Home » Review of Wilderness 11 pontoon boat from Costco

Review of Wilderness 11 pontoon boat from Costco

Wilderness 11 Pontoon Boat

Item: Wilderness 11 9′ pontoon boat
Price paid: $299.99
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!

Wilderness 11 Pontoon Boat Cooler Pack

Removable cooler for either side pocket. 6 pack anyone?

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.

Wilderness 11 pontoon boat box

Once you take it out of the box, you'll never get it that small again!

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!





20 Responses to “Review of Wilderness 11 pontoon boat from Costco”

  1. Dave says:

    Do you like the pontoon boat.? I just purchased the same one but have yet to use it. I plan on purchasing a trolling motor, any suggestions?

    • Sam says:

      Dave,

      I’m happy to say my pontoon boat is still working well. I’ve stopped using the included foot rests though. Frankly, they just get in the way! As for a trolling motor, given the strength of the frame and the motor mounting plate, I would think you should be fine with any of the smaller trolling motors on the market. I would however recommend picking up some cargo straps to hold the battery in place. Since even a small shift in weight makes the boat hard to keep in a straight line, you’ll want to make sure the battery stays centered. Hope this helps you out in your search. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

      • Sage says:

        Do you still have the instructions for assembly

        • Sam says:

          I do indeed have the instructions lying around somewhere. If anyone needs them I’d be more than happy to post them here?

          • K says:

            Sam, how in the heck did you inflate yours? I got a non-electric hand pump made for inflatables, but might be missing a piece that should have come with the boat. Could you shed some light? Thanks a bunch.
            -K

          • Sam says:

            There is a specially designed (and easily lost) connector that is vital to inflation. I’ll post a pic of what you’re after soon. What you’re looking for is basically a plastic disc with a 5″ flexible plastic tube attached.

      • TD Mulligan says:

        wondering what the recommended motor and battery is..
        I was given a Minn Kota and battery for my birthday and they seem too large for my Wilderness Pontoon.
        looking for some guidance here. thank you

  2. Keith says:

    I purchased two of these pontoon boats in the spring of 2010. To date we have used them to float the Bow River (8 hrs) in both high water and lower water conditions and performed flawlessly and are comfortable. It has been used approximately 15 time in the central Alberta trout lakes and they are extremely stable. 90% of the time I use the flippers as opposed to the oars. In extremely strong winds you do get pushed around a bit but that is to be expected. Assembly is very easy. It was suggested that I purchase a $10 swivel and mount the swivel onto a piece of plywood and mount this to the frame and seat. Works very well and gives you the ability to turn around easier without having to get out of your seat. As for a pump, you can purchase one for under $20.00 at any local sporting goods store. Remember to take your adapter with you to ensure it has the proper fittings, most do. For ease & quick inflation I reverse my shop vac and lock the valve open. This inflates the pontoons before leaving home in about 10-15 seconds. I just top them off with the hand pump at the lake and it takes seconds.
    For the price I’d highly recommend it, they are anywhere from $450-$650 for a similar item in the major sporting goods stores.

  3. amos says:

    I doubt these are Classic Accessories boats (thank God!). Friends that have these boats say the assembly was very easy and if you know anyone with C.A.. boats you’ve heard the horror stories . I “assembled” mine with a 4 pound hand sledgehammer.

    • Sam says:

      You are indeed correct. These boats are not made by Classic Accessories. These fine pontoons are the creation of Worldwide Sourcing, LTD. Lately I’ve been seeing the exact same boats (in different colors of course) for around $600.

  4. Ryan says:

    Oar locks were pretty beat up after a day float but everything else worked well.

    • Ryan says:

      I haven’t had a chance to test them but these oar locks are cheap($14), heavier duty, and fit perfectly. Just have to cut off the rubber stopper on the oar and clamp them on.

    • Ryan says:

      Attwood Clamp-On Oarlock 1/2in Zinc Pair 9146-3 about (about $14) Forgot to add this in the last post

  5. Doug says:

    I work at a fishing resort with access to many fine fishing lakes. I bought one of these to have easier access to these lakes. It is awesome, I use both the oars and flippers. The footrests are fine for resting your legs and I have made rod holders using one inch ID PVC pipe and Scottie fly rod holders. These fit on the footrest arms and are adjustable to any position. Overall for the price these boats cannot be beaten.

  6. Melody says:

    I am going to be in the Florida Keys for a year. I am looking at the Wilderness 13 for close to shore fishing. if I wanted to get off the Pontoon and get into the water to catch some lobster how hard would it be to get back on? I see where people say flippers are better than oars. Do flippers come with Pontoon or is it something u buy separate.

  7. I have just purchased a Wilderness 13 from Costco & find that I can’t fill the pontoons properly due to the adaptor not shutting off the air valve or opening it as required.. If I attach the adaptor in the open position I can get air in but lose too much pressure trying to close the valve. I’m hoping that I don’t have to return the boat so I would like to know if there is a simple method of overcoming this problem. My Michelin air pump works but the adaptor that was supplied with the boat doesn’t.

    Thanks for any help you may give me with this problem

    • Sam says:

      I had the same issue with inflation. The best method I found was using a hand pump vs. electric and getting quicker with taking off the adapter and closing the valve. It certainly seems they could have done a better job with the inflation valve system.

  8. Thanks Sam I will look for a hand pump that will fit.. tight lines

  9. Hello Sam…My inexperience with my pontoon boat poses another problem withy my Wilderness 13 that I bought from Costco this year. Maybe you can suggest a solution.

    Problem……How to determine the recommended 2.5 psi air pressure when filling it fairly accurately. An air pressure gauge would not be the cure ,imo, due to the difficulty in shutting the adaptor connection off or on.

    I find that in the cool mornings the pressure in way down making it deform the pontoons when using my small 30 lb thrust motor with the battery. If I pump enough air in it when it’s cool I’m afraid that it will over pressure in the heat of the day.as I notice that there is a big difference in air volume then.

    Maybe I’m being a bit too cautious or maybe there is a recommended way to judge how tight to pump it up in the mornings. I’d sure hate to have the thing burst when I’m out on my remote lake. LOL.

    …Any suggest5ion that you could give me would be appreciated…tight lines…

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