AIRE Lion 16 Cataraft review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP
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    AIRE Catarafts Lion 16 and 14, have extra large diameters, and waterlines that comprise a higher percentage of the total tube length. The obvious purpose of the Lions is to provide the highest load capacities possible for a cataraft, as well as the shallowest draft for folks who like to fish or who find themselves suffering low snow pack years in their area.
    AIRE Catarafts Lion 16 Big Diameter Tubes

    As with any of the big diameter high buoyancy catarafts, if you only run with very light loads and you enjoy high flows or expert level runs, there will be a propensity for this type of boat to get surfed like a bobber. Bigger diameters and the shallow draft means they are faster though, giving you both the ability to avoid monster holes with less effort.

    The Lion 16 is big enough with it’s 1600 pound capacity to easily take three people down a week-long trip, or two on a Canyon trip, and it would be more fun to row than an equivalent length raft. The Lion 16′ cat is AIRE’s third highest capacity boat, coming in below only the 18 Lion and Leopard tubes. If the rivers you do are hyper-technical the 14′ Lion may work better, but you drop about 400 pounds of capacity.

    Overall, the Lions are the shallowest drafting cats size per size from any manufacturer. One last note of interest is that the rocker is very minimal on both sizes of Lion’s, about 5″ on the 16′s & 18′s, and only a couple inches on the 14′ size. This minimum amount of nose lift doesn’t mean these won’t ride up over huge waves though, because the real rocker is measured from the underside up. In truth these go over huge haystacks better than any other tube you can buy. The minimal lift looking from the top side also means you get the maximum straight (flat) length on the Lions, allowing you to use extra-long frames.

    When deciding on oar length for your Lion, consider how high up in the air you’ll be. In most cases Lions require oars six inches longer than the frame or overall boat width might indicate. In this sixteen foot size, you will want 10’6″ oars, or possibly even 11′ oars. Only three of AIRE’s usual six colors are available for the Lions – blue, red, and dark green. While AIRE shows purple, white, and gray being available by special order, on the Lions it is usually a very, very long wait.

    The Lion 16 is also available in an extra-tough urethane material for another $1,670, though this is not something we or AIRE usually have on hand. Therefore, this option is not on the shopping cart because the lead times can vary greatly. Give us a phone call if you are interested and we will check the delivery times for you. Whether it is worth spending half again as much money to upgrade to urethane is debatable, but we will let you make the call. The abrasion resistance in the water is far higher, and the base fabric is beefier, so you get an even stiffer tube. That said the standard pvc AIRE’s are mighty stiff as it is.

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