2018 Jackson Zen 2.0 Review
- Boof and spin off of every rock that you can.
- Automatically slide into the water.
- Plug and play.
- Get in, fidget with a few ropes (and maybe even a hip pad or two) and it’ll be like you’ve been running rivers with this boat for ages.
This boat feels like the little brother to the hugely successful Karma. The Jackson Zen is more river-friendly and stays on top of the water in a way that the old Zen didn’t. Much like the Karma, The Jackson design team raised and rounded the stern and added volume in the back. The added volume keeps the boat on top of the water. We might as well call this boat, the “River Karma.”
The chines are forgiving and don’t catch quite as easily as the old Zen, but they are still present enough to hold a line during ferries while surfing or while navigating any type of white water. These forgiving chines that are there when you need them and very similar to the Dagger Mamba.
The Jackson Zen has a planing hull with crisp edges that are not too sharp. It surfs glassy waves really well and is easy to control overall.
The Jackson Zen is very easy to outfit overall. To adjust the seat, you unscrew the wing nut and the screws on the cockpit.
The hip pads are easy to dial in, supportive, and durable. They are sold individually if you have another boat that needs a great pair of hip pads.
One of the coolest features of the Jackson Kayak river runners and creekers is the Uni Shock bulkhead. It is super easy to adjust the front bulkhead (not messing with wing nuts on the side). If you piton, it will release – saving you some pain!
If you are paddling a Medium Karma, don’t think that you are going to order up the corresponding size on the Zen and have the same fit. The Medium Zen felt more along the line of a small Karma. Yes, it’s sporty, but it’s nowhere near the same volume.
For the “casual kayaker” the Zen was forgiving and comfortable right from the start due to it’s user-friendly outfitting. Also, due to the lack of holes in the boat construction, it’s dry as a bone. We love the roll-ability of the Zen’s rounded design.
- User friendly outfitting
- Forgiving hull design
- Lightweight construction
- Glassy wave surf machine
- Replacement parts are easy to find at your local hardware store if you’re on the road.
- Sizes are not correlated to the Karma
- Fairly flat hull (ouch on big boofs) – You can teach a displacement hull to eddy out like a planing hull, but you can’t teach a planing hull to not break your back when landing flat quite as well as a displacement hull.
- Not as easy to pack for overnighters as many other models on the market.