Dagger/Necky comparison for new Paddler

-- Last Updated: Jul-21-16 4:46 PM EST --

Apologies in advance for the most common question asked on all forums. Which Kayak would you recommend.

I am 5'7" 170 lb male and have 4 kayaks I am REALLY interested in picking up ASAP. My typical, primary use will be cruzing around a still lake, and occasionally on a smaller river system. I would probably take it down off of the ohio river at times. and perhaps an overnighter if the opportunity arises.

I want speed and efficiency, therefore I am looking at touring kayaks.

Dagger Stratos, Dagger Alchemy, Necky Elias, or Necky Eliza.

I am seeing the Necky's for a mere $300 more than the daggers, but do not fully understand the difference between the models.

The Necky Elias has is longer for the same weight of the Stratos. Elias is a rudder, Stratos is a skeg.

Aside from that, does have any experience or could provide any insight?


– Last Updated: Jul-21-16 8:57 PM EST –

I'd look at kayaks in the 13-14 foot range for a first kayak. My first was a 17' and that was a mistake. The 17' was fast and sleek, but not really that much faster than my Vector 13. I like the way the Necky SOTs handle significantly better than any other SOTs I've been able to paddle. I've paddled a number of pretty good SINKs.

Ok lengtha
I differ from the prior poster- these boats all would be fine, especially given you may be paddling narrower waters and may need the easier maneuverability the shorter length allows.

The Eliza was designed for wonen. I personally don’t fit it (6’ 215#). Elias is a slightly longer version, but I’ve not paddled one. These are both ruddered boats.

I paddle an Alchemy a lot, and have heard lots of good things on the Stratos. Haven’t paddled one yet, but do have my eye on it as a possible replacement of my Alchemy. You likely would fit either L or S of either of these (S is too tight for me on both). I love the Dagger seats. These are both skeg boats.

I guess I wasn’t clear
"especially given you may be paddling narrower waters and may need the easier maneuverability the shorter length allows."

In this regard I meant to indicate I thought the Necky models cited, both about 15.5’ were longer than I would recommend for a first kayak. I recommend looking at the Necky models that are the same length as the daggers or a little shorter.

A longer boat seems great until the one time you want to take it on a river and you realize it is just as bad not to be able to turn as to be in an 8’ bathtub that won’t track. You can put a lot of strain on your body and expend a lot of energy trying to turn a long boat through what should be a simple rapid.

I won’t be taking a kayak longer than 14’ down the Rio Grand again.

15.5 is better than 17’, but I’d go a little bit shorter myself.

I read wrong
My bad. I thought you were saying 17 foot was better than 13-14. Sorry.

Curious why the upgrade to similar model

– Last Updated: Jul-22-16 10:41 AM EST –

Looks like the Eliza is out. Down to three.
Any reason you are upgrading your alchemy to a stratos (similar kayak)? I take it your alchemy is just showing signs of heavy use or warping?

I am not fully sold on the Elias rudder, I like the KISS methodology, and a skeg just seems simple..

If I were to kayak in a smaller stream, the sidetracking would likely not be an issue, but if for some odd reason I were to deploy a skeg/rudder I could only assume the skeg would survive an impact where the rudder would just rip off.

I appreciate the length comment. Between a 14.5 stratos to a 15.5 elias, does the foot make that much of a difference?

The reason I am considering is very situational, and not likely one that would hold for many others. Nothing wrong with Alchemy. It comes down to me having storage that is 15’ long.

I right now have 3 boats:

Jackson Karma RG as rock garden specific boat

Dagger Alchemy L as my normal use boat (most used)

Valley Aquanaut HV for long tours.

The Valley doesn’t fit in my storage, so lives on a rack at a tour/rental company I work for. I really don’t use it much, and can borrow a long touring boat when needed, so I am likely going to sell it.

I do at times use the Alchemy for a couple of days worth of camping, and the extra 6" of length and the lac of day hatch (so one large hatch in back - easier to pack) would be helpful for this. What I need to figure out is related to speed - the Stratos seems to have more rocker, which could possibly make it slower on the water. As could the extra inch of width. If the boat is slower, then I wouldn’t want to upgrade.

So totally situational for me, and likely not that helpful for your decision.

Go for Dagger
You can read my review on the Alchemy S, both the good and the bad, but it fits pretty much everything you want to do, aside from the overnight trip, which is not your primary concern.

I’m very eager to try out a Stratos. I recall it being released in Europe a couple of years ago and heard some good things about it. With a little extra length, it would be a better overnighter than the Alchemy.

Stratos vs Alchemy

– Last Updated: Jul-23-16 8:29 AM EST –

Both good boats, slightly different fits, so make sure you spend some time in the cockpits before making a decision.

I've had the Stratos S out a few times this season on Lake Michigan paddling waves (3-5 foot). Fun boat in the surf, responsive, easy to roll. The Alchemy is more of a traditional straight line design, better suited for those paddling flatter water or wanting more of a tripping boat rather than a long crossover design. I'm 5'10, 180, and the S in both Daggers is the better fit for me, since the L's are a little too roomy in the thighs and the foredecks are high.

length vs. speed
Overall length of a kayak means nothing. Water line length is what you’re looking for in terms of speed. And while a boat with a longer waterline (all other things being equal) has the potential to be a faster boat it’s all about the engine (you). A shorter fatter boat may be easier to paddle at a more relaxed pace than a longer boat. But the shorter boat will run into it’s bow wave much earlier and can’t reach the speed of the longer one.

Like most everything else in paddling, it’s all a trade off. Not every boat will be ideal for every paddler.

Bill H.

14.5 v. 15.5

– Last Updated: Jul-24-16 1:04 AM EST –

Does a foot make a difference...
Depends where you paddle and a lot of other things. My 17' was a Hydra Sea Runner. In my case one of the main reasons I own a decent kayak is to go on a specific yearly trip where going over about 14' quickly makes things more and more difficult with little gain in performance.
As far as performance, my other paddling is recreation/social/exercise. I'm not worried about having the most efficient boat or the fastest. As long as I am not getting frustrated by poor tracking I'm pretty happy. When I go out with people for fun, my Necky Vector is almost always the best boat on an Ohio waterway. In my area people like to paddle the "scenic" Ohio Rivers(you mention the Ohio River), which are basically rivers that weren't navigable by anything with a motor to begin with I don't think a longer boat would do me much good. Considering the vehicle of choice is a tube, anything that floats will probably work. People do it in 17' canoes all the time.
Everyone I know is terrified of commercial traffic on the actual Ohio River near me(Cincinnati would be closest access). I haven't tried it myself, although I am in the early planning stages of a Pitt to Cinci trip.

"Overall length of a kayak means nothing."
In my case the 17' foot boat literally barely fit the turn in a simple rapid where you have to make the turn at speed or you get sucked under and through a hole the water has cut under a boulder. A simple rapid that can get ugly if you mess it up. Water line length is irrelevant. If you don't fit you don't fit, in many environments this statement about waterline would certainly be correct. In narrow rivers the actual length can come into play. The Sea Runner is known for turning much better than most in its class(hell of a boat to be honest).

I would have kept the 17' footer if not for storage concerns. 17' becomes a real pain to move around and store, especially if you have to protect it from sunlight. When we moved to a place without a garage my wife would not permit me to hang it diagonally in our TV room, even if two of my single friends had dirt bikes hanging in their family room. Unbelievable:)
If that wasn't an issue I would have kept it and just bought an additional 13' kayak.

The 13-14' is a 'not the best at anything, but decent at everything' compromise.

I will tell you something else I have noted when comparing the Neckys to other boats. I worked in injection molding for a bit and then in precision machining. Between the two I know a bit about mold design in regard to reject rate and compromising on product engineering. Necky Kayaks seem to have a lot of design characteristics that look like they would increase reject rates out of the mold in an injection mold, especially in relation to other kayaks I see at lower price points. Roto-molding is different and I don't know much about it, but I would hazard to guess part of the increased price is due to significantly higher reject rates or costs related to mitigating rejects(such as using 100% "virgin" material, increased mold maintenance, higher precision set-ups, etc.

Got to do some testing
I was lucky enough to get out this weekend and test the stratos S. The only other comparable kayak to try was the Liquid logic Inuit 13.5. I really wanted to love the stratos, but I just felt for the conditions I was on, it really is for ocean type waters.

The liquid logic felt much more efficient. I Believe I was going much faster than that on the stratos. I was told (didnt look) that the stratos has a flat bottom, and the Inuit had a V shaped Hull.

I liked the connections with the stratos. It was smaller, more narrow, so my thighs and hips made constant contact, whereas the Inuit felt Huge. Inuit also had no skeg with 300 option for rudder install at a later date.

I am looking at the other Necky models, and hope to try one soon. I am ok with passing on the “sea” type kayaks as that is something I would likely never use my first kayak for. Relatively slow moving Rivers, streams and lakes are the primary use. I want to make strong connection with the boat (apparently a whitewater style seat) but with emphasis on speed over stability.

Looking to test (or for insight) on the Necky Lookisha/manitou 14’. I believe I read the Alchemy is a bit faster than the stratos (different bottom shape?)

Any other models/brands you guys suggest that would fit my application?

I wouldn’t get any kayak with push/pull rudder controls. The Elias is an odd duck, very maneuverable but thin plastic with a range of rocker between the different kayaks of the same model. With the high stern the rudder is only a few inches in flat water and out of the water often in waves. I thought the skeg in the composite version would address that but just barely. I weigh 230lbs and a friend on the dock said he could see light occasionally up to the skeg which seemed very weird but reflected the kayaks loose stern handling.

Thanks All thus far

– Last Updated: Jul-27-16 12:44 PM EST –

I am Really focusing on the Manitou 14 or the Elias. (edit, just saw the preception essence is 16.5 or expression 15 are in the running now)

It seems that it is still a compromise between the boats. I would prefer the Manitou Skeg and seat on the Elias.

The Elias stands out to me as it is the most narrow and a foot longer, so I would gain speed/efficiency and feel more connected with the sides of the boat.

Without seeing them in person it is hard to see which seat I prefer. That is a big issue as im recovering from a herniated disc in my lower back.

At work I sit on a ball chair (no back support) and I believe that is closer to the elias seat.

If I could have a response on the following:
1) 1.75" narrower boat that is 14" longer, is the speed difference neglegable, or will it be quite noticable?
2) Do you all rely/depend on your back support or do you have a seat with a backband that is sufficient enough?

Have you looked at the Jackson Journey 14?

It’s pretty tough choosing a kayak, so I feel your pain there.

A few years back, I test paddled an Alchemy S and liked it quite a bit. You and I are roughly the same size, just for reference. At the time, I wanted a longer composite sea kayak, so I didn’t end up buying the Alchemy, but it was definitely a contender and should be considered.

As for your questions:

  1. Length/width and speed is a tricky subject. Everyone will always say that longer is faster, but that really means that the longer kayak’s maximum speed is faster than a shorter kayak. It doesn’t always mean it will be faster or easier to paddle at a cruising speed. You need to have the power and technique to get it up to that higher speed. And even then I doubt most people are paddling at maximum power for their entire trip. A shorter kayak can be more efficient at cruising speeds because it has less wetted surface to cause resistance, but it’s maximum speed will also be slower than a longer kayak.

    For width, narrower is almost always faster than wider. In most cases you are sacrificing stability as you go narrower though, so you need to decide what your priorities are. And by width, that means width at the waterline, not necessarily total width. Many hard chined kayaks may have more width at the waterline than a soft chined kayak of the same total width.
  2. Personally I almost never use my backband. One of my kayaks doesn’t even have one in fact. The backband can be nice to lean back into from time to time to rest, but it is bad form to be leaning back against it all the time. I have the opposite problem, I tend to be leaning forward most of the time. Which is probably why I never use my backband anyway.

    For kayak choices, there are many in the category you are looking for, so the best advice is really to just try and test paddle as many as you can and then choose the one that suits what you are looking for the best. The best kayak is different in each person’s perspective, so I don’t think any of us can tell you which would be the best.

On a couple of things…
If you want to paddle fast a a priority, you have to be able to rotate your torso. In general back bands are good for that, back rests get in the way and produce a counter-productive tendency to sit back. AKA a barcalounger paddler, generally not used to describe someone who has shows a good forward stroke.

Back rests also tend to get in the way of rolling one way or another, if that is an eventual goal.

As to the boats you are looking at, I think you should spend some more time learning about kayaks. Hulls are designed for both the ability to be maneuverable as well as go-fast-straight, and every hull is a balance between these. At least one of the boats you mentioned is intended to be easier to turn, but that is because it is designed to be in water where easy turning is a more important feature than going straight fast.

For example, sea kayaks have a great range of easy turning versus hard tracking within their group. The Alchemy is intended to be on the easier side to turn. But any crossover boat will be easier to turn and less straight tracking than a sea kayak, because for that intended use of boats maneuverability is likely a more important characteristic. Crossovers are also usually shorter, but the overall hull design would be “turnier” even if they were the same length.

One comment on how you are looking at your needs - the hard tracking boats that many beginners gravitate to can be a difficult handful the first time you get caught out in surprise winds on a lake. You may have to edge the boat to get it around, and new paddlers are usually unable to confidently do that. The Alchemy is an extremely good first boat for non-whitewater because of that. It is kindly about turning so you are a lot less likely to be caught out there getting increasingly anxious because you have to battle your way to shore. But it still tracks well enough to stay up with longer boats as long as someone has a decent forward stroke.

There are limits - maybe nothing you mention above is likely to stay up with a pure go-fast Epic. But those folks don’t tend to go on group paddles either.

Take a read of this site about boats and body mechanics etc. Ignore the title “Expert”, it is basics for everyone. I have long thought they should rename the pages.


I like the Daggers better
I like them better in rough water, surf, or rivers.

I like them for there more comfortable fit and seat adjust-ability.

I’d pay more for a Dagger than any Necky I’ve paddled.

If I wanted a go fast on flat water or racing boat I would get an Epic or maybe a QCC style boat.

Which dagger do you like
Because the NECKYS all would have to be new, and compromise on much, I have a change in direction.

This weekend I will look at some new WS tempest 165’s and next week I have an opportunity to try the Perception Shadow. Both are Narrow, lower volumes, the WS has a SKEG (preferred)

The perception is used, and a deal. but a new" 2012 WS tempest is 300 more, and local.

The reviews of the ws Jive with me. sounds quick, light, and takes a bit of learned skill to master, that may be the ticket