Dagger Nomad 2016 Customer Review

Adam Frey
Adam Frey on Tule, CA
Photo: John Baker

Rivers paddled:

  • Robe Canyon
  • 49 to Bridgeport South Yuba
  • Hospital Rock MF Kaweah
  • Norrish Creek and many more

Previous full time boats:

  • Nomad 8.5
  • Mamba 8.6
  • Burn M Gen 2 and 3


  • 6’2”
  • 180 lbs
Dagger Nomad kayak

This spring, I decided to give my Dagger Mamba 8.6 a break, which I’d been boating full time the majority of the last 3 years and get into the redesigned Dagger Nomad L (8.11!?). I was definitely preferring to get into the Medium, but it wasn’t available when I started my trek West, and having had the opportunity to try one out briefly in the Southeast I was confident I’d have no problem with it and was eager to try the changes especially on some runs I’d previously done to compare.

You probably already know that this is a big boat. 8’11” and 96 gallons makes it one of the biggest available, it’s the first boat I’ve had that doesn’t fit in my car (sadly), it also feels heavy, but not really much heavier (if at all) than the Mamba 8.6. On the water there are times it feels big, but a majority of the time it didn’t feel too big or even as big as it was. It’s narrower than the Mamba 8.6 which I like, and compared to the Nomad 8.5 it appears bloated with a deeper hull, more length, more rocker and slightly sharper edges. It doesn’t have the primary stability of a Mamba but has even more secondary than the Nomad 8.5.

The other huge difference with this boat is that it is fast, much faster than the 8.5 or Mamba 8.6. I constantly found myself catching up to people without even paddling and having to backstroke through rapids at times to not get side by side in one lane traffic. I’m eager to see how fast the Medium is in comparison.

Little Niagra
Little Niagra, Hospital Rock of the Kaweah, CA
Photo: John Baker

The main things that attracted me to the new design were the increased rocker and edge. Sure enough this thing boofs like a dream, it likes to stay on top of everything and doesn’t feel especially squirrely (though slightly more squirrely and less predictable than the old 8.5). The increased rocker also makes it ride on top and resurface quickly and predictably it seems, even if you didn’t get that full boof stroke in as long as the bow is upticked just a bit it’ll come clean out the other end.

I noticed the added edge a bit, I suppose as much as is to be expected, though I felt as if I really needed to get it on side to engage. This could be partially due to my weight compared to the size of the boat, but I think this will feel more engaging in the Medium size for my weight. I think it would be difficult to get this boat out of a hole stuck sideways but maybe easier than the 8.5 due to the added edge. The back end seems to stall out a little bit in holes, but not too differently from the 8.5.

Vallecito Race 2016-2
Luke Hanson – Trashcan, Vallecito Creek, CO
Photo: Riley Adams

Of course the Newmad excels with the usual Dagger comfort outfitting, as many know this adds a bit of weight, but Dagger has eliminated the excess trays and some other things to reduce weight by 3 lbs compared to the older models. One great addition to the new boat is the handle at the front of the cockpit like on the Mamba, this is a huge safety feature and also good just for handling the boat in day to day situations.

I suspect this boat is made with the usual bombproof Dagger plastic I’ve grown used to as well. If you like multi-days there is plenty of room to stuff all your goodies in this craft, no lack of space in the back or the front!

Luke Hanson on Entrance Falls, Vallecito Creek, CO
Photo: Riley Adams

Also, if you’re my size you’ll feel like you have all the room in the world for your long legs up front and find it very comfortable (as usual with Dagger boats). All in all it’s a great boat; the changes from the old design are mostly good, but do make it react differently.

Don’t expect it to feel the same as the old Nomad. I personally think it feels almost like an old Nomad and Stomper mix, but with most of the overall qualities of the Nomad, almost like Dagger wants it to compete with the Flying Squirrel, which I haven’t tried. I’m very eager to try the Medium size and see how that feels in comparison as I think it will be more suitable to my weight and even more narrow (yesss!). All you can do is give one a try and see for yourself…if you have an old Nomad, who knows maybe you’ll fall in love all over again... Adam.

Click here for more info on the 2016 Dagger Nomad Whitewater Kayak.

Tule River
Tule River, CA
Photo: Kevin Heiner
Clover Creek
Clover Creek, CA
Photo: John Baker
Tule River, CA
Photo: John Baker

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