There’s something a little magical about dragonflies. Canoeists welcome visits from these voracious aerial predators, rooting for them as they nab mosquitos, horseflies and other nuisance insects from midair with fighter pilot skills making even Top Gun’s Maverick jealous. And with four glittery wings and giant compound eyes, dragonflies make the very short list of insects many people find beautiful.
You’ll find Stellar Kayaks’ Dragonfly an equally welcome and attractive paddling companion. Light, agile and beautiful like its namesake, the Dragonfly pack boat is ideal for camping, pond hopping and wetting lines on calm and sheltered waters.
Soar between secluded lakes in the Stellar Dragonfly
Stellar Kayaks Dragonfly Specs
Weight: 27.5 lbs
Capacity: 440 lbs
MSRP: $2,995 USD
Die-hard canoeists will likely be less familiar with the Dragonfly’s manufacturer, Stellar Kayaks. With roots building Olympic rowing shells, Stellar specializes in speedy composites: think lithe surfskis, performance sit-on-tops and go-fast touring and fitness kayaks. So, what’s a performance surfski manufacturer doing making a canoe?
Let me take you back to 2019. The Dragonfly first caught the eyes of Paddling Mag’s editorial team on the show floor at the 2019 Paddlesports Retailer industry trade show hosted in Oklahoma City. That year, the Dragonfly was released alongside the Compass, Stellar’s first foray into a true recreational kayak.
Design and outfitting
Our team was surprised to learn the Compass and the Dragonfly share the same hull shape and dimensions below the waterline. Even side by side, you’d never expect the Compass—a beamy decked rec kayak—and the Dragonfly—a traditional-looking pack canoe—would share the same footprint. But on further inspection, you’ll find the same sharp entry lines, 28.2-inch width, asymmetrical hull and sharp keel in the stern.
The Compass was 18 months in the making, and “It made sense to leverage the time we put into designing a really nice hull for double blade paddling,” says Stellar Kayaks’ co-owner Dave Thomas. Both models are accessible designs sharing the attributes of good tracking, solid stability and quick maneuverability in a sub-12-foot lightweight package—which perfectly suits much of the recreational market.
Among the recreational crowd, the Dragonfly especially shines for older paddlers and folks with knee issues who don’t want to fuss with entering and exiting a cockpit. “Or for packing gear, coolers, and if you have a dog. The Dragonfly is that much more versatile for a variety of users,” adds Thomas.
Over the last five to 10 years, we’ve seen the popularity of pack boats soar, with most major canoe manufacturers releasing one or more models. Why’s that? These days, paddlers are often looking for a grab-and-go craft, not a go-for-three-weeks workhorse.
“In the U.S. in particular, there is less demand for weeklong trips and more of a weekend warrior mentality. Or, you day trip and go for lunch and paddle back. You don’t need an 18-foot-long canoe anymore,” says Thomas. “Pack boats are easy and lightweight, and they don’t draft much water, so you can paddle in real skinny water. They’re a basic boat, and their ease is refreshing.”
While the Dragonfly might be no-frills, its design components, outfitting and aesthetics make it unique. Its simplicity is part of its beauty.
Our loaner Dragonfly, picked up from Stellar distributor Soleil Sports, came in Stellar’s Excel layup. It features a Kevlar construction with a Nomex honeycomb core and a gelcoat exterior, making it very stiff and very light. The foam core in the hull’s center adds stiffness to the Dragonfly’s wide beam. The center-mounted seat features a soft, supportive cushion and a moveable seat back resting against the thwart for extra support. There’s even a little elastic loop in front of the seat for holding a water bottle.
Stellar has added non-skid grip strips in front of the paddling station to make entering and exiting easier. And the SmartTrack Transitional foot braces are easily adjustable on the water, while a foam pad for heels offers pressure-reducing comfort. Topping off the Dragonfly’s pretty package are its gorgeous wood thwarts and gunwales. The wood adds an extra warmth and liveliness.
All spring and into early summer, I was lucky to have the Dragonfly on loan for sunrise paddles on the local creek and even escaped with it on a quick overnight backcountry jaunt. There was ample room in the pack boat for me, a canoe pack in the stern and eight-month-old Labrador pup, Spirit, thrilled to be sitting in the bow. Altogether, we were just about half of the Dragonfly’s stated 440-pound capacity.
Fully loaded, the Dragonfly gets up to speed quickly and with minimal effort. The shallow-arch hull design provides great primary stability and, combined with practically sitting on the hull in typical pack boat fashion, I felt stable and confident even with an excitable pup aboard. Portaging the Dragonfly is a breeze. Its thwarts and gunwales are rounded, which makes for comfortable shoulder carrying.
Snaking through the bends of lazy rivers and the tall marsh grasses of wetlands is where the Dragonfly’s maneuverability really shines. Its excellent maneuverability comes with its short length, sure, but there’s a wee bit of rocker in the bow helping as well. And when some wind kicks up, the sharp keel in the stern helps with tracking, according to Stellar. The Dragonfly bobs along amicably in a little wind chop, but it’s a design best enjoyed and most efficient in the calm, sheltered waters pack boats are made for.
Light and agile, this Dragonfly is a worthy companion to swoop in and make your dawn patrols, after-work adventures and solo weekends under the stars that much more enjoyable and accessible.
Where to buy the Dragonfly
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Stellar Kayaks reviews
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Meet the Stellar Dragonfly: Ready to make your dawn patrols, after-work adventures and solo weekends under the stars more accessible. | Feature photo: Wyatt Michalek