MAD RIVER FREEDOM SOLO
During a five-day trip down the Smith River Canyon in Montana, the Freedom was the boat every tester wanted to test again–and again, and again. It offers the thrill of solo paddling with versatile, high-performance handling. The shallow vee-shaped hull performed equally well whether we were cruising glassy lakes or running Class II rapids with tricky corners and strong eddy lines. The Freedom comes with deluxe features, including adjustable seat height and cup holders, and the innovative IQ gunwale system lets you easily attach–and detach–optional accessories like hanging storage bags and a spray deck. The 750-pound capacity is more than enough for an XXL paddler and a week’s worth of gear. And the Royalex material, a sandwich of foam and vinyl, is rugged enough for a lifetime of abuse. Multiple seat options are available, from classic cane (pictured) to a low-slung tractor seat that’s stable and comfortable, but requires frequent readjustments. $1,150 to $1,400 (depending on seat and gunwale system); 14′ 6"; 55 lbs. (800) 445-3763; madrivercanoe.com.