By Eric Ladd Explore Big Sky Publisher
Testing grounds – Main Salmon River, 78 miles
Put in – Corn Creek
Take out – Vinegar Creek boat ramp
Gauge – 3.14 feet at Corn Creek
Jet back shuttle – Arctic Creek Lodge
Cooler – 150-quart Canyon Cooler
After years of replacing broken cooler hinges and being frustrated with
premature ice melt, I met my cooler mate, Canyon Coolers. First tested
on a 16-day Grand Canyon trip in 116-degree temps, this cooler is a
beast. With burly hinges, it has plenty of room for frozen items, a large
drain plug and a tough shell. It’s worth the investment and will far
outlast your Walmart cooler. Plus with a cooler pad, it can double as a
great rowing seat.
Frame – Custom Pro
Pro River has 43 years of boating experience yielding some of the best
river gear in the industry. If you’re looking for a custom frame to match
your raft, have Pro River build it for you. Drop hatches with lids, custom
cockpit dry boxes and cooler inset allow this frame to act as a
bedroom, kitchen and pantry. It’s the envy of every boater at a river
trip put-in and Pro River will drop ship to your home.
Starting at $235 proriver.com
Oars – Sawyer Squaretop
Next to a good sleeping pad and bottle of whiskey, a solid set of oars is
a must for any river trip. Sawyer Squaretop Oar takes river oars to a
whole new level. You’ll feel the difference with this square top, Douglas
Fir oar, carbon fiber mix shaft and Dynalite blade. Six out of six
oarsmen and women on a recent 5-day trip all agreed, it’s the “finest
oar they have ever rowed.” This Oregon-made oar has a cult-like
following, and you’ll grow to appreciate the counter-weight design,
lightweight feel and stylish look. Sawyer has been making oars since
1967. They should make your next set.
Starting at $290 paddlesandoars.com
Raft – 16-foot Sotar Classic ST
Durable, stylish and ready to meet any river, Sotar rafts are where it’s
at. Call Cheryl at Sotar to pick your style, color and size, and build your
dreamboat. The 16-foot Classic ST, a self-bailing raft is perfect for
family day-adventures on the Yellowstone River, big water trips on the Main Salmon or full-tilt Grand Canyon expeditions. Expect a long life
out of a Sotar boat – many boat owners tell stories of 15-plus years of
use and durability. The Classic has a self-bailing floor, allows for quick
tracking and its rocker tip will provide a power-packed ride through big
waves and holes.
Stove – 18-inch Cook Partner Steel 4-burner
River trips are tough on gear and the 4-burner Partner Steel stove is a
quiver-worthy piece of gear for your kitchen set-up. Partner Steel is
based in Pocatello, Idaho, turning out equipment worthy of the most
demanding commercial outfitters. The 4-burner stove folds up to a
manageable size, but when operating easily fits large pots and
griddles. All the gas connection points have strong welds and with a
minimalistic style, it’s a relief knowing there are fewer parts to break.
Partner Steel has 66 years in the business and happy customers
throughout the industry. This stove is worth every penny.
Groover – Jon-ny Partner
There’s nothing glamorous about a river groover, but the Jon-ny
Partner is as close to a river throne as you’ll find. Solid aluminum
construction and ample size helps store a large amount of ‘groove’
with minimal odor. Dual carrying handles, an airtight lid, an RV cleanout attachment and an air-bleed valve are a few of the bells and
whistles. On this recent 9-person, 5-day trip, the Jon-ny was only onethird full and cleaned out easily at the SCAT machine.