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Necky Chatham 16 vs Wilderness Zephyr 160

Swimmy Tim

Sep 22, 2015
Buying a new boat this year. I'd really appreciate feedback on either of these boats. I can get a pretty good deal on the Chatham right now, not on the Zephyr.

I want a boat mostly for day trips and the odd overnighter, in a wide range of conditions. Fairly new to the coast, and have just been demoing boats since living here. Tried the Zephyr and like it. A friend has the Chatham and he likes it. They seem pretty similar. Budget limits me to plastic.

I have 10 years experience whitewater kayaking up to class IV. Getting older though, and don't get out much on rivers these days. However, really enjoying getting out on the ocean. No shortage of trips from where I live in Nanaimo. Want to have my own sea kayak to keep the adventure going.

I'm sure there are lots of folks here who have paddled both boats.. Just hang on a bit longer :D In the meantime, while I haven't paddled the Zephyr, my understanding was that the Zephyr 155 is the direct "competition" to the Chatham 16. The 160 is probably similar, but made for bigger folks.

I seem to remember Ocean River Sports having a demo Zephyr for sale..
Necky Chatham 16 details:

Length: 16.5 feet
Width: 22 inches
Weight: 60 pounds

Wilderness Zephyr details:

Length: 16 feet
Width: 23 inches
Weight: 54 pounds

Other things I've noticed after sitting in both boats, is the Chatham definitely has a smaller cockpit with fewer adjustments on the seat, and significant upsweep on the bow and stern ends. The Zephyr has a similar rocker overall but more continuous throughout the hull. The zephyr also has a higher profile in the water on the rear deck, larger cockpit, and a nicer seat and back band. Chatham has a better system to release the skeg than the Zephyr. Other than that can't say much. Turns out the difference in price is only $300 so maybe not worth it to go with something I haven't tried yet (ie. the Chatham).

Any input from the online vets would be appreciated. Currently leaning toward the Zephyr. Thanks.
Yup, that's what I meant - the Zephyr 155 should feel closer to the Chatham in terms of fit and cockpit size, foot and leg room, etc. The Zephyr 160 is the larger volume version for heavier folks. Probably not a HUGE difference especially if you're right between the ideal weight range for either size, but.. For a play boat, if you can comfortably fit the smaller boat, I'd pick that.

Now that I think of it, I believe the Tempest 165 and 170 are probably the closest Wilderness Systems boats to the Chatham 16/17. The Zephyr is supposed to be even more of a playboat, tons of rocker, etc.
Well I'm no vet, just someone who enjoys paddling. I've spent a few hours in the Chatham 17 and the Zephyr 160, not really enough to comment on either other the cockpits of which I preferred the 160. I'm just curious if you've tried a Delphin which would also fit into this category in plastic and is easy to find on the coast?
Zephyr 16 is an awesome playful boat for either larger paddlers, or paddlers who want a roomier cockpit and more deck height for knees up position. the C16 is more of a flatter deck, much tighter cockpit and knees held down position. personal size and preference. otherwise they are similar in performance. the Z16 holds reasonable amt of gear as well for short trips.
In my experience, there is a BIG difference between the Zephyr 15.5 and 16. The 15.5 is playful and fun and great for moving water and play. Not so great for loading up with gear as it performs less well with a heavy paddler and gear (a.k.a. waves wash across the back deck and other considerable nuisances). The 16 is a more steadfast craft that can be loaded up and toured about in, at the cost of the boat's playfulness. :( That said, day trips and the odd overnighter would be a great use of the 15.5, especially if you like a playful kayak! If you weigh more than 180 pounds, you will need to pack very light, or reconsider those odd overnighters (or take a friend with a larger craft).

Comox Valley Kayaks is adverising one Zephyr 15.5 in its fleet sale for $1205. http://comoxvalleykayaks.com/fleet-sale.html

I have had good experiences with this company and the owner gives you a year's worth of warranty on the kayaks. There is a good spot by the shop to try the kayaks out. Take some gear and load her up on a windy day for the best performance measures. And take me with you! LOL :mrgreen: :mrgreen: