I’m looking for a kayak for day-tripping and short camping trips on Lake Tahoe (& hopefully, other high Sierra lakes!). I’m pretty new to kayaking and at 5’5", 130#, I’ve about decided the WS Zephyr 155 is right for me. My concern is that I don’t like the backband as it seems to sit too low for me. The backband in the Perception is more comfortable, but the boat is heavier than I want. Is it fairly easy to change the seating or backband in the Zephyr? Thanks for your thoughts!
You can change backbands in most boats without any problems. However, the reason sea kayaks have low backbands is so that they don’t get in your way. A tall seat back prevents you from rotating effectively, and it also makes it very difficult to get back into your boat during a rescue.
I know this is a tangent, but the Zephyr struck me as a really loose-fitting boat to me (I’m 6’, 185#). If you’re interested in paddling lakes like Tahoe, and want to grow your skills (bracing, rolling, etc) I think you might have trouble with the very large cockpit in the Zephyr.
The Zephyr is a sweet boat and one of my favorites. I’d own one if I didn’t already have something that’s equally as fun. I’d have to disagree with Nate about the fit. I actually know people your size who fit fine in the 155 version of the boat. Also, I believe that Karen Knight is paddling one now, and she’s your size. Plus, it’s easy to add outfitting foam to snug up the fit if you need it.
About the backband, you’ll get used to it. My suggestion is to try it out for your first 5 or 6 longer paddles and see if you get used to the lower backband. I suspect that you will. If not, then switch it out. Boats are easily customizeable, so you should have any issues fixing any problems.
Fit in Z 155
What they said about the backband - I think the one in the Z is one of the more comfortable seats out there, but each of us is different. Keep it for a while, then decide if you want to replace. Anything larger than what is already there will interfere with rolling and laybacks, but may be more supportive if that's what you're after.
As for fit, you can fit there. But I think you will enjoy more the fit of a Tempest 165 rather than the Zephyr. The cockpit on the Z is made for larger people and unless you want your legs wide apart and knees high, you would need to add a lot of foam to it. The + is that you can paddle that with kness together in the center not touching anything, where you can't do that in the Tempest.
I am 6'4" and 190lb and fit well in the plastic Z 155 (with seat and foot rails moved away from each other by an inch or two on each end for an added 3-4" of leg room).
It is a play boat - maneuverable, stable, easy to roll, slow to paddle (compared to others). For playing it is fun. For touring/trips - fine if you are not in a hurry (e.g. you don't want to be paddling the Z much faster than 4.5 mph, which is comfortable to maintain with not much effort, but at about 5mph mine becomes quite hard to move and I would not want to paddle it at that speed for more than a couple of miles max...).
So if you mainly plan to paddle from place to place rather than stay in one place and play, I would suggest you look into something that is more of a touring type than playing...
If you are just looking for something under 16 feet, look at the Necky Eliza and some others that are designed for smaller people (check some older threads on that for other options like the NDK Pilgrim for instance).
Thanks for all of the info
I like the backband, not the high back. I just found the backband in the tempest and the essence more comfortable (just slightly higher) than the zephyr (which couldn’t be adjusted properly). Unfortunately, demo opportunities are pretty limited around here. After your suggestions, I’m thinking of taking a short trip to the bay area where I can demo some other makes. I am very much a beginner but I do want to learn and grow - and I don’t want to outgrow my boat too soon! On the other hand, I do want to be able to be lazy, relax & daydream from time to time - and not get dumped on my head! I’ll find the right one!
more appropriately refer to them as butt bands
Try one out. I’m going to demo one soon. I keep hearing nice things about it.
at your size
At 5’5" and 130#, virtually all sea kayaks are going to have plenty of stability for relaxed paddling. The Tempest, for example, is going to be narrower and easier for you to paddle - and the stability is very reassuring. If Wilderness Systems is what you’ve got available around you, I think the Tempest 165 is worth a try.
If you found …
… a Zephyr at a good used price, nothing wrong with taking it to learn in it. Use it, enjoy it, sell it if you find something better. If you get a plastic one for b/w $650 and $850 that would be a decent price and you can sell it a few months or a year or two later at a similar price… Same for the Tempests and pretty much any other comparable kayak. Buying new is something one should only do if they either know exactly that what they are buying is the best for them or if they don’t care too much about getting the “perfect” boat and can live with certain limitations that they would find later (some seem to be able to deal with an “imperfect” boat well and I admire them for that, since I can’t do it -
The Z will feel very reassuring, will not dump you, and I think you can still adjust it well enough for you to be comfortable in it. If anything, you may find it difficult to edge aggressively enough with your low weight and center of gravity - it requires some serious lean to put on edge if you are light and not too tall. And this can be wasted energy if all you are trying to do is paddle on a day trip - narrower and less stable kayaks will be better for that.
The reason the back band is so low is because the rear deck is one of the lowest in mass-produced kayaks (and consequently, one of the easiest to lay back on for rolls or just to relax on the water flat on the rear deck).
Thanks for the help, everyone. I kept trying what I could find and I really found a better fit with an Eddyline Fathom LV. Sadly, there was not a nighthawk to try for comparison but if I can find a reasonably priced Fathom LV, I think I’ll be in good shape!