Ask the manufacturer of your raft about storage
vs. usage temperature specs for your model.
If you have a good quality raft that is vacuum packed, it shouldn't be an issue.
"...horrendous unforeseen cold temperatures..." is relative. We [and the commercial
fishermen, ferries, tub boats, ice breakers further north and south, etc. ] use our vessels in cool weather- typically below freezing [even occasionally below zero F] temperatures.
We all have life rafts that can handle such conditions.
Despite this treatment, our older offshore Winslow
continues to pass inspection
every 3 years... [The sun screen
bag (not bottle) had leaked once- coating everything with goo... But that was a package failure- not because of freezing... It would not have affected use of the raft, but would have been inconvenient handling all the greasy items it leaked upon...]
The only thing in your raft that will freeze and swell is water
. You may have small water
packs in with the raft. They are in expandable packaging, and swelling is minimal due to their small size. We have never seen one that burst, but recognize they could be useless popsicles in winter if we ever had to deploy the raft. Therefore water jugs [with some air in them] are tied to our ditch bags and stored below decks where they won't freeze...
The worse that can happen- especially if your raft is not vacuum packed, or if the vacuum bag is compromized- is to have water intrude into the raft packaging and then go through multiple freeze/thaw cycles- possibly causing damage in the process.
This is a non-issue with good quality, vacuum packed rafts from our experience.
All that said, when we are not boating
for an extended period of time, the raft is stored in climate controlled dry storage
in an attempt to prolong its shelf life. We do this more to protect it from heat than cold as heat is the #1 enemy of liferafts according to our commercial
In case this is helpful...
PS: I just checked the NC Wx and don't see any below zero F [negative] temps forcast, but there are some predicted to fall a little below freezing a few evenings. It that what you meant in your subject line? [i.e., Below freezing? Or perhaps you were thinking degrees Centigrade where minus temps are those below freezing?] If the local temps forecast
are accurate, they will be just a little below freezing- and only overnight. Therefore it is unlikely that even water will freeze in your raft... Relax...