I work as a professional Kayak Guide in Finland, I used a Zephyr 160 or 155 almost exclusively all last summer in the Helsinki Archipelago. I used it in winds ranging from 2 mps to 12 mps, in both flat and pretty rough seas and from trips ranging of a few hours to a few days. I am a qualified Sea Kayak Instructor and an EPP3 in Sea Kayak.
Wilderness Systems is a US based Kayak Company based in South Carolina. They have made quality, thermoplastic kayaks since 1985 and are widely considered among the highest quality Kayaks you can spend your money on. They have terrific customer service and a wide range of models to choose from, so that you get the best boat for you. The Wilderness Systems Zephyr is among their best models.
Wilderness System Zephyr Size: 155 vs 160
The Zephyr is available in two sizes. The Zephyr 155 and the Zephyr 160, the only real differences between the models are in weight, width and length, with the 160 being bigger at 16”. Both are fantastic boats, the boat that is right for you would be the one that you are most comfortable in. Smaller framed paddlers will love the 155’s more compact build and bigger paddlers will most likely prefer the 160’s more spacious capacity and cockpit. Either way, you really cannot go wrong.
The Zephyr is a rigid, solo kayak, made from ABS plastic. This thing is absolutely bomb proof, where you would have to be careful with a wooden or Kevlar Kayak, you can sleep easy knowing that you could drag this boat across the beach and it would not suffer any damage.
The Zephyr: A Comfortable And Maneuverable Kayak
Sitting inside, you will immediately notice how comfortable the seat is. Easily adjustable and well contoured to your lower back; this is one of the most comfortable seats available in a Sea Kayak. There are adjustable padded thigh braces that are very comfortable to press on. The slidelock pedals are easily adjusted with a sliding bar system that is accessible from your seated position, which means no more reaching way down the boat to mess with peddles! The trutrak skeg is adjusted from a simple lever on the right hand side of the boat and uses a string and spring so as not to kink or tangle and there is a compass recess if you feel so included.
Both models are under 60 lbs, making this a fairly easy boat to move from your car to the water as well as a VERY maneuverable boat in the hands of both novices and experienced paddlers. At 22.5” of width on the 155 and 23” of width on the 160, both boats are very stable. They accelerate very quickly, turn very tight and are very easy to roll, making them wonderfully fun models for rock hopping and playing in the surf. This has been the reason that I tend to use this Kayak more than others, if a customer or client is having a problem, I can turn and race to them very quickly. In addition, the skeg is excellent and in high winds, it makes a very real difference in being able to track straight. If you are struggling to turn with the skeg down, simply adjust it to a point that allows you to track straight while still being able to turn.
How’s The Storage On The Zephyr?
As far as storage goes; there are bow, midship and stern bulkheads, which are all domed. This provides you with ample storage space to hold gear for trips easily lasting a few days as well as quick day paddles. Place your most used gear and snacks in the midship bulkhead and divide the bow and stern with the rest of your kit. The 155 has a max capacity of 275 lbs and the 160 has a max capacity of 300 lbs, making them appropriate for trips of up to five days in my opinion.
These are excellent touring/sea kayaks for just about any level of skill and are great boats to develop with, considering their tough build and stability. Their price makes them on the higher end of the cost spectrum, but still a tremendous value for the money. They could easily be considered the perfect kayak by many.
Conclusion And The Only Negative…
As far as cons go, you would be hard pressed to find any. The really only negative characteristic, could be the plastic foot pegs. They can sometimes feel flimsy when really pushing on them, but I have never had one break on me. If you wanted to do even longer trips, or maybe bring more luxury items, then perhaps you would find the storage space to be underwhelming, but I have never had an issue in this respect.
I would primarily compare it to the Wilderness Systems Tempest, an excellent boat in its own right. The Tempest has more storage space, tracks better and is probably a little bit faster. However it is less maneuverable and harder to roll. Which boat is better for you would probably just come down to personal preference.