Boat Review: Dagger Nomad 2016 Kayak

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

If you’re like me, you’ve got a favorite hoodie and pairs of pants and shoes that you never want to let go of. Sure, there may be newer versions out there, new colors or options that fit better, but they just can’t replace your favorite. This is my relationship with the original Dagger Nomad kayak, so I approached the new 2016 Dagger Nomad with some caution. Now I have both boats in my shed, side by side.

Dagger Nomad 2016 Specs (8.2 / 8.6 / 9.0)
Length: 8’3” / 8’6” / 9’0”
Width: 25.5” / 26” / 26.75”
Depth: 13” / 14.5” / 15.25”
Cockpit: 34” × 19” / 34” × 19” / 34” × 19”
Weight: 44 / 48 / 51 lbs

Dagger’s Nomad is a beloved creek boat

I’ve spent more time in the original Dagger Nomad than any other creeker. We’ve been through big water, tight creeks, big slides and big drops together, so when I heard about the release of the new Dagger Nomad, I was a bit skeptical. When given the choice between old and new models, which one will end up on top of my car the next time I head to the river?

The Nomad had been in the Dagger lineup for 10 years when they decided it could use an update. I talked to designer Mark “Snowy” Robertson at Outdoor Retailer in 2015 and asked if they were concerned about making too many changes to the original. “We want to bring in new features that add speed but keep the maneuverability,” he said, while ensuring that it would be described just like the original: predictable and confidence inspiring. Check and check.

The 2016 Nomad bulks up with new large size

One of the most exciting changes is that the Dagger Nomad now comes in three sizes instead of just two. Even at 185 pounds, I love the new, larger size, especially when I’m loaded with expedition gear. With more volume and a bit more bow rocker it rides up and over waves, skips over holes and stays on top of the water. I can pack more of and dry over all but the heartiest whitewater.

The original Dagger Nomad was suited for speeding around the river and holding a line well, in contrast to some of the slower, spin-on-a-dime creekers on the market. With a bit more length and a slightly flatter stern, the new Nomad moves even quicker once it’s up to speed. With a bit more boat around me it does take an extra stroke or two to get it cruising, amounting to even more power for punching through holes and crossing squirrely eddylines with authority.


Like the original Dagger Nomad, I find the primary and secondary stability to be almost equal. I’m just as comfortable keeping the boat flat as I am on edge and can do either with confidence. It took me a few eddy turns to sort out how the new Nomad carves. When I aggressively lean forward, the stern spins out quickly—a surprise if you’re expecting to carve deep into the eddy. With my body neutral and my draw stroke a bit further behind my hip, the boat carves a sharp line, meaning I can spin into tiny micro eddies better than I could in the old Nomad, and glide deep across eddylines.

Safety and comfort in mind

The outfitting and safety of this boat are top notch. As Snowy points out, “a well-fitted boat is a safer boat.” The Contour Ergo outfitting features a wide, high-fitting, ratchet-controlled backband, easy-to-adjust hip pads with a neat clip lock system that makes it easy to add or remove foam shims, and a beefy rotomolded seat to give the cockpit area even more structure.

I love Dagger’s ratcheting leg lifter; it lets me easily push under my legs to keep my knees and thighs locked in place, allowing me to paddle comfortably in a forward, aggressive position.

The Contour Adjustable Bulkhead system is a great safety addition that ensures no large foot-entrapping gaps exist between the hull and foot brace. A safety step-out wall to help get out of a pin also makes a comfortable handle when shouldering your boat, an anchored-in stern pillar prevents it from shifting, and an extra safety handle just in front of the cockpit round out some of the other major improvements on the new Dagger Nomad.

Get to know the new 2016 Dagger Nomad

It’s time for me to say goodbye to an old friend—the 2016 Dagger Nomad is an even better ride. Best of all, it feels like I’ve been in this boat before, but it’s even better now.

Video of the new Dagger Nomad from the 2015 Outdoor Retailer Show:

v18-iss2-Rapid.jpgThis article originally appeared in Rapid
Early Summer 2016 issue.

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