How to Size and Customize a Raft Frame

How to Size and Customize a Raft Frame

AQ Staff
6 minute read

You bought your raft, now you have to size a frame and figure out how you want to configure it. Or maybe you haven’t even bought your raft yet and want explore your options? This article goes over everything you need to know from sizing a frame to figuring out exactly how you want it setup for different applications.


Making a Box With Your Raft Frame

The frame starts with making a box. You'll have two side rails going down the flat top portions of the side tubes, and then bridge those side rails with a crossbar in the front and a crossbar in the back.

These four pieces make your raft frame box. The size of that box, the length of that box and the other components that you fill that box with depend on what type of activity that you plan to do.


How to Measure and Size Your Frame

To get started fitting your frame to your raft, you need to know a couple primary dimensions. First is the length of the flat part on the top of the side tube, the other is your side-to-side raft frame width


Raft Frame Length

The length of the flat part on the side tubes is approximately the length you can run your side rails.


Raft Frame Width

You also need to know the centre-to-centre distance from one side tube to the other. That's approximately the length you need your crossbars to be. They could be a little bit longer or shorter; it doesn't have to be precise.

The simplest way to get that center-to-centre width for your raft is to take the overall width of your raft minus the width of one side tube. That'll give you your centre-to-centre.

Once you have those two dimensions, you can figure out the length of siderails you need and the length of crossbar you need. This also corresponds with the length of foot bar you need.

If it's an NRS boat, you can also get all these dimensions from You'll find them on the raft product pages.

You can also use NRS’ frame guide, available here: NRS Raft Frame Sizing Guide Chart.

If you don’t have an NRS boat, you should be able to still get your dimensions from the manufacturer, too.


Setting up Your Raft Rowing Seat

You can throw another crossbar into your raft frame for a universal seat mount. Then you just attach your seat. Most people want to have a foot bar, something to brace their feet against, when they're rowing. So those are the primary components and you just mix and match according to what you need.


Customizing a Raft Fishing Frame

A fishing frame is usually decked out to the nines. It has all the bells and whistles. It's about the most components you could possibly put on one raft frame. Most people, if they're not a dedicated fisher, will typically go with a more generalized setup.


Customizing a Raft Multi-Day Frame

If you're planning on multi-days or more than one or two nights, you definitely need a raft frame big enough to hold a large cooler and probably a dry box.

For this size of frame you’ll need a bit bigger raft with longer side rails so you have room to create those bays. The way to create those bays is to take one of your crossbars (like the one in the back) you want to put a dry box next to. Then, add another bar the appropriate length forward of that to create a space for your box, or cooler, or whatever.

Then you can use NRS Straps or dry box mounts to secure that dry box into that bay. The same goes for a cooler.

I usually like to put my cooler bay up front. Coolers tend to be pretty heavy and having a little bit of weight up in the bow helps keep it down when you're slamming into some big waves. 

I usually go with a dry box in the back and a cooler up in the bow. Then you go from there, working with the space you have available. A lot of people just sit on a dry box or cooler to row. I typically do that because it allows me to bring two dry boxes and a cooler for longer trips. But a lot of people like to have a comfortable rowing seat as well.

The further you go out from there, the more stuff you can bring. I have three sons and my wife and will go out for five, six days on the Lower Salmon. That’s a lot of gear and a lot of people in the boat. I usually run a 16 foot boat and have two dry boxes and a cooler.


Customizing an Overnight Frame

If you're just doing overnighters, or day trips, you probably don't need a frame with two or three bays for coolers and dry boxes. You can probably get away with the cooler and throw stuff into dry bags and strap those down. Pretty basic.

If you're in a 12 foot or smaller raft, you're probably looking at basically having room for a rowing station and a cooler. When you start getting into 13,14 foot rafts you'll have room for a dry box and a cooler.


Finding Raft Frame Advice

It is nice to pick up the phone and talk to somebody if this is your first time building a raft frame, which is something we here at AQ Outdoors pride ourselves on doing for our customers. We have plenty of rafting experience and it’s exciting and a little more personable to interact with somebody who can really help you troubleshoot through and make things easier.

Going to a shop also means you can actually have your boat inflated and start assembling things, moving them around, and putting them together. That's by far the best way to go about building out a frame.


How to Size a Raft Frame Summary

So those are the starting points for figuring out what size of frame to start with and some options for customization, depending on what you’ll be using it for. If you want more information about anything rafting, please feel free to contact us below, or visit us in store!



Shop AQ Outdoors Raft Frame Collection 


Related Rafting Articles

Modular Raft Frame Overview

How to Size Up and Setup a Raft Perimeter Line

How to Attach a Frame to a Raft

How to Size Raft Oars

Centre vs Stern Mount Raft Frame

How to Choose a Raft for Multi-Days and Whitewater

Hypalon vs PVC Raft: What's the Difference? 


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