AIRE Tributary 9.5 SB Raft Review

Whitewater rafting (private boating) often has a few stigmas attached to it. It's really expensive, requires lots of additional gear (oar frames, oars and blades, dry boxes, stoves, coolers, dry bags,etc), is tough to match all of the parts together in order to make a complete package, and is difficult to transport (i.e- must have a trailer). This may be true for an 18 footer that you can tee up to big hits in the Grand Canyon, but definitely does not apply to the Tributary 9.5 SB. Think of this raft as a 4 wheel drive Porsche 911 for the river (minus the price tag). It's light, nimble, begs to be paddled hard, can handle rapids as meaty as you handle, and costs the same as 2 Liquid Logic Remix XP10's.

If you are looking for an exciting way to enjoy Class I-IV (or maybe even V with the right team) rapids, but do not want to stuff yourself into a kayak, the 9.5 SB is about as close to kayaking down a river as you can get. Being less than 10 feet long, you can take all the kayak lines, catch 1-2 boat eddies, make last minute decisions to skirt holes, and best of all dig in and square up to some large river features.


  • Length: 9' 7"
  • Width: 5'4"
  • Weight: 69 lbs.
  • Frame Width: 54"
  • Max Frame Length: 50"
  • Tube Diameter: 18"
  • Thwart Diameter: 11.75"
  • Center Compartment: 27"
  • Kick\Rocker (Bow\Stern): 9.25"
  • Number of Air Chambers: 4
  • Valve Type: Summit 2
  • Weight/Denier of Tube Fabric: 31/1670
  • Weight/Denier of Floor Fabric: 31/1670
  • Number of D-Rings: 10
  • Number of Handles: 2
  • Load capacity: 800 lbs
  • Warranty: Limited 5 Year Retail, 1 Year Commerical
  • Includes repair kit


  • The 7 piece construction in the bow and stern (progressive rise), in addition to almost 10" of kick rocker in the ends helps to make 9.5 very maneuverable. Technical runs with lots of eddy catching and rock dodging are super fun with the Tributary. It actually tracks pretty well too, especially when there is a good load in the boat.
  • The price is right. Getting a raft, that is ready to roll for under $2K is a pretty good value. It's roughly the same price as buying 2 new whitewater kayaks (except the raft holds up to 4 people).
  • Ultra portability for a raft. The Tributary weighs only 67 lbs (about the same as a tandem rec boat), and folds into a ball that is small enough to fit in the back of any car. Since it is small, it also pumps up quickly and easily. One person will have no problem getting the 9.5 ready for action.
  • The max. weight capacity is 800 lbs. If your going to run some bigger water, or plan on taking the hero lines on your backyard run, you can load up an extra person (or 2) for ballast. 2 people up front, and one in the stern will allow the Tributary to track really well and power through large water features.

  • The 4 chamber design makes the 9.5 safer. If a thwart, the floor, or a tube blows, there are 3 others left to get you to shore. The PVC tubes unzip, and let you access the bladder easily. Products like Tear Aid will patch the hole in the bladder quite easily. If it is a huge puncture, you can replace the entire bladder.
  • You can fit a 48" oar frame on this sucker and do light overnights. Kind of like a Remix XP10 as a raft. This would be the perfect raft to row down the Gunnison Gorge. Fish all day, and spend a night out.Click here for details on available frames.


  • This raft has a certain niche, and does some things very well. It is meant for day trips, and occasional over nighters (1-2 nights). This boat is not meant for The Grand Canyon or any other multi day wilderness runs. It could probably be done, but there are much better options for expeditionary rafting.
  • Rafting big water (Arkansas at high water, Grand Canyon, Cataract, Westwater in the spring) in the 9.5 would be challenging. It's not as fast or heavy as larger rafts, and may get swallowed up in big waves, holes and eddylines. Anything is possible with the right crew, it's just not what the boat was designed to do.
  • Space is limited. A large plastic cooler with 2-3 people is pushing it. It will work, but a Durasoft will fit much better.

The Verdict:

The Tributary 9.5 SB is the perfect introductory raft that can take you all the way through the learning curve. Learn to guide it on class II, and then challenge yourself with a steep class IV run when you feel up to the task. What separates this raft from the pack is it's portability and usability. It is compact enough to fit in the trunk of a car, yet burly enough to tackle all but the most difficult whitewater. If you've been half tempted to get into rafting, or want a pure and simple way to bomb down the river, we highly recommend the AIRE Tributary 9.5 SB.

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