1. AIRE Jaguarundi
www.aire.com| $2,699 USD
We wanted a family gear-hauling cat raft that would play on day trips and fish spring trout rivers. We settled on AIRE’s performance series 16-foot Jaguarundi with 24-inch tubes—not just because Jaguarundi is so fun to say. The Jag sits in the sweet spot between AIRE’s expedition Lions and their sportier Wave Destroyers. We added AIRE’s cat floor and one of their welded aluminum dry boxes for a bench seat and to hold our food, kitchen items and camping gear. See you in the Canyon, or wherever.
2. NRS Top Cat Frame
www.nrs.com| $1,495 USD
The Top Cat is a perfect fit on the Jaguarundi. For expeditions we replaced the high-back, drain-hole seat and rigged it with cooler, dry box and still had room for another box or a gear sling compartment. Seventy-two inches wide is enough to make our Jag cat plenty stable and is wide enough to drop in 37-inch wide coolers and dry boxes. A few years ago NRS retooled all their LoPro fittings and oar mounts to a hot-forged aluminum alloy making the most adaptable frame system way more polished. Shop NRS.com for frame parts and accessories like the NRS Frame Side Rail Racks or to convert the Top Cat for fishing.
3. Cataract Oars SGG & SGX Shafts and Cutthroat Blades
$168.95-$202.50 USD each; cutthroat $84.95 USD each
We’ve been using Cataract’s SGG and SGX fiberglass and carbon fiber blended shafts for years. The SGGs are spun flexier to feel like wooden oars while the premium SGXs are 33 percent stiffer. Take your pick balancing performance to ibuprofen. This time we upgraded to Cataracts’ clever H2O Counter Balance system of interchangeable weighted or unweighted handles. Even more clever is Cataracts’ new thumb indexer so you can feel your blade angle at the grip. So simple. With fishing in mind, we ordered Cataract’s Cutthroat blades designed for shallow gravel bar trout rivers. Not getting a descent blade catch is almost as frustrating as the fish not biting. The greater submerged oar blade surface area allows for maximum propulsion on any low-water summer river.
www.cataractoars.com| SGGs with H20 counterbalance handles
4. Canyon Cooler Prospector 103
www.canyoncoolers.com| $369.99 USD
What we love most about Canyon Cooler’s Prospector 103 is the built-in lip so the cooler sits on the raft frame instead of hanging from straps. The other clever touch is the second drain plug on the front—you know what I’m talking about, no more pulling a loaded cooler from the frame to drain water. The Prospector will hold two sliding organizer baskets on two interior levels so you can get to the meat quickly while keeping the lid open as little as possible… yes, I’m looking at you, Margaret.
5. Wet Dreams River Supply Cooler Cover
www.wetdreamsriversupply.com | $54-$120 USD
When Jason at Wet Dreams heard we ordered a Canyon Cooler Prospector he sent us one of their custom cooler covers. The 22-ounce vinyl coated polyester and a vinyl-coated mesh base creates a sleeve for the 1- or 1.5-inches foam to be inserted adding insulation and cushion for extended trips. The corner flaps have slits so it hinges when you open the cooler lid and so you can access the cooler latches. Options include stainless steel snaps, sewn-in straps, additional foam and a mini-cell foam upgrade. Choose one of the available 12 Canyon or Yeti sizes or custom order a cover for almost any cooler size.
6. Primus Kamoto OpenFire Pit
The Primus Kamoto OpenFire Pit is a new solution to no trace fires on rafting rivers. This clever scissor folding unit collapses flat and easily fits in the smallest of dry boxes. Burn wood or charcoal and roast on the open flame or drop the grill in place to cook steaks or as a base for pots. The bottom is an ash pan and protects the ground from fire scares. For big groups, Primus makes a larger size accommodating 16-inch logs.
7. Kala Brand Music Waterman Ukelele
www.kalabrand.com| $69.99 USD
Why is the ukulele the top-selling instrument in America? Four strings, baby. Even I can hammer out a campfire version of Brown Eyed Girl on the Kala Brand Waterman series of waterproof soprano and concert ukes. Sure, it’s ABS plastic but it has nickel-plated tuners and sounds way better than you’d think. No need to pack it away for Lava Falls, one person rows the other strums C-F-C-F-C-F-D-C-F because in the Grand Canyon, “You can’t always get what you want, You can’t always get what you want, You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
8. NRS River Wing
www.nrs.com| $399.95 USD
Where I live we have trees for shade and anchors for tarps of any shape, but on the beaches and in canyons of western rivers you need the 40-denier ripstop nylon NRS River Wing self-supporting canopy. At 17 feet long and 16 feet wide you can hunker beneath for dinner prep shade or to wait out the storm. Reflective strings and burly stakes are provided for each corner. Pack along the provided three-piece aluminum poles or do as we do and just use your oars.