Complete End-of-Season Guide to Raft Gear Maintenance

Published with NRS Duct Tape Diaries on October 3, 2019.

Right up there on the list of least favorite rafting chores, along with cleaning the groover and draining last month’s cooler, is winterizing your rafting gear.

In the fall, we all get tingly and excited about the change of seasons and start looking forward to powder turns and crisp, cold mornings. All too often, instead of neatly wrapping up summer and storing and repairing the gear that served us so well, we rush ahead into the next season, discovering only later the toll this neglect takes on our favorite inflatables and summer apparel.

Modern river gear is incredible for its durability and resilience, but it can age quickly with heavy use. Because it also tends to be the largest gear investment we make, it’s important to prioritize care and maintenance. So set aside a weekend, buy some beer and cue up your favorite playlist to make this the year when you put your rig to bed the right way.

Boat Maintenance – Repeat after me: Sand is the enemy! Hopefully, you at least rinse the boat after every trip, but if you’re a winch and trailer kind of crew, odds are that rig has been sandy for at least three months. Especially for those of us in love with the seriously silty western rivers, getting rid of our gritty nemesis is an ongoing struggle. So get that big rubber baby of yours down to its birthday suit by taking off all the hardware. Standing it out on the lawn or driveway, spray it down thoroughly, systematically working the dirt and sand out of the corners and spaces below the tubes.

Dry it off and give it a good ol’ wax and polish. First, use inflatable boat cleaner to remove fine grit and stains. If you’re not yet familiar with the magical qualities associated with 303 Protectant, then you’re in for a treat. Working your way thoroughly from bow to stern, apply this amazing UV protectant liberally. Focus especially on areas of wear, like the side tubes where your frame sits. Also, remember to pay special attention to spots on your boat which are constantly exposed to the sun. Once it’s dry, do a victory slide before deflating or rolling the boat. Here are some more tips on how to prevent wear and tear.

Lots more tips about everything from the frame to your funky hydroskin…read on!


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