Monthly Archives: October 2014

Igloo Coolers for Rafts Review

I have always used Igloo coolers in my raft setup for a couple reasons. The main reason is because the cooler fits perfectly in most raft frames.

I’m not sure which came first the cooler or the raft, but they seem to fit perfectly; like they were made for each other.

Igloo cooler
Igloo cooler

The other reason? They keep ice pretty well. But…not so well that i’m discounting all other coolers. In fact, the most recent Igloo cooler we bought has got me wondering if I should switch brands altogether.

Here’s the deal, we bought a brand new Igloo cooler last river season. We always get the one’s with the flat lid because they’re easier to deal with in a raft. The raised, shaped lids are a pain in a fully packed raft, so we get the basic flat lid without any of the special little openings. They’re actually becoming harder and harder to find (people love their gimmicks).

 

A year later; one river season later; this cooler looks likes it’s been to the barber. Both front latches have broken off, making it impossible to truly close it up tight. One side has completely lost the rope and wood handle. It’s gone, snapped off, leaving only the plastic anchor. The other side handle is half off.

Broken handle
Broken handle

So, this cooler is basically useless. It’s actually worse than useless, it’s dangerous. In order to use it we have to put a cam buckle strap around the side without a handle in order to carry it.

We pack our coolers heavy, so you can imagine trying to move it from the back of the truck to the raft. It’s hard enough moving a fully loaded cooler when both the straps are functional. It’s downright dangerous with a strap and half a handle. Every time we do it were ready to bail out if that half a handle breaks.

The thing that really galls me though, besides the fact that it’s fallen apart after only one season, is how expensive the replacement parts are. In order to fix that broken handle, which is simply a matter of replacing the side hinge plate, it will cost us 50 bucks. It’s just a bit of plastic and some screws.

Useless handle attachment
Useless handle attachment

Since we spent a lot of money on the initial cooler buy, I’m unwilling to pay for that part (I need two). I have no idea about the front latches, or even if you can replace them.

Now that the bulk of the river season is over, I’m not going to spend any more money on this damned cooler. I’m going to explore different options.

Broken front clasp
Broken front clasp

I don’t know what’s happened to quality of the igloo coolers. They used to be work horses, but now they seem fickle.

I’m impressed with the Yeti coolers, a friend of mine has one and they seem well made and worth the rather extravagant price tag.

Igloo has served me well for many years but now I think it’s time to move on.

Blossom Bar Rapid

Blossom bar rapid
Blossom bar rapid

Blossom bar rapid, on the Rogue river is considered the pinnacle rapid on the wild and scenic section. It has a nasty reputation for creating carnage and sometimes death.

It  isn’t a terribly difficult rapid, there’s just a couple moves you have to make to avoid rapping on the picket fence. If you know the route and can make the moves you’re golden.

I first rowed Blossom when I was 16. I’d been through it many times with my dad at the oars and he taught me the route.  I always row it the way he showed me, and it has always worked out well (knock on wood).

The key was and still is, to get into the first eddy with time to set up for the slot. Once you’re in the slot, you’re past the picket fence which is where the shit can hit the fan. From there it’s just a matter of picking your way through the rest of the boulder field.

 

I’ve done a Rogue trip every year at least once since I was 14, and I’ve seen Blossom bar rapid change. Rivers are constantly in flux as high water moves rocks or shifts sand, and Blossom is no exception. I’m not sure if it’s easier or harder, but it’s definitely not the same.

The eddy you pull into at the top is smaller, the water moving through it is faster, and the slot above the picket fence is much tighter. The thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of carnage it creates every summer.

The last trip I did, was the 2nd weekend of October. For some reason the river was packed. As one of my drift boat guide friends said, “there sure is a lot of rubber out here.”

The river was low, around 1200 CFS and I was thinking there would be a lot of carnage at Blossom, particularly in light of how many inexperienced oarsmen I was encountering. So our plan was to get through Blossom as early as possible and avoid the traffic jam that seemed inevitable.

It worked out for us, we got there between groups, but the carnage was there nonetheless. It had preceded us. The picket fence looked like a junk yard. It was plastered with shredded rafts, and bent, broken raft frames.

The frames were sticking into the slot, making it even narrower. The frames were broken and bent creating lethal spikes everywhere; waiting to skewer unsuspecting rubber.

Our group of experienced boaters made it through no problem, but it was tight. As I drifted by the various raft wrecks, there was gear floating everywhere in the eddies. Ropes fluttered just beneath the surface, waiting to wrap around unlucky swimmers’ ankles. It seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

At camp that evening, the masses of raft groups drifted by us one by one. We watched and tried to notice if any boats were missing, but it seemed everyone had made it through.

It always amazes me that there isn’t more carnage. There was one group we were particularly afraid for. They could hardly make it down any of the easier rapids without careening off rocks. I have no idea how they all made it through Blossom, but they did. I guess it goes to show the river can be forgiving.

Although i’m sure the people that owned all that rubber and metal still lodged in the picket fence would disagree.

Camping Cots

Since I’ve turned 40 sleeping on the ground has lost a bit of its mystique. When I was in my 20’s I used to pride myself on minimalist camping methods which meant I slept on a thin, short thermarest pad. The thing was designed to roll up into almost nothing…perfect for stuffing into the back of a kayak on some gnarly multi-day class V river in the high Sierra’s.

But I have evolved I suppose, into more of a wuss. I still do hard rivers in my kayak, but more often than not, I’m sitting in the front of our family raft as my beautiful wife rows me down the undulating rapids of the Rogue river.

 

So, I decided to upgrade to a more human sleeping platform. Something soft, something looking a lot like a bed.

I got a nice large comfortable sleeping pad. That went very well for a number of years. It was worth the extra weight and the incredible bulk of the thing would fit into a dry bag, as long as there was nothing else in it.

But we’re rafting. It’s like RVing, or car camping; you can bring whatever you  want as long as it doesn’t sink the boat. It’s hard to sink a 15 foot inflatable raft.

The Cot

You can set these up anywhere
You can set these up anywhere

But this river season something new happened which forever changed my river sleeping habits. My wife bought us both camping cots for Father’s day (I don’t know why she got one too, best not to ask).

when I first saw the thing, I was apprehensive, I mean a thick pad is one thing but a cot seems like an extravagance only for Kings.

I set it up on our driveway and was impressed with how easy it was. I remember an old Army cot someone tried to sell me… you needed an engineering degree from MIT to make it work.

This new camping cot was slick. I walked around it admiring its slim features and tight fabric over rounded metal alloy. I laid down on it…Wow! This thing is comfortable even without a pad. That was my next question: do I need a pad? Hell, were rafting why not.

I was picturing myself sleeping on a river bank anywhere I wanted. I wouldn’t need to flatten out a sandy spot, digging my bed like a dog. I could lay this baby anywhere, level the legs out with ease. I pictured myself almost in the river, away from crawling bugs and clouds of mosqitos. Hmm this thing might just work.

My first river trip with my new camping cot was on the Rogue. It was heavenly. Super comfortable, I never slept better on a river trip.

Another amazing discovery; I realized I could sit on the side of the cot to take my sandals on and off.  I wasn’t on the ground, I was in a sitting position. Comfortably sitting there getting ready for bed.

I could even stow my sandals and clothes under the cot and not worry about them getting wet from dew. Can you tell, I’m in love with my cot? I am, madly and deeply in love.

Sure they require a whole dry bag just for themselves and sure they’re damned heavy, but will I ever do another raft trip without my cot…hell no!