a good balance of rocker & flat for a super versatile cataraft... of course, I may be a little biased because I own two. One advantage to less rocker is a more stable boat and you can get away with shorter tubes. I floated a good few miles down the Rogue with a passenger on my 10ft cataraft using relatively flat and rocker-less Maxxon tubes. That would have nearly sank my 10ft Outcast (made by Aire) tubes. I have ridden on a cat with 12ft maxxon tubes and there was more than enough float for two people and the boat was small enough to go down tight rivers during low summer flows. Maybe not the best in whitewater, but great for fishing.
    Brett Dean likes this.
  18. Brett Dean

    Brett Dean New Member

    Does anyone have any experience with NRS Cool Cat Tubes?
  19. Brett, they look pretty good and the price is good, but gotta question the warranty; only 1 year? My RMR's have a 5-year and most american stuff is 10. I'm no expert but Urethane coated nylon doesn't sound very typical. Check the denier/weight of tubes you're interested in.
  20. ten80

    ten80 Active Member

    Urethane coated nylon is the standard for Sotar, Maravia. I suspect the NRS cool cat uses thinner urethane coating and it does not say whether it is welded or glued. 1yr warranty does not inspire me with much confidence, but NRS gear is generally good quality and the clearance prices on those tubes are AWESOME.