1. Decide on Your Intended Use

  • Do you want to build out a fishing rig?
  • Are you looking to paddle your family on day trips?
  • Do you want a raft and all of the gear to support you on multi-day whitewater trips?
  • Some combination of everything?
  • How many days a year will you use your raft?
  • How much time are you willing to put toward cleaning, maintaining, and repairing your new raft?
  • Where can you store your raft during the summer? During the winter?

These are all important questions to ask yourself before making a raft purchase. They will help decide which shape, length, width, and material of the raft you need.

Boats that Can Do It All

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NRS STAR Outlaw 140 Self-Bailing RaftNRS STAR Outlaw 140 Self-Bailing Raft
AIRE Tributary 14 HD Self-Bailing Raft
AIRE 143R Self-Bailing RaftAIRE 143R Self-Bailing Raft
AIRE AIRE 143R Self-Bailing Raft
Sale priceFrom $5,499.00
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NRS Otter 130 Self Bailing RaftNRS Otter 130 Self Bailing Raft

2. Pick a Boat Shape

Each type of raft has its respective pros and cons.

Round boats

When people hear the word "raft," they typically think of Round Boats.


  • The most versatile shape, as they can run paddle crews, row frames, and haul lots of gear and/or passengers.
  • Stable and can punch through large holes and hydraulics.


  • Can get sluggish when weighed down
  • Can loose some tracking ability.

CKS carries round boats ranging in length from 9' to 16'.


Paddlecats are a popular option amongst those who want wild rides through whitewater.


  • Designed to be run by 2-4 person paddle crews
  • Whitewater Performance + a Wild Ride


  • Typically do not have space for much else beyond a day bag or two.
  • What you gain in whitewater performance, you lose in versatility.

It is not unheardof to rig a small frame to a paddlecat for one person to sportily row day trips or shorter multi-day trips.

Check Out Our Paddlecats

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NRS STAR Slice Paddle CataraftNRS STAR Slice Paddle Cataraft
NRS NRS STAR Slice Paddle Cataraft
Sale price$1,895.00
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NRS STAR Slice XL Paddle CataraftNRS STAR Slice XL Paddle Cataraft
AIRE Sabertooth 12 CataraftAIRE Sabertooth 12 Cataraft
AIRE AIRE Sabertooth 12 Cataraft
Sale price$4,299.00

3. Determine the Best Raft Size

The best length and width raft for your intended usage is highly subjective. Following are some guidelines to consider when determining which size you will need.

9'-11' rafts

Small and nimble and are ideal for play rafting with up to 3 paddlers, 1-2 anglers, or day trips or short multi-day trips for 1 rower. They are light, small to store, and can fit in most sedans or hatchbacks. They are not recommended for longer overnight trips that will require lots of gear.

12-13' rafts

Generally considered the most versatile rafts as they can easily accomodate 2-6 paddlers, 2-3 anglers, or a rower and a passenger's gear for day trips and short to mid-length overnight trips. They do not feel too large to R2 and do not feel too small for a 7-day trip's worth of gear, if properly packed. They do not, however, have the width to accomodate large dry boxes or coolers that are sometimes needed for longer multi-day trips.

14-16' rafts

Usually intended to haul lots of overnight gear or carry 6-8 person paddle crews. They are bulky to store and usually necessitate a trailer to transport. They are not ideal for technical whitewater that requires quick, must-make moves.

Our Small-but-Mighty Rafts

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Hyside Mini-Max Self-Bailing RaftHyside Mini-Max Self-Bailing Raft
Hyside Hyside Mini-Max Self-Bailing Raft
Sale priceFrom $2,925.00
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AIRE Puma Self-Bailing RaftAIRE Puma Self-Bailing Raft
AIRE AIRE Puma Self-Bailing Raft
Sale priceFrom $3,549.00
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NRS Slipstream 96 Fishing Raft PackageNRS Slipstream 96 Fishing Raft Package
AIRE Cub Self-Bailing RaftAIRE Cub Self-Bailing Raft
AIRE AIRE Cub Self-Bailing Raft
Sale priceFrom $3,849.00
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4. Choose a Raft Material

In general, inflatable rafts are constructed with high denier nylon or similar fabric that is coated with plastic or rubber. The plastic coating in high-quality rafts is PVC and the synthetic rubber coating is branded under the names Hypalon and Pennel Orca. A raft's coating material is the biggest determining factor of the price. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of coatings:

PVC (AIRE, Tributary, Outcast, STAR, Slipstream)
  • More affordable than synthetic rubber, but heavier
  • Can be welded, making for extra durable seams
  • Can be inflated to high pressure (i.e. dropstitch floors)
  • Short repair time
  • Susceptible to UV damage
Synthetic Rubber (Hyside, NRS)
  • Incredibly durable, lightweight and long lasting
  • Long repair time
  • Up to twice as expensive as PVC
  • Cannot be welded

Fishing Raft Packages

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Outcast OSG Striker Fishing Raft + Frame PackageOutcast OSG Striker Fishing Raft + Frame Package
Outcast PAC 136DD Fishing Raft + Frame PackageOutcast PAC 136DD Fishing Raft + Frame Package
Outcast Drifter 13 Fishing Raft + Frame PackageOutcast Drifter 13 Fishing Raft + Frame Package
Outcast PAC 1400 Fishing Raft + Frame PackageOutcast PAC 1400 Fishing Raft + Frame Package
NRS Slipstream 96 Fishing Raft PackageNRS Slipstream 96 Fishing Raft Package
NRS Slipstream 139 Fishing Raft PackageNRS Slipstream 139 Fishing Raft Package
NRS Slipstream 120 Fishing Raft PackageNRS Slipstream 120 Fishing Raft Package
NRS Slipstream 106
NRS NRS Slipstream 106
Sale price$4,495.00
NRS Slipstream 129
NRS NRS Slipstream 129
Sale price$5,495.00
NRS Slipstream 142
NRS NRS Slipstream 142
Sale price$5,995.00

What's Next?

Still have questions about which raft is right for you? Our Gear Experts are ready to help!

If you've got your raft picked out and you're ready to start thinking about frames and outfitting, click below to learn more about building out your new raft setup.

View the Guide