The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Rubber Raft

1845

A modern rubber raft via Shutterstock     Photo: Vereshchagin Dmitry

Humans have been building rafts for thousands of years—some scientists suggest that the first rafts were constructed 800,000 years ago—but it wasn’t until the early 1840s that John Freemont developed a rubberized raft that he used to explore the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.

Rubber rafts were relatively light and collapsible, and they improved on rafts constructed from cloth tubes with a wrap-around floor. The first known use of a raft in whitewater was in 1842, when Freemont set out to survey the Platte River in Wyoming for the United States Navy. By the turn of the 20th century, the first commercial rafting outfits were springing up around the country.

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