by Cody Beach
As we all know, it’s not the kayaker that makes one a class V paddler, it’s the boat. That being said, I chose the Dagger Phantom to help me run the sh*t. In order to stay stoked, I needed a comfortable and capable boat that is built to last. In this day and age there are plenty of great options, but the Phantom was my choice for a few reasons.
One of my favorite things about the Phantom is the size. In my opinion, many companies these days are making boats with ridiculous amounts of volume to compensate for inept kayaking skills. Weighing in at 195 lbs and a lanky 6’ 3”, I have trouble finding a boat that fits perfectly. Although Dagger can’t seem to figure out how to make a boat dry, they did make this boat the perfect size. The volume of the Dagger Phantom is a nice balance between stability and agility. For me, the volume is enough to be confident, but not so much where it becomes difficult to control. At 8 feet 11 inches long, the Phantom holds plenty of speed and rarely stands up vertically. Compared to the Dagger Mamba 8.6, the Phantom feels narrow. Once familiar with the boat, its sleek profile excels in difficult whitewater and it makes tough moves easy. As far as comfort goes the Phantom is hard to beat. My hips remain relaxed after hours in the seat and I have plenty of leg room. There is plenty of space to add additional foam to the bulk head and the back band effortlessly stays in position. I can even where my new Astral Rassler 2.0s in my Phantom with plenty of wiggle room for my toes.
When choosing a creek boat the most important thing is the way it looks and thankfully the Phantom looks pretty rad. The saying don’t judge a book by its cover does not apply in this situation. The Phantom, commonly referred to as the “river bullet”, goes #phantomfast. Whether you are salmon jumping away from drops or chasing the young guns down the rio, it’s nice to have a boat with some hull speed. The edge runs from bow to stern giving the boat a symmetrical feel and rewards the paddler for positioning their weight forward. The Phantom’s smooth edge glances off of rocks very predictably and gives the boat a loose feel when finishing slides. I enjoy the relatively low stern profile as it is somewhat controllable when submerged and I don’t bash my elbows when paddling in the back seat. Overall, I’m very happy with the shape of the Dagger Phantom.
Lastly, I would like to applaud Dagger for constructing a quality boat. From the Contour Ergo outfitting to the durable Dagger plastic, this boat was constructed with love. The Phantom has a rugged Step Out front pillar that doubles as a grab handle while shouldering your boat. I haven’t had any issues with my extremely comfortable seat moving from side to side. I enjoy the peace of mind having 5 solid metal grab handles built into the deck. The center rail holds my throw bag securely between my legs in case of emergency and has additional secure loops behind the seat for items that are coming along for the ride. This boat also comes with an elaborate foam outfitting package to customize the fit for you. One complaint is the excessive number of pieces to the Dagger kayak. That being said, it is good practice with any gear intensive hobby to check that things are snug before any major adventures.
All things considered I am stoked to be paddling the Phantom. Check out the 2019 Dagger colors because the new Aqua Fresh is tight. And remember, smooth is fast, fast is loose, and loose is tight.
Here’s our take:
The Phantom has quickly become one of our favorites here at 4CRS. Its the perfect blend of performance and predictability in difficult whitewater. The Phantom combines a fast hull with a modern bow rocker profile that comes all the way back to the cockpit, allowing the Phantom to ride up and over large hydraulics with ease. The stern profile allows you to edge and drive the boat when you want, but still be able to relax and float the boat without it feeling twitchy. And you really can’t beat the comfort of the Contour Ergo outfitting and the safety of the Step Out pillar. If you’re looking for that modern design that is fast, yet still approachable, then the Dagger Phantom should be at the top of your list.