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Tempest 180

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Tempest 180 Reviews


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Wilderness Systems
Tempest 180 Reviews

Read reviews for the Tempest 180 by Wilderness Systems as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!

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Love this boat! Boat was…

Submitted by: paddler235544 on 5/14/2014
Love this boat! Boat was built May 2013. I purchased this boat mainly due to the fact I could fit in it (I am 6'1 and 260 lbs.) but I made the right choice. The glass work is top notch, skeg box is solid and dry, exterior is mirror smooth. Responds great to edging and skeg holds boat straight in crosswind. I took out footpegs and placed minicell against bulkhead. Works so much better and allows more more freedom of movement of my feet. I modified back band so it stays up because it would work its way down too low for much support.

Boat may not be the fastest out there but I have no problem keeping it moving. It glides very easily. Going to run the MR340 in July with it. Hatches stay on and dry. Initial stability is ok, it feels like its welded in place when completely on edge. I have not owned many boats but I will definitely own this one for a long time.


After 4 summers of paddling…

Submitted by: paddler233792 on 8/27/2010
After 4 summers of paddling the boat and putting over 4000 miles, I have to admit that it is a very, very nice boat to paddle BUT, I still have to fix factory defects on the boat, defects that should have never happened.

After having to sponge tons and tons of water entering my cockpit, I examined closely all the fitting and potential places where it could be leaking. I found out that the cockpit coaming was not secured properly due to a lack of glass or glue to hold it down. It was already weak, brand new, but I did not know better at that time. My friend Robin at Atlantis kayaks offered to fix my boat. To do so, he had to remove the seat. SURPRISE! He found out that the plastic pins that hold the fabric to the seat were longer than the gap between the seat and the bottom of the boat. Result: two pin holes in the boat. Now I know why I had to sponge tons of water even on glass water. We also found these problems on a Tempest 170 pro so if your boat is taking on water, remove the seat and check out these pins, the might have created holes in your boat.
These are Little BIG things that make you wonder if I should or not recommend the Tempest 180 pro.

So if you are looking for a great, yes a GREAT boat to paddle, the Tempest series (170 and 180 pro) are probably the best boat you will ever owned but for safety and reliability, specially if you are planning to do trips in remote areas, I should think about it twice since you will never know when something might go wrong. Bring a lot of fiber glass, resin, and sikaflex and a Marine Radio.
My boat still leaks as of today!


I am glad that I have learn…

Submitted by: paddler233325 on 8/24/2009
I am glad that I have learn to read between the lines in life and to take what information is out there as part of the decision making process and not to make my decisions. I have been paddling touring kayaks for at least 7 years and have had the chance to paddle many different boats in all kinds of conditions.

I have paddled canoes and kayaks for at least 30 years including quite a few years doing whitewater. I'm 46 years young. I'm 6'1" and weigh about 230lbs. I love big water and big waves but unfortunately do not live in close proximity to the ocean, so I normally make do with the amazing selection of lakes and rivers that we have in Ontario and Quebec.

After renting and borrowing many touring kayaks on countless day trips and extended trips and reading I could get my hands on and talking to all kinds of people with different skill levels I whittled down my choices to the Impex Assateague, The Wilderness Tempest, The P&H Cetus, and Seawards Quest. I actually had about 10 boats that I really loved but at some point you have to start eliminating some. I really loved the Current Design Extreme also, now named the Nomad, but our local Current Design distributor didn't want to stock it so I couldn't try it out again to make my final decision before buying one this spring.

I went to Frontenac Outfitters near Kingston Ontario to make my final pick as they have a lake right beside their facility so you can try the boats as much as you want before deciding. They also happen to have most of the boats I wanted to choose from in stock. Check out their web site, it's really awesome:

During my tests I quickly eliminated the Quest for various reasons. The Cetus I didn't feel tracked all that well and had less of a weight capacity than I was looking for for extended trips. I also did not like the skeg controls. I didn't find that you had a good feel for where the skeg was when partially or fully deployed. It was however vary maneuverable. It came down to the Assateugue and the Tempest. In the end the Tempest stood out on all counts.

It tracked well, it pretty much has the ability to turn on a dime with a good edge. It held an edge with little effort. It was very comfortable. It rolled well. I could paddle a comfortable 4.5 to 5 mph with top speed of about 7.5 mph on flat water, according to my gps. Very respectable speeds for this style of boat. The deck riggings, and hatches are top notch. The finish was beautiful. I loved everything about it. The boat I tried was lime green. I bought the red version, put it on the van and went down to Lake Ontario for a few days to try it out properly.

The first evening I tried it I noticed after a few hours that the back storage compartment was half full of water. The day hatch and front hatch were dry as a bone. I went back to Frontenac to determine what the problem was. As previously mentioned in other comments the skeg box was the problem. It was easy enough to see the problem by putting the boat upside down on stands and filling the skeg box with water. Sure enough you could see the water coming in from the inside of the boat. Frontenac said the boat was defective and gave me another one. No problem. I took my new boat to their lake to put it through the test while still on site. All hatches stayed bone dry. You could visibly see the difference around the skeg box. It was much smoother. I had a bit of water leaking in from the skeg control lever box which I later fixed with a small amount of epoxy. Weird! I checked everything on the boat from A to Z to make sure it was ok before leaving. So far so good. I left to continue my testing for the next few days.

That afternoon the wind picked up like crazy. I was paddling on a good size lake with the full force of the wind coming right at me. Going through a fairly tight channel about 700 feet wide the wind really kicked up the waves. I could barely stay upright due to the wind pressure, probably 50 kph +. Some of the waves reached about 1.5 meters. I couldn't dream of better testing conditions. The boat handled like a dream. After getting a feel for the wind, the waves and the boat which took about 1/2 hr I relaxed enough to really start having fun. I tried just about everything you could do. It felt very stable bopping around. Going into the wind I didn't find it plowed through waves that much even after cresting when hitting multiple big ones back to back. Keep in mind the boat had minimal gear for a day outing. It would cut in but pop up quick enough which minimize splashing over the deck. I paddled in every direction to get a sense of weathercocking without using the skeg. I couldn't believe how well it handled. It seem to respond instinctively to whatever I wanted to do. I was having so much fun that I would break out in fits of laughter realizing that this thing could really rock. A little edge and modifying my paddle stroke was all that was needed to deal with weathercocking. The wind later calmed down after maybe three hours to my hearts chagrin.

I have since paddle my Tempest in all conditions on multiple trips and could not be happier. Loaded down with gear really has an affect on its friskiness and ability to bop but all boats react the same way when fully weighed down. I have paddle it on totally calm water, as smooth as glass, where the boat seems to glide effortlessly while tracking straight with absolute minimal effort, no skeg. I find that I hardly ever use the skeg. Only if gliding while approaching wildlife or taking a break.

After a number of trips I did notice that the seat pan was loose. After investigating I noticed that it had been poorly modified and installed at the manufacturer. I took some pictures and sent them to Frontenac who then sent them to Wilderness S. They immediately agreed to send me a new one. I am still waiting for it after a few months but supposedly I will have it by tomorrow.

Another important change to note is as of this year Wilderness boats are now built out of China, using a different type of FG or composite material. Supposedly the boats will be slightly lighter and stiffer. Hopefully the Chinese will stay on top of the quality control a little better than the builders that were putting them together in the States.

The moral of the story:
..... Take everything you have read about the Tempests and make your own decision. Thoroughly, I mean THOROUGHLY check the boat before leaving the store. Do the water test with the skeg box upside down, check that all fasteners are tight and all other boat components are the way they are suppose to be. Test the boat thoroughly as soon as you get it and ensure you have an awesome supplier that will back you up like Frontenac Outfitters. Make sure you get the right boat for your weight class. A lot a people don't put enough emphasis on this. If all that looks good, I assure you that you will not be disappointed. This is truly a really really good boat with lots of room for gear. It's hard to make a decision when buying. Everyone has their own opinion and preferences. There are so many great boats to choose from that finally committing to one seems impossible. After all $3,000 to $4,000 for a boat is not peanuts for most people, so you want to make sure you chose one that you will be happy with. At some point you have to get off the fence and go for it. Go with your gut but educate yourself first.

I wasn't sure how to score the boat in this case as I would score it differently for various categories. Probably more along these lines:

  • 10 for handling abilities & comfort
  • 9.5 for boat design & construction, and finishes if no problems
  • 9 for load capacity
  • 4?? for quality assurance before leaving the factory
It's just hard to understand how they could have such an amazing boat design which looks and performs really well yet show a serious lack of quality control verification. However, I look forward to paddling my Tempest for many years.

This is a FYI review for the Tempest 180. Brand loyalty…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/30/2008
This is a FYI review for the Tempest 180.
Brand loyalty rates very high despite paddlers being aware of the quality control issues. I find it difficult if not impossible to purchase a new kayak for over $3000 and immediately have to modify it so that the durability is satisfactory and the kayak is safe to paddle. This kayak is advertised as a performance touring expedition kayak. Well after some modifications I believe it could be. Keep in mind that modifications will void the warranty.

This is a follow up on my…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/20/2008
This is a follow up on my review on 06-06-2008. Ok I did get the new boat few days before my trip so not a lot of time to test it out but here I am, gone for a month.

First thing, I notice after a day paddling…3 sponges of water in the rear hatch... every day, all the time. DARN! Check the cover, check the skeg cable, taped it to make sure nothing is leaking from it, still, water and only water in the rear hatch. After the trip, I had the boat checked by a friend of mine, this is what we found.
- Not enough fiberglass on the back of the skeg cage, the water is leaking through the thin, thin layer protected almost only by the gel coat.
- Skeg housing coming of the skeg cage, needed to be re-glassed in.
- Crack skeg cage, not enough fiberglass, barely holding on the boat, poor construction, needed to be re-layered, top to bottom.

My final review
I agree with Corkran, this is an exceptional boat to paddle but what a poor company for construction and quality control. My wife bought a Tempest 170 pro at the same time than mine... same %##%% problems, once again, poor construction and a lot to repair for a $3000 boat…to much to repair as far as I am concern.

Wilderness is now out of my list for the purchase of my next boat since there are alternatives such as the Impex Assateague that behave as good as the Tempest 180 pro. You will pay a bit more but you will not have to curse and keep on fixing it... a NEW boat? Sorry Wilderness, you did not stand behind your product. You should review your card stating, "inspected by"'s worth nothing.

If you come on Vancouver Island, you won’t find a whole lot of retailers selling Wilderness System, specially in Victoria since they all dumped the company because of unsatisfied customers and because of to much repairs to do on a brand new boat.

So be aware before buying a Wilderness 180 pro, it is a great boat to paddle, no doubt about it and I am giving it a high rating for that, 9/10 but 0/10 for company support, construction and quality control. Check carefully the boat before buying it; you may get many bad surprises.


I reviewed this boat sometime…

Submitted by: paddler232868 on 9/9/2008
I reviewed this boat sometime ago and have come back to look at other's thoughts. I am familiar with the issues brought up by yacom and kbf. However, not even the manufacturer could rip this boat back out of my hands. My coaming has been glassed-in (which anyone familiar with fiberglass can handle), nearly every seam is lathered with 5150, and I added a full keel strip to beef it up a bit.

I was looking at buying an…

Submitted by: paddler233792 on 6/6/2008
I was looking at buying an Impex Asseteague and a very good paddling friend told me to try the Tempest 180 because the store that had (still have) the Impex, never seriously invited me to test drive it. So I went to Paddle Fest in Ladysmith (BC) and demoed the Tempest 180…I WAS WOWED!

The seat is just incredibly comfortable with very good adjustments; I can sit in that boat for hours. I demoed the boat for a 4 day trip before thinking of buying it. I paddled in all conditions, surf, heavy wind, 4 ft chops, name it, I had it all and the boat has been rolled many times. The Tempest 180 handled very well in all these conditions, and barely windcocked... I never had to use the skeg in 25 kn wind. I found the boat a little piggish when loaded but hey, I'd rather compromise speed for stability…you can not have it all.

I examined the boat after the trip and found cracked thigh braces as described by "kbf" and leaky bulk heads which in that case can easily be fixed. I did not buy the boat after my "test drive" but advised the store of these problems. The store placed an order to Wilderness to build a new boat with descent thigh brace, at least strong enough to handle a heavier paddler and that can take the pressure without ripping off from the cockpit.

So far, I am rating it 5/10 or less because of the weakness of the thigh braces. Also, check the finish of the boat; it seems that the builders of the boat don’t care about quality control, especially inside the bulk heads. So before buying, put you head in there and check it out, you do not want them to rip your dry bag on a sharp piece of fiberglass sticking out. Also check the thickness of the thigh brace attachment to the cockpit, it will crack on you as it did to me.

If Wilderness can fix these construction flaws, the Tempest 180 pro will become one of the best boat out there and I will rate it 9 or 8/10. Also, make sure that your store will guaranteed the boat or at least, expect a great "after sale" bomb proof customer service, you may need it. My store takes care of all the warranty since I will not and do not want to deal with Wilderness. I am still waiting for my "new boat" but if I found any weakness in the construction, this boat won’t make it home.


Wilderness Systems 180 Pro…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 1/31/2008
Wilderness Systems 180 Pro Fiberglass: This is a follow-up on my original review.
I have paddled this boat in many conditions, wind, waves and surf and I find the hull design and features to be very good. But buyer bewares the cockpit coaming and the thigh braces are very weak. This would be ok if you never capsize. The thigh braces are not designed to take the pressures of rolling and bracing.

The coaming and thigh braces are very thin and brittle fiberglass. The cockpit coaming has separated from my boat and the thigh braces have cracked. This area needs to be beefed up to match the durability of other British design kayaks.

I have attempted to use the Wilderness Systems lifetime warranty, I even wrote the company president Sue Rechner. After 2 months and counting I haven’t received a reply. I don’t feel safe in the boat so I haven’t been paddling. I regret buying my Tempest and would not recommend this boat to anyone.

Compare the thigh braces and coaming of the Tempest 180 and any other boat you may be thinking of buying before you make your kayak purchase. Good Luck.


The Tempest 180 has been a…

Submitted by: paddler232403 on 12/10/2007
The Tempest 180 has been a fantastic boat for me over the past few seasons. I was very hesitant to consider a boat with a beam over 22". After spending very little time in the boat my reservations were dashed away. I'm 6'2, 250lbs and have found the boat perfectly balanced. It's very pleasant to paddle on flatwater, turbulent, seas and surf. It's responsive enough to be a fun day boat, and doesn't bog-down when loaded for multi-days. The Tempest is smartly outfitted from the cockpit to the toggles. I've even enjoyed the lengthened cockpit which, for the first time, allows me to drop-in butt first. Great design, fun boat.

This is a British styled…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/21/2005
This is a British styled fiberglass touring kayak with a skeg. This boat is designed for the larger peddler and it accommodates me very well. I am 6’ 2” 235 size 13 shoes. My feet did not touch the top of the inside deck even with my NRS wet shoes. The seat and back band are the most comfortable I have experienced in a kayak.

The foot pegs are adjustable by manipulating a rod near your knee area. No need to reach all the way down to your feet.

It has a 10” forward hatch an 8” day hatch and an 18.5” x 12.5” oval rear hatch. The skeg does take up some cargo room. I didn’t think I’d use the day hatch but now that I have it I use it all the time. Other Tempest reviewers seem to have trouble with the hatches, but I have not. After 2 hours of rolling practice I found about a table spoon of water in the rear hatch and the others were dry.

This boat handles chop and surf well the nose sinks a little and pops right back up, a dry ride even loaded. The Tempest also responds well to lean turns.

Due to my size I have limited choices the Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5 and the Seward Navigator 17 were other serious choices of mine. These boats were exact opposites of each other. Nighthawk 17.5, unbelievable primary stability easy to turn terrible tracking even with the skeg deployed. Seward Navigator, fair primary stability unbelievable tracking very difficult to turn even with the rudder. Both were unbalanced boats in my opinion.

The Tempest has good primary stability (not as good as the Nighthawk, but better than the Navigator) better secondary stability, tracks well, and for an 18 foot boat turns incredibly well. I feel like I’m in a shorter boat. With 15mph wind the boat weathercocks but the skeg helps keep it on course. I’ve read that all kayaks are a compromise, tracking vs. maneuverability the Tempest is the best compromise for me. This is a smart well balanced boat.

I have had two problems with this boat; the skeg cable termination in the cockpit is anchored in fiberglass. This material was very sharp and when I tried to shoulder carry my boat I received a nasty cut on my hand wrist and knuckles. I have since sanded these areas down. My boat had a curved skeg it looked like a Pringles Potato Chip. When I deployed it my boat would turn.

I contacted the dealer and have received a replacement skeg it took about 5 weeks. I did the replacement myself in about 30 minutes.

The skeg also rattles in the skeg box in rough choppy conditions. It took me a while to figure were that sound was coming from. I think I’ll install a plastic washer on either side of the skeg.

I would have rated this boat a 10 but due to the skeg problems and the cuts I received I give it a 9.


This is a follow-up on my…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 1/19/2004
This is a follow-up on my review in September 2003 of the Tempest 180 prototype. Since then the designers have added about a half inch of rocker in the bow and enlarged the cockpit by 1.75” in both length and width, now 33.75” by 17.75” actual inside dimensions.

I had the chance to paddle the latest prototype on three different days in various conditions:

Columbia River, from the Alder Creek kayak shop on the South side of Tomahawk Island, heading East across the channel and back – calm, 1-2 knot current. Green Peter Lake, Oregon – calm, like glass in the coves. Alsea Bay, Oregon – Light wind, 5-10 knots. 1-2 foot waves from two sources: wind waves on the bay, ocean waves from the mouth, attenuated by the sandbar. Main current of 2 knots, local currents up to 8 knots. Rips from incoming tide apposing the high winter water flow of the river.

During these outings I wanted to evaluate several attributes that I wasn’t able to evaluate at the WCSKS, and also see what difference the latest modifications made--handling on flat water (with the added rocker); handling in waves, current, and wind; ease in performing deep water rescues; ease of getting my feet in and out of the cockpit.

The boat was a pleasure to paddle on flat water. I had been concerned that the little extra rocker in the bow might compromise tracking. That wasn’t the case. The tracking was still quite good. The boat was truly just more responsive. In that sense, if I was paddling unevenly, or otherwise starting to yaw, a little extra pressure on the opposing foot peg on the next stroke or two and I was back on course. After a while it became subconscious. The boat seemed to just go where I wanted it to go. A very satisfying feeling, more so than if it tracked “like it was on rails.” Also, the boat carved an edge turn much nicer for me now.

I spent some time exploring around some house boat docks on the Columbia, and in a narrow cove on Green Peter. Wow! Maneuverability was really good. I spent time playing around in tight spaces just for the fun of turning the boat. Not a stiff feeling at all. Making bow turns was especially fun. (Plant the blade near the toes, press on the outer foot peg, sweep out about 20 or 30 degrees, and the boat comes around 20-30 degrees. Really nice! A big lean isn’t necessary.) I think I felt what people mean when they refer to a boat as “playfull.” But again, it tracked well while wanting to go for long, straight distances, which speaks to the versatility of this boat.

On Alsea Bay, the rips, waves, and current were a blast! Whole different world than the lake. (I was out there with a fairly experienced sea kayaker.) We went all around the bay in every direction through various currents and wave directions. Steering seemed surprisingly neutral. I remember thinking toward the end of the trip, “I can’t believe I’m not having more trouble out here,” given my lack of experience in waves and current.

The boat cut through forward approaching waves nicely. There were some steep waves from a rip current under the bridge that were especially fun. The bow rose over each wave, and the hull cut down through each wave, providing a nice ride. Toward the last of the series, the bow rose over, the hull cut down through, and the top of the wave rolled over the deck and splashed me in the chest, drawing a “Yeee Haw!” from my paddling partner. (I think he was enjoying watching me take a little bit of rough stuff.) I’m no expert on hull performance in waves, but I liked the feeling. The boat didn’t bob entirely over the waves and it didn’t punch straight through them either. The ride felt really nice.

The boat also took beam waves (waves from the side) surprisingly well. I had been concerned that the extra primary stability might result in a trade off of sideways rocking in beam waves. I didn’t feel any of that. I leaned slightly into the waves and the boat rose up and down with each wave without rocking, supported nicely by it’s secondary stability. Closer to the mouth of the bay, I caught a beam sleeper out of the corner of my eye, and leaned a little further into it (being thankful for having read how to handle that), no problem. It drew a “Woo Hoooo” from my paddling partner.

The boat also handled well in following waves (from behind) though they were only a couple feet high.

I had one condition in a following current and confused waves, approaching a rock jetty off port, where I had the skeg down for extra stability. The boat wanted to yaw to starboard causing me to need to make corrective strokes on the starboard side. That was more a problem with my having the skeg down for stability when I should have had it up for looser, more neutral steering. I can’t honestly say I felt comfortable in confused waves with the skeg up, though I don’t know if I would in any boat. I need to work on taking the waves in stride with loose hips. I think that will come with time.

I’m a rookie in waves for sure, so can’t compare the T180 to most other boats in this regard. (I did have the CD Storm in 2 ft chop once. It was very stable in waves, though even 2 ft quartering waves (from the back at an angle) rolled right over the stern, something that didn’t happen in the Tempest.) Also, the feeling in waves depends partly on how well the weight of the paddler and gear is matched to the volume of the boat. I can say in absolute terms though, that the T180 handled those 2 foot waves very well for me, and left me looking forward to bigger ones.

Regrettably, I didn’t get to test the boat in any significant wind. I know the Tempest line has a good reputation for handling in wind, so I’m not too worried about that, though I would like to experience it myself.

I also tried some wet exits and rafting up rescues. The deck rigging is very sturdy. There are strong, non-stretch lines along the sides, with strong fittings, that aid very well during rescues. The boat seemed very tough, even with this 285 lb person climbing around on it. My paddling partner commented also on the superior rigging relative to most boats. That can really help in rafting up in rough water, and in pulling yourself on to the stern.

With the extra 1.75” in cockpit length, I can just barely get my feet in and out of the cockpit while keeping my butt in the seat. In the production prototype, the cockpit is going to be moved another inch forward relative to the seat. Right now it’s too far back. That should give me enough room to get my feet in and out comfortably. I’m probably close to a worst case for this.

I did have a couple items I wasn’t satisfied with.

1. Presently the hatches consist of a round front, round day, and large oval rear, all with Brit-style rubber covers. When practicing rescues, I put my knee on the rear hatch cover and pushed it half way into the hatch. It didn’t take that much pressure with my hand to do the same. There was a lot of 303 lube on the rim which may have been a factor. A textbook rescue wouldn’t have my knee on the hatch cover, but still, stuff happens. I could inflate a flotation bag when the aft compartment isn’t loaded, to support the hatch cover.

I checked out the rear hatch on a new poly Tempest 170 and the cover seemed a lot stiffer and tighter than the one on the 180. I put some pressure on it and it didn't seem to want to cave in like the one on the 180. Maybe I wasn’t being as zealous as I had been out in the water, but I think I was pressing on it pretty good. Maybe no lube on the 170 rim if it was new. I imagine the rear covers are the same size on the 180 as on the 170, but don’t know for sure.

From what I’ve read, I suspect most people would be happier if WS had leveraged hatch covers from Valley or Kajaksport. No way the hatch cover would be a deal breaker for me, but I think it’s an area for improvement.

2. Unlike the earlier prototype I paddled at the 2003 WCSKS, I needed another notch past the end stop on the foot pegs in this boat. My knees were up where they should be but my feet had to be at right angles to my lower leg. I would have liked to extend them some, closer to bicycle riding angle. It kept me from using my legs more, and kept me from being really comfortable. I felt like I wanted to get out and stretch, about every hour. I emailed Steve Scherrer, asking if the foot peg rails could be mounted further down to give 2 or 3 more notches past the present end stop. He replied “done – EZ fix.”

3. This last one is a peeve. WS doesn’t actually offer all of the colors in their color browser on their web site. Also, a retailer told me WS wants to charge $200 extra for certain colors and for certain COMBINATIONS of standard colors, if you can believe that.

In summary, I’d say the Tempest 180 is a great choice for an extra large paddler seeking a Brit. style boat. It’s a good choice for a large paddler seeking a Brit. style boat with some extra primary stability and capacity. It’s a very versatile boat with a well balanced hull. A pleasure to paddle as a beginner, and a boat that one can grow with. Strong boat. Tough, complete rigging. Back hatch cover could be better.

This boat certainly meets my original stated needs.

I hope to paddle the production prototype in March if Steve Scherrer brings one back to his shop. I would like to experience being comfortable in the boat for several hours (had the foot peg limitation this time.) Getting to paddle in some big wind and waves would be a bonus. I’ll write another follow-up on anything new, probably brief, as I don’t think there will be any further modifications to the hull. Just moving the cockpit opening forward about an inch and moving the foot peg rails forward a few inches, I believe. The latest schedule is that the fiberglass Tempest 180 will be available for shipment in mid April, 2004.


The Wilderness Systems…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/7/2003
The Wilderness Systems Tempest 180 is presently in prototype and is scheduled for retail in fiberglass layup in February, 2004. Earliest date for retail in polyethylene, if the decision is made to do it, is Fall, 2004. Since this boat is in prototype and not widely available for demo and is a boat that I really enjoyed paddling, I’m going to be extra detailed in my review.

I will compare the Tempest 180 prototype in places to the CD Sirocco/Gulfstream and to the Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5. The Sirocco being a boat I had high hopes for until I tried it, and the Nighthawk having been my default choice if I didn’t find something better.

Summary: I think the Tempest 18 ft x 23 inch will address very well a segment of the market that is unaddressed so far, namely a British style boat for the 240 to 300+ lb paddler. I think the boat will also appeal to paddlers over 6 ft 2 in tall. It may also appeal to a smaller paddler who wants a British style boat with some extra initial stability and capacity.

Body characteristics: 6 ft 3 in, 285 lb, waist: 44 in, chest: 50 in, thighs: 26 in, inseam: 31 in, Shoe size: 11

Experience and aspirations: Enthusiastic new paddler for the past three months, 50 hrs on the water, 2 lessons, 1 book. I used to paddle a canoe on a lake in the summer as a boy, and will always enjoy a day kayaking on a flat lake or bay. I also want to learn performance sea kayaking; rolling, sculling, etc.; initially for the sport of it and to be one with my boat and with the water. I used to be an avid body surfer in Southern California and abalone free-diver in Northern California. Once my skills are up to it, I suspect I will enjoy getting out on the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington. I would also like very occasionally to do multi-day wilderness trips.

Desired characteristics in a boat: A boat well suited for day trips on lakes and bays. Well suited for flat water as well as wind and chop. Capacity for at least a 1 week wilderness trip. A boat with which I can enjoy learning to roll, scull, and edge turn. Once my skills are up to it, a boat that I can take in the surf and on costal waters. A boat that challenges me a bit but that I can also enjoy as a beginner.

Conditions: Calm seas. Up to a 5 knot breeze at times. Up to a 9 inch ripple on the water.

Duration: A 20-minute paddle on Saturday, and two 45-minute paddles on Sunday.

I had an opportunity to go to the West Coast Sea Kayaking Symposium this year. Wow! Just about every boat I ever wondered about was there, including even my curiosity list, like Pigmy wooden and Ocean SOT. I had tried many of the North American style boats over the past couple months through rentals and demos, and so on Friday I focused on the British style boats. (I hope you’ll forgive me for the generalization, British/North American, but I think you know what I mean.) Now that I’ve lost 15 lbs/ 2 inches around the waist, I can fit in some of the Brit boats with higher volume and bigger cockpits, though I’d still need to lose more weight and inches to really fit in them well, and more still to be ok with the low primary stability. I tried: Seaward Shadow (Nigel Foster deep V), NDK Explorer HV, Valley Argonaut, CD Sirocco and Gulfstream, P&H Capella, Necky’s new (approximately) 18 ft x 20 inch and 16 ft x 23 inch skeged boats, Impex Assateague and Serenity Sport, a boat from NC, and a boat from Boreal I think. I was a little frustrated by the end of the day. Most of the boats were a little small in the cockpit, particularly in the knee and thigh area. All of them were way too tippy for my big inexperienced torso sitting above the boat.

There were two Tempest 180 prototypes that were on the water almost constantly on Friday and Saturday, so I didn’t get to the boat until Saturday afternoon. By that time, I was thinking, ok I’ll try it, but I know what the story’s going to be. I was very pleasantly surprised. The boat fit me better than anything I’ve tried, at the symposium or otherwise, Brit or North American. The bigger hull gave me enough room to be comfortable. The Phase 3 seat with back band, and adjustable thigh hooks that wrap around your thigh nice, really gave me good contact with the boat. On the water, oh my, not bad primary stability, not bad at all. I could definitely sit still with a 9 inch ripple on the water, and relax and take in the scenery. I could focus on my forward stroke technique without expending too much energy and concentration on balance. While the CD Sirocco/Gulfstream, for example, is also a 23 inch wide boat, the Tempest 180 had much better primary stability. Not as much primary stability as the 24.5 inch wide Nighthawk, but the narrower Tempest, as expected, felt like it had better acceleration, was faster, and took less energy to keep the boat moving, than the Nighthawk. The secondary stability in the Tempest seemed good, though the secondary stability seems about the same in most sea kayaks that I’ve tried. I’m not experienced enough to split hairs in this attribute.

The boat is basically a Tempest for the bigger paddler. In trying to fill the big-paddler niche, some manufacturers seem to be driven more by business cost and time to market than by customer needs. They either take an existing hull and put a larger cockpit in it, or conversely, they build a larger hull and turn around and put their standard size cockpit in it. The Tempest 180 is re-sized from the ground up and fine tuned for the bigger paddler.

The cockpit opening on the prototype had actual inside dimensions of 32 inch x 16 inch. The designer, Steve Scherrer, was at the Symposium and emphasized that in the next rev of the prototype, he is going to enlarge the cockpit opening in both length and width. I have been willing to compromise on that attribute, but it is nice to be able to get your feet in and out of the cockpit while keeping your butt in the seat. The seat is already pretty low, which helps the primary stability and room in the cockpit. Steve said he is going to try to lower the seat even a little more.

I didn’t pay that much attention to how much extra rail length I had on the foot peg settings (would be of interest to really tall paddlers), but I think it was at least a few inches. In contrast, in the Sirocco/Gulfstream, I had to move the pegs all the way to the end of the rails, and if I stretched my legs and toes out past the pegs, my toes would hit the bulkhead. Definitely not the case in the Tempest. My toes never hit the underside of the deck on any boat, so I can’t comment on that.

One test I like to do is to put on a spray skirt and lean past secondary stability and brace using the sculling stroke. While I’m not yet very good at sculling, I think it makes a sensitive test for how easily I can keep the boat well connected to my body. I think it’s a good indicator of how effectively I will be able to do hip snaps and learn to roll the boat in the future. I was able to scull brace better in this boat than any other boat I’ve tried, owing I think to the really nice fit of the seat and thigh hooks. In contrast, in the Nighthawk, the cockpit is so big that the boat starts to get away from me after a few strokes. Then while I’m distracted by trying to bring the boat back in line, my stroke starts to go unstable and I have to get upright real quick before I capsize.

There wasn’t much wind. Having said that, the boat tracked very well. I’m early in my learning curve on edge turning, so I’m not qualified to do a good evaluation of that attribute. The boat seemed to edge turn about average, not as well as the Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is the one boat that I can edge turn really well. The Nighthawk on the other hand doesn’t track very well for me with the skeg up, but does track well with it down. (I realize the intended purpose of the skeg is to trim the boat’s tendency to point upwind or downwind or in between. But it also has the sometimes-useful affect of stiffening the tracking.) I think there’s a fundamental compromise that has to be made in boat design between robust tracking and ease of turning. Steve said he does intend to put a little more rocker in the boat, I think for better handling in the surf and in rough water. I imagine that will make it easier to edge turn on flat water as well.

Steve emphasized, and a Wilderness Systems representative reiterated, that they don’t intend to change the shallow V cross section at all. I’m glad, since the primary and secondary stability seem good now.

For an indication of how the boat might handle in rough water, I’d recommend you read the reviews at for the Tempest 170 and 165. I believe the designer intends the 180 to handle for a big paddler like the 170 handles for a medium-large paddler. For details on construction and hatches, I recommend you visit a kayak shop that caries the Tempest 170 or 165. The 180 will be the same.

I found out after demoing the boat on Saturday and talking to some people at breakfast on Sunday, that the designer, Steve Scherrer, is out of the Alder Creek kayak shop in Portland, Oregon, about a 2 hr drive from my house. I talked with Steve some more on Sunday and asked if I could spend some more time with the boat after the next rev modifications to the rocker and cockpit. He said sure, he needs testers that are my size. I’ll write an update afterwards. I hope I will get a chance to try it in some wind and about a 2-foot chop. I think that’s about as much as my experience level can handle. If you have other questions about dimensions or attributes of the boat, email me and I’ll try to find out during my next test paddle.