The Best Raft You Can Own
The Best Raft You Can Own
In this article, I will describe my journey to find the Rocky Mountain Rafts Phat Cat and list the reasons why it is the best one-boat quiver you must own.
As a native Coloradoan, I spent my youth and young adulthood chasing different goals and objectives throughout the Rocky Mountains. I am a skier, a mountain biker, and an amateur of sorts for pretty much anything outdoors.
However, in recent years, I became passionate about river. In 2022 I became a professional fly fishing guide and now spend over 100 days a year wading and floating from my drift boat with clients and friends alike. But on the days when I need more balance in my life (and often a shot of excitement and adrenaline), I look to white water sports.
In 2020 I purchased my first raft. Perhaps this purchase was partially credited to looking for ways to spend time outdoors during the early days of the pandemic, but I had whitewater rafted with friends and family for years beforehand and knew I enjoyed the sport. With my brother, I purchased a Rocky Mountain Rafts SB14 (a 14-foot self-bailing inflatable boat) with a fishing rig. This rig was beautiful, spacious, and worthy of many adventures on the water, big and small. But soon thereafter I realized that while a 14-foot raft has its place in my white water quiver, it was too big and too labor intensive for quick trips down our local river with only myself or just a small team. I needed an after work cruiser that took minutes to set up and break down and could travel in the bed of my F-150.
Not only does a 14-foot boat generally require a team of people to paddle it, it’s best used with a trailer to move it from point A to B. And if you don’t have a team to paddle it, it requires a rowing frame where you can maneuver it down the river on your own. Again – it is a beautiful and wonderful craft, but not the daily driver for quick, less labor-intensive voyages.
That’s when in the spring of 2021 I found the Rocky Mountain Rafts Phat Cat and never looked back. This inflatable boat does it all and is absolutely the perfect tool to satisfy all types of adventures on the river.
The RMR Phat cat is light weight, very maneuverable, and financially affordable compared to most inflatables. It further can be used by only two people when paddling it or can inexpensively be outfitted with an oar frame to row it through big white water or on multi-day adventures.
Below is my short list of why this boat belongs in your garage and deserves time and love on the river.
1) The Phat Cat only requires a small team to operate. When I first started running white-water in my buddy’s 14 foot boat in 2017, the trips down the local river were always dependent on if we could get enough people to join in. A larger boat like this often times requires enough paddlers to power the boat through rapids and enough weight in the boat to keep it right-side up.
The Phat Cat, on the contrary, can be paddled by 1 person, 2 people or used with an oar frame for solo rowing adventures. The Phat Cat is called a paddle-cat style raft and is best paddled by two people with each person positioning themselves on one of the cataraft style tubes. For more skilled white water enthusiasts, it can be used by one person as an R1 rig. And if you are interested in taking it on multi-day, gear intensive adventures, it can be rigged with an oar frame and accessories to carry all you need to be self-supported for days on end (see notes below on how much gear it can hold)
2) The Phat Cat is light in hand and light on your wallet. Coming in at a feather light 63 pounds and just under $1,700, the boat can fit as easily into the trunk of your Suburu Outback as it can into your budget. Most traditionally oval shaped rafts of this length tip the scale closer to 80 lbs (or more), making them less easy to roll up and pack into the back of your vehicle by yourself. And in the event of a flip or pin, the boat is easier to flip back or pull/push out of danger. Further, you will be spending at least another $1,000 in most instances to get yourself an inflatable of similar size and performance from another brand.
3) The paddle-cat style boat is easier to learn. Compared to a traditional, oval shaped raft, the Phat Cat has fewer points of contact to the water, resulting in less drag and better maneuverability. It can turn on a dime and I have found that even first-time boaters generally pick up the skills quickly on how to paddle the boat. The learning curve for traditional shaped rafts is much steeper.
4) The Phat Cat is very forgiving, stable and FAST. The large, 23” pontoons and the natural open space between them make the boat very stable and less cumbersome to control compared to other rafts. And when we (gulp) inevitably hit a rock, the boat more often able to spin off the rock easier without too many major implications of getting stuck.
In addition to its forgiving nature, we all know that sometimes Plan A to make it through a rapid is easier said than done. That’s when the Phat Cat allows you to blast through the rapid with Ferrari-like speed to attack Plan B (or Plan C or Plan D).
5) The colors it comes in are HOT. Let’s be honest, looking good on the river is just as important as looking good on a first date. That’s why RMR’s Phat Cat is the Crème de la Crème in the style department. Choose from many colors to represent yourself including Lime Green, Waterfall or even Electric Raspberry. When you look good, you paddle good.
6) Gear carrying potential is unmatched. The countless D-rings and gear-carrying room and accessories make the RMR Phat Cat one of the most versatile river crafts on the market. I have taken my phat cat on self-supported week-long trips only to find that I probably could have kept going for another week. When trailer frames are added to the bow and stern of the boat, it is possible to strap on mountains of gear that will only make your non-Phat Cat friends jealous.
On my boat, I have a RMR rowing frame and two trailer frames, one for the front and one for the back. The trailer frames coupled with a couple drop bags allow me to carry much more gear than even most 10.5 foot rafts can. With this set up I can comfortably carry a 100 L Dry Box, a 45 L Yeti Cooler, two 5-gallon water jugs, 2 mid-sized ammo cans, a Paco Pad, a camp chair, three 100-Liter Bills Bags, and a spare oar. To put that in perspective, that is enough cargo room to self-support yourself and a friend for two full weeks with all the camping, cooking, and creature comforts you could ever want.
Note that you don’t HAVE to have a rowing frame to carry tons of gear. We’ve R2’d a 5 day trip with two paddlers and all the gear we needed!
When looking for your first white water raft, look no further than the RMR Phat Cat! It is the perfect toy for all around joy.