Remember that old American Express commercial, touting “Don’t leave home without one”? They same could be said for the Coyote Raft Bimini from 4 Corners Riversports, which serves up a whopping eight-foot-long canopy of shade to take the bite out of the desert sun …
We tested it this summer on a six-day, 100-degree raft trip down Utah’s Desolation/Gray Canyons, and came away calling it a lifesaver. While the large umbrellas on all the other five rafts had to be folded up in the wind (with two breaking), the Coyote Bimini kept us – and equally important, our precious ice coolers – made in the shade.
The key to its bombproofness is three aluminum arms that extend up and over the rowing area and fasten on each corners to male-ended cam straps coming off the frame. This makes them not only uberly secure, but infinitely adjustable. Raft angle change and sun now at your back? Loosen the front and tighten the stern. Kid or spouse whining up front because their toe’s in the sun? Like a mullet, loosen the back and tighten the front.
With each day of our trip burning toes and noses and melting ice, ours was even the envy of a commercial trip passing by, whose oarsmen were toiling away sans shade. “Coyote Bimini from Four Corners in Durango,” I replied when queried about our private boater convenience.
And it does far more than keep you out of the sun. We found it the perfect clothes drying rack for everything from shorts to towels, and it offered great nooks to hang sunglasses and ballcaps (who cares it made us look like something out of Sanford and Son). It also worked great in the rain when a sudden squall had everyone else pulling out raincoats. It kept rower and passengers high and dry (just beware when the pooled-up water above comes cascading down, as it did to poor Austin).
And don’t fret about the wear and tear of a typical raft trip. Sized to fit any raft frame 48-78" wide (you call in your frame width so they can customize), each arm is made of double-walled 7/8"x.058” satin anodized aluminum tubing, eliminating oxidation, with each bend reinforced with 3/4"x 058” drawn mill aluminum tubing. The only thing stronger is your horseshoe stakes. The frame joints are held together with 1/4" stainless steel button clips, letting you easily remove it from your raft for storage or transport. When collapsed it’s about 66 inches long. It adds 18 lbs to your raft, but that’s paltry compared to the sun blisters you’ll avoid.
The eight feet of shade itself is courtesy of bomber, 11-oz Harbor Time fabric, which is stronger, more hydrophobic and more abrasion resistant than Sunbrella fabric used by other bimini makers. With a five-year warranty, the acrylic-coated polyester marine fabric also features a unique color coating, eliminating rub-off, and is water, mildew and UV repellent. And it rolls and stows away easily for when you have to put it down and run the gnar.
Our only complaint? When folding it back down behind the oarsman, it either takes up coveted cargo space, lessening your carrying capacity, or has to rest atop a mound of drybags, which could potentially put the frame poles in the way of your oars. But this is remediable by experimenting with adjustments.
“Given the fact that every one's set up is different, it takes up some room when folded down,” says designer Matt Gerhardt. “On some setups, it drops back and rests perfectly outside the gear pile. On others, it can sit on top. The reality of biminis is that they’re sometimes a bit pesky from an on-boat storage standpoint, but the benefits obviously outweigh the downfalls.”
We’d have to whole-heartedly agree, and will bring it on every sun-filled trip we go on from now on. Plus, adds Gerhardt, “They’re built and tested by rafters for rafting. They are not re-branded, mail-order marine kits, like our competitor's. All you'll have to do is clip each color-coded center frame piece together, slip the canopy on the frame, mount it to your boat and be on your way.”
Coyote biminis start at $525. The company has most sizes (54-78") in stock, and can ship within 24-48 hours of your order. Frames narrower than 54" frames will require a smaller canopy and will require an additional 7-10 day build time. Info: www.riversports.com
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