If you’re trying to decide between a centre or stern mount raft frame, this article is for you. We’ll cover some simple considerations and advice to help you choose the right one for your raft.
Centre Mount Raft Frame Advantages
NRS Bighorn II Raft Frame
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The centre mount raft frame works really well for a gear raft. It provides a great pivot point so you can easily turn the boat. Centre mounts are especially important if you have a lot of weight that's evenly distributed.
Centre mount raft frames also tend to be more popular if you are rafting with a crew that isn’t going to be bringing a lot of power to the party. An example of this is older folks or kids. A centre mount frame allows the rower to provide the raft more power under their own steam than a stern mount frame setup.
An experienced rower using a center frame can use currents, eddies and river features to maneuver around very effectively in moving water without any crew participation. This is not true in a stern frame where all the rowers' power and weight is in the back of the boat which tends to create more spin momentum than being able to drive the speed of the boat.
We find that most rafters looking for versatility for single day and multi day trips tend to lean towards a modular centre frame. This allows the rower on multi day trips to effectively and efficiently haul larger loads with no paddler input, and conversely, on single day whitewater trips still have paddlers bringing power to the adventure using paddles.
Stern Mount Raft Frame Advantages
NRS Stern Raft Frame
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A stern mount raft frame makes sense when you’re running a paddle raft, on a raft that is typically over 14’ long. If the raft is under 14’ you have plenty of maneuverability built in with the shorter waterline. If the raft is over 14’ and you are rafting with a crew, a stern frame brings a load of control and additional power to the setup.
If you are considering a stern mount frame system you are basically looking at always having a crew with paddles on every trip. A stern frame system with only gear or paddled solo is a really challenging and not very efficient option.
An example of an ideal scenario for a stern frame system is when you are paddling a 14’ + raft, you will typically have two (or more) paddlers in the front at the bow, and then you're on the stern. That stern frame helps give an extra boost when you're relying heavily on paddles. It is essentially a step up from the power and control you have when paddle guiding a raft
You will typically see stern rafts used by commercial operations. This setup gives the guides the best combination of control and power when paddling with inexperienced commercial rafting clients. The stern frame is also often preferred in this environment as it gives both the guides and clients a sportier feeling and clients feel much more involved in the overall experience as, unlike a centre frame setup, the power they bring when paddling is a big part of the success of the day.
In a nutshell a stern frame setup is only really worth considering if you will always have a crew in the boat. It doesn’t mean you can’t use one on multi day trips as you can pack a combo of gear and paddlers, the paddlers are just an integral part of the setup.
Centre vs Stern Mount Raft Frame Closing Thoughts
In short these are our thoughts on the applications that best suit each frame type:
- Best for rowing gear and heavy loads
- Better option for those who will be rowing with passengers that don’t want to or unable to provide a lot of power (ie. kids, dogs, elderly people)
- Versatile in the sense that you can row gear only or have passengers with or without paddles and still have the rig perform well
- On long flat sections or headwinds centre frames tend to perform better than stern frames. The rower sits lower (out of the wind) and if you turn the boat backwards a single rower can pull and generate a bunch of force/speed
- Best for paddlers looking to have a minimum of 2 paddlers in the raft at all times. This does allow for gear on multi day trips. You just need some power from paddlers in the boat also.
- Rafters looking for a sporty, fun and dynamic setup for maximum maneuverability in whitewater
- Best for rafts over 14’ (under 14’ boats don’t typically need the added maneuverability that oars bring, paddle rafting is usually sufficient, or for multi days a centre frame is more ideal)
- For commercial whitewater rafting operations
We hope that this info helps you decide whether or not you are best served with a centre or stern raft frame system. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you, please see our contact options below for more information on how to get a hold of us.
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