wilderness zephyr 160

has anyone paddled a wilderness zephr 160, i have paddled a tsunami,seemed stable, but looking for a better kayak for open waters, waves, everything i have read about a zephyr appears good, any input would be appreciated. I have been mostly rec kayaing and want to move up to GOOD a touring kayak in plastic. thanks sg6

Had one since 12/08
and I have learned a great deal of new skills using the Zephyr.

It was marketed as a ‘skills boat’ at the time I bought it, meaning a good boat to learn skills in, and it has been that for me. I have bought several other kayaks since then, for rivers and surf use, but haven’t yet needed another sea kayak. I’m sure I will someday acquire additional sea kayaks for specialized uses, but I think the Zephyr makes a good all-around kayak for my needs.

I Rented the Smaller Z
took it to some active water and it did just fine. Very shin-friendly cockpit.

Good fun kayak
I bought one a few years ago because it’s a fun boat to learn skills in, Has good factory outfitting, bone dry hatches , and it Paddles efficiently enough and it’s plastic so I don’t mind if the kids are a little rough with it. Found my self using it more than my caribou s except for on multiple day trips . The caribou handles confussed conditions more confidently than the zepher and I wish the skeg was a bit larger but really don’t have any real complaints about it , its just a good rolling , bracing , daytripping ,weekend camping kayak.

I’ve paddled both sizes of the plastic and glass Z’s. I bought a 15.5 Pro when it became available. I’m 190 pounds and wanted a day/play boat. It has always delivered. The 16.0 and 15.5 are really similar but the 15.5 is quicker and plenty big. The 16.0 felt a touch too big.

It has been a really good boat, particularly for rough water. The primary is very solid and the secondary is rock hard. If you stop to take a photo, grab something from the day hatch or use your relief bottle the primary takes care of you. No drama. If you get caught in something bigger than you bargained for it helps you out. Seems to me that the rougher the better. I have enjoyed it in surf and moving water and find that it accelerates quickly to catch waves. It isn’t a fast boat but if you are racing in raggedy water it gives you an advantage over some faster boat/paddler combinations. It is pretty darn neutral in wind and the skeg does exactly what you want it to. You can tune little increments in and feel it unlike my Tempest 170 that isn’t neutral and it’s skeg is all or nothing and even at “all” it often isn’t enough.

My complaints would include the front deck height and shape which sometimes interfers with my stroke a bit. Not a big deal. A personal issue, really. Yeah, another stroke class might help. Also, the very comfy primary makes you use more effort to edge it. A lower deck would help but a slightly less pronounced primary would be great for the advancing paddler and not so good for the new paddler who was buying his/her first boat and really wanted to make it count.

As it is, I feel that the Z is a great first boat for that new paddler who is in it for the long term, plans on developing skills but doesn’t want to be uncomfortable out of the gate. It doesn’t have a ton of storage space in it so if you are planning a long trip where regular resupply isn’t an option or your paddling partners want you to carry the two burner Coleman, extra fuel, a case of beer, firewood and personal camping gear you should look elsewhere. The Z can accept intelligent choices that you would assume if backpacking “light”. Sure, you can cheat, but don’t ever consider it a trip boat. Think of it as a day boat that will take care of you and offer a solid platform for skills development while accepting your flaws.



It’s a good all-around boat that’s fun in rock gardens and on waves. Personally, I like the 155 better and I’m 200 lbs. There’s a bit of magic missing in the 160 version.

If you’re using it mainly for long distance touring then you should consider something else such as the Tempest. While I’d use the Zephyr on a trip if it was the only boat I had, I’d prefer something longer that had better tracking.

“Good Touring Kayak”

– Last Updated: Aug-28-11 4:25 PM EST –

What's touring for you? The Zephyrs are primarily play boats - I would not want to tour in one since they are somewhat on the slow end of the speed scale and small on storage space.

I do own the 15.5 in plastic and think that this is great as a playboat in rough/moving water but somewhat of a pig in flat water (slow). Rolls great.

If you are looking for touring and not playing, look for something a bit more slender and with a bit more volume for packing (though the Z should work well enough for a short several day's trip).

On the Z, especially the 15.5, the cockpit is roomy but the foot room if you have long legs is not good (the deck is rather low at the bulkhead, which is where my feet end up since they are attached to my 36"+ inseam). If you have short inseam and/or small feet maybe that would not be a problem; but for me (size 15 feet) I can't wear anything but neo socks.

I've put a complete beginner (in good shape and coordination) in my Z 15.5 to give him some basic instruction and he very quickly felt at home in it even in easy moving water. Stable and user friendly boat, rather unaffected by currents, winds, and waves, but responsive and fun to play with... You may also consider the P&H Delphin if the play side of things is what you are after or something like the P&H Scorpio or the WS Tempest series if you want more speed over playfulness (both of the above are still quite playful but pack more and are faster).