I finally test paddled the Dagger Stratos 14.5L

This is a boat I’m seriously considering purchasing, so after a few disappointing trips to local retailers I finally had the chance to paddle the Dagger Stratos 14.5L this past weekend. I did so on a small lake in calm conditions, fully decked out in cold water gear due to the water being somewhere around 6°C (43°F).

Overall, I really like this boat for being nimble yet not squirrelly. The fit was everything I had hoped for. Many boats don’t have a tall enough deck to fit my feet, not to mention having enough height in the thigh/knee braces so that I’m comfortable yet “connected”. Maneuverability? No contest, hands-down winner. A good sweep stroke on the outside, some edge, and a low brace could easily get the boat turned a full 180°. Tracking? It wasn’t horrible with the skeg up, but moving from a 17’ sea kayak with little rocker to speak of, the skeg is a welcome tool and I wouldn’t be without it. Unsurprisingly, with it down the boat behaves much better.

Also of note is that the skeg is a spring loaded “pull up by cord” design. It seems a bit cheap, but the benefit I see is that it will readily retract and redeploy on it’s own when hitting an obstacle, without any risk of kinking a metal cable. The control mechanism sits back pretty far, maybe around your hip, and this keeps it out of the way from being accidentally hit with your hand when your arms start drooping after a long paddle. I don’t know about the longevity of the cable due to the “pinch-to-lock” retaining system, but at least it seems like it should be inexpensive to replace.

Rolling and bracing in this boat is about as simple as I’ve experienced. I’m sure part of this is the great fit I had in the boat. It’s easy to hold on edge and still feel like there’s some “push back” (secondary stability, if you prefer). The boat is rather forgiving, likely due to it’s not-so-trim width of 24-1/2".

When trying a scramble reentry, I didn’t struggle much to keep my balance atop the back deck, and the large cockpit opening made it easy to slip into the tight cockpit outfitting.

I noticed that the bulkheads aren’t made of Minicel foam, rather a form with much larger cells. Does anyone that’s seen the foam on these (maybe other Daggers?) know how they’ll hold up over time?

For a day trip, this isn’t an issue, but considering how many weekend trips I take I’m not sure if this boat will be able to haul enough gear. Maybe a summer trip with minimal gear, but every square inch is going to count. Weight might start to be an issue as well, as I’d probably be at about 270lbs with gear - well under the 315lb max, but I doubt it would be much fun to paddle at that weight.

Two things I really didn’t like:

  1. The rear bulkhead is positioned quite far back from the cockpit opening. This makes draining the cockpit by raising the bow and flipping the boat difficult and leaves a lot of water in the cockpit.
  2. Both hatch covers (one round, one oval) went on with considerable difficulty and when they were finally on, they didn’t fit well. They seemed maybe a 1/2" too small for the hatch opening and I’d be concerned that with repeated use or rough conditions they might not stay on at all. Maybe they’d stretch over time, but this was not at all confidence inspiring for a brand new boat I helped take the plastic off!

If you’ve paddled the Stratos or have seen similar issues with other Dagger boats, I’d appreciate hearing your comments.

Was out with a guy yesterday who had one. Looked good in some bumps. He was rolling it easily. He is not a light guy. Had gear and pot of soup on it. I may see him soon I will ask him more.

@PaddleDog52 said:
Was out with a guy yesterday who had one. Looked good in some bumps. He was rolling it easily. He is not a light guy. Had gear and pot of soup on it. I may see him soon I will ask him more.

Don’t suppose you noticed how the hatches fit - or rather, didn’t? I’d appreciate feedback from a current owner on any issues they’ve had.

See if I can ask him.

I paddled the Stratos 14.5S this summer for a short demo just because it was available. Very easy to maneuver; had no need to try the skeg as it was well behaved. Nice kayak, but over my weight requirement of under 50#.

Re hatches: when my Fathom LV was delivered, I could barely get the hatches back on, especially the day hatch. I had the same question about fit as it was a real PITA to get them reset. Regular applications of 303 over the summer remedied that issue, except for my day hatch which I still don’t always get sealed tightly if I access it on the water. The cover has never come off, but I have come home to find water in it (contents are always dry bagged).

My next boat will have the day hatch in front of the cockpit.

I like the way my hatch covers feel quite tight,just have to make sure it seated right all the way around.Have not had mine upside down yet but have hit it hard with hose and no water entry.The bulkhead foam does seem to lack a uniform seal around the foam but yet to flood the cockpit to check for leaks-i pretty well dry bag everything anyway.I am not an experienced paddler yet-only 2 years but so far love the versatility of the Stratos and so glad a bought it,i could not test here as none in my state of Tasmania Australia-ordered mine from U.S

Yes, hatch covers. Dagger made them very snug for a reason. The rear cover of my old Alchemy fits much too loosely. Leaks like a screen door. Too tight is better than too loose. Spread some 303 on the contact surfaces of the cover and rim. It’ll help.

Even thin thin spread of die-electric grease.

I have a Stratos L, but have only used it a few times. Have had 2 Alchemies (still have 1).

The string skeg is much nicer in that when it jams (pebbles in the skeg box do it commonly on beach launches) you won’t bend the slider cable, as was possible in the Alchemies. On the Alchemy, if I ever felt any resistance when trying to deploy the skeg, I would not use to ensure I didn’t bend the cable. With Stratos, not an issue, as no cable to bend. In either case, running a knife blade or flat item between skeg and inside of skeg box would pop out the pebble and the skeg works fine again (so long as ypu didn’t bend cable in Alchemy case).

The hatch cover on my Stratos is much dryer than the Alchemy. The large hatch cover for the Alchemies always seem to leak. The Stratos is much tighter. In the past, Dagger has been pretty good about sending new hatch covers out when one doesn’t fit well, so if you find yours to be too tight, go back to your dealer and see if they can warranty you a new set.

I’ve done 3 nights out of the Alchemy, and the Stratos is both a bit larger and would be more efficient to pack with one large rear hatch in place of a split main rear hatch/day hatch.

I agree on the bulkhead being far back from seat.

@Peter-CA said:

I agree on the bulkhead being far back from seat.

We have two Stratos L in our club, and I have been wondering about why they did that.

It helps to keep the kayak almost level when emptying it (instead of lifting the nose as one usually would), but it is still a nuisance. It would help a lot more to have a shaped foam block under the deck in front of the bulkhead, filling the void where the “water wedge” is collected.

To clarify/reiterate, I don’t yet own one of these yet. I’m seriously considering purchasing as a replacement for my Sirocco. The Sirocco is a fun boat, but not quite what I’m looking for.

Regarding the bulkhead, I wonder if Dagger would do a custom one-off with the bulkhead in a different place? @“Allan Olesen” , your suggestion of building out the space under the deck could be quite workable. Though I think having it closer to the seat (and cockpit rim) would give a lot more usable hatch space. Maybe there’s a structural reason for the inconvenient placement?

And as for the hatch covers, I have the place I demo’ed looking into it for me. To say that they were “tight” is an extreme understatement. They were too small, period. How to describe it? Well, the flexible vertical surface around the hatch cover when installed was sitting at close to 45°, rather than vertical or almost so. I’m ok with a tight fit, but this just didn’t look right.

Ok, so for those who got here late, I now own one of these. Oddly enough, it’s in my kitchen right now. Not for long though, just going over it and checking out a few things and it’s going out to the cold, frozen shed. I expect to get out at least a few times this winter still, as long as I can find some liquid to paddle in.

I loaded up most of my camping gear, less the food. I’m amazed by how much space this boat has. I got everything in and there’s still plenty of room for my food and miscellaneous stuff. I can now see what @Peter-CA meant about the space afforded by having only the two hatches. rather than three. I’ll have to adjust the way I do things though because I’m used to keeping my water and snacks in a day hatch. There’s lots more space behind the seat in the Stratos though, so even a large drybag would fit back there. Plus there’s an odd little clippy thing in front of the seat that looks like a water bottle or bilge pump would fit nicely.

If we get a weekend that’s a little warmer, I’ll try it out on an overnight not too far out.

That’s one of the reasons i went with it over the Alchemy-more room in rear hatch.hope you love it like i do.I love the bottle holder-nice touch

Hi people! Just bought a used Stratos and I’m wondering how you rate the skeg? I tried it on some calm water fully lowered and it seems loose, I can feel the vibration and it’s noisy each time I paddle, is this normal? Thanks

yes mate-if you lower all the way down it is quite noisy,i tend to go halfway-sometimes still hear it a bit but does not bother me at all.I have heard of people padding the inside with that self adhesive draft type sponge tape or similar just to take up some space where it wobbles in the skeg box

Yes, the skeg does flop back and forth some.

Agreed, it can be noticeable under some circumstances. If your paddling technique involves low angle sweeps instead of higher angle almost straight forward strokes it can amplify the problem because the skeg is counteracting each of your alternating strokes. Practice paddling the boat straight without the skeg if this is the case.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s about to fall off. I actually prefer a loose skeg because there’s much less chance of getting rocks or whatever else stuck in there. This is a spring activated skeg, so it wouldn’t take much to stop it’s deployment. As things age they tend to warp, rust, and accumulate debris. All of these things will eventually contribute to tightening it up somewhat.