Tributary Thirteen HD Raft Review

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    The new 13′ AIRE Tributary Thirteen HD Whitewater Raft is an import AIRE brings in from their China factory. And it is their factory, not a plant building inflatables for other companies. 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.

    Tributary Thirteen HD Raft

    For the first time in many years there are some changes to AIRE’s imported Tributary whitewater raft line. Measurements on the new Thirteen HD, which replaces the 13.0 SB Trib, will remain the same but the weight has increased somewhat. This is due to a new hull material with a thicker coating on the outside. AIRE’s 2015 catalogs show the old weights for all but the Sixteen, so those are mistakes. The new Thirteen HD is roughly 135 pounds with both thwarts, and the thwarts are another area where a change has been made. Up to now all the Tributary river rafts 12’ and up came with three knuckle-mounted thwarts. The thing was, many people removed their thwarts for a rowing frame anyway. Therefore the new edition comes with just two, but they are repositionable lace-in style like the American AIRE rafts. A third thwart can be purchased too. If you remove both thwarts, the Thirteen HD drops by about nine pounds.

    Another obvious difference between the 2014 and 2015’s is in the colors. Rather than being a solid medium-blue on the side tubes and floor bottom, the new Tributary line is done with alternating colors. These are either dark blue for most of the side section and thwarts, and dark gray for the floor top, bow, and stern sections, or vice versa depending on size. The base fabric of this new material is beefy 2000 denier polyester, so as with the older Trib’s, nearly impossible to tear. It also has more abrasion resistance because of the thicker outside coating. There have been some minor changes to the taper and floors, but you would have to look close to notice these. Tributaries have decreased in price for the second time in three years, and remain a solid value – one of the very best in fact. The welded seams and replaceable bladders mean a Tributary should last decades, and though these new ones are a bit heavier than prior Trib models, they still roll up much smaller than almost any other Asian pvc raft. They are one of the very few that we can get back into the factory box in fact.

    The Thirteen HD has a five year warranty. 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 Thirteen HD 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 15 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. You won’t have to face this with the bladderized Tributaries, so they 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. They stand as an obvious first choice for veterans and first time boat owners alike.

    New Thicker PVC Used To Make AIRE Tributary Thirteen HD Whitewater Raft

    The Trib’s come with the reliable quick fill 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 commercial outfitters. These guys worry about the ease of deflating a stack of rafts more than their customer’s bleeding knuckles. You may need to have one or both bow paddlers wear thick neoprene gloves if you’ll be using your Tributary as a paddle raft. The problem is less pronounced on the three-chamber Twelve HD which can be oriented in such a way where only the front left valve might be a problem.

    Easy to Roll Up – AIRE Tributary Thirteen HD Raft

    One thing that stands out with the new Tributary rafts is how easy they are to roll up. The new material inflates very stiff, much like the older Ferrari pvc (Ferrari is a brand name unrelated to the car company), yet the suppleness of it when deflated is amazing. It is actually softer and easier to roll than many of the hypalon boats. We had no problem getting a 14′ Tributary back in it’s box. So if you are not using a trailer with one of the bigger sizes of Trib rafts, getting one into the back of an SUV, truck, or even a mid size hatch back wagon is very do-able.

    AIRE Tributary Thirteen HD Whitewater Raft 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 Thirteen 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″. We think it is somewhat 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. This is true of all high rockered rafts in our opinion. If paddle rafting is your main interest, you may want go with either the sporty little Twelve HD or step up to the Fourteen. 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.

    If you need a UPS quote on this raft just send us your zip code.

    AIRE Tributary Thirteen HD Whitewater Raft Possible Savings Up To $250

    * Free Shipping or 5% UPS/gear credit. An additional price break of 5% is available for payments made via cashier’s check or bank transfer.

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