In this gear review, we’ll be going over a product that is going to change the way anglers approach still-water fly-fishing: the Rapid Raft, from Uncharted Supply Co. This summer, we had the chance to get our hands on the new Rapid Raft and put it to the test through rain, scree, and hail: in some of the most rugged terrain that the Colorado Rocky Mountains have to offer. Check out our thoughts on the Rapid Raft Below…
To promptly make potential bias known, we at Flylords have been fans of what Uncharted Supply Co. has been up to long before we decided to publish this review. As anglers, hunters, and overall outdoor recreationists: we recognize that getting off the beaten path can be intimidating. Anyone who focuses on creating a smarter and safer solution for those who aim to defeat trail traffic is A-OK in our book. Still, upon assessing the performance of their Rapid Raft, we approached the task with a clean slate.
Upon removing the deflated raft from its packaging, one factor was undeniably evident. This thing was small. Arriving in a package about half the size of a shoe box, I was astonished to think that the item that sat, almost weightless in my two hands, was going to support me and my gear above 30-40 feet of frigid alpine lake water. Nonetheless, it was time to take it outside.
The contents of the package contained an extra buckle for the raft, an instruction manual (which I promptly lost), and a rolled-up, 3-pound, green brick of thick TPU-coated nylon material… or, as I should phrase it: a raft. When talking to the folks from Uncharted, I had heard its dimensions compared to that of a loaf of bread, but it wasn’t until I was holding it in my hand that I really understood what they were talking about.
Upon unbuckling the two ends of what was to be the air chamber, I rolled the rest of the raft out like one might when setting down a ground tarp or a tent. With ease, the opposite end of the raft shot through the air and neatly rolled out to reveal an orange belly surrounded by the deflated walls of the vessel. The opening to the raft, or as I referred to it already, the air chamber, was protected by a hard wall of black flexible lining, which served to protect the seal from anything getting in or out upon inflation. Off the bat, the now unfurled structure of the raft reminded me of a typical heavy-duty dry bag. Which, from an engineering perspective, is sort of what it was.
Now, it was time to inflate. By grabbing the ends of the roll top, and keeping the air chamber open, I was able to rip the uninflated raft through the air, filling it about halfway. From there, I closed the chamber and began rolling the top towards the front of the raft – which now actually resembled a watercraft that could support an angler. Once I approached the end of the neck or the rolling portion, I clasped the two buckles together and trapped the air inside.
On the outside of the, now, mostly inflated raft, there was a small plastic valve that could be used to finish off the inflation process. With the same amount of effort one might expend to inflate a light-grade sleeping pad, the raft’s walls were tight and the rig was ready to be used. Now, standing about 6 ft. tall, the raft looked and felt sturdy and ready to sit in. Now all that was left was for it to be deflated, packed away, and taken into the field.
As we prepared to head out for a weekend of testing the raft, we kicked around a few potential hills to climb, debating which one might best showcase the raft’s full scope of capabilities. Eventually, we landed on a healthy hike to a series of lakes, located just a few hours East of us, that we believed had the potential to hold some trout. So, in typical weekend-warrior fashion, we packed the trucks, grabbed the dog, and hit the road: excited to do some genuine exploring with this product.
Once we reached the trailhead, it was time to vacate the interior of the trucks and get to going. I was pleased to see that my Rapid Raft , as well as our videographer’s, fit snugly onto the base of our packs, synched tightly onto where one might normally carry a tent or pad. Not to mention, with it weighing only 3 LBS, the raft rode comfortably with us over the entirety of the hike without needing any adjustment, whatsoever.
The rest of our pack’s contents consisted of fishing gear, raincoats, camera gear, and a first aid kit. On the exterior of the pack, we carried a double-blade kayak paddle, which we had picked up from Walmart, broken down, and strapped to the side of our packs with Heli straps. When using the Rapid Raft for angling purposes, we recommend packing a paddle similar in nature to the one shown. On the water, the raft is light enough that it can be maneuvered by simply paddling with your hands, but when juggling a fly-rod and being pushed around by wind – using a paddle to get around is far more practical for getting on, and staying on fish. We’re hoping to see Uncharted Supply Co. come up with their own soon.
After around 3 miles of hiking and 1.5k ft. of elevation gain, we had finally made it to our destination. The lake, walled in by towering cliffs and fields of scree, boasted shimmering dark blue waters textured by the reflections of quickly forming storm clouds and the last of the pine trees that populated the border of the alpine zone. It took less than a minute before we witnessed the first trout breach the surface of the middle of the lake and pull down an unsuspecting mayfly to its watery demise. As if on queue, in the still unsettled ripple of the first eat, came another…and another…and another.
With excitement and haste, we tossed down our packs and began to get to work. Quickly, I released the Rapid Raft from my pack and started my way down to the water. In less than 3-minutes (less than the amount of time it took me to rig my fly rod), the raft was unrolled, filled with air, sealed, and ready to be deployed.
Now, because the raft’s floor is not inflated like the sidewalls, it can feel a bit awkward to get into at first. It takes a bit of practice to find the best method of entry, but with some practice, it can be nailed down pretty easily. What I found to be easiest, when loading into the inflated Rapid Raft, was to find a flat section of the bank, and place the tail end, just on the grassy edge. Then, with both feet forward, slide forward into the opening of the raft and push off of the bank just as your butt is about to hit the bright orange floor. However, it really boils down to user preference and whatever you feel comfortable with.
As any angler who’s familiar with fishing high Alpine lakes in the West can imagine, getting off the shore was a game-changer, to say the least. As I navigated the lake with fly-rod in lap and paddle in hand, I was able to quickly push from one pod of rising fish to the next with ease and little time wasted. Traditionally, the bane of fishing a mountain lake is being glued to the shore, watching the center of the lake, which is far out of casting range, erupt with rising fish, as you stay confined to the banks, watching cruising trout ignore your fly again and again. But now, with cast after cast, I mailed my fly to different zones of the lake that most likely haven’t been fished with a fly all year (and considering the hike, maybe ever).
Perhaps 20-minutes had passed since I got onto the water, and we already had several Cutthroat trout on the board. Next to me, our videographer, Preston paddled around in his raft, documenting the action (Note: to showcase the level of trust we had in these rafts, which were rated for 400 LBS, our camera raft was working with around $60k of camera gear in the middle of this lake).
Unfortunately, our time was cut short by an incoming storm, and with the first echo of thunder, we decided to make our way to shore and scabbard our rods for the night. Here’s a fun tip: If you’re fishing on one of these rafts, and you’re met with a surprise monsoon, the raft makes a fantastic impromptu shelter…
Rolling the Rapid Raft up was as easy as opening the air channel, folding in the edges, and rolling it back up towards the buckles. Within 10 minutes of being forced off the water, we were able to get back on the trail and make our mad dash down hill. As the cold of the evening met our wet clothes, we made our way downhill laughing and shivering, bewildered by the rafts capabilities and grateful for the unconventional adventure it had inspired.
The next morning, against our better judgment… we made our way back up the hill for one more round of fishing before making our drive back home. While the rain managed to follow us back up… it was worth it.
Size (Fully Inflated):
Time to Inflate:
Ease of use:
As an angler in the West, fishing high alpine lakes had always felt somewhat limited. Spending hours hiking up to an e-scouted lake can many times lead to disappointment. After spending 50% of your time walking the perimeter of the lake and untangling your rig from trees that seem to come out of nowhere, one can often times become discouraged, especially after still being refused by perimeter trout who still can’t be convinced to take your tackle even after the 16th fly change. Even in the high alpine zones, not being able to reach the center of the lake, or areas where foot travel simply can’t take you, can often cause you to miss out on a large percentage of the lake’s fishable water.
This is, of course, not to say, the experience is only about catching fish – but it never hurts to get a few when you’ve hiked so far. This is exactly why we are completely sold on the Rapid Raft. Because of its small, lightweight, and durable construction as well as, the ability to inflate it in a matter of minutes, it’s not a piece of gear you have to even think about packing – it should be a permanent resident in your hiking outfit. Having the ability to explore a lake, with ease, in its entirety brings still water fishing to a completely new level, and whether you’re working dry flies to actively feeding fish, or exploring subsurface with a balanced leach or chironomid , the Rapid Raft is a simple solution that is going to let you do so like never before. From our personal experience, we can guarantee that we’ll never hit the trailhead without it.