Tributary 14.0 SB review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    The AIRE Tributary 14.0 SB Raft is an import model AIRE brings in from their China factory. They 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 14.0 SB Raft Quick Release Thwarts

    All sizes of Tributary rafts come with three quick release thwarts standard (except the little 9’6″ model) and have a five year warranty. We haven’t sold many of the 12′ bailers, but we have put a lot of the thirteen and fourteen footers in the field and the customers are delighted with them. We are no longer in the raft rental business, but if we were we would use nothing but Tributary’s.

    There are cheaper glued pvc import rafts to be sure, but whereas the lifespan on a Trib is essentially unlimited, all the other brands range from 3 to 13 years, at which point their glued seams will open up. This means you will be putting 100 plus pounds of toxin-laden poly vinyl chloride into a landfill somewhere rather than keeping a welded raft like the Trib’s in use. Among other things, some Asian brands of pvc still contain dioxon. For us this means Tributary’s still represent a good value for your dollar even with the price increases.
    Overbuilt Tributary 14.0 SB Raft

    Since the late 1980’s or early 90’s, most rafts have been overbuilt to where toughness is no longer a big consideration when comparing brands. Everybody’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. However, if you prefer to support American products like the Idaho-made AIRE’s you will get no complaints from us.

    The main tube undersides and floors bottoms on the U.S. AIRE models have a somewhat thicker gray panel of pvc, but everything else is the same. In other words you get essentially the same rip strength throughout the majority of the Tributary models. This difference though can also be seen a a positive way. For one thing, a T14 for example rolls up smaller and is lighter than a 143R or 143D model, and it can also be shipped UPS, which the American fourteen footers cannot.
    Tributary 14.0 SB Rafts use Leafield Valves

    Trib’s now come with the larger bore, more reliable B-7 Leafield valves, but at least one or two of those valves and their caps tend to be in knuckle-bashing locations, especially the front right valve. As is often the case, AIRE was trying to please the whiny outfitters, who want to deflate a stack of boats rather than just one. These guys invariably worry about ease of deflation above all other issues, including their customer’s bleeding fingers. 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 than on the 13′ and 14′ models, which have four main chambers.

    The floor’s on the self bailing Tributary’s mount the same way all AIRE raft floors do, with a laced piano hinge system that drains very quickly. However, unlike the American AIRE rafts, the floors on the Tributary’s come laced in from the factory. This is significant since it takes one person three hours to lace the floor of a 143 model
    Warranty fo AIRE Tributary 14.0 SB Rafts

    The warranty on Tributary rafts is five years rather than ten like the American boats, and it is not a “no-fault” warranty. In other words AIRE still fixes anything that is their fault, but if you damage the boat, that won’t be covered as it would have been on a U.S. made AIRE model. 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 brands, several of them far more expensive that the Trib’s.

    The T-14 sort of resembles a Maravia Willawa in shape with a few inches of taper in the bow & stern tube diameter. Since Maravia makes some of the world’s best handling rafts, this is not a bad thing. The bow/stern rise on the symmetrical hull is 11″ and the T-14 has ten D-rings. The 123 pound weight listed is with all three thwarts installed, but the thwarts are fairly heavy on this boat. If you remove two of them to use an oar frame, you will shave off about nine pounds. See also our package deal below on the T-14.

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