Tributary 13.0 SB review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    The 13′ AIRE Tributary 13.0 SB Whitewater Raft ($3,099) is an import AIRE brings in from their China factory. And it is their factory, not a plant building inflatables for other companies. Tributary’s are built with the same urethane bladders and the same pre-stretched brand of hull fabric as the American AIRE’s. The welding and stitching machines used for assembly are also exact copies of the equipment used in Idaho. They look terrific and are indistinguishable from the American AIRE’s in most ways.
    AIRE Tributary 13.0 SB Whitewater Raft Possible Savings Up To $305

    The T-13 comes with three quick release thwarts and has a five year warranty. We have sold quite a few of these thirteen footers, and far more of the 14’s, and the customers have been fairly happy with their performance. We are no longer in the raft rental business, but if we were we would use nothing but Tributary rafts.
    AIRE Tributary 13.0 SB Whitewater Raft Lifespan is Essentially Unlimited

    There are cheaper pvc import rafts to be sure, but most of them are glued. Whereas the lifespan on a Trib is essentially unlimited, all other glued pvc brands range from 3 to 13 years. After that their glued seams will open up, which means you will end up dumping 90 plus pounds of toxin-laden poly vinyl chloride into a landfill somewhere rather than keeping it in use. Among other things, a few Asian pvc fabrics still contain dioxon. You won’t have to face this with the bladderized Tributarys, so they still represent a great value for your dollar.

    Since the late 1980’s or early 90’s, most rafts have been so overbuilt that toughness is no longer a big consideration when comparing brands. Everyone’s boats, even the cheap glued pvc river rafts, are plenty rip-resistant. Today, all you are really buying is handling and lifespan. And along with their longevity, Tributary rafts do indeed score high in the handling department. Add to this that they tend to roll up smaller and weigh less than many competing brands, including the American made AIREs, and the Trib’s stand as an obvious first choice for veterans and first time boat owners alike.
    Quality PVC Used To Make AIRE Tributary 13.0 SB Whitewater Rafts

    Tributary rafts are constructed with the same brand of French pvc used on the American made AIRE rafts. The main tubes on the U.S. models have a somewhat thicker grey panel on the bottom, but everything else is the same. In other words you get essentially the same rip strength but a bit less chafe resistance on the tube bottoms. This difference though can also be seen a a positive way. For one thing, a T13 for example rolls up smaller and is lighter than a 130R or 130D model, so it can easily be shipped UPS. This is barely possible with the American thirteen footers, if at all. The same is true for the other sizes compared to the equivalent U.S. models.

    The Trib’s now come with the larger bore, more reliable B-7 Leafield valves but the caps of these valves tend to be in knuckle-bashing locations, especially the front right one. As is often the case, AIRE was trying to please the whiny outfitters. These guys worry about the ease of deflating a stack of rafts more than their customer’s bleeding knuckles. You may need to jury rig a padded cover out of some 6mm wetsuit fabric and velcro to slip over the front right valve if you’ll be using your Tributary as a paddle raft. The problem is less pronounced on the three-chamber T-12 which can be oriented in such a way where only the front left valve might be a problem.
    AIRE Tributary 13.0 SB Whitewater Rafts Floor Mounts

    The inflatable floor mounts the same way all AIRE raft floors do, with a laced piano hinge system that drains very quickly. Unlike the American AIRE rafts though, the Tributary floors come laced in from the factory. This is significant since it takes one person three hours to lace a 13′ raft/

    The Tributary 13.0 SB warranty is five years and it is not a “no-fault” warranty like the U.S made AIREs have. In other words AIRE still fixes anything that is their fault, but if you damage the boat, that won’t be covered. If you don’t want to deal with a repair yourself you can still ship the boat off to Idaho where AIRE is located, but many repairs can be effected on a Tributary in less time than it will take you to box up your raft and drive to UPS. Remember too that five years is the same warranty you get on many other high quality brands like Hyside, Achilles, and Incept, all of which are far more expensive that the Trib’s.

    The T-13 SelfBailer is 13’3″ long, by 6’8″ wide – or 6’9″ when we’ve measured them, with an interior width as large as any fourteen foot raft out there. It has far more kick than the little 12′ brother, and even more than the 14′ Trib – a full 14″. It comes with three thwarts though many buyers use this only as an oar boat due to it’s short waterline. We think it is also very uncomfortable to paddle captain this model, whether you are sitting at the far end of the bow, or at the right rear corner behind the third thwart. If paddle rafting is your main interest, go with one of the other two models. Any gap between rocks this will fit through, so will the Trib 14′. If your interest is rowing, especially on technical rivers or shallow fly fishing streams, this is an excellent choice, though we do actually think the 14′ Trib is slightly faster perhaps due to the less rockered ends.

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