Tag Archives: raft gear

Raft Rowing Seat: The Best Choice

It seems the trend these days is having a shaped cushioned seat bolted onto a river box as a rowing seat. I’m sure you’ve seen these and maybe even use one, but personally I can’t stand the things.

We recently bought a whitewater raft and the frame had one of these seat systems. Since it was there and I had never used one, I figured I’d give it a try.

rowing seat
removed raft seat

I sat on the thing and thought, wow, this feels pretty good, nice and comfy. Then I started to row.

At first it was fine, it’s exactly in the center of the rowing box, so you start off in the correct spot, however it felt too high. I felt like I was having to reach down to get the oars in the correct position. This made my oar stroke awkward.

In order to get the normal purchase on the oar I’m used to, I had to keep my arms low and pull them into my belly. This immediately felt wrong.

I’m used to pulling back on the oars with my back and shoulders. With my arms so low, I was being forced to pull only with my arms. My back and shoulders are one hell of a lot stronger than my arms…so I flailed.

The seat put me too high on the oars. This is a mistake I see many beginner whitewater rafters make. They try to pull the oars with their arms instead of their back. If you’re sitting on a seat that puts you too high in the first place your bound to use too much arm.

I suppose this problem could be overcome if you had your raft frame altered to lift the oarlocks into a higher position. But the cost of doing something so drastic would far exceed the much simpler fix of not using the padded rowing seat.

Another problem occurred when I wanted to make a move, like a hard pivot and row away from an obstacle, I was forced to stay on the rowing seat. I couldn’t move around in the seat to gain a better purchase on one oar or the other. If I came off the seat I was sitting on bare metal and sliding all over the place.

I quickly realized that I move around a lot when I row, depending on what I’m trying to achieve. If I need to put a lot of power into my right oar, I’ll move my body that way to get a better angle and bite on the water. The rowing seat was far too restrictive for any kind of lateral movement.

The other thing I can’t stand about this raft rowing seat is the high back. For the life of me I have no idea why this has a back at all. It’s not big enough to add support however it is big enough to get in the way when you really need to make a pull. I don’t understand this design at all, it was annoying and in my way.

Notice the high back… how annoying

Okay, so what’s the answer? What’s the best rowing seat? It’s really simple, sit on something thin like an ethafoam pad strapped to the river box you’re sitting on. Honestly this is all you need. If you want something thicker, purchase some thicker mini-cell foam and either strap it on or if you’re ambitious, glue it onto the top.

Gluing mini-cell onto the lid is a great way to go. You don’t have to worry about straps, and the mini-cell layer will help protect the river box and add a layer of insulation to the contents. But more importantly, it won’t be too high to row on, and won’t restrict your movement.

I give the rowing seat pictured above an A+ for comfort,  and an F- for rowing functionality.

The Best Raft Pump

I have been on countless whitewater rafting trips and inflated rafts with many different kinds of pumps. Everything from car battery-powered pumps to foot pumps, I’ve seen them all. They all have some value, but the best raft pump I’ve come across is the K-pump.


It has many advantages over other pumps:

1. Compact- There are 4 different versions of this pump and they are all smaller than most raft pumps. The biggest is only 32 inches long, the shortest, a mere 22 inches. They are cylindrical which makes them highly stowable in your raft load. They slide easily into the little slots that inevitably occur when packing dry bags.

They also don’t come with long, hard to stow hose attachments. It’s all one compact piece of equipment.

2. They Float- If you didn’t get your K-pump stowed very well, or you had a mishap and the bottom of your boat is suddenly facing the sky, these pumps float like corks. You won’t lose it on the bottom of the river.

3. Incredibly easy to use- The most important part of any pump is how easy and how well it pumps. The K-Pumps are the easiest operating pumps I’ve ever come across. It is so easy in fact, it doesn’t feel like any air is being pushed into the raft tubes.

However, the volume of air being pumped is incredible. I have a 15 foot SOTAR raft and I can pump it up with my K200 faster than any other pump, including electric pumps; without even breaking a sweat!

4. Durable- These pumps are made of a PCV type material called ABS. It is specially made material which is durable and UV resistant. The company is so confident in their materials and craftsmanship that they back their pumps with a 2 year warranty.

To help give your pumps longevity there are some useful K-Pump care videos to watch.

K-pumps are an awesome asset for anyone needing to blow up rafts and inflatable kayaks. They are ranged in price from 70 bucks for the K100 to 170bucks for the innovative two stage K400. It aint chump change, but each pump is worth every penny.

Whitewater Rafting Cargo Nets: the better way to tie down a load

For the past couple of decades I’ve been tying down my rear raft load the old-fashioned way. I’d pile dry bags in vertical positions, stuff roll-up tables and chairs along the outside, then create a web of straps spanning the tops and weaving in and out of the dry bag handles until I was sure the bags wouldn’t come out if I ever flipped the raft.

I was aware that by creating this web I was also creating a hazard. If I ever got caught under the boat and somehow got my foot wedged into the web, it could become a lethal foot entrapment. Not to mention walking onto the raft from the rear was hazardous for tripping.

I tried different tie down methods but always ended up just using the straps. I didn’t think there was another way until my in-laws bought me an NRS cargo net.

Of course, rafting cargo nets have been around for a long time but I always assumed they weren’t very reliable. However,after using the rafting nets last season I became a believer. Not only are they incredibly easy to use, they are very effective at keeping all the gear inside the raft, even if the raft is upside down.

No, I didn’t test that last statement myself, but a friend of mine did. He put in on the Illinois river a few days after we did, and actually flipped his 14 foot raft in the green wall (a notorious raft flipper).

By the time the raft was put into its normal upright position, it had been inverted for about a half hour. It had gone through whitewater, been slammed into walls and been wedged on rocks but not one bag from under the cargo net came out. I was impressed and happy to know that my new cargo net could be used on even the gnarliest rivers.

How to use the Cargo Net

Of course you can’t just throw the net over the top of the bags and hope for the best. You have to actually tie the net to the raft.

The way I do this is simple. I place the net over the bags then connect a long piece of strap or rope to the very back of the raft frame. Then I weave the line through the bottom edge of the net and through the safety rope I have strung around the raft. This secures the net to the raft without leaving any gaps. I keep weaving the rope until I’ve reached the very back of the raft, and tighten and tie off the strap.

Then I do the exact same thing on the other side. When that’s done I secure the net to the frame directly behind the rowers’ seat with some short straps.

If I’m doing a river trip on an easier river, like the Rogue, I don’t weave the line as many times through the net. This makes the process easier and makes getting to the bags at the end of the day easier too.

I’ve always thought the rafting cargo nets were kind of cheesy and actually useless, but now that I’ve used them and seen them in action, I’d never go back to my old ways. What am I gonna do with all those extra straps?