Best Dagger Kayaks For 2024

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Dagger is a well-respected American kayak brand that’s been making boats for decades. The history of Dagger kayaks begins with whitewater. The company got its start making kayaks and canoes in the U.S. Southeast, just as whitewater boating was becoming popular in the 1990s. Dagger sponsored professional paddlers (Team Dagger) to test its designs on the world’s toughest rivers.

The result was a lineup of Dagger kayaks that performed well and were comfortable to paddle, meant for kayaking enthusiasts who took the sport seriously and were willing to invest in quality boats and gear.

The tradition continues when you buy a Dagger kayak today. The brand shifted its focus somewhat in the 2000s. While Dagger kept up making whitewater kayaks, it dropped its canoe lineup and made serious investments in touring kayaks and high-end recreational kayaks. Dagger has always remained true to its core mission of producing paddler-tested designs for serious kayakers.

Top picks: Best Dagger kayaks for 2024

The following Dagger kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Dagger kayaks here.

Shop Dagger kayaks

Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide features every Dagger kayak on the market. You can choose to filter Dagger kayaks by type and application, such as touring or whitewater. Then, click on specific models to see specs, prices, reviews and where to buy. You won’t find a better kayak buyer’s guide on the web.

Shopping for a used Dagger kayak?

You may discover the Dagger kayak of your dreams listed for sale on a buy-and-sell website like Facebook Marketplace. Searching Craigslist Dagger kayak or Ebay Dagger kayak might uncover just the gem you’re looking for. Dagger has always made quality boats, whether for whitewater kayaking or touring. Many options are available in contemporary and discontinued designs. Your first step in making a good investment is to research the specific attributes of the Dagger kayak model you are considering; our Paddling Buyer’s Guide is the ideal place to start. Once you’ve found a contender, consider the following advice to make a good used purchase:

  • Examine the overall condition of the Dagger kayak. Dagger kayaks were built to last with tough rotomolded polyethylene plastic and durable outfitting. However, even the toughest material is subject to sun damage if stored outside. For this reason, inspect the Dagger kayak hull and deck for fading or soft spots. Apply firm pressure to all parts of the kayak to test for stiffness—it shouldn’t feel spongy. UV damage is a good general test to determine a kayak’s overall condition.
  • Whitewater kayaks are subject to lots of wear and tear. Check the deck (top) and hull (bottom) for damage including deep gouges (more than 3 mm or 1/8th of an inch deep); obvious abrasion (especially if the worn areas are a different color from the rest of the kayak); and deformities (which will make the kayak paddle less efficiently). Dagger kayaks are meant to withstand plenty of abuse; some damage is fine, so long as the shape of the kayak remains intact. Over time (and with extremely heavy use), the hull of Dagger kayaks may become wavy; this is a telltale sign of a used kayak to avoid.
  • Comfortable and practical outfitting is a hallmark of Dagger kayak designs. Take a close look at comfort features like the seat (is it padded and supportive for your body type?). Make sure all of the adjustability features, such as straps, clips and bungees, are functioning. Many of these parts can be replaced, so you may consider worn-out outfitting as a good haggling point if you’re handy and don’t mind making repairs.
  • Dagger touring kayaks are equipped with bulkheads separating the cockpit from the hull’s storage compartments. These foam walls are critical for safety and seaworthiness (they serve to keep a swamped kayak afloat): make sure they are solid and intact.
  • The only way to fully appreciate the comfort and performance of a kayak is to try it before committing to a purchase. Arrange a meeting place with the seller that allows you to take a few moments on the water. Bring your usual paddle and dress in what you plan to wear while paddling. With a sit-inside kayak, be sure to assess how easy the boat is to enter and exit.
  • In general (that is, before Covid-19 put a premium on outdoor equipment) the typical starting point for a used Dagger kayak in moderate condition was about half its retail price. All that’s changed in the wake of boat shortages brought on by the pandemic, but you can use it as a starting point in haggling a fair price.
  • If you’re offered a PFD as part of a used kayak sale make sure it’s in good shape, fits properly and is Coast Guard approved for the location you’ll be paddling.

For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.

Dagger kayak buying guide

Dagger kayaks are sold at paddlesports retailers across North America. The brand produces a reasonable number of models in various categories, making it easy to figure out the right Dagger kayak for your needs.

Most Dagger kayak models are available in several sizes to fit various body types. Dagger kayaks are available in four categories: Whitewater, Adventure Recreation, Multi-water and Performance Touring. Here’s an overview of each:


The history of Dagger kayaks is firmly entrenched in whitewater. Dagger’s lineup of whitewater kayaks include freestyle kayaks, creek boats, river runners, downriver racers and classic models (with modern outfitting) that harken back to the 1990s. These boats are meant for serious whitewater paddling on wild rivers, and are less suitable for those looking for a recreational kayak for occasional use.

Beginners may wish to look at Dagger’s multi-water Katana or Axis models as crossover kayaks for use in whitewater and flatwater. Most Dagger whitewater kayak models are available in three sizes (small, medium and large) to dial in a perfect fit for different sized paddlers.

Adventure recreation

Dagger’s Adventure Recreation kayaks include the sit-on-top Kaos kayak, which excels in warm-water surf; and Zydeco sit-inside recreational kayak. Dagger recreational kayaks are a step up from box store kayaks, with superior outfitting and designs. The 11-foot Zydeco 11.0 has a rear bulkhead for added flotation and dry storage for short trips.


Dagger’s Multi-water line is best defined as crossover kayaks that can be used in both whitewater and flatwater. These versatile kayaks combine whitewater-inspired hull shapes with touring features like a drop-down skeg, bulkhead and dry storage hatch.

Multi-water designs include the Dagger Axis and Katana sit-inside kayaks and the Roam sit-on-top. These kayaks are ideal for adventurous paddlers who want a do-it-all boat for light touring on calm waters, playing in up to class III rapids, or even taking an overnight river trip.

Performance touring

The popular Stratos is Dagger’s Performance Touring kayak. This compact day touring kayak comes in 12.5- and 14.5-foot lengths, both of which are available in two sizes to fit various body types. The Stratos excels in a variety of conditions, including day touring and short camping trips, for both novices and experienced paddlers.

It’s nimble and easy to handle for enthusiastic beginners, with the necessary safety features (such as bow and stern bulkheads and full perimeter lines) to be used in ocean conditions. The Stratos has a comfortable, fully adjustable seat that’s inspired by Dagger’s whitewater kayaks.

These broad categories of Dagger kayaks should serve as a good start in narrowing down the boat of your dreams. Remember, online research will only get you so far. The best advice we can offer is to always test paddle before buying any boat. The more time you can spend on the water in a similar style of kayak, the better the purchasing decision you will make.

Still have questions? Here are answers to some of the most common online questions about Dagger kayaks.

  • Are Dagger kayaks any good?

    Dagger is one of North America’s first kayak manufacturers and this experience is showcased by its designs. Dagger makes good, reliable kayaks for whitewater, recreational and touring uses. Each of its designs serves a unique purpose and comes in various sizes to fit different body types.

  • Are Dagger kayaks stable?

    Dagger kayak stability depends on the model. If stability is your primary concern, take a look at the sit-on-top Dagger Kaos or sit-inside Zydeco models. For an aspiring novice paddler the Dagger Stratos touring kayak offers reasonable stability in a nimble package that’s perfect for developing your paddling skills.

  • Types of Dagger kayaks

    Dagger offers three general types of kayaks: whitewater kayaks (including crossover or “multi-water” kayaks meant for moderate whitewater and flatwater); adventure recreation kayaks that are perfect for beginners looking for a comfortable ride; and performance touring kayaks, which are great for novice to expert sea kayakers looking for well-designed, comfortable kayaks for day and overnight trips.

  • Discontinued Dagger kayaks

    Dagger kayaks have been around for nearly four decades; you may discover discontinued models for sale on the used market. In general, all Dagger kayaks were well designed and included state of the art safety features.

    The main difference between current and discontinued models is in the outfitting, which has evolved over the years to offer more adjustability and comfort. The company has also prioritized making each of its current models in various sizes to fit different body types.

  • Dagger kayak size guide

    Just about all Dagger kayaks are available in multiple sizes to accommodate different body types. The best way to size a kayak is to try out different models in real-world conditions. For example, if you plan to carry overnight gear in your kayak, then test various models with a load. The goal is to select a kayak that fits snugly and has enough volume for your desired applications.

  • What are Dagger kayaks made of?

    Dagger kayaks are made from rotomolded polyethylene, which is a durable plastic material designed to withstand years of hard use. Rotomolded polyethylene withstands impacts and abrasion but it can be subject to UV degradation, so it’s important to store your kayak out of direct sunlight.

  • Dagger kayak weight limit

    The weight limit of a Dagger kayak depends on the model. Of the current models, look for a size large for the greatest weight capacity. For example, the Stratos 14.5L model has an upper weight limit of 300 pounds. Dagger whitewater kayaks and adventure recreation kayaks have similar upper limits.

  • Who makes Dagger kayaks?

    Dagger is a South Carolina-based manufacturer and part of the Confluence Outdoor group. Most of its kayaks are made by Dagger in the United States.

  • Where are Dagger kayaks made?

    Most Dagger kayaks are produced at a factory in South Carolina, USA.

  • Dagger kayak dealers

    You’ll find Dagger kayaks distributed in specialty paddlesports shops across North America. Use their dealer locator to find one near you.

  • Are Dagger and Perception kayaks the same?

    Dagger and Perception are both paddlesports brands in the Confluence Outdoor group. There’s limited crossover between the brands. Dagger produces better whitewater kayaks and its performance touring kayaks are higher-end than Perception. On the other hand, Perception offers a wider range of recreational kayaks, along with fishing kayaks, at somewhat cheaper prices.

Compare Dagger kayaks

  • Dagger kayaks vs Perception

    Dagger and Perception were arch rivals in the 1990s, during the early days of whitewater kayaking. However, both were acquired by Confluence Outdoors in the 2000s and since then, each brand has its own specialty. If you want a kayak for whitewater, get a Dagger; if you want a recreational kayak for casual use or kayak fishing, get a Perception.

    Simply put, Dagger makes more advanced kayaks than Perception and targets more serious paddlers with its designs. For example, Dagger’s Stratos lineup of performance touring kayaks offer great versatility for aspiring sea kayakers. Perception, on the other hand, offers more general purpose kayaks that are great for less serious paddlers—yet still boast advanced outfitting and comfort features like adjustable seats and back rests.

Dagger kayak reviews

Your next step in narrowing your search for the perfect Dagger kayak is to read our expert reviews. These will give you a sense for each boat’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what kind of paddling and paddler they are best suited for.


This content was made possible with the support of Ontario Creates.

Ontario Creates logo