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Wilderness System Tempest 170

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

5 Stars

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 was my first expedition Kayak. I bought it second hand from a Craig's List ad. The photos looked pretty, and so I drove up to Melbourne Florida to see it. The man selling it lived in a mobile home park, I don't remember his name, but he had a short diamond white beard, silvery gray hair, and his face was wrinkled like a pug, from what must have been many years of direct exposure to the sun; he either paddled a lot of miles in his youth, or had a rough life. It's probable it was the later. His living room was a dirty mess, there were fruit juice cans on the floor, the TV playing Fox News was propped up with magazines, and the futon looked like it hadn't been dusted in years. The air had a strong smell of cigarettes which I soon discovered originated from the man's wife, who seemed excited I was there. "You're gonna buy it, right?" she said in between puffs.

I had a feeling the old man wasn't selling the kayak because he wanted to; this was probably one of his few distractions from an unpleasant existence, but money problems only scream louder the longer you ignore them. I paid his asking price of $900 and gave him an extra $50 for gas so he would drive it down to Miami for me. His wife was thrilled.

First Impressions

At 17 feet, the Tempest 170 is a long kayak. It's torpedo shaped with a round hull and a low deck. It is made to go fast, but also carry a of of gear for a long camping trip. If you are entering the sport, this the boat to get. It is stable and forgiving to beginners, but also edges well, rolls easily, is maneuverable, and will catch the waves in the surf. You will grow with this kayak. It gave me many fond memories. I learned to roll with it, I learned to surf with it, and I went on my first multiday expedition with it.

I would say this boat is like your first girlfriend you actually liked. As you go through life you will remember the first time you paddled it, and how different and better it felt from everything else that had come before.

Cargo Capacity

Speed and Tracking

Maneuverability and Surfing

The Video below from Kayak Hipster is a very good example of someone surfing with the Wilderness Tempest 170.


The round hull and low back deck make this kayak very ideal to learn how to roll. Some kayaks with sharp chines can be difficult to roll because they have a tipping point which must be crossed to have the kayak complete the roll. However, with a round hull, the roll is a smooth and continuous movement.

The video below from The Fallout Fan Boy shows an example of someone doing a storm roll on a Wilderness System Tempest Kayak using a Greenland paddle


As with most most rotomolded boats, you will find that the hull may become soft, if you leave the boat in, strong sunlight, or under compressive stress such as on a car rack for a prolonged stretch. This however, is not a permanent issue, as the material has a natural memory for its shape, and will immediately return to it once cooled. The rotomolded plastic also has the great benefit that you will likely never bang this boat so badly that it will ever need repairs. You could throw it out of a window from a high rise and it would be perfectly usable, if but a little scratched. If you drop this boat on the ground when you take it off your car rack, it will forgive you. If you bang a boulder when you're rock gardening, it will forgive you. If a barrel wave dumps you hard on a pebbled beach, it will forgive you. If you get rammed by another kayak in the surf, it will forgive you. The same cannot be said for a fiberglass or carbon composite boat. Learn how to handle your boat with this boat before you invest some serious money on a top of the line model.

Kayak Sailing

I added a Falcon Sail to my Tempest 170. While it does work well I would note that because the boat is made of rotomolded plastic, you may find that on very strong winds the base mount will cause the deck to deform (and this may occur even if you added an adapter block to spread the load). This is especially the case when you are on a beam reach or sailing somewhat upwind . If that is happening, then I'd put down the sail. It's not worth risking the thing break on you. I have not noticed this happening when I am sailing downwind, even in very strong 20 knot winds. I would not use the sail on any conditions with winds stronger than 20 knots.


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