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Cat or Self Bailer FAQ

Which type of boat should I get, a Cataraft or Self Bailer?
Here are some main considerations that should be made when deciding if a cataraft or a self bailing raft is the right boat for you.

1 Price:
Cats are usually less expensive even with the framing included

2 rigging:
Cats are harder to rig initially, but are easy to clean at the end of the trip. The frame and rigging plays a much more important role in a cat. If you have a crappy frame on a cat you have a crappy boat. many times SB rafts have no frames. Just blow them up, throw some paddles in the back of the truck, and go. This makes them a real hit among those operations that rent boats. Cats require some kind of base line knowledge, and imparting that to a novice customer can be a hassle during busy times.

3 Passenger to guide ratio:
SB rafts can almost always generate more money for the outfitter than a cat. Cats can go places where SB rafts have a hard time, but outfitters are reluctant to get their customers in to that class of whitewater in many cases. There are some who feel otherwise here in Colorado, and I can get their phone numbers if you wish to talk to them about it. Many outfitters in the Durango area who operate on the Upper Animas class 4+ use our cat boats. The biggest guide to passenger ratio for a cat up there is 6 to 1, and that boat is fairly large, and would not make it down on the last weekend of the season below 750 cfs.

The reason why cats can do a higher class of water is the amount of surface area that a cat presents to the river. The less surface area that is presented to a reversal, the less effect that reversal has on the boat.

Cat boats can easily be loaded top heavy. We suggest that if you are carrying very large gear loads to put much of the gear load up high in a shallow basket or on a deck board on the front, and drop the load down in the back to keep the overall center of gravity low. The deck board is a great place for passengers, and on milder stretches they can mount their lawn chairs on top. We have used plywood decks for years this way. The people on the front off set the gear load in the back that is low to the water. Passangers can easily "high side", and actually find cats a drier ride than conventional rafts. What happens when the boat hits a big reversal is that the majority of the wave is taken below the deck. Add to this the momentum that you already have from going down stream, and when the back of the boat hits the reversal, the momentum and center of gravity (having half of the load already down stream from the reversal) help to push you over the top. Cats as a result are labeled with a less thrilling ride, yet can run higher class of whitewater and get into more diverse river systems.

If you are looking to get a cat, please remember that it is only as good as it's frame. Use designs that have been proven. Pick frame builders who know what is going on. If you are still interested, write for a list of frame builders, and I will send it to you.

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