Friday, November 20, 2015

Dagger Stratos

This week I got to paddle the Dagger Stratos 14.5.  Dagger touts the Stratos as "A playful, sporty touring boat that makes open water, rock gardening, and ocean surf fun and exciting.  The Stratos has been available in the UK for a little over a year and is scheduled to be available in the United States in 2016.  It is 14.5 feet long and is available in 2 sizes - small and large.  It has 2 bulkheads, 2 hatches, perimeter lines, and a drop down skeg.
Dagger Stratos 14.5L in the rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast of California
I think that Dagger may have found the missing link in the kayak industry.  As ocean rock garden play has been gaining in popularity so has interest in shorter more maneuverable sea worthy kayaks.  There have been a few other shorter sea kayaks on the market, but they miss the mark in different ways.  As a result, sea kayakers have been looking toward the newer longer whitewater kayaks for ocean rock garden play.  The industry has responded by putting bulkheads, hatches, and skegs in their long creek racing kayaks (11-12 foot range).  Many of us have enjoyed the stability and forgiving nature of these kayaks but found them to be lacking in performance.  The Dagger Stratos is designed to be a playful sea kayak.  After my test paddle, I think that Dagger has the playful sea kayak that many of us have been looking for.
Jeff Laxier rock gardening in the Dagger Stratos on the Mendocino Coast of California

Review of Dagger Stratos
I got to paddle the small Stratos for an afternoon in the rock gardens and surf on the Mendocino Coast.  I also got to see both the small and large sizes perform side by side in the capable hands of Jeff Laxier and Ben Lawry.
Ben Lawry having fun in the Dagger Stratos
First Impression
Two words describe my impression of the Dagger Stratos - Nimble and Responsive.

The Stratos maneuvered like a whitewater kayak but with better tracking.  For those that like carving edged turns, it carves nicely on both inside and outside edges.  The kayak is nimble yet quite stable in chaotic water. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it accelerated to catch waves, ride surges, and punch out through waves.  Here's a short clip of Jeff surfing the small sized Stratos.

The small Stratos fit without any custom outfitting.  The Stratos is equipped with adjustable sliding plastic foot braces and adjustable thigh hooks.  I adjusted these and hopped in and paddled it comfortably.  I am 5'4" and think that the small Stratos could easily be adjusted to fit smaller paddlers.  My only complaint is the long cockpit which seems to be a trend these days.  For a small paddler, this creates a dilemma - Do I wear a looser fitting spraydeck that I can easily get on myself or do I struggle and sometimes require help from a teammate to get a properly snug spraydeck on?  At 5"11, Jeff enjoyed the performance of the small but preferred the roomier fit of the large.
Dagger Stratos 14.5S surfing on the Mendocino Coast of California
Paddlers who are looking for a playful plastic sea kayak for ocean rock garden and surfzone play should definitely put the Dagger Stratos on their radar.  Look for opportunities to demo them as they come out in 2016.  Size choice is likely to be a personal preference as opposed to manufacturer recommendations so demoing them is going to be key.

I am ordering mine this week and plan to be teaching rock gardening classes in it at Paddle Golden Gate.  Stay tuned for more . . .


  1. I'd be interested in hearing about it compares to the Alchemy, if you have any thoughts on that.

    1. Hi Peter, The Alchemy and Stratos are 2 very different kayaks. The Stratos is definitely a higher performance craft - less primary stability and a lot of secondary stability. Definitely feels more maneuverable. I am working on a blog post that will have more thoughts on the 2 as well as some of the other popular kayaks for rock garden and coastal play. Cheers, Cate

  2. Here's the promo video from dagger for it:

  3. Thanks for sharing the review and the comparison to the Alchemy. As a fat paddler I might prefer the stability of the Alchemy as I have no problem getting it to turn or edge, but I do want to give the large Stratos a test

  4. The more I paddle the Stratos, the more that I am liking it. Our students are too. Follow up review to come.

  5. Nice write up Cate. I just ordered a small version of the Stratos. I don't have a chance to demo and fell between suggested sizes. I'm 5'11" 170 lbs, what are your thoughts on the small for a day tourer for large inland lakes and up to class II rivers at my height / weight?

    1. Hi Scott, Thanks for checking out my blog. I think you will really dig the small Stratos. The small has a very playful feel to it and accommodates a wide range of sizes. Jeff is 5'11" and prefers the small for everyday paddling (he uses the large when we might need to have a larger client use the boat or when needing more volume for gear or guiding. Please let me know what you think when you get yours! Best, Cate

    2. Thanks for the input Cate! It's hard to find sizing info on this kayak so I appreciate it. Will do on the follow up.


    3. Hi Cate, thanks so much for your awesome blog and reviews. To follow up on Scott's question and Jeff's experience--I am 6'4" 200 lbs but I like the specs on the small size-- trying to figure out if I would fit? Have you had any larger paddlers in the small? Does Jeff have room to grow? Thanks!

    4. Hi Scott, I would think the small would be a bit small for you based on your height. Best bet would be to demo them both. Best, Cate

    5. I agree with Cate. A little too cold for me to hit the water yet (a dusting of snow last night here in MT) but found that the small fits me very snugly yet comfortably at my height as long as I wear form fitting footwear for my size 10 USA (27.5 mondo) feet. The small feels like a perfect performance fit for my relatively new to kayaking self. I can't wait to get out on the water, but am in mountain biking mode for the time being. Signed, the first Scott.

  6. Hi all,I have a Dagger 14 and wife had a charleston 15..I've been on the lookout for replacing these,for faster,less cumbersome and more responsive boats..ith all the positive comments ont he Stratos,I'm going to try one for sure..Thank you!

  7. Ive been paddling a small stratos for just over two years (uk)..i cant rate this kayak enough its my boat of choice for most occasions ive even ran up to grade 3 rivers in it...exellent value for money. .and i cant see you finding a better short seak kayak around. bang for your bucks. .t

  8. I chose the Stratos from reviews. Yours amongst others. I am grateful that you took your time to respond on your blog.

    Anyway, I got it, and I am very happy about it: ending in a sidesurf is a breeze, controllable, being tossed backwards - no probs, cruising speed acceptable.

    The hatches though, I am a bit worried that the rear one might pop off one day. Seen some taping it...

    Again. Thanks for your time and review and competent answers  

    PS from a recent trip to Norway;

    1. Yes, the rear hatch cover popping off is an issue. We have put a layer of duck tape around the rim to make it a bit snugger and give it more friction. Also we put a strap across the hatch. We are making other modifications to the boat this winter. I will post them on my blog. Here is a link to our hatch cover strap.

  9. Hi Kate, I sent this to Jeff last week.

    Did you ever outfit your Stratos for the surf with a bulkhead, thigh braces, hatch straps, etc.? How is it holding up? I couldn't get a buyer for my surf Delphin last year so I ended up selling the Stratos for what I paid for it. Took the Delphin out in small waves a week ago and still hate how much effort it is to maneuver before it gets on a plane or if I'm dinking around on the inside. I'm considering buying a Sterling boat, either a Reflection or a Progression, but either is a serious chunk of change at 4x more than the Stratos. I think I recall seeing you try a Sterling - any advice re either the Stratos or the Sterlings? I'd be using the boat as a long surfboat, tide rip surfing, and as a day trip boat. I have my Fusion for rockgardens.



    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for checking out my blog. We put a strap on the rear hatch, some shims on the footbrace keepers, and a different seat in my Stratos. It has been good to go. This spring, we plan to put a center pillar and foot brace bulkhead in it.

      Regarding the Stratos vs a Sterling Sea Kayak. I am happy with the performance and price of the Stratos. It does everything that I want and need it to do. Sterling Boats are nice but way out of my price range.

      If you decide to go with a Sterling Boat - definitely demo the Progression.


  10. Hi Cate.
    I hesitate between Stratos S and Alchemy. I'm 132lbs and5,5'.
    I look for a manoeuvring and funny kayak
    News on the comparison both?



    1. Hi Valentin, Thanks for checking out my blog. I definitely prefer the Stratos over the Alchemy. It has a little more hull speed and is more responsive to edging. I always feel like I have to lean to edge the Alchemy. Edging the Stratos is easy and very effective. Best bet is to paddle them both and see what you prefer. Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions. Cheers, Cate

    2. You're quick!
      Thank you Cate.
      I live in France and it is impossible to find Alchemy on approval. Just one shop for test the stratos.

      For you, stratos and alchemy have same manevrability ?

      Cheers, Valentin

    3. Ahhh. I am working in the office today so your questions are a welcome distraction. I would say the Stratos is more maneuverable and a more performance oriented kayak - especially for smaller paddlers like us. C

  11. I just got the stratos 14.5 S last week and have taken it out twice on flatwater. I freaking love this boat. I also have a Perception Swifty but I wanted a boat where I could paddle further all day without tiring out so easily. My first thoughts comparing these two boats were the swifty is like pedaling a bike on a high gear. It is easy to get it going but really you are just spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast. The stratos is like pedaling a bike on a low gear. Takes a little more force to get it going but when you do it zips through the water effortlessly. There is a huge difference on flatwater when the skeg is down vs. when it is not. Especially with any sort of crosswind. I loved that when I pulled the skeg up I could easily maneuver in and out of nooks along the shore like in my swifty and when on the open water I would put it down and it tracked perfectly with no extra effort of paddling. Also, there is a huge difference in the way this boat handles wake from the multitude of fishing boats on the lake. This is the first boat I have had that has such a snug fit which I was nervous about but I quickly saw the benefit of "fitting" your boat. I am 5'6" 170 lbs and to be honest I have mama hips from having a baby and was disappointed at first when the seat was way too tight. I saw the hip pads were removable so I pulled them out and actually moved them to the back for some extra lower back support because I get back pain easily. This worked marvelously and the fit was perfect after the simple change. I also moved the knee pads back a notch and with some trial and error got the feet pegs in the right place. My only problem I never had before was after two days of paddling I had ankle pain but only my right ankle. I think it was from not knowing where and how to comfortably place my legs adjust the seats hip lifters at first. Once I made the proper adjustments I noticed a difference right away. I also upgraded to a Werner Camano paddle and had wrist and forearm pain that I have never had before but I think I found the solution for that on another blog. Overall, I am extremely pleased with the stratos and I can not wait to take it out on the larger more sea like lake that I live near. In my swifty I felt nervous on this lake and could not go out very far because the water gets pretty choppy and therefore took forever to paddle out and back in to shore. I think the stratos will handle it like a champ.

    Jessica P.

    1. Hi Jessica, Thanks for checking out my blog and sharing your thoughts on the Dagger Stratos. I am glad that you are enjoying and think you will the more and more you paddle it. Happy Paddling!!! Cate