Length: 15' 6" - Width: 22.50" - Starting at: $1519.00See More Details about this Kayak
The only reason I rated it less than ten is because the bow wavers a bit too much in windy conditions compared to similar kayaks. The boat has quite a bit of rocker and a rounded haul. As a result this boat is more dependent than other kayaks on the skeg for good tracking in windy conditions. Awesome boat otherwise.
The things I like about this boat:
It's pretty stable both initially and secondarily, but feels loose and flexible. It will feel loose at first to a paddler moving from a more stable platform, but is really very predictable and comfortable after paddling a while.
Fits nice and snug, like you're wearing it. I don't camp or make trips where it's necessary to carry lots of gear, but I thinks you could easily get a couple of days worth of stuff in it. Butt fits, and feet fit. Paddle with Merrill barefoot shoes. Feet are snug, but I like an upright foot position, and kind of wedge myself into the boat. I like it tight, but plenty of room for moving pedals for a looser fit. Though the further forward you go, the narrower it gets.
It turns really well on edge, and with bow and stern rudders, making it fun to paddle in tight turning situations. Long enough for some speed, but really paddles shorter.
Just started rolling this year, and this is the boat I learned in. First time rolls both on and off sides. My Cetus rolls no better. In fact the back deck on the Zephyr feels lower.
The Alchemy I replaced with this boat is a great kayak. Fun and quick enough, but really didn't track well. I don't really like using the skeg. My wife often uses it when paddling the Dagger. The Zephyr tracks much better, but turns on a dime with any edge or paddle input.
I paddled the larger Zephyr as well, but felt it was too roomy. Might be better for others, and probably paddles similarly. I am 54 years old, got kinda bad knees, a bit down in the back, but also have been very athletic my whole life. This boat just feels right. I can't really think of anything I don't like about it. Perhaps the seating could be more comfortable. I really like my Cetus LV, and it has no padding in the seat, but the plastic seat bed is very comfortable and fits.
All I can say is, this is my go to boat. It's comfortable, durable, holds enough stuff, and it's fun to paddle. Got other boats that fit more specific needs, but if I had to pick one to just go in who knows what conditions, this is it. I only give it an 8 in the hope that I can find that perfect 10. Like my wife. (Love you Honey!)
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 and just not ďspecial enoughĒ to me. I read someone say that the 16.0 lacked the magic of the 15.5 and I agree, at least for my weight.
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. Paddling with a couple of experienced paddlers in Coasters it seems easier for me to accelerate and catch waves that they don't quite get onto and it gives me an edge.
I have "raced" it three times and chose it for it's comfort, not it's speed. My goals in racing have always been to: #1 Ė Finish the race, #2 - Accomplishing that, not finish last.
I have always accomplished both goals but not by a lot. If you are after a fast boat, the Z isn't it. You can go 3 knots all day long, 3.5 all day long if you are fit and paddle well. Lots of boats do that. Yeah, you can spike a GPS at higher speeds but the bottom line is don't get a Z to have a fast boat. The beauty of the Z 15.5 is it's maneuverability and the comfort in water that requires consideration or help.
Example: This Summer I was in a downwind race with 2 to 4 foot windwaves. A much younger, more fit paddler in a Tiderace Explore beat me by 2 minutes after two hours. Many paddlers who had beat me handily in prior races on smooth waters fell behind. Figure out how that works into your priorities. Rough water is good for the Zephyr. 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 interferes 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. You can get it way over and hold it with increasing resistance. A lower deck would help with the standard premium WS outfitting but a slightly less pronounced primary profile 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. This is the only boat I have owned, including my Tempest, where I have used the stock seat and outfitting. Friends who have paddled Explorers, Romanys, Quests, etc. love the responsiveness and control. I found that skills that had been challenging to master in other boats came easily.
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. It's a day boat. 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.
BTW... Hatches are absolutely bone dry and required venting holes drilled in the bulkheads.
I was looking for a maneuverable and easy to roll kayak that would be strong and maneuverable enough for the rocky Potomac and up to Class III rapids, occasional rough weather day on the Chesapeake, and the even more occasional ocean surf session. Have not tried ocean surfing yet, but for the other two objectives the Z is performing great.
For the past couple of years Iíve been paddling the Perception Sonoma 13.5 in Airalite (40lb) and giving the light weight was not an easy decision. I still miss that little boat (see my reviews of it). The Zephyr is sluggish on flat water compared to the Sonoma. Despite being 2 feet longer, the Z is actually a bit slower for me than the Sonoma (which by the way is exceptionally fast for its length). Anything above 4.5 mph in the Z is a serious stretch and it seems to lack a good glide. But on moving water the Z allows me to have a little more control. It is less affected by currents too. The bow is more buoyant and pearls less easy and is easier to control (I felt I was a little front-heavy in the Sonoma but the seat was glued so that trim could not be adjusted).
The Z has low rear deck (same as the T 165, notably lower than the T170) and to me at 185lb and 6'4" has a more attractive rolling ability than the Tempest 165 (which is also easy to roll). The T feels narrower (although it is not) and is less stable with a defined transition point when edged. The Z is rounder bottomed compared to the squarish Tempests and thus has no such well defined feel of sitting on "edge" when edged. Instead, the feeling of stability increases gradually. In confused water and foamy white water I find the added overall stability a bonus Ė where I have to be very attentive with the T165 to keep myself centered, the Z puts me at ease. Almost cheating, so the T may be a better learning tool than the Z all said and done, as it will teach better balance and edging skills IMO. The Z is the better play boat though -;).
The beginning and end stability are considerably higher than with the Tempest 165. That same stability makes it pop-up during a roll where the T just rolls back with no fuss. To me, being tall, that "pop" is a welcome that helps me right myself-up. For smaller paddlers it may be a problem to overcome the slight initial effort needed to flip the hull to initiate the roll up from an upside-down position (canít have it both ways, unfortunately).
The Tempests would excel in open water touring type of use, where the Z is really a play boat that could work as a day tourer as long as high paddling speed is not on the agenda. The T 165 edges with less effort than the Z so if the primary use of the edging is to just steer while paddling, the T would be the better choice. The Z on the other hand requires more effort to edge effectively but responds better to steering strokes.
Another difference in hull shape b/w the Z and the T is that the Z has full ends while the Ts have pinched ends. The swede vs. fish form has already been mentioned by other reviewers. The fuller ends on the Z I think make it a more stable platform in confused water and currents as they are more forgiving and offer extra buoyancy while still sitting low above the water. The Z also has more flare throughout the hull, thus its secondary stability keeps on going, where the Ts have an earlier tipping point. That same flare also helps in moving water to make the hull less susceptible to swirls and currents.
The hatches Ė mine are bone dry and the rubber covers easy enough to put on or off. In heavy underwater use I have gotten not a drop in any of the three hatches. None. Iím very happy about that, since on some of my previous Tempest kayaks (plastic) I had one or two hatches leak considerable amounts due to hatch rims that did not mate well with the hatch covers.
One last note Ė the cockpit rim is wider on the Z than on the Ts. It is also longer and higher in the front, which allows my 36" inseam to get in seat-first. This I canít do in the T165 and barely in the T170. The knee/thigh braces on the Z are placed wide apart do I can paddle with knees together comfortably. Canít do that in the Ts and I like paddling with knees together when not absolutely necessary to be bracing. Foot room is a problem for me Ė my size 15 feet fit comfortably enough barefoot but I canít put absolutely any hard-sole foot wear (the only option is neoprene socks).
As a kayak for me to learn and play in white water it has met my expectations. While at just over 50lb it is lighter than just about any other plastic kayak, I still wish it was 10-15 lb lighter (but then it probably would not be nearly as tough as it is now).
Check my Z in action on my YouTube page -;) just search for Zephyr 15.5 and Potomac and white water and a couple of videos should pop-up.
The Zephyr has a reputation for being a scaled down Tempest, while they do share quite a few features, they are not the same boat. The Tempest is a fish form with decent initial stability and excellent secondary stability. It tracks like it is on rails and reaches cruising speed easily and efficiently. It does have some rocker, lending to it's ability to handle just about any sea condition, and decent maneuverability. The Zephyr on the other hand is a swede form design that sits much lower in the water, has significantly more rocker and much greater maneuverability with minimal loss in tracking. In fact, I have noticed less weathercocking and wind effect in the Zephyr likely due to the much lower profile.
She is a very spirited day touring boat, lean turns and edging seem almost automatic, and there is almost no tipping point to speak of. It is one of the smoothest easiest rolling boats I've paddled, and handles big conditions with confidence. I live on Lake Ontario and often venture out into large surf and strong winds to "play" and the Zephyr has become my go to boat.
There is a significant loss in cargo capacity compared to the Tempest, but I have managed week long trips without issue as long as you pack smart and a willing to forgo the kitchen sink. When packed properly, I found a bit stern heavy helps in heavy cross winds, I rarely need the skeg, but it does engage easily and only to the needed degree.
The few knocks against the boat are, Wilderness Hatches leak, not a ton, not enough to keep me from buying another WS, but they are not VCP hatches. A cup of water per hatch is the norm after heavy seas or rolling. The Skeg does make a bit of noise from time to time and I know I'm nitpicking here, but I like the reflective deck lines and metal hardware on the tempest over the non reflective lines and plastic of the zephyr.
Overall, it's a great boat. If you are looking for a spirited day touring boat or play boat, put it on your short list to paddle.
It is like a scaled down version of the Tempest, it has the same adjustable seat and foot pegs with the adjustable thigh pads as well. It also has a drop skeg. The cockpit is a little roomier that the Tempest and was easier to get in and out of but the overall profile of the boat was similar.
I'm 5'7", 185 lbs. so larger paddlers might find the Zephyr 16 to be a better fit. The boat handled very well and has good speed. I had it out on the Hudson River on a relatively calm day with a friend who was paddling my Tsunami 14.5. The Zephyr was quite a bit faster. On the way back we switched boats for a little while, man what a difference. My partner has only been kayaking 4 times and she felt really comfortable in the boat. I should also mention that the day hatch has a new style lid on it that opens and closes much more easily and actually seems to seal quite a bit tighter than the ones on the Tempest and Tsunami.
If you are looking for a hard core touring kayak you may be better of with the Tempest but this is a great boat for anyone from the beginner to the advanced day paddler.
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