I am a 6' 200lb sea kayak guide with paddle canada level 1. My previous boats were a boreal designs baffin, wilderness systems tempest 170 and a Nigel foster legend. I bought the zephyr as a day/weekend tourer and play boat and have not been disappointed. It is a very wide sea kayak at 23" making it very stable. At only 54lbs it accelerates very quickly, combine that with its full rocker and you have a very capable surfing/rock hopping boat. Although there is less cargo space in this 16' boat, the hatches are fairly deep and with careful packing it can be used for much more than a weekend camping trip. The new skeg design uses a string and spring so no more kinked cables, the seat system is imo the most comfortable available in a sea kayak. The only negative point is the foot brace system, they are easy to adjust but are plastic and held un place with gravity. Other than that this boat fits my every kayak need. It is fantastic as a skills development boat and due to the tough poly construction, stability and foot brace system it would also be a great choice for an outfitters rental fleet.
This is an excellent skills development boat and ocean play boat, it has great primary and secondary stability, it accelerates quickly and is easy to shoulder to and from the water. It is defined as a day tourer/weekend tourer, with careful packing you could do much longer trips.
Pros: Full rocker, round hull with slight vee and aggressive soft chines make it very manuverable. Lightweight. Most comfortable and adjustable seat on the market IMO.
Cons: Plastic foot pegs with gravity hold design, very easy to adjust so could be a pro but foot position can be lost while performing rolls.
Video overview/review: https://youtu.be/xuywGO1AE-4
The bad thing is I don't think the plastic is nearly as tough as the Tempest. My Tempest was pretty gnarly, but seemed to take rocks and barnacles in stride, but the Z seems to scratch a lot easier. Still it's fun to play with.
The outfitting is rather good for a "day tripper" as some would call it, though coming from a backpacking background I will say I can put 5 days of gear in the 3, low-volume storage compartments. It does take some creative packing and smaller gear, but it can be done! (multi-purpose gear is the key!)
The lines of this boat are very attractive, sexy in my opinion and the upswept bow helps you clear some breaking waves like a knife if you pack the weight in the bow. The skeg, while a bit noisy at times works rather well in cross-winds and keeps you tracking straight when it's actually needed, which isn't often.
I'd give the Zephyr a 10, but I think a bit more storage and sturdier foot pegs would make it perfect!
I enjoy the playfulness of this kayak in many ways. It responds quick to any paddle strokes and on edge, it makes you dance on the water. As for rolling, this kayak is effortless to roll, I can easily hand rolled the Zephyr without thinking that I might miss the roll. As for storage, do not expect to go for a multiday kayak trip other than if you are coming from a backpacking background. Because I am used to large expedition sea kayak (Wilderness Tempest 180 pro), it is not obvious for me to think that I can overnight camp with the Zephyr and leave luxury items behind.
As for quality, I had to do some work on the kayak, work that should have been done properly right from the factory but once again, buying a Wilderness kayak implies that you may (will) have to chip in for a bit of repair. The skeg blade is very noisy; I had to glue spacers for the blade to stay aligned when deployed. The skeg toggle is very hard to push back and forth; the cable does not slide easily in the housing. The foam bulkheads were not sealed properly, the water was freely going from one compartment to another and the stern was also taking on water from the skeg attachment. I resealed everything with Sikaflex, I even "gooped" the skeg attachment with Sikaflex and now, this kayak is bone dry. The hatch covers (2 wilderness - front and day hatches - and a KajakSport for stern) do not leak at all, this kayak stays dry, even after several rescues and rolls.
Overall, I am very pleased (so far) with this kayak, exactly what I was looking for - a "play boat". I expected and was ready to put some repair work on it, it is a Wilderness kayak...! I am hoping to have a lot of fun with this kayak, since winter is approaching, I just can't wait to go play in rough water.
On the water I have done long distance open water, surf and some flat water paddling. Open water was better than I thought it would be due to the amount of keel rocker. It tracks nice and straight and I seldom use the skeg at all. The seat system is very adjustable. Don't forget the play with the under thigh seat bottom which really adds to the comfort on long trips and while practicing rolls. In the surf it is really in its element. Turns and edges very easily.
My only complaint is the foam bulkhead between the cockpit and the dayhatch. This thing leaks and is going to take considerable work to seal up. I did see that this years model has a new adhesive tape seal for the bulkheads. Hopefully they have solved the leak issues.
Overall this is a great boat that seems to do everything sea kayakers like well. Many kayak stores use this boat for rentals due to its reasonable price so go test one out!
The thigh braces are a nice touch, being easy to adjust. I would have preferred the seat to be a little lower, feels "high" to me. I don't know if it came with different inserts for the hip braces, but I found the ones that came with the kayak irritating and just took them out. The pressure on the spotthey hit on my left hip was putting pressure on a nerve and my left leg and foot went numb, after hip brace removal, no longer an issue.
I would rate it higher, but this is the only Sit inside I have paddled for more than a one trip. The others were nice, I almost went with the Nighthawk, but this kayak just fit me better and the seat was way more comfortable. The numbness took a lot longer to set in and is now apparently fixed.
All in all, if you are looking for a big man kayak, try it out. The hatches did leak a little, but not enough for me to care, a rag easily absorbs the water in one pass. Turning and edging feel very intuitive. After several test runs to get comfortable, I will soon be heading out into the Gulf for open water trips.
As a retired WW paddler of 20 years (shoulder injury/surgery) I like rougher conditions... And the Zephyr fits the bill perfectly. I paddle an average of 3 days a week on the Chesapeake Bay; at times in 4 foot swells and breaking waves and it handles great. This boat loves rough water. At 16 ft and lots of rocker it is very nimble with only slight edging. It also responds almost instinctively to light corrective sweeps/strokes. I also agree with the previous poster who stated despite being so nimble it is also quite stable, yet also tracks very well.... Even in rough water I have yet to drop the skeg. The Zephyr rolls very easily as well and is moderately fast. I've paddled faster boats but have no trouble keeping up with composite boats in the groups I paddle with.
Now for a few complaints.... I also agree with the previous poster about the foot braces.... They are flimsy plastic and tend to slip out of place easily....
The other complaint I have is with the bulkhead sealant. Every one of my bulkhead seals has bubbles in them... around the entire seal... and while I have not had any leaks yet (it is a surprisingly dry boat), I'm expecting to have to do extensive re-seals of all of the bulkheads in the not-so-distant future...
Other than that I think the Zephyr is a winner for Wilderness System. It is a great day paddler as well as a rough water play boat...
Oh... I would like to see Wilderness System add security loops to their boats; most other kayaks have them.
I like the outfitting...the elastic bungies are carried up the front deck quite a distance, which works for me as I use a Greenland style paddle with a very low stroke and I like to have the front deck completely clear in my paddling box. That means anything on the front deck needs to be way up front. The whole boat seems to work very well with my low angle stroke...the front deck is not too high and there is nothing to catch my fingers on as I paddle. The skeg control is recessed out of the way.
Paddling the boat is a blast! It has amazing stability but turns very easily with only a bit of edging. I have had it out in some pretty brisk conditions now and have never needed the skeg. It's nice to have it for when I'm working the camera though.
It seems to track a bit better than my Sirocco yet is easier to turn too. A bit of a paradox...I don't know how they did it.
Rolling the boat is very easy, with the low back deck and the secure thigh braces. I haven't done a lot of rolling with it, due to a back problem I'm dealing with right now, but the few times I have I have been very favorably impressed.
My complaints are few. The foot braces do not seem as comfortable nor as solid as the aluminum ones I am used to on my other boats. They are easy to adjust but they seem wimpy and just not as comfortable. I'm looking into replacement options. The hatch covers have let a little water into the hatches during rolling practice. Maybe securing them around the rim with bungee cord will help cure that problem. The build quality left a bit to be desired: The seat seems to be off the centerline of the boat by about 1/4 inch which doesn't affect performance but does seem a bit sloppy. Also, one of the thigh braces was assembled with the wrong size screw head - again a minor thing but sloppy. That might have been the boat dealer's work though.
Quality nitpicking aside, this boat is a LOT of fun for the larger paddler who is looking for a day tripper and you should definitely give it a try.
I was immediately impressed by the boat... great looking design and color pattern(swirled yellow and orange) ... the plastic seemed pretty stiff and tough.... and that is coming from someone who has owned two prijon boats over the years.
The conditions on the bay that day days were "choppy" in Annapolis.... once I cleared the Annapolis Harbor boat traffic I was able to get out a bit more into the open bay.... The chop was coming from all directions.... What I was initially struck by was how stable the initial stability was..... Despite being hit by waves and chop from every which way.... it felt like I couldn't flip this boat if I tried..... I didn't really edge the boat too much or push the secondary stability because of the number of jellyfish in the bay... but based on what others have posted... I'm sure it is good.... The boat tracked surprising well without using the skeg.... which surprised me given the amount of rocker the boat has.... My weight may have had some affect though on the stability and tracking....
One big difference I did notice from my kodiak is that this boat really rides up and down the waves and it a rougher ride.... where my Kodiak slices through just about anything and is not affected much by wind or waves... again the trade-off of having more rocker.... Speaking of rocker the boat turned on a dime.... with only slight corrective stroking; didn't really have to edge it..... Surf waves were minimal that day but I did manage to catch a couple and the Sephyr did fine... I sure this boat would be a blast on bigger water and rougher conditions.... The outfitting on the boat was basic but very good.... Only wish new kayaks who pick up on prijons lead and start putting their day hatch in bow( right in front of the paddler in a neoprene bag) rather than behind...
Not sure if I would replace my kodiak with the Zephyr for general paddling but I am strongly considering getting the Zephyr as a play boat for rough days on the bay or for surfing at the beach....
I think Wilderness system has a winner with the Zephyr..... a great playboat; particularly for a larger paddler.
I took the poly boat out for a run in Mission bay. I would say I took the boat about 5+ miles in pretty flat conditions. The boat was pretty fast... even had a race in it ;) I won LOL... anyways, the boat did have sick secondary stability... was pretty quick, and very comfortable. I am 6'1" 185, and the boat fit me wonderfully. My only complaint is that I needed the sked to keep the boat going straight... so tracking was average at best without. This boat turns on a dime while being very stable! There was some water in the bulkheads... but this baby was a rental, so who know how it got there.
Also, the boat is pretty easy to handle at 54lbs... I was able to get it down and put it away by myself. This boat gets 8 out of 10 for tracking concerns more than anything... basically this boat is still on my buy list
This boat is great for touring, but acts like it has the soul of a playboat waiting to come out. due to the increased rocker compared to the Tempest, the Zephyr paddles with much more play in the hull. This could be a positive or a negative, but being someone who likes to play in surf, I took this as a positive. The primary stability was average, and secondary stability was very good. I could place it on edge and turn very easily. The hull was also quite quick.
The outfitting inside the cockpit was typical of Wilderness Systems - enough adjustability to make anyone feel comfortable. This kayak had the Phase 3xp outfitting, which was very easy to dial in. The foot pegs are adjusted with their usual lift up - pull or push - lock down bar that is easy to reach from the seat. The thigh pads were also adjustable, if I recall correctly, via screwdriver. However, after reviewing the picture on Wilderness Systems' site, it is hard to confirm.
Storage was appropriate for this kayak. A round bow hatch, oval stern hatch, and round day hatch all worked well. There is enough deck rigging to suit my needs. Also, a compass recess is located just fore of the bow hatch. It felt an appropriate distance from the cockpit.
The kayak is also equipped with a skeg. I noticed the usual increase in resistance when it was deployed. Unfortunately, there were no crosswinds on that day, so I was unable to determine how badly the kayak weathercocks. The skeg did lock the kayak down pretty well in terms of tracking - it removed all the play out of the hull. The one thing I noticed during paddling is that the skeg clicked back and forth within its recess when deployed. I'm sure a plastic washer or two, or perhaps some soft side of velcro would probably fix this problem.
Overall, I am currently torn between the Zephyr 16.0 and the Tempest 170 for my next purchase. For some perspective, I am looking for a kayak that I can toss around in the surf and rock gardens without worrying about cracking the hull, but still possessing good hull speed and capacity for week-long camping trips.
I would give this kayak a 10, but due to slight imperfections, I have brought it down a point. This is also the first year for this kayak, and has not been in production for more than three months. I can't wait to have another opportunity to paddle it again!