Narrowing down to which "swiss army knife" kayak?

I’m in Missouri, and will be doing a lot of stream/river kayaking at varying depths - Current River/Jack’s Fork with room for gear. Missouri River and the Mississippi rivers as well as Meramec rivers will be paddled.

I’m 6’2" 240# with inseam of average 32, shoe size 10.5

I’ve pretty much got my choices between two kayaks- wilderness system tsunami 145 or a dagger stratos 14L And for fun let’s throw in Jackson Kayak Journey 14.

I want a boat good for camping that is comfortable to paddle multiple days that is a little sporty. It sounds like the dagger should fit the bill… However it’s a little more tight to fit camp gear than the Tsunami 145 that looks amazingly comfortable with a little more room for gear.

My heart’s on the dagger stratros 14.5L but I’m wondering how much of a tank pig the Tsunami 145 is, COMPARED to the dagger… I know there are others, but I’m mostly trying to choose between the two… with the wildcard of Journey 14 just because that’s what the store I’m looking to buy has that is similar to the other two.

How bad is the tsunami? I think I may prefer that one, but I’m worried about it being a real beast compared to the stratros. If they’re very much similar I will probably choose the tsunami…

After I sit in all three at the store, of course.

Thanks for any insight!

Can’t give a comparison, but I own a Stratos 14.5L and think it checks all the boxes you’ve mentioned. There’s more room for gear than it looks due to only having two compartments rather than three.

Well, sitting in the store is fine for fit but not performance. Have you read the reviews of the models on here?

My opinion of the Tsunamis is that they are stodgy and heavy barges compared to most other similar models in any length.

I do wonder why a guy your size is looking at such short boats, especially when you want to go camping and travel on big rivers like the Missouri and Mississippi. I’m a 5’ 5" 150 pound woman and I generally use a 15’ or 18’ kayak on big rivers and for longer trips.

At 240#, wanting a boat good for camping and multiple day outings, you would probably approach listed max capacity of 315 lbs on the Stratos. But look at the design, and the side view of the hull. Convex curves from the keel to the deckline, and rocker from end to end along the keel, add up to how they describe the hull - designed to excel in surf and rock gardens. This allows for a lot of maneuverability.
The Tsunami 145 lists a max capacity of 350 lbs. It’s listed an inch wider, and probably also deeper, which allows for more capacity. That gives you a little reserve. If you’re actually approaching manufacturer’s listed capacity, while it’s not a definitive thing depending upon the boat and the paddler’s abilities and preferences, it’s probably worth test paddling at that weight. So a little more reserve capacity with the Tsunami. Now look at the side view of the Tsunami. Notice less rocker, and notice the convex curve at the stern between the keel line and the deck line. This leads to better tracking, and less maneuverability.

These are advertised at 56 and 57 pounds, so weight is not really a consideration.

I know you haven’t asked for this or suggested any interest in it, but I like to point out options in the case they may prove helpful. Being 6’ around 195 lbs, I consistently note something in shorter boats that lighter people probably don’t. At my weight, shorter kayaks that are still around the same width simply sink in the water further, and pretty much cancel out the added maneuverability that a lighter person gains with a shorter boat. And they’re just a little more sluggish than they assuredly are with a lighter person. Now I don’t know how much paddling you’ve done and your skill level, and I have no idea what would constitute “a real beast” in your mind. To one person, it’s a sluggish boat trying to paddle against the current. To another person, it’s a boat that they can’t seem to get to track straight. To the next, it’s a person who’s nervous and unbalanced about maneuvering, and is having a hard time with that. But with some basic skills, I would want a guy your size to at least try something like a Current Designs Sirocco.

Now I do sea kayak a lot, so take that into account. But for paddling those rivers, the Sirocco will be faster, sportier feeling, and maneuvers more than well enough, to add up to a lot better craft for me personally for those uses. So it would seem a shame to not try one on for size and feel in comparison, should you have the opportunity.

Where you carry your weight can make a big difference. If it’s in the thighs and butt, just make sure you’re not squeezed into a cockpit, as that’s no way to spend hours on the river. There are lots of salespeople guilty of the “It’s supposed to fit quite snugly for better control” line. And I suspect many don’t paddle enough to appreciate that snug fit would still mean a fingers width of room everywhere for your purposes.

Good luck, and enjoy whatever you end up paddling!

For a while, I was up to 225 pounds (now drifting back below 220, and hopefully lower), and have 32" inseam. I own a Stratos L and think it would be a great boat for you. Fair amount of rocker, so playful.

At one place I guide and teach for, I use Jackson Journeys often. The 14 likely would fit, but I find the hatches aren’t nearly as watertight and the rudder assemblies aren’t as robust as I would like (all of the ones at the shop are broken). Doesn’t sound like you are looking at it but the Journey 13.5 puts my legs to sleep, so likely not something you would like.

Not as familiar with how the Tsunamis paddle. They are lower rocker, so should track quite well (likely at expense of feeling playful). Not sure if the high seat back can be lowered enough to make it work with a skirt.

For what it’s worth, my Dagger Alchemy is very much more the Swiss army knife when compared to my WS Tempest 165. I realize they aren’t the same models you’re looking at but maybe it’s not ‘apples and oranges’. Maybe it’s ‘Granny Smiths and Red Deliciouses’. I would go with the Dagger.
If someday you wanted to go play in the ocean I think the Dagger would be the boat to be in.

Commenting on Alchemy. I have an Alchemy 14.0L along with a Stratos 14.5L. The Stratos is a larger boat, not just in the extra half foot in length. Given the OPs size and that they want more carrying capacity, the Stratos would likely be a better option of the two.

I always thought the Tsunami-145 was my dream boat based on a demo of a 12’ some years ago until I got a chance to paddle one.
The modern Tsunami’s have a really broad bow that slows my attempts to reach hull-speed and as soon as I stop paddling, the Tsunami slows down quickly.
I don
t know if this is just the newer models or the larger models but that was my experience.

This has been a very very helpful discussion here… I really appreciate all your input on this… As for willowleaf’s question… I will not be on the big rivers (mississippi, missouri) as much as the little rivers (Current, Jack’s Fork, Black, etc) where there are a lot of twists and hitting bottom… I’m leaning towards more playful/maneuvering at the expense of a little less space and tracking- however the dagger does come with a skeg, and with my weight, it will probably track better anyway than someone who is 150# in the dagger stratros.

I consistently see the Tsunami being compared to a barge or a tank, which is an advantage to some people who put priority on gear and stability, and is why it’s on my list.

I do find myself in the gulf around Florida now and then, and I keep dreaming about surfing in a kayak… So… yeah dagger… haha I’m going to check out the current design Sirocco…

As for the amount of gear… I’m also a backpacker, and can pack sensibly so I should be okay… if I really want to haul a lot of stuff, I also have a canoe. :slight_smile:

Dragonhide, for someone your size, you really should be looking at the Sirocco. I’m not sure I would use it in little creeks where you would be scraping bottom, but when you get in bigger water, you will appreciate it.

I have owned or paddled most of the boats included in this discussion, a boat missing may be the WS Zephyr. It comes in many sizes and depending on your hips/thighs the 155 or 160 Zephyr is a great cross of the Tsunami and Stratos. It has the rocker to make it maneuverable in smaller creeks, when edged it turns on a dime, It has the volume and outfitting to be safe on bigger waters with a considerable amount of storage.
I have kept my Zephyr in the fleet as a boat that can be used under most any paddling scenario and do quite well. If you have the ability to try one on it may be worth a spin.

I cannot speak to the other designs but I have a Tsunami 140 that is really nice. Could it be lighter and faster because it’s rotomolded? Sure but I can easily sustain 4 knots without getting tired and a bit more for short bursts no problem. I put it through its paces over the last nearly 15 years and it’s still holding up pretty well. It’s fast, it’s very comfortable and very stable while being very maneuverable too, and while it could be more of each I feel that for the money it’s very good to excellent in every category. Note I am 6’4", 190lbs and have 13.5 shoe size, long & lean and I fit great. Also please note that my kids both have paddled it, not that far, but they have paddled it as novice paddlers and did not flip it or get scared and were able to control it well in some waves for ~30 min paddles near shore.

I will tell you that I am very anti-composite only because I mostly paddle from a very rocky beach that is a land-borne rock garden. I do plenty of rock launches and rock landings. We ended up leaving the Kayaks out on the beach behind our back yard from spring to fall every year and while the hulls are a bit scratched and starting to warp, but only a little, if there is any potential for abuse or very shallow water the Wilderness hulls take a beating and keep on ticking. I have never done any maintenance to my Tsunami 140, ever, not even washed it and it’s still paddling just as well as when it was brand new. At the end of the day it’s not that heavy that it cannot be carried by one person.

You can look up my review of the Tsunami 140 on the website here, great boat. I am sure one can do better in any one category: durability, speed, comfort, maneuverability, stability, storage and price but I think it would be very hard to beat this design in all the categories and any improvements in one or two categories (like speed) would mean giving up hugely on durability or expense or cargo room.

The other advantage is that you see them on craigslist, most of the hit is buying brand new. If you get it second hand for ~$5-800 you can always turn around and sell it for more or less what you paid if you did not like and you didn’t really lose any money.

Just wanted to follow up… There was a black Friday deal (Actually Small Business Saturday) deal on the Dagger Stratos 14.5L that I could not ignore… sooooo I now have one sitting in my basement! I’m so beyond excited!!

I’m sitting in it with a spray skirt on reading this forum on my phone LOL

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It was destiny. Congrats!

I hope you’re as happy with it as I am mine.

I don’t know about yours, but the hatches on mine were very tight when I got it. This is better than loose, but I found that an application of 303 (or similar) helped them to slide on much better than when I first got it. I’ve found that they’ve worked in nicely over time and work better now. My hatches have been absolutely dry despite lots of rolling.

Have a quick look around for missing screws too. I think it was just a fluke, but I was missing one somewhere I can’t remember right now. Generally a good thing to do with any new boat.

Yeah man! I think you’ll enjoy it.

@Dragonhide said:
Just wanted to follow up… There was a black Friday deal (Actually Small Business Saturday) deal on the Dagger Stratos 14.5L that I could not ignore… sooooo I now have one sitting in my basement! I’m so beyond excited!!

I’m sitting in it with a spray skirt on reading this forum on my phone LOL

Very nice.

@Dragonhide said:
Just wanted to follow up… There was a black Friday deal (Actually Small Business Saturday) deal on the Dagger Stratos 14.5L that I could not ignore… sooooo I now have one sitting in my basement! I’m so beyond excited!!

I’m sitting in it with a spray skirt on reading this forum on my phone LOL

Noob comment: I’ll be interested to see how this kayak works out for you.

sparky961 thanks for the scoop… I went across everything with a screwdriver… a few could be driven a little more, but it all looks good! the hatches are tight but not horribly… I think it was in the shop and poked around at quite a bit before it became mine… :slight_smile:

Having paddled those rivers many times, with the unpredictable water levels…use your canoe !!!
Problem solved…