|Item:||Wilderness 11 9′ pontoon boat|
|Purchased at:||Costco Wholesale|
|Store location:||Burlington, WA|
|Warranty:||Two year, limited|
About 2 weeks ago I decided it was time to upgrade from my faded orange float tube and buy a pontoon boat. I’d seen them on and off at Costco for the past couple years and the prices always seemed good and with Costco’s wonderful return policy it seemed like a win win situation.
The one currently available (in Washington at least) is the “Wilderness 11” 9’ model. Sure, on the Costco floor it looks like it means business with plenty of gadgets (cooler pack, foam fly patches, etc…) but how does it behave on the water? After using it on a few outings in a variety of conditions I feel ready to write a brief review. I hope it’s helpful in your pontoon boat search!
The Wilderness 11 includes some nice features. You get a bag anchor (to be filled with rocks or anything else that sinks) with a decently long rope which threads through a series of guides to the front and can be set up for right or left handed users. There’s a cargo basket behind your seat to hold gear or the battery for a trolling motor. You get a motor mount which is also switchable for right or left handed fishermen. The frame is powered coated steel, although I think it’s most likely painted steel since it chips easily. The seat is very comfortable, even for someone my size (6’3” 250lbs). You get two cup holders (for beer AND coffee?) which are just loops of nylon. Two ample cargo pockets are right at your finger tips and hold plenty of gear. I haven’t tested it yet, but it comes with a cooler pack that fits in either of cargo pockets. You also get 2 removable, foam fly patches. Also included are 2 piece aluminum oars, very handy for storage or transporting. It’s rated for Class 1 river use, but I’d be cautious to try it unless you have experience in river boating.
Now, let’s talk about initial assembly. It comes neatly packed in a decent sized box that of course it’ll never fit into again once you start. Everything was well wrapped in plastic bags and sharp edges were protected with foam. Mine did however have slight crush damage to one of the anchor line holders but I didn’t feel like returning it over one little ding.
Assembly went quickly since the only thing you have to put together with screws is the cushioned seat. The instruction sheet is fairly easy to follow and I imagine most people will have no trouble with it.
It doesn’t include a pump and the instructions are vague as to what type is required. I started out using the 12v compressor I carry in my truck. The pontoons feature a quick deflate push valve that can be locked open. It is supposed to inflate with the valve closed and I figured with 260psi my compressor would have no trouble, I was wrong. Apparently electric pumps designed for inflating tires don’t build enough pressure to push the valve and inflate the pontoons. It’ll work if you lock the valve open, but you lose plenty of pressure getting it closed after inflating. The only pump I’ve found that works is a cheap Walmart pump intended for an air mattress.
The first time I took it out I forgot to bring my float tube fins and had to rely on the oars alone. Keeping the boat going in a straight line can be tricky if you don’t have each pontoon inflated to the same pressure. Sitting off center will also spin you in circles. That being said, you can row pretty quickly and cover a lot of water in a hurry, very useful if a wind kicks up and blows you to the far end of a lake. With fins it handles and moves with very little effort. It comes with foot rests but I found they got in the way more than anything. If you were planning on using a trolling motor I suppose the foot rests would come in handy. I found the included stripping basket to be rather annoying and caused more tangles than it prevented. It also makes landing fish very tricky, so I’ve opted to not use it. If you don’t already have one, buy a good catch and release net.
Overall, I feel very satisfied with my purchase. It seems sturdy and is much easier to handle on the water than my old donut of a float tube. With the pontoons slightly deflated it packs easily in the bed of my Toyota Tacoma (it has the short bed…). It’s a little heavy and awkward to carry any distance so I wish it included a flip down wheel as some other boats do. These types of wheels can be found at a number of retailers and will come in very handy. At $300 dollars and change I’d say this boat is a fair deal and I hope to get many years of use out of mine. I hope you found this review somewhat helpful. Good luck on the water.
Keep your hooks barbless and your lines tight!