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Reviews for Freedom Kayak by Wilderness Systems


Rated: 9.16/10 Based On: 19 Reviews

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07-03-2013
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I did not have the good fortune to get this boat new as Wilderness had long since stopped making them when I bought mine last year. After a solid year of taking it out nearly every weekend I have good weather - I'll drop some tips for those of you dealing with this as a used boat (IE, no dealer options, never got your hatches fixed, etc.)

This is EASILY the fastest SOT ever made and quite a bit faster than even the super-fun (also a good choice if you can't find a Freedom) Necky Dolphin. It takes 3 strokes to reach hull speed, after that you're fighting drag but you're already at about 5.5 miles per hour on flatwater. In wind or waves she is very very decent as well.

The boats at Folsom Lake really enjoy trying to knock me over with wake since I have the audacity to be in the middle of such a large body of water that they consider their territory. They fail, of course and the Freedom has no problem with even extreme chop. I hardly notice. 1-2' waves break evenly on the bow and no water even gets in the boat. If it does, simply pull the one giant scupper and keep paddling. This is definitely a long-haul touring boat with a huge amount of cargo space inside. I take an Ice chest, my folding cart, extra life vest, camera equipment, lunch, a tent, folding chair and a small collapsible BBQ and they all fit fine in the hatches since there are no bulkhead structures in the way (the inside of the boat goes straight through, end to end - making room for very long / large objects.)

On rear hatch placement: This is a greenland style boat. As such, you can roll it! I don't know if there's another SOT like this, but you can lean all the way back against the rear deck and roll it (this is surprisingly simple with thigh straps and a little practice.) I love doing so to cool off though it's not necessary for an SOT to have this feature because it's so easy to get back on. Which brings me to my second point.

On getting in from the water: Someone stated in another review above that he doesn't recommend climbing in from the water via the rear as the greenland style deck means that the rear hatch (which leaks, it's true) is barely above the waterline. Why are you climbing in like that? From the water: Reach ACROSS the middle of the boat to the handle on the far side from you. Pull your self over the boat sideways. (you end up half pulling yourself up, and half pulling the boat under your stomach) Turn slightly and sit down. It's that stable, there's no need to go crazy.

On leaking hatches: For some of you it may be too late (if your seals are already too compressed and dried out so they aren't pliable any further) but this is what I did. Put your hatches on and tighten the strap as much as it can be tightened comfortably. Now unlatch them and tighten them about 6mm-8mm more. Now, re-latch them. Enjoy. When you get home, UNLATCH THEM and leave them that way. Let the boat dry out and let the hatch seals remain at rest when not on the water. If you hang your boat sideways on j-hooks at home (rather than storing it on a riser, or on the ground) and you think it looks funny with the hatches hanging off, then loosen them considerably instead. You should be able to jiggle it around (IE no seal contact with the boat)
If your seals are completely spent, there are a number of Do-It-Yourself materials which would work fine but you can also order this seal from Harmony or from TopKayaker. (Talk to Tom, he knows this boat)

On rigging (or... mine didn't come with paddle stow, seat, rudder, etc.):
The OEM equipment for this boat is sold here: http://topkayaker.com/
**The seat you want is the Surf to Summit Drifter - It's also available in a taller model
**These are the side handles with paddle stow (same as Tarpon 160)
**Scupper Plug
**Day hatch is a Viking 5" (I believe)
**Rudder Kit

Great boat, can be had for a song compared to what they would be worth. Nothing like it was made before or since. It stands utterly alone among sit on tops. There was nowhere near enough demand for such an odd thing in order for wilderness to continue making it, but if you like everything about touring kayaks (except you'd rather sit outside it) this is your boat.

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09-26-2012
Submitted by: JimBSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     My first sit on top and have never bought another one. Very stable and with my super paddle I could stay out all day. I have it rigged for fishing and it is awesome. Enjoy.
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06-25-2009
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Too bad that Wilderness Systems quit manufacturing the Freedom 15. Although a little on the heavy side, this boat is a very stable, maneuverable and fast SOT.
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07-26-2006
Submitted by: Kimball CorsonSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     This is a great kayak. It is too bad Wilderness Systems discontinued it. It is fast and glides well, much better than virtually all other SOT's. Yet it is very stable too and can be dived from and reentered without a paddle float. I bought one for my boat to sail around the world with and I am really enjoying it, with a super light weight carbon paddle. I rate it an 8 only because I have had several really high-end sit in kayaks and know what speed and glide really can be. Of all SOT's I have seen and used, this kayak most handles like a decent sit in kayak, but not a really excellent one.
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02-28-2006
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've had my Freedom for several years now and thought it was time to finally submit a review.

What can I say...I love this boat. It has nice speed and stability but is also very easy to edge (without thigh braces) and turns rather well. I'm a bit heavy for this boat (225 lbs.) but that does not seem to matter. I've had it in a variety of settings from open water crossings to extremely tight and twisting rivers and it adapts quite well to any situation.

Complaints - few, really. It does weigh a lot but the plastic is thick and has held up very well, especially considering I'm not too gentle with it (oyster beds, boat ramps, logs, etc). Just eat your Wheaties, and you'll be fine.

WS no longer makes the Freedom, but if you can find a used one at a good price, I highly recommend it. I will soon have the opportunity to paddle a Tarpon 160 and I'll try to contrast/compare in the not too distant future.

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12-26-2002
Submitted by: steveSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Have owned mine 1 year, bought originally as a dive platform for freediving/spearfishing. This is my 3rd SOT. Good to great boat depending on what plans for usage are. The Freedom is great as a paddling SOT, in that it is relatively fast, has good stability, and handles and turns well (mine has rudder). The boat has incredible lines. Mine is a yellow to red sunburst color and is the best looking SOT I've ever seen.

As a diving or fishing platform however it does not fare as well. Speed is great, but the boat is just not laid out for diving and/or fishing. I currently still use it for both, but there are much better platforms available, although none as fast. It is also very heavy. Poly SOT's are already heavy, but the difference between 50 lbs and 60 lbs is huge (Freedom weighs 60 lbs). W.S. needs to lop about 10 lbs off the weight. If you're looking for a great diving or fishing platform, better off picking a boat that was designed with those purposes in mind. However, if you want a fast, good looking, great handling boat for general use paddling (or touring), this is one of the best ones available.

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07-13-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     I bought this kayak as a Demo model used. I could not be more pleased. Going to the Beach in the summer my P&H Capella and Hobie pursuit get left behind in favor of the WS Freedom. This boat tracks very well and is extremely fast. It came with a rudder but I have never used it yet. Very practical for surfing and beach paddling. No baking in the cockpit with this boat. If dumped, just right the boat and get back on. Handled all kinds of open water waves with no problem. Like other reviewers I found the seat a little to low for comfort. I just added a boat cushion on my surf and summit seat and could paddle all day. My hatches did not leak after several dumps in the surf. I think the trick is to tighten the straps until you have to push down on the hatches in order to snap the straps closed. Over all this boat is a 10+
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06-28-2002
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

      still like my Freedom after several trips on rivers and lakes. I think it is one of the best SOTs. The rear hatch leaking when water washes over the back deck really got on me (esp. since WS told me they had fixed the problem) so I installed a bulkhead to contain the water to the rear compartment and put some marine weather stripping around the rear hatch. I think it fixed the problem. We're headed to the beach tomorrow and I'll find out.
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06-24-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 7 of 10

     An easily driven, fast accelerating, moderately stable (I weigh 275 lbs), maneuverable hard chine hull that tracks well and performs as close to a closed deck boat as I have seen among sit-on-tops. Good secondary stability, braces well, handles all seas, single scupper drains easily and rapidly, large hatches, lots of storage, would be a 10+ except for the ergonomically unsound seat as low as or lower than the feet sitting position. Tough on the bod over a long days paddle.
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06-03-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Bought my Freedom a couple of months ago and have paddled it on the ocean, surf, and rivers. Hereís what Iíve observed to date:

1) It tracks great, even in the wind and Iíve been out in 15-20 mph winds with no rudder.
2) Turning with thigh brace straps is outstanding. Without the straps, turning is fine for open areas but can be a challenge in tight confines.
3) As noted by others, this is definitely a heavy boat. I go out solo a lot and have to load/unload/portage this boat Ė Iím looking at getting a dolly.
4) The plastic is thick (hence the high weight) and as far as I am concerned that is a good thing. I looked at some other manufacturers and the plastic was paper-thin. I operate in an environment that has oyster bars, hidden logs, pilings, and other potential puncture devices. Iíll pay the price in weight for the added thickness and structural security.
5) The 5" day hatch is great for storing a camera, wallet, and keys. I have yet to load it up for an overnight expedition but Iíve been preparing and I can say that the bow and stern hatches have large openings but their depth is rather shallow (7-9"). In addition, there is no deck rigging at all on this craft.
6) This is a wide boat and Iíve not had any problem with stability. I managed to get in and out of the boat standing up at a dock. I do a lot of leaning turns and have not tipped yet.
7) I own a WS Ride as well and thereís no doubt that the Freedom wins hands down in terms of speed. Beyond that, I donít have any fair comparisons.

When I initially started looking at and trying out various kayaks, I was not even considering a sit-on-top. But, I went to a local demo day and tried the WS Ride and decided a SOT was the way to go. Overall, I feel that the Freedom is an excellent boat and plan on covering many more miles in mine.

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04-24-2002
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     Great layout with well thought out storage compartments. Really like the footpegs and beefy handles. The boat performs very well, with enough length to provide adequate speed, but retaining the ability to turn enough for slow moving rivers. The downside? Weight! Feels like it hefts more than a lead statue of Oprah.
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04-01-2002
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I had the Freedom out on Good Friday in a stiff,gusting wind and it was fine. Hardly any weather-cocking downwind and it was great into the wind. It is fast for its length.
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03-19-2002
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have paddled my Freedom three times so far. It is a little skittish feeling at first but is actually very stable. I have tried a little edging and it does fine so far; I haven't pushed it. It is at least as fast as a Carolina. I paddled it upstream against a 3 mph current and into a strong wind with no problem.I am 6'6" tall and weigh 225 and I have some leg room to spare. That was not true on some other SOT I tried.So far, I am very pleased. I want to take it to the surf next. I'll update when I do.WS says they have fixed the leaky hatch problem. We'll find out.
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01-24-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I love this boat! It is more fun than anything I've paddled in the last 2 years, plus it is SO fast. I passed up some of my friends in longer, regular touring yaks (without even realizing it.) I like the Greenland style and the large hatches. The one I paddled did not leak a drop. I used the Surf to Summit high seat and was comfortable enough to paddle for 5-6 hours. The only drawback is the one reason I could not buy this Freedom. It weighs 65 lbs, and half of that is more than I'm allowed to lift. Sure wish they'd make it out of a lighter plastic, fiberglass, kevlar or ???? Then I'd give it a 10 1/2 instead of a 9. Are you listening, Wilderness Systems??
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09-07-2001
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've used my Freedom all summer, and have had a great time with it. Sit-on-tops are great in hot weather because you aren't baking inside a cockpit. You have the ability to stick your legs in the water, and splash water all over to cool off. This is the only sit-on-top I've paddled, so I'm not comparing apples to apples, but I really prefer it to my Zoar (sit-inside and cook) for summer use. It scoots along pretty fast and is manueverable enough; I've only used the rudder during windy conditions, but was glad to have it then. If you want a boat you can hop off of and re-enter in deep water, you might not want to get this boat with a rear hatch (just a front one); when climbing up on the rear deck the hatch leaks and lets in a lot of water. Other than that, it's a great boat and a hoot to paddle.
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06-25-2001
Submitted by: MBWSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have been in flat water on the canal and in moderate chop on the ocean. One day I was in 2-4' waves. I am 220 lbs and 6'4". The kayak is slightly unstable but that adds to the fun. It is something I feel I will learn to compensate and use for enjoyment. This is only due to my size. It is fast and tracks excelent. I have flipped a few times but in testing limits on the surf. I would not recommend it for anyone larger than myself. I am in decent shape and can handle this easily. Someone smaller would have even more stabilty and ease. If you want exhileration it is awesome.
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08-16-2000
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I bought my Freedom for use as a fishing boat and have rigged it accordingly. I do not have a rudder as I prefer the solid braces and the boat is heavy enough (65lbs) without it. I am used to paddling a Looksha IV DS so the stability seems extremely high. Thigh braces allow me to lean for turns and the wind does not bother it much. I am 5'10" and 180lbs so I am probably optimum for the boat. The boat was suprisingly quick. I did not expect it to be as fast as it is. The boat came with flimsy hatch gaskets but the factory replaced them with heavyer ones at no charge. Other than the weight I have no complaints. I have even caught fish from it.
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06-29-2000
Submitted by: VickiSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     New greenland-style plastic sit-on-top at a little over 15ft. The first time I paddled this boat at Lake Tahoe, CA the cable to the rudder came off. Luckily I was only about 50 feet off shore and paddled back fairly easily. Put the rudder up and paddled that day anyway. I love the boat. It feels a bit tippy until you get used to it but it is a fairly fast boat. It's perfect for me because of back problems using a sit inside kayak. My husband (240lbs)is not as comfortable on it because of his weight distribution being higher than mine he feels more unstable. I rate it a nine only because I had to take it back to the shop and have them put a new press-fitting on the rudder assembly. On yeah, it has no deck rigging to stow the paddle so get a leash.
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06-05-2000
Submitted by: Clyde
Rating: 9 of 10

     I have owned my Freedom for about 6 weeks. It is my first yak I wanted a yak that I could grow into not out of and the freedom fits the bill. She is fast but not the most stable. As long as you understand the trade off it is a great yak and has ample storage below decks. If you are a novice you may not want this yak but I went into this yak understanding it was not for a novice. On the other hand my wife had no trouble with the yak. I am a big man about 300lb the limit on the yak is 300lb this is not good I am limited to calm water. The rear hatch is only about 1/2n. above the water line and it will take on water very fast under the wrong situation. Don't take this as a flaw of the yak it is not, it is a flaw of the dealer that sold me the yak. My freedom does not have a rudder. A rudder would be nice but for now I want to learn without one. Because of the way the bow is make to me it seems to wind cock but I really don't have anything to compare it to. In the area of fishing there is no hull slap (great for chasing reds) and no tank well it's a trade off. I would not buy this yak again just because of my size. T kayak's lines are wonderful and she handles like a greyhound. Over all speed a+, tracking b+, stability c+, fishing b. Ps the wife has her now. I am looking at Scupper Pro TW.
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