Nothing gives away a seasoned river pro like a super dialed rig. You can always tell when someone has logged a solid chunk of their life on the river when they have created more homely comforts at the oars than that on their own couch.
In my personal opinion, drinking beer and rafting are nearly synonymous. They go together like peas and carrots, Bonnie and Clyde, two nuts in a sack... responsibly, of course.
Anyways, all I'm saying is that when I'm rafting, I'm having a beer or two.
For this reason, if you are looking for a more dialed set up the lowest hanging fruit is, undoubtedly, a captain's cooler. This small item requires low capital investment, is easy to rig, and has a long list of benefits including making those with even the most luxurious man-caves/she-sheds envious.
A captain's cooler is a small cooler that slips nicely into one side of the captain's bay (where the oarsman's feet go) and is typically stocked exclusively with adult beverages. The primary benefit of a captain's cooler is ensuring unimpeded access to the captain's favorite beverages.
Nothing is more troubling to both a captain and his or her bow candy than the constant need (or requests by other rafts or the flatwater leeches... looking at you SUPers) for access to your main cooler. Not only is it inconvenient to flip the paco pad, undo the strap, undo the latch and dig for the preferred flavor of your needy trip mates in the bottom of a massive cooler, it is also devastating to your finite ice supply and crucially, the frostiness of your beverages.
Other benefits of a captain's cooler include
- Storage for empties. Keep those pointy suckers out of the bilge!
- Storage for snacks. Gotta have snacks.
- I also like to stash some sunscreen in there because there's nothing worse than hot, white.....you know.
- Double use as a camp cooler. Bring to the kitchen to avoid constant beer runs.
- Camp ottoman
- Backup camp chair, in case your lawn chair bit the dust earlier in the trip (note: these camp chairs will hold up on any river trip)
- Cutting board for limes
- Display table for taking Instagram photos of your camp food
- Way for you to tell other people your opinions and what brands you wear by slappin some stickers on that bad boy
Kayakers can create a similar version by rigging an appropriately sized soft-sided cooler like the NRS Dura, where the water bottle holder typically is between the seat and the front pillar.
When you're shopping for your captain's cooler, remember that the length of the cooler should be the width of the captain's bay, and this cooler fits my rig perfectly, all while keeping those crispy boys extra crispy.