Submitted: 06-28-2008 by WW
I recently purchased my Colorado from Dick's during a Father's Day sale for $299. After the weeks of exhaustive research looking for an acceptable canoe for my wife and I to tool around the nearby lakes and backyard river, I could practically end the review right there. You will not find a better deal on an entry level starter canoe. Note the emphasis on "entry level" and "starter". If you're looking for something to hit the Blackfoot or the Snake, plan to spend a lot more.
We'd rented a Mad River 16TT a while back and, I must admit here, that was the first canoe either of us had been in, so keep in mind this review is from the raw novice perspective. But, that's what I was when I was seeking reviews here so I'll pay it forward. The first thing I noted from the hundreds of reviews I read was that they canceled each other out, even on the same model: one said "most stable canoe I've ever been in and I've canoed for x years", the next one said "I've never experienced such horrendous instability in all my x years of canoeing". Frustrating for a beginner, to say the least. So I'll describe our personal experience with stability in tangible terms you can equate to your own knowledge and experience level. Same with all other aspects of evaluation: it’ll either be related to my power boating experience or to the MR, or from just plain common sense.
First, Dick’s sales staff was great, but they could have been more knowledgeable of the products they sell. So when they offer to “do you a favor” by leaving your new, un-assembled plastic canoe in the shipping plastic on a 100 degree day and offer to help you strap it to your trailer for the 2-hour ride home, tell them thank you and dismiss them. Imagine the impact when we got home and pulled the limp, severely oil-canned canoe out of said trailer only to be greeted by a warning in huge lettering on the inside of the canoe stating ”DO NOT LEAVE CANOE IN PLASTIC OR STRAPPED DOWN IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT”. Fortunately it popped right back out because it was still hot and left no lasting marks save the slight discoloration where the crease from one of the cargo straps had been. Their ad said “assembled”. I should have held them to it, because as some have said, it was not fun getting some of the seat mount holes to line up. I probably would’ve had an easier time had it not been over 100 degrees by then and I wasn’t still fuming over not being smarter about not leaving the canoe wrapped.
Some further advice for beginners that I never read anywhere: take your new, assembled canoe to a warm, shallow lake and at least establish the canoe’s limitations if not your own. We both had brand new PFD’s and tried them out in the water before even launching the canoe. Hey, if I may have to entrust my life to a device, I want to know it’s going to work! Then, in swimsuits and wading shoes with nothing in the canoe but us and our paddles, we paddled out a ways and intentionally rolled the canoe till it capsized. I won’t get into technical details about initial and secondary stability since I don’t possess the experience to expound on either, but I will say this in layman’s terms: Imagine yourself the small hand on a clock. Straight up is noon. If you tip the Colorado beyond 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock, you’re going swimming. The Mad River seemed very tipsy at first, as I imagine most flat-bottomed canoes do. The river we were on when we rented it was low and cluttered with trees, and it was only a matter of time before we caught a strainer that flipped us broadside. We didn’t capsize, but it was close. Same situation in the Pelican, we’d have been swimmers.
Someone mentioned their Colorado sank. While we were in 3’ of water with a capsized craft, I intentionally filled the hull the rest of the way full while standing beside it. There is no way this one would sink unless it were loaded with a ton of gear.
My other near faux pas when assembling the canoe was mistakenly leaving some packing foam in the box with the rest of the “trash”. A quick scan through the installation instructions revealed the three pieces of Styrofoam had to be installed in the seat towers to provide buoyancy. Now, if I worked in a discount sporting goods store and had just completed a less-than-pleasant assembly, and THEN discovered I’d omitted a couple of invisible parts, I have to wonder if I’d be tempted to compromise my integrity and make the parts disappear rather than dismantling the whole thing and starting over. Just saying it could happen. Caveat emptor.
Back at the lake, after dragging the swamped canoe back to shore and draining it out, we loaded the 25 lb cooler and full dry bag and shoved off. We paddled around the lake for a good five hours, beaching and resting occasionally, and never had a single stability issue. Being a Sunday, everybody and their brother had their power boats out, and of course the only way to traverse the lake is full throttle, so we had a steady supply of wake swells to contend with. Taken bow on, there were still no issues, although I did notice the canoe flexes in the middle enough that the hull almost seemed to conform to the shape of the waves. Probably not a good thing, but it didn’t seem to pose a problem either. It paddled effortlessly, far easier than the MR, turned quickly, and tracked well. We found a couple of calm coves and had that canoe moving!
It goes in the river this weekend (the one with no rapids), so if I discover anything life-altering I’ll add to this. Otherwise, we’re very happy with it, especially considering we were about to spend $800 on a Mad River 16TT. With the canoe, truck bed extender, loading kit, PFDs, paddles, dry bag, and seat backers, we spent just over $650, Still saved enough for the gas to the lake and back and lunch. Can’t beat that. I noticed when we got it home that the hull bottom had scratches and gouges from the small gravel at the launch site, so it’s obviously not going to last forever. But then, who would expect it to? If I’d spent $3000 on a kevlar rapids missile I’d expect it to last forever.
In summary, if you want a cheap, light, fun canoe, buy it.