Owning your own whitewater raft is an amazing experience that delivers the freedom to get on the river anytime you want.
What’s more, you can outfit it with your own gear that’s dialed in just the way you like it. Whatever the reason and at a moment’s notice, if the fish are biting, the water is up, or that friend of a friend has an extra spot on their permit… Boom. You’re there to be Skipper of your own raft.
Of course, owning your own whitewater raft comes with new responsibilities, none bigger than raft storage. Properly storing your raft extends its life and protects it from the elements: the sun’s harmful rays and their UV damage, abrasion or punctures, and pests or wildlife. In this article, we’ll cover how to properly store your raft, raft storage options, cover some products that will help you store your raft, and provide some tips and tricks from raft manufacturers and Paddling Life’s seasoned staff.
Preparing Rafts for Storage
When putting your raft into storage, it’s highly recommended that you take the time to apply some extra TLC. Rafts will last longer when stored clean, dry, and free from debris. Manufacturers also recommend using 303 Aerospace Protectant on a damp cloth to keep your boat clean, shiny, and protected. 303 serves as not only a cleaner, but a UV protectant as well.
“Using a boat cleaning solution is best as it will protect it, take silvering off from frame rubs and more,” says Mark Deming of NRS. For Hypalon boats, he recommends using 303 Protectant, which offers UV protection. But you shouldn’t use it more than twice per year on PVC rafts, he adds.
Pro tip: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers will do wonders for removing blemishes from your raft.
While cleaning, take the opportunity to thoroughly inspect your raft and rafting equipment for any signs of damage or excess wear. How are those cam straps holding up? Does your pin kit still have all its pulleys and ropes for Prusik Loops? Any signs of abrasion that might need attention or repair?
Please note: the most important factors for storage are keeping the boat out of sunlight and in a place away from any potential rodents. – AIRE
Storing Rafts Inflated
The preferred method is to store your raft partially inflated in a cool, dry place with no direct sunlight.
“The best way to store your raft is partially inflated and suspended above the ground.” — Rocky Mountain Rafts
Raft manufacturers are consistent on this point.
“Ideally it would be best to leave your raft lightly inflated, out of sunlight in a cool and dry place, covered.” — AIRE
“Leaving your raft lightly inflated on a trailer out of the sun is the best way, especially if you can park it in a barn or shed.” — Mark Deming, NRS
But not all of us have a garage dedicated to raft storage. If storing your raft inflated outside, ideally keep it up off the ground. Leaving it on the trailer is a great option for this and leaves less to do when the next river calls.
Be aware that storing your raft outside and inflated comes with its own set of challenges, mainly how to keep it out of the sun and protected from the elements. We’ve seen people use tarps, but these aren’t recommended.
“We advise never using a tarp as it causes a solar oven situation and can degrade the material.” — RMR
While a tarp will block the sun, it doesn’t allow adequate airflow. This can lead to mold, or worse, you create a sauna-like environment that causes the raft seams to fail prematurely. Tarps have a durability issue too, especially when it comes to rubbing on oar towers.
“The number one threat when storing a raft outside is ultraviolet light degradation. OverIt covers aren’t waterproof but they keep the sun off, which is great for the majority of people. Whitewater Designs covers are waterproof so are great for those living in places like the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, climates where it’s cold and rainy and you can get mildew or moss, which you want to avoid.”— Mark Deming, NRS
Over It Raft Cover
Over It has a unique drape style cover design that uses a semi-permeable material with strong UV protection, blocking 98% of the sun’s harmful rays. Their tightly woven material provides superior breathability too, which lets your boat dry when it’s wet and stay cool in the heat. These features make their cover design highly recommended for self bailing rafts. For more info on the Over It cover check out our full product review or they are available to purchase over at CKS online.
Whitewater Designs Raft Cover
Whitewater Designs raft covers are intended for both raft storage and travel and take a slightly different approach. Their design has a built-in bungee around the edge to help wrap snugly around the bottom of the raft. Made of 6.5 oz vinyl-coated polyester, their covers will shed water and keep your raft dry.
“Because our covers fit as tight as they do, they require very little effort to ensure they don’t catch water and act as a breeding pool for mosquitos. A strap from bow to stern in the center of the raft will create a ridge line, and pulling tight on the sides will cause the water to run off. “ – Whitewater Designs, Inc.
Both Over It and Whitewater Design’s covers have purpose-built D-Rings sewn in around the perimeter, providing multiple tie down opportunities. We’ve found that buying some 3mm bungee from our local raft shop and stringing it through the D-Rings on the Over It cover gave it more of a snug look and fit.
Deflated Raft Storage
Deflating and rolling your raft is the most common storage approach, especially during the off season. Once totally cleaned, dried, and wiped down with 303, there are a few things that will help you successfully roll and store your raft. First, one word: Shop-Vac. Or is that two words? Either way, a Shop-Vac will make light work of deflating a raft or SUP for that matter. It’s almost required if you’re going to get it to fit back into that factory RMR boat bag.
“If it needs to be rolled, we suggest putting it in an AIRE raft bag (or something similar) or a large plastic box/container and storing it off the floor if possible.” – AIRE
Don’t have a boat bag? Not to worry. NRS has you covered.
How to properly roll your raft.
Rolling a raft is an art form all on its own. And it’s material dependent, says NRS’s Deming. “Rafts made of Hypalon are rubber and you can roll them up as you want because they’re pliant,” he says. “PVC rafts, however, might fatigue on a certain crease over time which could cause material degradation. So, try to change where those creases are. If you do have to roll your raft, roll it loosely, avoid tight pinch points and try to only do it for six months or so.”
Watch this how to video from AIRE for pro tips.
Once cleaned, rolled, and bagged, find that cool, dry location out of the sun’s view and your raft will be ready when you are for the next paddling adventure.
One final note on pests / wildlife.
We’ve heard horror stories of mice deciding that they liked the taste of raft, and owners finding pancake sized holes after pulling their raft out of storage. Is that where the bacon grease leaked out of the Camp Chef’s bag? This is when those storage bags come in handy.
PRO TIP: Rodent Repellent is worth the peace of mind.
To Recap Raft Storage Tips:
- Always store your raft out of the sun and away form it’s UV rays.
- Ideally keep the raft partially inflated. When that’s not possible rolled
- Pick a cool dry place off of the ground.
- Store your raft clean with a fresh wipe down of 303 Aerospace Protectant
- Use a raft cover or storage bag
- Keep it away from rodents.
Do you have any raft storage tips or stories of raft storage gone wrong? Comment below and let us know.
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