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Freedom Solo

by Mad River

Reviews

I've paddled a Mad River Freedom Solo for the last three years…

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I've paddled a Mad River Freedom Solo for the last three years. It's a great canoe. It seems to know where I want to go. I did raise the seat and move it back (a seat width) 8.5" to center my weight when kneeling. This helps reduce the amount of water entering the canoe when playing in haystacks. I'm about 160 lbs. I don't find the Freedom Solo slow. If I'm in a group of tandem canoes, I'm out front. For someone my size, the Mad River Freedom Solo has better primary stability than the NovaCraft Supernova Solo and is better in wind than the Esquif Pocket Canyon. I've owned and paddled all three. I prefer the Freedom Solo for the shallow, rocky, Class II rivers we have here in New Brunswick.

The FS is a very nice solo canoe for river running with…

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The FS is a very nice solo canoe for river running with class II rapids. The boat is at home in moving water, and is fairly dry in rapids considering its sharp entry and fairly low depth. It's very good at ferrying. It seems to almost ferry itself with a slight lean.

I'm 200+ pounds and find that the boat handles better with more weight than that. A light person may find this boat to be a little too big.

The one knock on the boat is that it's not very fast which is ok on moving water, but not so great in the flats.

Lets see, The MR Freedom Solo, This boat has roots all…

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Lets see, The MR Freedom Solo, This boat has roots all the way back to the 1980's. Before the freedom, it was the Guide, and before the Guide it was called the Courier. Of course slight modifications have been made through time but overall it is a solid boat. All three models boasted up to class III whitewater and it handles that well, Air bags would help with bigger whitewater, and a lot of reviews say it isn't suitable for class III because water comes into the boat. The reason is not the boat design but more the paddler strategy. If you plow into bigger whitewater of course you will get water in the boat.

I have a MR Outrage rated to class V and in class II/III waves if I plow through I take on a butt load of water. The trick is to hit the waves sideways and draw stroke over the foam pile to knock the top off so it doesn't crash into the boat.

Anyway I have paddled a Freedom and own a Courier, both boats are very similar and I would recommend either to someone looking for a high performance solo. They can be squirrely but what whitewater or performance downriver boat isn't?
None worth buying.

Not the fastest canoe but it moves along nicely for me. Secondary…

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Not the fastest canoe but it moves along nicely for me. Secondary stability is great; have recovered from some hairy circumstances. Primary not too bad either. Turns well when needed and tracks pretty good to. My first choice if I think I might need to get around tight twisty areas. Very happy with it overall. not my first choice if I paddle choppy lake, but that's why I have 3 canoes.

Owned this boat for 3 years and spent the first two not…

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Owned this boat for 3 years and spent the first two not liking it. It was slow, wet in II+s, didn't track well, and not very roomy for my slightly big boned frame (6'2" 215). I primarily used it for slow rivers when duck hunting. More recently I pulled the seat and put in a foam ped two inches back. This raised the front; a little dryer and more maneuverable now. I also worked on my strokes and have no problem holding a line.

I have a great time cruising small rivers (1s and IIs)with a small amount of gear. Still not fast, but I can ferry and hit any part of the river I like on short notice if I have less than 300lbs in it. Workmanship is mediocre, but the boat has taken a lot of abuse and is going strong. Takes some skill, but definitely more entertaining than my tandems.

This is a great boat! I got it 6 weeks ago…

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This is a great boat! I got it 6 weeks ago, and couldn’t be happier.
It easily plays in Class 2, and with flotation & proper skills, will probably be capable of some Class 3 runs. It responds very nicely to slight adjustments in paddle strokes, and is just plain fun!

On flatwater, it doesn’t track as straight as some other boats, but it’s designed to be a river-running boat, so you can’t be too surprised at that. With a good C-stroke, it tracks more than well enough. With a light load (haven’t tried a real load yet), a following or quartering wind will blow it around, but if you adjust your trim (upwind end heavier than the downwind end), it’s not an issue. That can be accomplished either by moving some of the load to one end, or, with the IQ2 Gunnels, moving the seat fore or aft, as appropriate. Once you do this, wind ferries work quite nicely.

I don’t think Mad River realizes it, but this is a nice boat for Freestyle Canoeing as well. FS is "the art and science of precision boat control," also referred to as "Canoe Dancing." Although this boat is a bit heavy for the purpose (being Royalex), I have amazed myself with how effective the maneuvers can be in this boat. I get 360-degree turns out of Wedges & Posts, and can even pull off 180-degree Axels & Christies, which have always been difficult for me.

So this isn’t a beginner boat – it requires some skills & good technique. The unprepared might find the learning curve forcibly squeezed by trying to learn fundamentals in it. But with decent skills, it’s a blast!

I've had my Guide (Freedom Solo) since 2000. I bought it to…

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I've had my Guide (Freedom Solo) since 2000. I bought it to do lakes and Class II. It's been a great little boat. Pros: It takes a beatin' and keeps on tickin', beaver dams, rocks, drops - no problem. It hauls a mountain of gear (my barrels fit nice and snug) It's so stable I've never fallen out of it while paddling (clearing rivers doesn't count) It will slide, of it's own volition, down the portage from Mountain to Crooked Lake in Sylvania. It has enough rocker to do great on the small rivers and trout streams I love and with enough current it's like a motorcycle on a winding road. Cons: It cannot do Class II as claimed unless you've got lots of room.

No matter how many times I've tried to make the S-curve at Ziemer's on the Red she hits the sides, hard. I just use a ww canoe for that stuff now. Open water in wind is a nightmare. But then, she's so high she can tack in high winds. I've learned to cope by carrying a double bladed paddle, or just using my c kayak. She is pretty heavy for short little folk, but I'm planning on checking out Yakima's new Showboat loader.

I bought my Freedom Solo in 2005 and my first ride in…

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I bought my Freedom Solo in 2005 and my first ride in it was a good January swimming lesson twice in one day. As my other boat is a Freedom 16, I was not used to the responsiveness of the Freedom Solo!

Since then I have learned to ride it and I absolutely love this boat. I have loaded it down with four days worth of camping gear and a German Shorthair Pointer and went down mild class two water and it still remains responsive and agile!

I have had it on class two and three water on the new river and it has done everything I have asked of it though if you're going to run class three water I would recommend flotation. For me this is an awesome boat and I would buy another one in a second!

I bought a MR Freedom Solo new about a month ago, and…

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I bought a MR Freedom Solo new about a month ago, and have had it out 3 or 4 times. On the positive side, it tracks better and is much faster than I expected. On the downside, it ships water over the gunwhales in front in class 2 water. Backpaddling becomes necessary to get thru waves, with consequent loss of some control. Class III is not do-able in this canoe. I will try to extend the decks, or something to keep water out. But it turns OK, and will serve as an excellent all-round solo boat. My 15 foot Dagger Legend has it all over this MR Solo when it comes to whitewater, but takes more effort to eddy turn. All-in-all The Solo has exceeded my expectations in some ways, but does not live up to MR's claim that it is a downriver white-water boat.

I bought a Freedom Solo because I wanted a downriver boat more…

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I bought a Freedom Solo because I wanted a downriver boat more maneuverable than my kevlar tandem Explorer. I never imagined how much fun it would be to paddle. It moves effortlessly, tracks well and turns responsively (I weight 230 lbs.) I can’t get in it (even on a lake) without smiling. It even makes me smile when I see it hanging in the garage.

Five years ago, when I first got into solo canoeing, I test-paddled…

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Five years ago, when I first got into solo canoeing, I test-paddled a Mad River Guide (now the Freedom solo), a Mad River Independence and a Wenonah Solo Plus. I bought the Solo Plus because of its stability and tracking, since my skills were only marginal. Since then I've bought other boats, including my current favorite, a Bell Wildfire, and I'm comfortable in Class II+ water. A few days ago I test-paddled another Guide/Freedom and found it to be just as squirrelly as the first time. It's plenty responsive, but it simply does not track unless it is going perfectly straight and level. The slightest deviation causes it to go into a spiral, meaning an increasingly tight turn. I could not let up on this boat for a moment or it would spin out of control. On the up side, I must admit it has good primary and secondary stability. The addition of a rudder would be a great improvement, but as it is I cannot recommend it for anyone or any purpose, except perhaps as a planter in front of a boat shop! Sorry, Mad River, it just doesn't measure up to your other boats.

The Freedom Solo, formerly the Mad River Guide, is designed as a…

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The Freedom Solo, formerly the Mad River Guide, is designed as a river running canoe but it also serves well in a recreational role for fishing, nature watching, etc. It is very stable in that it leans easily but quickly comes to rest and remains firm. You can actually hang a leg over the gunwales to cool yourself off on a hot day-it's that stable. There's lots of room for gear or to move around and stretch. It has the feel of a bigger boat.

The Freedom Solo also likes to carve turns and does so very readily. Good for clinging to a shoreline or exploring vegetation.

All in all a great utility canoe. I know a smaller woman who has one and she modified the setup so that she can also use it as a tandem with another small person. She told me, "It's all the canoe I'll ever need". Enough said.