Dagger Alchemy or Zephyr 160?

-- Last Updated: Aug-19-10 11:48 PM EST --

I have recently become hopelessly addicted to kayaking. I have an entry level 10 foot sit in kayak (Ascend D10 bass pro shop) that I enjoy but I want something a little longer that would be better equipped to handle rough water and extended trips. I am wanting more of a lite touring/sea kayak, and I dont want to go with something huge. I think I want to go stay in the 14-16 ft range. Right now I paddle mostly on inland rivers in SE Virginia (Elizabeth River) but I would like to have something I could take further out into the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding waters.

The two kayaks I am considering are; Dagger Alchemy 14L and Wilderness Systems Zephyr 155 & 160 and would like advice/recommendations especially on those two Kayaks and any others I should consider.

get seat time

– Last Updated: Aug-20-10 12:07 AM EST –

Get seat time in both kayaks, if at all possible. And not just sitting in them on the floor of a shop - out on the water. It is worth paying for a class or to rent the boats, if that is the only way you can arrange it.

They are both made by the same company - Confluence Watersports. In general, Dagger is their moving water boat line, where Wilderness Systems is more of their touring line. Dagger Alchemy is not made for white water rivers, as many of the other boats in the Dagger line are. But it is made for surfing and rock gardening and such on the ocean. It is a very maneuverable boat, but one that doesn't want to go straight easily. If I ever kill my current ocean play boat, the Alchemy is at the top of the list of boats I would get to replace it.

I have not paddled the Zephyr, but based on how they position the Wilderness Systems boats, I suspect it will be a faster straight line boat that won't turn nearly as easily as the Alchemy.

I own the Zephyr 16
and I would love to own the Alchemy L. I have paddled one twice, once for three hours. I found it tracked very well, turned from the bow more readily than the Zephyr does, was easy to roll, outfitting was very familiar. It seemed a bit slower to me for a given amount of paddling effort, just my impression.

I didn’t get to paddle the Alchemy in rough water. The Zephyr makes me feel very comfortable in waves and confused water, it seems to just firm up and get more stable. It has been a great boat for me as I try and learn more skills. I find the outfitting very accommodating and can stay in the boat for 4+ hours without becoming uncomfortable. Though the Zephyr is not a ‘fast’ boat, I have tended to be middle-of-the pack or faster, in group paddles I have done.

Both boats come in two sizes, at 200 Lbs and 5’11" I liked the larger versions of both. You’ll need to decide which fits you the best. I think either boat makes a great choice.

what the last guy said
but i too have only paddled the Z in rough water and wind. the A only for about 10 minutes on flat water. i found the outfitting and cockpit nicer and more positive for me on the Z, but the A was a fine paddling boat and remarkably maneuverable, but perhaps only marginally more so than the Z. i think the Z is a more all around sea kayak and the A a more narrowly defined boat. but it seems to keep coming down to cockpit fit and comfort more than anything. as far as rough water paddling, the Z excels and is a lot of fun. i had no problem maintaining pace in heavy winds and seas on the front quarter with a crowd in the usual Explorers. if possible try and spend at least an hour with each and pull the trigger on one, you can’t go wrong.

What size?
The Alchemy versions are tuned to an intended paddler size - they are not equal but longer. What’s your height/weight?

5’10 and 195 lbs.

go with the "L"
what everyone has said mirrors my opinion, and I helped design both boats. The Z is a better sea kayak capable of longer trips, the A is more sporty sea kayak designed for more ‘day trip’ mode, tho it does hold alot for a 14’er. You really should get a paddle in each.

We’ve got a kayak for you…from A to Z! (sorry) :wink:


trying out both kayaks
I really would like to try the Alchemy and Zephyr out before buying one.

Does anyone know of a place in SE Virginia (VA Beach/Norfolk area) or North Eastern N.C. (OBX) that rents either boat?

Wild River
Wild River Outfitters in VA Beach has the Zephyr. They can set up demos at their lake or you can do one of their tours. I’ve been looking at the Z also and am using it on Sunday with them.

much difference in speed?
I took my 10ft kayak out today and paddled about 3 miles and realized that I really need a faster boat.

I am leaning towards the Alchemy mostly because of its length and overall size…I am just not sure I need a boat as big as the Zephyr. Does the Zephyr paddle noticably faster than the Alchemy? Is the Alchemy a decent paddling boat for slow lazy rivers like the Elizabeth?

Alchemy turnier
As someone above said, they are both good boats but slightly different target. The Alchemy is turnier and makes someone who wants to play in rocks and surf smile. The Zephyr is more tuned to longer paddles over distance, better tracking etc.

You really have to decide what kind of tripping and skills are important to you to choose between these two personalities.

The trip Sun was cancelled due to lightning, but I had a chance to paddle the Zephyr today. (Note that I haven’t seen an Alchemy so can’t compare). But I really liked the Zephyr. Skeg up, it was easy to turn and edging was very responsive, skeg down it was very straight.

For me: (5’10", 195, novice-intermediate paddler), and what I’m looking for (versatile sea kayak for multi day trips and playing along FL coast and rivers), it’s my #1 choice. Unless something wow’s me more in the next few weeks, I’ll be picking one up.