Read reviews for the Tempest 170 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!
I paddled the Tempest in the past and last year purchased one that was used. The tempest is a solid boat that cuts the water nicely. It has a drop skeg that can help with keeping a heading in waves by anchoring the stern.
The Tempest is reasonably quick and turns nicely on a lean turn. On a 4 mile paddle I averaged 5.2 mph with top speed of 6.8 mph.
I replaced the backband because it was broken when I purchased it. This is very unusual and not likely a design issue.
I'm a novice and have been in just a few kayaks in lessons and rentals, tzunami 145' tzunami 165, and zypher, and a tempest. I was a bit afraid to trust eh tempest as I expected it to be a lot tippier but I found it the most fun of all of these. As a novice, it feels a bit tippy when you first get in but it has very good secondary stability. And unlike the wider boars, I can actually start trying to learn to edge in the tempest.
I have had three sea kayaks now, paddled several others, been kayaking for eight years and am probably and advanced intermediate. At 6ft 235lbs I am probably larger that they intended for this boat, but I find it stable, I learned to roll in it, and it is a joy to paddle for me. My favorite kayak. Stable enough that I have put complete newbies in it and they are comfortable. The seat bottom is the best I have seen and my tailbone does fine on long paddles of several hours. The back band allows a layback for rolls, but for me does not offer much support, a compromise. The hatches allow good use of space and the day hatch is appreciated. The safety and storage line rigged around the boat are both well done and well placed. I find it tracks well with no skeg, and takes very little to track very well. I did move the seat back about two inches to easy getting in and out and it seemed to have no notable effect other than what I intended. The cockpit coating is rounded enough that carrying the boat on my shoulder is almost comfortable. Great boat, I love it and recommend it to all levels.
The Tempest was my second boat. I went from a 10'6 inflatable AE AdvancedFrame to a 17' hard shell. Two completely different boats.
For people transitioning from a wide recreational kayak, the Tempest can feel tippy at first, but the feeling goes away after 20 minutes. Just try to put the boat on edge and realize that the secondary stability is awesome.
The Tempest is fast. I was able to cruise at 4.5-5 MPH accordingly to my GPS. Much more fun to paddle than the wide and slow AdvancedFrame. The seat is comfortable, but the back band can be challenging to adjust. I had an old 2009 model, I believe the new back band is better.
Tracking was good even without the skeg. Turning can be challenging without edging, but if you put the kayak on edge, it will turn 90 degrees with a couple of strokes. Long turns can be done easily just by rising one knee while paddling forward.
The main downside of the Tempest is the weight. My RM weighted 57 pounds and could be difficult to put on the roof rack when I was alone. However, very often a good Samaritan would offer help.
Fit wise, I'm a big guy. At 5'11, 235 lbs, and shoes 11, the cockpit was snug. I didn't feel cramped, but getting in and out required seating on the rear deck. Wet exits were no issue, but reentry could be challenging.
On a last note, the Tempest is a well proven kayak. If you are not completely sure about it, look for an used one, they pop up frequently on CL and they are quite easy to resell. It took me literally 10 minutes to resell mine.
This past weekend I took it out into steep 3' waves thanks to the "fresh to strong" breezes blowing across the bay. I felt perfectly fine in the boat in every orientation except for when I was consciously trying to surf the waves. It was fine paddling in the following sea, but if I tried to catch a wave it was nearly impossible to keep the boat straight. Leaning forward, leaning back, skeg, no skeg, and waves caught pre and post break didn't matter, it was going left or right just fine, but never once straight. The only way I could stop it was to rudder to the point where I slowed and missed the wave. I was out with someone who teaches surfing skills and they said I wasn't alone in my experience with the T170.
So my verdict is still that it's a great all around boat that's a joy in most conditions, but when the next opportunity to practice surfing arises I'll be grabbing one of the other 3 boats. Safe and enjoyable paddling everyone!
I think the reason I love this boat so much is the fit. I am a 5'8", 130# woman and I fit like a glove in her. I paddle the coast of Alaska so we see all kinds of conditions here. I never feel this boat will let me down. Did I mention she's fast???? hahahah...I can get all my camping gear inside but I have small backpack gear. I cut out the bulkhead between the day hatch and main so my bedroll would go in crossways at the widest part of the hull. This worked great for me. Try one. You just might be sold.
I did modify it a tad. I removed the bulkhead that separates the day hatch from the back hatch so I can stuff my tent and bedroll in the widest part of the boat. It didn't affect the boat structurally at all. It was easy to cut out with a serrated knife. Now I love my boat even more.
I had read that turning the kayak would be problem but I have found quite the opposite is true. It turns easily for a 17 foot kayak - maybe this is a function of technique - I largely use a cross bow brace turn with edging and that results in a quick powerful turn. The fittings have been solid thus far. One complaint is the hard plastic cap on one of the handles broke, more flexible plastic would be better there.
I installed a Ritchie compass in the compass recess and it works well. I have treated it with UV Protectant (303 Aerospace) and that makes the surface look great but more slick as well. I have rolled numerous times so no problems with that and there have had no significant leakage in the hatches. The foot rests make a bit of a squeaky noise with pressure. The seating is quite adjustable and one can go for long trips without getting too uncomfortable. I stuck a vinyl decal on the bow hull to personalize the ship - I was surprised that has adhered to the plastic surface.
Overall the fit and finish is good and one looks good paddling this ship. The skeg works well - I try not to use it unless there is significant weather cocking from cross winds and then I slowly increase it till I sense the sweet spot that keeps the ship straight. The mango colour looks awesome. Overall this is a good buy and I would recommend it to others.
The boat was comfortable with easily adjustable footpegs and seat back. The seat back was lower than I am used to, but was comfortable just the same. In fact it felt as if I had a greater range of motion in my torso. When crossing large boat wakes it rode the wave as opposed to diving through. i like this feature as it keeps you dryer.
Both primary and secondary stability were impressive and it always felt stable yet manoeuverable. Can't really comment on hatches but the deck rigging was ample. Lots of places to strap gear to the deck.
The only reason for a 9 would be that I couldn't test the boat loaded. Otherwise it was a delightful paddling experience and I will be on the lookout for a used one ASAP.
I usually paddle for 2-3 hours in the ocean. I love the way the boat feels in the waves. I use the skeg unless going directly upwind. It helps a lot with tracking. I considered getting a glass boat but decided on the plastic model. I'm glad I did as I don't worry about minor scratches. The weight is the only downside. It's a bit of a struggle to get it on the roof of the car solo. No issues with quality. Very slight hatch leakage. I did add a thin layer of closed cell foam under the seat bottom.
Overall, affordable, reliable well mannered boat that is a perfect "one boat quiver" for beginning to advanced paddlers.
I have now owned my Tempest for 3 years and it is definitely my go to boat. My only complaint would be the skeg. Wash it out the minute you get home if you ever take it to the shore or in an area where there is small gritty pebbles. The debris will get stuck up inside and when you go to deploy it the cable will kink. Otherwise I am perfectly happy with keeping this boat for a long time.
Compared to a number of other kayaks I have paddled, the primary stability is lower than some, but I have not found that a problem. My wife, who is less experienced, while having a problem, finds it less confidence inspiring. Secondary stability is by good. I have found I need to try to push it over and, apart from one bad broaching on a 1m following swell beach landing, I have yet to go over without doing so deliberately. I paddle around Western Australia near Perth which is a pretty windy place (Fremantle doctor sees 20knot winds on a regular basis). A lot of people around this area recommend the use of a rudder as a result. While there have been a few times in bigger winds that I have thought a rudder might be nice, I have found that I could manage reasonably well without; with just the skeg. Crossing oblique to wind in an up wind direction requires a reasonable degree of edge and a bit of offset paddling to maintain course with skew down nonetheless. Direct into the wind or any direction down wind is no problem, particularly with the skeg down (particularly downwind). In lesser conditions, I find that the ability to adjust the extent of the triangular skeg useful to tailor the amount of directional stability it gives. Most of the time a little above half way seems to be the sweet spot. Curiously I have found that the boat seems to edge more reliably with the skeg in this position than with it fully up.
As to edging, it is reasonable, but not wonderful. In flat or low wind conditions it edges quite well, but particularly downwind it takes some effort. In some ways this is good. I love surfing into the shore and have found to stability makes this pretty easy, but, when you have to adjust, it takes a bit more than a lift of the knee to make that correction.
Speed: it is reasonably fast boat, but I have to work hard to keep up with a couple of my friends who have less efficient paddle strokes, but quicker fibreglass boats. I can relatively easily maintain, on flat water, an average of about 7.5 km/hr (4 knots), holding it about 8km (4.5ish knots) for any length of time is hard work.
Quality: hmmmmnnn.... Overall the quality is reasonable to good. I have had no failures or issues with the boat, and this includes the much maligned hatches and bulkheads (these have been through many big paddles in decent waves with virtually not a drop of water inside the hatches after and extensive roll practice sessions with a similar outcome).
Really my only complaint is the stiffness of the boat. It gets hot in Perth (40 degrees C is not unusual it he summer). Above about 30 degrees C the boat is a noodle. Trundling it to the water sees the bottom deformed and requires some effort to push back into place. Once it hits the water, this gets a bit better, bit it remains notably flexible. My wife paddles a Easky 15, also plastic, which displays none of these characteristics.
My other minor complaint, is the way in which the deck bungies are mounted and tied just to the forward of the cockpit. While the figments are slightly recessed, the bungies are tied at this point, from the factory. They sit just right to catch your thumb if your stroke isn't just right, particularly in wavy conditions! I have moved the ropes back so they finish on the figment one forward. However, I still get this on occasion. A relatively minor change to the position, or redesign would probably fix this problem which has seen me with skinned and sore thumbs many times.
Overall a good boat. Better suited to someone a little more experienced as less experienced paddles who have used this comment on how tippy it is (referring to the primary stability really). The pro model would no doubt overcome the flexibility issues, and if you don't live in a very hot climate, this is probably much less of an issue. I paddle with a high entry style, so a low entry style would probably have less problems with the fitments issue.
A good boat that will keep a more experienced paddler happy and allow someone with a bit of experience to advance their skills.
Earlier this year I purchased 2 new 2012 Tempest 170 RM's for my girlfriend and myself. We love them. This boat glides through the water and paddles like a dream. It tracks great. I use the skeg often to maintain a straight course. One must be careful not to kink the skeg cable when deploying it. The older models had a metal bar on the slider to prevent the cable kinking there. When I deploy the skeg I keep my thumb against the cable as I slide it back and it works fine. Looks like WS cut back on some costs. They should have left it the way it was.
The boat has good speed. It handles great in rough conditions, rolls effortlessly. It has great deck rigging and has very comfortable seating. The seating does seem to be more cheaply made than the older model.
My girlfriend's Tempest came with a few problems. The underside of the combing and plastic part of the thigh brace support were not sanded down and were very sharp. We both received good cuts while practicing wet exits. I sanded them down when we got home. My boat was nice and smooth from the factory.
Both boats needed to be sealed in spots on the bulkheads. I sealed the bulkheads where the skeg cables passed through them. As well, one boat had a big gaping hole on the bow bulkhead near the deck that had to be filled. I think the quality control might be down a little at WS. I haven't tripped with the boat yet but it can easily be done. It doesn't have huge volume for cargo but there is still enough for a well planned week.
I gave the boat an 8 only because of the few problems and the quality control. The truth is, I still love this boat and love every minute I am on the water with it. If I had my way and could have my Tempest made with a few changes, this it would be them:
- add the metal bar back to the skeg cable slider
- make the bow hatch into a larger dome
- use Valley hatches (they may be a pain to put on and take off but they are watertight)
- uses plastic welded bulkheads
- somehow make the Poly boat more rigid like Valley has done with their poly boats
I only transport my boats on their sides. These are plastic boats with foam bulkheads and can easily suffer hull damage while strapping them securely. Strapping them on their side allows the boat to be snugly strapped without crunching the hull.
If you are thinking of buying a fun stable boat then take a Tempest out for a test paddle.
While I haven't got a lot of experience in others except for short stints, it seems to track quite well w/o using the skeg, and with it, it feels like its on a guided wire. I don't roll in it but a re-entry is not difficult. Haven't had to do that in rough water as the boat feels pretty stable. I have done a little surf paddling around Seattle and over some LARGE container ship waves where if you take them head on, you can spear the second.
As far as speed, I have little to compare to, but I have paddled 40-miles in about 7.5 hours from Olympia to Seattle (Alki) without exiting the boat. I've had some high-angle training and using a more upright angle really makes a difference in speed. It's not "light" to lift onto Thule racks on an SUV, by I go one end first and then the second w/o a problem. Haven't camped in it, but there's lots of room compared to panniers on a motorcycle:-))I think you could easily do a week if you packed camper style. The seat is very adjustable and is a strong point, as are the adjustable foot pegs. Although I'm building a cedar strip kayak to try a 60-mile in a day paddle in May of 2012, and won't hesitate to use this as a back up.
Wouldn't hesitate to recommend. docked it 1 point maybe for the weight, but it's not bad at all really
My boat was a very worn rental kayak when I bought it. I had to fix some of the seat straps and replace the skeg cable. The boat is scratched up quite a bit. I also replaced the small plastic thingies that hold the carry handle in place. All of the work I did was easy and nothing in the design of the boat caused me problems.
I really like this boat. I've paddled a Necky Zoar Sport (14') with a rudder and a Necky Manitou (13') and the performance I get from the Tempest is great. It is faster of those boats and handles rough conditions very well cases. I can roll the boat easily. The rigging handles everything I want to stick on the deck including a spare paddle. The only things that are not quite right are the kayak steering itself to the left and the skeg being too small to handle surfing short wavelength waves. Neither of these are really important since the steering is probably due to the hull being bent from abuse before I got it and the fact that no skeg or rudder is big enough to handle the waves I encountered a few days ago. The left steering problem is not my stroke. I can be out on a calm day and give a strong stroke on the left side and the boat will still turn left. In more typical conditions, the skeg is great and can be adjusted to account for wind and waves from any direction. It performs almost like a rudder when dealing with a consistent wind.
I have paddled up to 16 miles in the boat in one sitting and have been comfortable enough to not hate being in a kayak that long (4 hours). I'm 6'1" and about 200# and there is room to move around in the boat to stretch out a little while resting. When paddling, the cockpit, seat, pads, etc., all fit well.
I can roll the boat easily even with gear on the deck. I need to make a small adjustment to the thigh braces to tighten things up but the adjustments are there to make when I get around to it. The boat has a good balance of initial and secondary stability and is not easily knocked over by any waves so far.
Overall, it is a good, appropriately stable, reasonable fast boat. It is just "light" enough for me to get this on the top of a Nissan XTerra myself but maybe heavy for someone smaller. I don't camp but there seems to be lots of room for at least a few nights worth of gear and probably a weeks worth for a hard-core camper.
I like it and I'm going to keep it.
This boat will hold enough gear for a 3-4 day trip, although you need to have a backpacker mentality. It's not as fast as some other boats in its class such as the Valley Nordkapp RM, or Necky Chatham 17 but I find this boat to be really good all around.
Suggestion: If you're an REI member, wait till their spring on fall sale, you may be able to get a 20% discount (I think this applies to boats but not exactly sure).
I give the rating a 9 because it's a little slow.
The more I challenge this boat, the more it impresses me. Whether fully packed with camping gear or nearly empty, this boat paddles fast. It tracks well without the skeg, but can still turn better than most boats several feet shorter. With the skeg down it tracks like an arrow.
This boat handles the chop and swells of the Atlantic Ocean with ease. And glides on the glass like a rowing shell. The versatility is just amazing.
The cockpit could be a touch more spacious, as my 6'1" 220 frame cannot enter butt first. Always needing to go feet first, while balancing on the deck behind the cockpit is a bit tough at times. I do wish the back band offered higher support, and that the seat could be adjusted fore and aft on the fly.
The capacity of the hatches is fairly impressive, but of course, the skeg eats valuable space. But the advantages over a rudder outweigh this issue. I was happy to learn that a bear canister fits in the stern bulkhead. And again, I do wish the cockpit box was a bit larger, especially in the foot area. It is too tight for me to fit large shoes on my size 13 feet. Only thin water shoes will fit.
About a month in, I did have a foam bulkhead leak between the cockpit and day hatch. But the manufacturer mailed me some adhesive that addressed the problem instantly. They blamed the shipping process, but it appears that additional adhesive from start would also have helped.
The deck has a compass well for a permanent install. But it is so far forward on the deck, I could not read the compass. The rigging is certainly decent, but a better paddle stow setup would have been a nice touch. I would also have liked a bilge pump option from the factory. The cockpit coaming isn't quite aggressive enough, so water comes in a bit more than I'd like, even with a full neoprene skirt on.
But all in all, this boat inspires confidence, and makes me want to get on the water and paddle. And the value was great as I bought it on a 20% off sale in tax free DE.
While the foot braces were designed so that you could easily adjust them, I view that as a negative. With aggressive paddling, they can slip, which causes you to open the spray skirt to reset them. The kayak balances on your shoulder very well and it is easy to portage and put on and take off of your vehicle.
For the most part, I am very pleased with the Tempest and find it is an excellent all around kayak. I find it tracks very straight without use of the skeg in most conditions. It handles and turns well and it is relatively fast, I can sprint at up to 12 km/h for short sections. No complaints about the seat - it is good for sitting in it all day. The rotomolded version is very durable and can take anything I throw at it. I've certainly bounced it off enough rocks, scraped the bottom and dragged it over enough rocks while portaging and it still keeps going. The hatch space is more than adequate to hold enough gear to go on week long + trips.
My biggest issue I have with this kayak is the small quality issues by Wilderness systems. Loose fasteners from the factory I had to tighten up. The hatches are a slightly leaky through the bulkheads and the. I have had to re-silicone the bulkheads myself the first week after getting my kayak in order to seal them properly. I think the rear hatch is still leaking through the skeg control cable hole as well and I have to look at it and silicone it up to seal it before next season.
Other improvements I would like to see with this kayak would be a a GPS marine mount in front of the cockpit, and the skeg slider block is a bit hard on the fingers when actuating the skeg as it has hard edges on it.
I had paddled a number of kayaks in a demo day in Spring '07, and knew the Tempest 170 was "my" kayak after just 10 minutes. Love the outfitting, the feel, everything. I'll be paddling that boat for years to come.
By all these measures, this is a very good kayak. It is stable, but not a barge. It is maneuverable, but tracks well. It is predictable and responsive when conditions worsen. It's small enough to be a good day boat and large enough to be a short distance overnight boat. In short, it's a very good and very versatile sea kayak. I say this owning four other kayaks, all from England, all being fiberglass.
Will I sell it? No, I value far too much its versatility, including its ability to take rough handling and remain intact. The Tempest 170 is one of my favorite kayaks.
I recently went for a paddle without my boat and was provided a rental. When asked what was the closest boat to the CD boat I paddled, I was provided the WS Tempest 170. I used to paddle WS boats and enjoyed them having both owned the ALTO and EPIC. The Tempest (compared to the EPIC) is a "Tank." I was not impressed and and found difficulty with the Skeg also. Although the design layup is nice, it is lost in the weight of this RM sea tank.
Would not recommend in Poly layup. To be fair - it may perform better in Carbonlite or glass.
The only complaint I have is a small amount of water getting into the hatches, mostly the forward hatch. I tracked the problem down to a bulkhead that was not completely sealed.
Overall I would have to say this was a fantastic purchase.
Overall I find the boat excellent. With the skeg down either partially or fully the boat tracks great. With the skeg up it likes to weather vane in winds over 15 knots. But again when you need just put down the skeg or a little lean and sweep will work also.
The boat definetely makes you perfect you strokes. If you are not equal with both left and right strokes it will not track well. That is probably because it is made to be a turny boat. No complaints.
I learned to roll in this boat and it seems real easy. I haven't rolled any others so I can't say how easy it is compared to others. But I did learn on this on so...
I noticed in other reviews that people had problems with the hatches leaking. I notice that as long as you hear the little thunk as the hatch goes on it works fine. I also burp the hatch like you do with tupperware containers. I'm not sure if that's what's been doing it but I know that after about 12-15 rolls the foreward and rear hatches are bone dry. The only hatch I've noticed that leaks at all is the day hatch, it usually has about one half cup of water in it after a rolling session. But this could be because my spray skirt leaks like a seive and there is constant water in the cockpit. So maybe some of that water is leaking through the bulkhead. Overall I really love the boat the only reasone I gave it a 9 out of 10 rating is the day hatch leak. Hopefully one day I'll be buying the kevlar version!
Paddler type; Beginner (less than 10 times in a kayak) 215 lbs, 5'-9", I was looking for a boat that would server me well for 1-4 day expeditions as well as be a good boat to "workout" in calm to 10-15 mph winds and up to 2-3 foot seas (Columbia River, Or). I wanted it to be boat enough for a couple of years of progression. I'm a tech / gearhead sort, wanted high-end quality but couldn't afford composite (or at least justify at present!!). It's a snug fit for me, but I like that, very good contact w/ the boat and have had some 2-3 hr paddles with the boat --no problem.
Boats I tried: Necky Zoar, Necky Chatham 17, Necky Elaho, Necky Eskia, Eddyline Night Hawk, Eddyline Phoenix
Chose Tempest because; Quality to detail (slide lock footbrace system, phase 3 seat & adjustment system, 3 hatches & well done bulkheads, rigging- well thought out & close to seat, skeg rather than rudder, tracks straight (skeg up or down) w/ even my paddling ability, responds well to edged turns, great stability.
I am VERY happy with this boat and will paddle many miles/trips with it. The only reason it did not get a 10...I was determined to not get a boat w/ "bottle cap" hatch covers. However, I bought one anyway because of my overall infatuation with everything else about it.
I make it a point to pop all the covers and secure every time I go out. I have found that part of the secret is learning a technique to close and seal the hatches. I have gotten much better over only a couple trips.
Don't buy a poly boat in the length before trying out the Tempest...but then again, don't try one out...UNLESS you are prepared to buy it!
Noisy skeg I could live without too, but overall, this is a very comfy and great handling boat. There must be a solution to the leaky hatches but I haven't found it yet, and another outfitter friend reports that her new Tempests also leak.
Fix those leaks, Wilderness!
With the skeg down it tracks great in all of the conditions I have paddled it(from calm to windy with 2-3 foot waves). With the skeg up it is very nimble for a sea kayak. When you put it on edge it is amazing how sharp of a turn you can make. It rolls easily and has great secondary stability.
The only thing I don't like is, as was mentioned before by another reviewer, the skeg rattles when it is down. This can be fixed in the way he mentioned.
The hatches have to be sealed correctly in order not to leak. Once you get the hang of how to seal them there is no problem. I have rolled 30 or so times in my tempest and have not had any leaking from the hatches. The deck rigging is very good and the seat and brace outfitting is great. It is a fun boat to paddle.
The only reason I did not give it a 10 is that I am saving the 10 for a review on a kevlar tempest (hopefully in a few years.)
Boats like the Cape Lookout and Horn have better primary stability...great for using the rudder to turn, but less uncomfortable when leaning into waves and turns. Tried a plastic Carolina...primary and secondary seemed less comfortable to me, and overall the boat seemed cheap compared to the Wilderness boats. I was pretty much sold on the Horn until I tried the Tempest. My first impression as I was gliding along getting comfortable was that this might be too much boat for me, but I soon realized that this boat can rock from side to side but it's not going over. After a few hours in the waves (later) I learned to really trust this boat's secondary stability.
Used the rental boat a variety of conditions... a few times in some good size waves, with water breaking over the back hatches more than a few times. I did notice some water in side, especially the large rear bulkhead. The one I purchased is a 2004 model and has bungees for the hatch covers. So far no water. Could be because the rental had no bungees, or that the hatch covers seemed looser (it was a rental and had been well used).
Someone mentioned the skeg banging around ... I noticed this on the rental, but on mine I've only noticed it in waves where I'm broadside (or nearly so) and the stern is lifted up and down. Other wise the skeg seems quiet to me so far. I did notice that the boat tends to carve to the right, especially when gliding. I then noticed that the skeg has a pronounced front to back curve. This the only defect and my dealer will replace the skeg this week.
The fit and finish seems great to me, and the boat a natural fit. If you're thinking of a Horn or a Capella, try the Tempest and see what you think.
Given that the boats would do a lot of daytrips, we wanted "playful" boats as much as straight-line tourers. A Current Designs Expedition would not fit the bill for example. Given that we're buying two, glass boats are too expensive, and plastic boats are a bit more tolerant of our rocky beaches anyway. We didn't care about rudder versus skeg; we've paddled with both, and they're both okay with us. So the end criteria were: plastic, decent speed, decent tracking, good turning when edged, a boat that would surf when on the swells, comfortable, reasonable initial stability (so we can drift around & take photos) and good secondary.
I looked at the following boats: Boreal Designs Inuckshuk, Current Designs Whistler, Storm, Squall, Sirocco, Necky Elaho, Eloho HV, Looksha IV, Chatham 16, Perception Carolina, P&H Capella, Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 15, 17, Tempest, and some others I forget now. A lot of paddles and demos! Fun though.
Some comments on the boats that made the shortlist. The Capella didn't have enough initial stability for the "drifting around" and taking photos idea. Although it's quite stable when it's moving. The Elahos are nice boats, like to surf, but their comfort and outfitting just don't fit me all that well (5'9" 160 lbs); the seat would numb my legs, and the thigh-braces were in the wrong place. If the Elahos were more comfortable they might have won. The Sirocco was a real fun boat on a windy choppy day, decent comfort too. But it didn't seem overly keen on surfing the swells. Maybe that's a good thing for stability, but it's certainly less fun.
The Tempest won out. It's comfortable, with a good adjustable seat and well-placed thigh braces. The back-band is also decent. It paddles straight when it's kept level, and I found I didn't really need the skeg most of the time. Good initial stability. On an edge it turns great, and it happily surfs the swells. Even a small lean on the boat will have an effect, making it easy to keep yourself pointed in the desired direction.
Some folks commented about weathercocking. I took it out on a reasonably windy day (15 knot winds blowing whitecaps on the water) and had no difficulty at all. In fact I hardly needed the skeg in those conditions, although it did help a little.
The hatch covers are tricky to put on properly, but once they're on they seal very well. The rubber hatches need to hook *under* the plastic hatch combings. It's easy to just push the hatches on, where it'll appear that they're on, but in fact are not fully sealed. The trick is, push down on the edges of the hatch cover. If the edge moves, it's not on right. When it's on properly, the bottom of the rubber hatch cover touches the kayak deck, and pressing down on the hatch cover edge results in the edge not flexing down at all. The hatch covers are tied down from the inside, so you can't lose them. The retaining bungies are not however, so it's not a bad idea to tie them to their respective hatch covers.
Deck rigging is the best of all the boats on the list. One minor comment is the rear bungy which crosses immediately behind the cockpit. It's so close to the cockpit combing that putting anything under that bungy will get in the way of your sprayskirt. I'll be moving that one bungy aft just a little bit. Speed is good; on the GPS the Tempest was on par with every other boat on the shortlist.
So that's it; I've finished boat-hunting. Thanks to everyone for posting their kayak reviews on this site; it's really helped me. The poly Tempest 170 came out on top.
The Tempest fits me perfectly, I am 176 cm tall and I have long legs so the knee pads here are great! The seat is comfortable; the cockpit's opening large and safe to get out of. This boat has 3 compartments and all kept my stuff dry after rolling training in the sea. The boat I bought is orange so I can be easily spotted in the dark waters of the fjords...
I tried my Tempest in rough sea, which is, by my standards 2.5 meter waves. I did not even feel it! The Tempest is stable and easily manoeuvred in these conditions... The Tempest is made of Polyethylene, which makes it stronger against rough surfaces, although it is about 5 kg heavier than the lightest glass-fibre boats (28 kg against 22 kg). Here, in the western coast of Norway, there are many rocks and hard surfaces to 'land' on, so I did not want to repeat the worries I had with the old glass-fibre boats I had previously. If you want challenge, fun, speed, elegance, lots of carrying space, dependability and a boat that can turn around on a quarter, the Tempest 170/skegg is your Beast of Burden!
I have had my poly Tempest out in rough conditions and was pleasantly surprised to find the hatches completely dry. I mounted the Nexus compass in the recess on the deck and have found I can read it easily. The slate grey color of my boat knocks me out and the deck rigging is perfect for wedging a gps between the bungie and the coaming recess. It sits right up where I can easily read it. The day hatch is huge. Far better than the one on my Cape Horn.
If I had to say something negative about this boat it would have to do with tracking. In a really strong crosswind (I'd estimate 30 mph) I was doing a lot of sweep strokes to stay in line. I was wishing that skeg would dig a little deeper down!
All in all a great boat!
Quite frankly all the hype about this kayak is true: it's super fast, quite light, great hatches that don't leak and although narrow, it's quite stable. I also like the fact that it comes in Blaze Orange, which can be an important safety factor when traveling in congested waters. The Phaze3 seat is really good too, save for the lack of a cup holder. Basically you can go and go and go and never get tired!
I really wanted to like this kayak but the one thing that put me off over time was not having my surf rudder to control trim. I must admit that the skeg works fine. I guess I'm just not big on turning by bracing & paddle strokes. Yes, I can do it but it's annoying in cross winds and choppy water, I much prefer to drop the rudder and concentrate on other things. For much the same reasons I moved to a Cape Horn from a Manteo. A good analogy for this kayak is "it's like a great TV with no remote". You'll leave other kayaks in your wake but you won't do circles around them either.
For me this makes it one point away from 'absolutely perfect' so I give it a 9 out of 10. So, no sale either! I think I'll try out the Cape Horn 17' (longer and slimmer than mine too but with a surf rudder to boot).
People loose sight of this fact and ask the impossible of their kayaks. A single kayak can’t turn on a dime, track flawlessly, win races, and satisfy an apprehensive novice. Every boat is a compromise. The challenge is to understand what you want and pick a kayak that hits the right compromise.
With this in mind, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect, rough water, expedition sea kayak. I want a kayak that (1) cruises well for long distance paddling, (2) turns tightly with a heavy lean, (3) tracks well in high cross winds, (4) has enough primary stability so I can relax a bit during a long day on rough water, (5) can accelerate and track well when paddling backwards, and (6) can handle rough surf landings.
My search for this mythical boat has stretched-out over the last few years. I’ve tried the British boats. They come close, but they sacrifice too much primary stability in their quest for macho, secondary stability. I’ve tried heavy-duty touring kayaks from North American designers, but they aren’t playful enough in the surf. I’ve enjoyed some of the more radical designs for coastal paddling, but they don’t cruise well for distance paddling.
I had despaired of ever satisfying my quest. Then I paddled the Tempest 170 from Wilderness Systems. This kayak is awesome. It hits the right compromises for rough water, expedition paddling. Of course, this is exactly what it was designed for, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Here are the basic numbers. The boat is 17 feet long, 22 inches wide and 14 inches deep. The widest point is just in front of the cockpit. While I was using if for day paddling in the surf, I checked out the storage and figure it would be straightforward to pack a week’s worth of gear in the boat.
The seat was comfortable. It might be a bit high for some paddlers, but I found it to be no problem (and I like the leverage from a higher seat). The thigh braces fit well and had enough adjustment options to fit most any paddler. The seat included integrated hip pads which given my generously apportioned tush, I needed to remove to fit in the boat. The backband provided plenty of support but didn’t get in the way. I was very pleased that I could layback on the rear deck in this kayak.
This is an expedition kayak built with heavy surf landings in mind – and it has the weight to show for it (58 pounds with the fiberglass construction). This was a loaner boat so I didn’t test it by smashing it into rocks, but everything about this boat felt strong and solid. The deck rigging was complete – enough to make the staunchest BCU snob happy. The bow and stern handles were well designed for an easy carry (at least, easy given the heavy weight).
The boat accelerated up to speed nicely. I didn’t have a knot meter, but it seemed fast enough and easily kept up with everyone in the group. The tracking was good. It did weathercock slightly in a cross wind, but a drop of the skeg fixed that right away.
I tried to bury the bow and pearl the boat while surfing. I picked a moderately steep wave and shot straight down the face. For a moment, I thought I’d go tumbling end over end, but then the bow floated up to the surface and I had a wonderful long ride. This is a boat that likes to surf.
My biggest complaint about the boat is its hatches. They use bungie cords around the rims to provide additional pressure for rough conditions. This trick works well as the storage compartments were bone dry after a full day of surfing. Getting these bungies back on, however, was tough; especially on the larger stern hatch.
As I played with the boat further, I did find some limitations in the handling. My Necky Looksha Sport with its sharper chines turns more sharply on a strongly leaned turn. The secondary stability on the Tempest is well behind that of the British boats I’ve paddled.
But this brings me back to my earlier point; no boat can do everything. This boat is second to none for expedition paddling in the roughest of conditions. A serious expedition boat needs to carry gear, surf well, have good maneuverability, yet provide sufficient primary stability so you can paddle all day in rough seas without becoming overly exhausted -- Or stop bracing long enough to take a picture or assist my paddling-partners on the water. The Tempest 170 does all of these and more. No other boat that I’ve found even comes close to the Tempest 170 as a well rounded, rough water, expedition kayak. As far as I’m concerned my quest is over.
Note: the reviewer is a 5’8”, 230 pound male. Testing was done during a single day of paddling in the waters around Fort Canby State Park in Washington. Conditions were breezy with well spaced modest surf. Out around the south jetty, we did encounter some very large, steep swells and high winds. We finished the day with a surf landing on Waikaiki beach. All in all, it was a good day for testing a coastal expedition paddling kayak.