Tag Archives: rafting gear

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?

Best Gifts for Whitewater Rafting

It’s definitely the off-season in my neck of the woods for rafting, but that only means it’s time to gear up for the upcoming whitewater season.

Christmas is the perfect time to pad out your rafting gear. So what should Santa bring his whitewater rafting good girls and boys? Here are 5 essentials:

  • Dry Bags- is your dry bag on its last leg? Is the bottom covered with more duct tape than rubber? Dry bags these days are very well made, but they still wear out. I’ve owned many dry bags, in fact my first was a Navy surplus black bag that worked beautifully for over ten years. Dry bags come in all sorts of sizes these days, so even if you don’t need a full size personal bag how about a small or medium-sized one for a quick access day bag? My most recent dry bag is made by SOTAR. It is well made and is relatively inexpensive. NRS also has good dry bags.
  • Sleeping Pad- How long has it been since you upgraded your sleeping pad? For years I used a tiny Therm-a-rest pad, I had the smallest version possible to accommodate my self-support kayaking trips. I could only afford one pad back then, but now I can actually afford 2. There are some awesome therm-a-rest pads out there and the company is second to none in customer service. In fact when I was a poor starving river guide I bought the pad, and whenever it needed repairs I’d send it back to them and they’d replace the pad free of charge. I don’t know how they ever made any money, I never bought more than one therm-a-rest in over 10 years of guiding!
  • River Knife- If you’re like me you can never have too many river knives. I’ve never had to use one to save my own or anyone elses life, (I usually use them for spreading peanut butter) but when you need a knife you better hope you have one handy. My favorite river knife is the simple yet reliable spyderco knives. I have the serrated knife-edge for sawing through thick rope or even tenacious kayak plastic. I’ve had my knife attached to my life jacket for over 15 years now, and only the color has faded. It’s performance is still awesome, it cuts effortlessly and stays attached to my jacket through thick and thin.
  • Life Jacket- It may be time to update your life jacket. There are a lot of choices out there, but I choose the PFD that works for both rafting and kayaking. I’ve had my Kokotat life jacket for many years and it never seems to lose any of its functionality. It’s by far the best, most comfortable life jacket I’ve ever owned. I love the pockets, the ease of fitting and the safety features…don’t do class V without it.
  • Raft Pump- Finally a raft pump that is small enough and sturdy enough to stuff into the load but will pump up a raft in no time. Oh yeah and it’s super easy to operate. Even if you have a pump you’re happy with, I bet you’ll switch to this one after you try it.

So if you’re stumped on what to get your river person this year, these 5 ideas are a great start. Already got it? well a rafter can never have too many beer huggies!