If you peer in through the window of my garage you’d notice I’m a guy with a lot of hobbies. A stunning array of kayaks, canoes, bikes, and other gear ensure that I’ll never actually be able to put a car inside. For those who are more space conscious, the Dagger Roam 9.5 is a sit-on-top kayak that does it all—while only taking up one spot in the garage.
Dagger Roam 9.5 Specs
Weight: 56 lbs
Max Capacity: 250 lbs
A license to Roam
While I still like having specialized gear—a freestyle kayak for park and play, my creeker for class IV-V—lately I’ve been mixing things together. Wanting to fish but run a bit of whitewater too. Going on an overnight camp trip with my dogs on some offshore islands. And it’s this kind of paddling that Dagger‘s Roam is truly designed for.
Storage to spare
The Roam comes in two sizes, 9.5 and 11.5, and both are kitted out with some pretty nifty features. A large waterproof hatch in the bow can handle enough gear for a few nights out in the woods or pretty much any of the luxury items you might want on a day trip—food, beverages, waterproof radio and selfie stick. It also opens up into the hull so longer items like your fishing rod can slide in there easily too.
In the stern is a smaller hatch that, while not as big as the bow hatch, still has enough volume for gear and allows you to shift things around to trim the boat out how you want it.
Cargo net positive
Above the stern hatch is a clever dual-purpose cargo net. It’s great for storing snacks and loose things you want easy access to while paddling but the coolest part is that it quickly releases and, with the thigh braces, turns into a backpack for day hikes.
Aside from transforming the cargo net into a backpack, the thigh braces are a very key component in what Dagger calls its Contour Surround Seating System. They can be easily clipped in or out using small carabineers and are clearly labeled so that even a confused raft guide like me was able to figure it out and adjust them quickly.
Roam into the rapids
If you are going to be getting into rougher water, they are key to keeping you locked in and allowing you some edge control. The rest of the outfitting includes easy-to-adjust foot pegs, a high, wide and plush back band, comfortable hip hugging pads and a leg lifter to lock you in as good as any whitewater boat.
We interviewed the Roam designer Mark “Snowy” Robertson at Outdoor Retailer and while he said the Roam could be rolled I personally didn’t have much luck—I did get it halfway several times.
However, after a swim it was super easy it was to get back on the boat. With large, easy to grip handles centered on both sides of the boat I was able to grab on, do a few wounded dolphin kicks and flop back into the driver’s seat. Maybe not as quick as rolling but way quicker than swimming to shore, emptying out, hopping back in and trying to get a sprayskirt on.
The Dagger Roam 9.5 isn’t designed as a full-on whitewater boat (recommended for class I to III) but I made it one anyway. If you have long choppy rivers without too many moves required it’s great fun. It isn’t exactly a dry ride in bigger waves, as the bow likes to ride over the first wave and then plow into the trough of the second, but because of the scuppers (which you can plug if you don’t need them) it drained very quickly.
You don’t need to worry too much about technique in boils or on all but the biggest eddy lines either as it sits high enough above the water. I even managed to catch a few surfs on some flatter green waves. There certainly wasn’t any aggressive carving moves, or much of anything other than front surfing, but damn it was fun.
Glide across the flats
On the flats the Dagger Roam 9.5 isn’t in a huge hurry but why are you racing through nature anyway? What it gives up in speed it makes up for in stability. You can fish, take photos or transport two shifty beagles and not ever feel like you are going to flip.
The Roam also comes with an easy to deploy drop skeg that makes paddling straight a sure thing. Call me lazy for using it, but I say I’m just efficient.
One thing that needs to be mentioned: getting this type of boat to the water isn’t so fun. I am used to throwing a kayak over my shoulder or canoe over my head and easily bouncing down the trail. With sit-on-tops, I still haven’t found the technique. I tried over the head, thigh strap on the shoulder and eventually gave in to dragging it. Not ideal, but the plastic didn’t seem to mind.
The Dagger Roam 9.5 gives you the best of both worlds
The Dagger Roam sit-on-top kayak isn’t a flatwater or whitewater boat—it’s both. It would be a great go-to ride for the multi-sport enthusiast.
I recently tried out a Roam and enjoyed it. Haven’t paddled for over 20 years and when I did I was in a sea kayak mostly on Lake Champlain. Now living in Virginia I’m interested in a boat that I can comfortably use on rivers and flat water. Are there any boats you would consider similar to the Roam?