Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mad River Passage 16 Canoe Review

Mad River Review, Mad River Passage Review, Mad River Adventure Review, Mad River Canoe Review
A couple of weeks ago, my son got a canoe for his 15th birthday.  Our neighborhood backs up to Lake Allatoona in an area that does not get a lot of boat traffic since it is relatively shallow and we thought this would give him and the family lots of good weather fun.

We purchased the canoe from Dick's Sporting Goods and got a fair price.  It is a Mad River Passage 16 Canoe.  Now this is where there is a little confusion.  It seems that this canoe may be made special for some retailers, because this canoe can not be found at the Mad River web site.  What you can find is the Adventure 16.  Also, Dick's Sporting Goods had a canoe on the floor that was called the Adventure 16, but didn't look like the one at the Mad River Site.  Now for even more confusion, the Dick's site says this Passage 16 is only 32.75" wide and a couple of weeks ago they were calling it a kayak.  Just to set the record straight.  The canoe being reviewed is a Mad River Passage 16 with the following specifications from the manufacturer.

These are the specifications from Dick's website and I have verified and corrected in green and what I believe is wrong in red.

Mad River® Passage 16 Canoe
Model Number: 96717071
Polyethylene construction is durable and requires little maintenance
Center seat with padded seat back (there is not a padded seat back on the center seat)
Padded handles
Molded-in cup holders (6)
Dimensions: W 32.75"  37", but actually measured 34.75"x L 16' x H 14.75"
Weight: 81 lbs (soon to be verified)
Weight Capacity: 925 lbs (taking their word on it, this is also close to the Adventure 16 rating)

The next couple of photos give you the overall shots of the canoe.

Just to keep everyone honest, I went ahead and measured the length and width.  I came up with 15' 11.5" long and 34.75" wide.  See the photos below.  The 1/2" difference in length doesn't really matter, but the 2.25" difference in width is important.  If you are looking for a true 37" width, this canoe does not measure up.  I don't know how Mad River officially measures the width of a canoe, but the widest point is not 37".

The canoe has two main seats and a third seat in the middle. Each seat has a double cup holder in front.  This is a total of 6 possible drinks that can be accommodated in a three person (max) canoe.  Either this was done to keep the mold symmetric during fabrication or was done to target towards a beer drinking group of owners.

Each front and rear seat has a backrest that can be adjusted to support your back at different angles by the straps on each side of the seat.  I actually found this very comfortable.  Notice that beside the front seat there are some shallow indents to prevent items from rolling off and falling in the bottom of the canoe.

Front Seat

Middle Seat

Rear Seat

The back rests can be folded down so that they will not get damaged during storage and transportation.  Also there is a bungee strap on the back of the back rest that can be used to hold the back rest in the up position.

Foam is under the front and rear seats to keep the canoe at the top of the water in case you tip.  When it gets warmer, we will see how high it sits when full of water and I will update the review then.

There are generous areas in both the front and back were you can store gear.  The photo below is in the front of the boat.

The area behind the back seat is shown below.

Carry handles are located on both the front and rear of the boat.  At the rear, there is a drain plug so you can drain the water that may get trapped in the end of the boat after washing. Since there is a lip around the inside of the canoe, flipping it will not get all the water out.  The photo below is on the rear right side of the canoe.  The indented area is where the serial number is engraved.  Also notice that the color of this canoe is camo.  I'm not sure why they call it that other than areas like what you see below where the dark shows through the speckled greenish/blueish color.

The shot below is of the waterfalls in our neighborhood and that's my wife and youngest daughter looking so cool. This was actually our second trip on the canoe.  I took the camera on my first trip, but I forgot (what a dufus) to put the memory card back inside the camera before we headed out, so I don't have any photos of my son on it's maiden voyage.

On the first trip, my son and I did a 4 mile trip to the waterfalls and up the river.  Since the canoe was his birthday present, I gave him the honors of the rear seat for the first half of the trip.  It has been a couple of years since we were canoeing, and I must be honest, it took a while before we (I) was comfortable that we were not going to tip the canoe.  I read several comments at various websites about the Adventure 16 and some were very critical on this tipping issue.  After a 4 mile trip on still water with two people in the boat (me 225 lbs, him 155 lbs), we were both very comfortable and the tippy sensation was gone.

The next trip was with my wife, daughter and myself.  In my opinion, we really had the canoe loaded, although this was well below the rated capacity (925 lbs) of the canoe.  Also this time it had been even longer since my wife and daughter had been in a canoe, and that whole tippy felling returned to me.  I'm not sure what was giving the tippy feeling.  Actually, we never even came close to tipping.  I think that feeling comes more from confidence (or the lack there of) in your canoe partners.  After a short 1.5 mile trip to the waterfalls, we (I) were already feeling much better on the stability of the canoe and I was gaining confidence in nearly everyone in the boat.

Bottom Line:  So far we are happy with the canoe.  The front and rear seats are comfortable and the back rest is a very nice feature.  It is a canoe and that tippy feeling will exist based on the experience level of those in the canoe.  I don't think that it is any worse than other canoes of this type.  If you are really looking for maximum stability, you need to pay attention to the width of the canoe when purchasing and verify (measure) yourself that you are purchasing the maximum width possible.  If you are wanting stability and not speed, buy a Jon boat.

4/3/10 Update:  After three trips, stability is not an issue and we are pleased with the canoe.

5/3/10 Update:  I spoke with a representative for Mad River and he said the “Passage 16” is a special version of a Mad River Canoe “Adventure 16” created exclusively for Dick’s Sporting Goods and it should not be confused with the current “Adventure 16” square back, offered by specialty dealers.


  1. Nice writeup. I too am looking at the Mad River Adventure 16 and noticed some subtle differences in the website pictures and the actual one's in Dicks. I was puzzled by the difference. It seems that retail versions (Dicks) cut out some of the options on the Aventure which enables them to lower the cost. But, you are getting the same mold, it just seems that some amenities are different. FYI, I used to live in Woodstock and I never knew there were waterfalls near Allatoona. Nice...

    Thanks for the post. It has helped me a great deal in considering this canoe. I have it narrowed down to the Adventure/Passage 16 or the Old Town Predator C160.

    Now all you gotta do is hook it up to a marine HP battery and a Minn Kota ;-)

  2. I bought this same canoe 2 weeks ago at Dicks. I too was puzzled by the discrepancies and the fact I couldn't find it on the Mad River website.

    I have taken it out once thus far on a lazy river here in FL. I paddled upstream for a few miles and returned downstream. Handled quite well, as I would expect. I had to portage four times for a total of eight, (4 up, 4 down). It was a bit unwieldy and I had to drag it on shore. It is important to note, I was by myself. Considering the weight of the canoe and gear, not too bad.

    Observation: Cup holders. I guess there is a reason they're called CUP holders, because they certainly cannot stabilize cans. Remedy: Put one of those "cool can insulator" things on to take up the void in the cup holder. Noone drinks beer out of a cup while canoeing! :)

    So far, I'm liking the Passage. I'll be taking it out often. If feel anything warrants another comment, I'll post...

    Thanks for the review Kevin!

  3. Super review!!! Great Info.

    Thanks for taking the time to do this.


  4. Thanks for the, it sounds like a pretty solid boat for the money?

  5. We are still very happy with the canoe.

  6. Wow. I guess I'm not the only one doing this. I have also been studien the differences between Dick's and the official web-site. The big difference I've been weighing is that the Adventure series is made to accomidate a trolling moter. I was bumbed that Dick's did not. They are on sale right now at Dick's at a great price. Does anyone have any thoughts on getting a trolling motor on the Dick's Passage version? I have also been tempted to just get Dick's 14 foot version with hopes of being able to just throw in the back of my truck (tied down). However, I do plan to take 3 people in it some. Would be a kid in the middle, but wondering if will be too crampt. Any thoughts?

  7. Heads up...Dick's has the Passage 16 on sale for $499 (at least in MI). They had the 14 on the floor with a price of $449. I asked if the 16 was on sale too and the salesperson went to check. Came back and informed me it was $499. He's having it shipped from another store. So, if you were sold on it after this review like I was, you might want to call over to Dick's. I almost bought the Adventure 16 for $799 last week. Glad I waited.

  8. "Either this was done to keep the mold symmetric during fabrication or was done to target towards a beer drinking group of owners." Only a right handed person would make such an assumption. Need I say more? ;)

  9. Dick's sporting still has the passage 16 for $499 if you can find it in a store. I just bought mine tonight in Richmond VA

  10. Was nice of you to buy a canoe for the family and call it your son's birthday present. You should buy your daughter a nice barbecue grill for Christmas, and get your wife a lawnmower.

  11. I have been trying to get this canoe from Dick's since Dec 2010. So far...they are trying for the 3rd time to transfer 1 in for me. Said this one will be there in 2 weeks! Unfortunately I have heard this before. I hope it comes in this time!

  12. I just got the Passage 14 from Dicks in Oxford, Al for $499. The Passage 16 was $549. I decided on the 14' for ease of transporting and the fact I will mainly have it in a smaller river on day trips. (the 'mighty' Tallapoosa River in west GA and east AL) The front and rear seats have plenty of room. I'm 5'11" and 165 and was comfortable in the middle seat. There is not a lot of room for a larger cooler. However, I found the storage ample to meet my day tripping needs. My understanding is that the Passage and Adventure are made by Perception, which is a sister company to Mad River. The literature which came with the Passage is from Perception.

  13. Thanks for the report. I just got the canoe and had a great long weekend in the water.

  14. How do you people tie the ends of the canoe down the bumpers for a rooftop transportation? That is in addition of the belly straps. The carrying handles do not look fit for such a job.

    1. Found out what works best for me when toting my grumman, synergy, and/or liquid logic... and that is a 'v' tie-down situation in the front bumper then underneath the radiator and up thru the front of each wheel well, 2 cross ties always (even under the truck around Kluane, for high cross winds), and a straight down rigging in back. All boats are upside carried upside down on my Toyota that has a canopy. Hope this gives you some ideas. Happy paddling!

  15. Have had the Adventure 14 for a few years now and it's been great. Raced in a few adventure races (not the greatest for a 3 man team) and should have gone with the 16'. Now using it as a family canoe for trips out on Lake acworth & Allatoona w/ a minn Kota enduro 30/30. Easy to outfit w/ motor, battery, fish finder, lights etc.
    As for transporting it on top of the vehicle. I have reinforced the carrying handles (w/ heavier duty stainless steel bolts/nuts/washers) to hold the straps that attatch to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

  16. We are in the market for a canoe or a kayak. We still haven't agreed on which one. I like this one and your review is great! Do you think you can attach a little motor on this guy or no.

    Thank you,


  17. You can always get creative, but I think you would be better off if you got a canoe with a flat back if you are wanting to mount a motor.

  18. Thanks for this info - just what I was looking for to understand why it is much cheaper at Dicks's than other places. My main concern is my ability to carry it without a yoke. I am okay with the 75lbs, but are you able to turtle carry it? Or do you have to do one shoulder? Thanks!

  19. We never carry it for any significant distance and usually it is two people. For longer distances, we got a set of wheel to go under the canoe. I have it up for the winter, but when I get it out again, I will give it a try.

  20. I received one of these canoes as a Christmas gift from my father-in-law. My wife and I have 2 young girls and little experience with canoes ourselves. I actually installed canoe stabilizers to the area behind the first seat. With most of the areas that we plan on using the canoe being lakes the added width is not an issue and since we are not in a rush to get anywhere the drag will not bother us.

  21. Darren in Alabama
    I've had a couple of regular canoes in the past and bought a MR Passage 16 from Dicks in Oxford, AL last year. I've had it on the water by myself and with my wife. I too researched before purchasing and read about the "tippy" sensation. I agree it's a confidence issue. On my second trip I was paddling agressively and had no "tippy" issues. These canoes are great and the backrests are priceless. I wish I could find a cover that fit the top so spyders don't make a home in it when I'm not using it. If you're on the fence about buying one of these, jump off and into a MR passage. You won't be disapointed.

  22. Doug from Cedar Rapids, IAMay 26, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    I'm considering buying the Passage 14. Because of limited garage space, I would probably have to store it by hanging it on its side from the gunwhales. Do you all think that using at least 4 large storage hooks (from Menards, Lowe's or Home Depot) to disperse the weight evenly throughout the entire side of the canoe would not harm the canoe? Thanks for your opinions!

  23. Doug, I don't think it would significantly hurt the canoe, but I do think over time you will be able to see where you are hanging the canoe, especially if it gets hot in your garage. As you mentioned, the key will be trying to distribute the weight as much as possible. I would also try to wrap something around the hooks to provide more surface area to be in contact with the canoe edge. Good luck.

  24. I just bought a used (older model) Adventure 16. It is identical to Dick's Passage 16. The only difference is that the Adventure has padded seats front and rear. As for a motor mount. The new Adventure series has a flat back for a motor. But you are better off with a canoe motor mount (many on Ebay starting at $25). the reason is, with the motor in the back it is very uncomfortable to control the motor stretching your arm backwards. With the motor mount, the motor i much closer to you and off to the side.

  25. Just bought the Passage 16 from Dicks on a year end clearance sale - 25% off of the $449.97 price! $337.00!! Couldn't pass it up. Appreciate this great review and blog. Now, just need some warm weather!

  26. Just bought one myself from Dick's. They had a sale price I couldn't refuse. Stuck it in the swimming pool to get the feel of the stability. Had my wife crawl from back to front. It wasn't pretty. I learned that we will start with the back out first and let me do the crawling. Otherwise it went well. We head up to the rim in Arizona this weekend for the maiden voyage. I'll try a little fly fishing from it. What are the chances of not getting dunked?

  27. I'm glad to see this canoe got such good reviews. I just picked up the Passage 16 for $303.67. It was on sale for $350 and I got an additional 10% for display model and another 10% for applying for the Dick's card. Sweet deal. Can't wait to go try it. Happy and satisfied from STP, MN.

  28. Wow your in-depth critique of this boat is great.
    U got in to SOME names of boat and deminsions for different dealers of the product.
    Well done and 4 me well timed,even if the article is old I'm buying a used one in mint shape for $150.00.
    THANK U FOR taking the time 2 write the review/just THINK,it helped someone,me,years later.

  29. I can't find this canoe on any website online.. 16' mad river
    passage canoe