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NRS Side Rail Racks

I’m writing this article in the first person because I believe it’s the best way for me to talk about this excellent new NRS product. To establish my bona fides for being able to speak authoritatively about such a product, I’ve been pushing rubber down rivers for over 30 years. Most of that has been on multiday trips, so I’ve packed and unpacked my rafts hundreds of times. While most of those river miles have been in boats I bought from NRS, the frames were homemade.

Three years ago, I bought my first NRS frame and I’ve been super pleased with just about everything about it. The strength, adjustability and adaptability can’t be beat. The one thing that bugged me was that single side rail, which made it hard to tie gear on the sides and didn’t give good footing when walking around on the boat.

NRS Side rail racks

The Birth
The idea for these new racks came about like many new NRS products. Someone had an idea and others came up with refinements. Bill Parks, NRS’s founder, had the idea: he wanted a flat surface along the sides of his cataraft frame. Then, at a Research and Development brainstorming session, Sales Manager Josh Davis and others tossed out multiple suggestions. This inspired Frameshop Manager Rob Gleason and his crew to come up with the design of… the NRS Side Rail Racks!

Like most great design ideas, what Rob and crew came up with is simple, elegant and works like a charm. The rack top is a piece of ¾” Skidguard® plywood, 8” wide and either three or six feet long. Skidguard is marine-grade plywood, with a plastic laminate on top and bottom. The top is textured to give it a grippy surface.

The Skidguard top is connected to the frame with short pieces of frame pipe and LoPro Fittings. The heads of the carriage bolts that attach the top to the short pieces of pipe are countersunk. It’s the same technique used in making our Casting Platforms. The bottom of the NRS Side Rail Racks

The Function
So what does the Side Rail Rack do for you? First of all, it gives you a flat surface for tying on extra gear. I’ve been running with these racks on my frame for over a year now, using four three-footers. On one of the front ones, I strap on one of the old York Box 80s that holds a bunch of my cook kit. On the other side, I put a medium Expedition DriDuffel Dry Bag that holds my spare clothing, toiletries, etc. I first put it there, where it gets continually pounded by waves, to prove how dry it is (I love those bags); now it’s just a habit.

York Box, Pelican camera case and ammo cans.
York Box, Pelican camera case and ammo cans.
© Clyde Nicely
Expedition DriDuffel and ammo cans.
Expedition DriDuffel and ammo cans. © Clyde Nicely

On the back two racks I typically pack three ammo cans – first aid, repair kit and miscellaneous items, plus a Pelican case for a camera. There’s room for extra stuff, but that’s the normal load. I have my racks set in front and back of my oar mounts, but they’re constructed in such a way that they don’t interfere with positioning or moving the mounts or any of the cross members.

But, as they say in the infomercials, “That’s not all!” If the Skidguard top rests on one or more frame cross members, you can walk on the racks. So great, especially in camp. I never pull my dry box and cooler out of the boat, they’re too darn heavy, so I’m forever climbing back on, pulling stuff out and putting it back in. Even in the dark, scrambling around with a headlamp, there’s great footing. And, when I’ve boated with folks who bring their dogs, the pooches really appreciate that flat highway. The Racks make great walking/standing surfaces.
The Racks make great walking/standing surfaces. © Clyde Nicely

“But wait, there’s more!” We call them Side Rail Racks, but Tyler and others have put the shorter one on a crossbar and strapped on camera cases, ammo cans and day bags. With the two LoPro Fittings cinched down, you can put quite a bit of weight on them in this application, but I don’t recommend walking on them.

Bottom Line

To me, they’re neater than sliced bread; I can always slice a homemade loaf myself. These racks are rugged, multipurpose and greatly expand the utility of the NRS frame system. All I’ve done to them is paint the edges with some wood sealant. You don’t have to; it just prevents the edges from surface checking and keeps them looking nicer.

I’ve logged hundreds of miles with them and now can’t imagine running without them. Try ‘em, you’ll like ‘em.

Note that the Side Rail Rack doesn’t interfere with placement of the Oar Mounts. © Ashley Niles

Boat Often, Boat Safe and Enjoy the Heck Out of Life!


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