In the 90's Dagger's sea kayaks were the boats of choice for expeditions to places like Cape Horn and Antarctica, however since then they have only produced a small handful of not particularly memorable sea kayak designs. That was until they brought out the Stratos, with its muscular lines and well defined chines it is half whitewater boat, half sea kayak and performs as such. The Stratos is the only sea kayak model Dagger currently make, although they make four different versions of it. However it is a really good sea kayak for many novices and some experienced paddlers, wether it is right for you though will depend on how you plan to paddle it. Read on for our full review.

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Stratos 12.5 S

Length 381cm (12’6”) Width 62cm (24.5”) | Avg Paddler ≈ 165cm (5’5”) 65kg (143lb)

Stratos 12.5 L

Length 381cm (12’6”) Width 63.5cm (25”) | Avg Paddler ≈ 175cm (5’9”) 75kg (165lb)

Stratos 14.5 S

Length 442cm (14'6”) Width 58.4cm (23”) | Avg Paddler ≈ 170cm (5’7”) 70kg (154lb)

Stratos 14.5 L

Length 442cm (14’6”) Width 62cm (24.5”) | Avg Paddler ≈ 180cm (5’11”) 80kg (176lb)

stratos st

Made by Palm Equipment in the UK under licence from Confluence Outdoors, Dagger call the Stratos a Performance Touring kayak. With its bulkheads, bow and stern hatches and full complement of deck lines, we are happy to call it a sea kayak, albeit a fairly short one. It comes in 12.5 and 14.5 foot lengths, both of which are available in two sizes, S and L, to fit smaller and larger paddlers. In both lengths the hulls are the same in the different sizes, with just the width and deck design changing to fit the different paddler dimensions. 


Unusually for a sea kayak the centre part of that hull is quite rounded from side to side, just like some of Daggers displacement hull white water boats. That is until you get to some hard chiseled chines that mark the transition from the hull to the sides. This cross section profile means the initial stability isn't quite as much as the hulls fairly extreme width measurements suggest, although it is certainly stable. Where the real stability kicks in is as you edge over from the primary stability to the secondary. Here the boat feels really solid enabling you to confidently use your inside edge to cross an eddy line or carve a turn on a wave, or your outside edge turn to steer the boat.


As you move away from the centre of the hull to the bow and stern the profile changes to a standard V hull but with a lot of rocker. This high rocker, along with the short overall lengths, means these boats will never be speed demon's. While the 14.5's will just about be able to keep up with a normal group's speed the 12.5's won't unless you are a super strong paddler. The lack of speed though is a trade off for manoeuvrability, which is good whilst the boat is flat and excellent when over on edge. This manoeuvrability is helped by the boats swede form hull profile which improves manoeuvrability and helps forward paddling by reducing the width of the boat in front of the paddler enabling a more vertical stroke.


As is often the case with novice friendly boats the Stratos do weathercock somewhat, however no more than the relatively small but reliable simple rope skeg can handle if you need to use it, or you can use that extremely stable outside edge turn to compensate. For more understanding on this subject see Sea Kayaking in the Wind: Understanding the Physics


The Stratos now come with Daggers new touring equivalent of a bulkhead footbrace, again technology that they have brought across from white water. This is a strong statement of one of the intended use's of this boat. Giving it the potentially for both some moderate whitewater and for some fairly extreme coastal play. And it is here that the Stratos excel. Surf, rockhopping and tide race's are what this boat was made for. To go with this intended use the Stratos comes with Dagger's Contour Lite outfitting, a lightweight version of their white water outfitting, which provides plenty of comfort and adjustability, such as hip pad shims and 8 fitting points for fine tuning the thigh grips. These thigh grips do flex quite a bit which is quite off putting at first but you do get used to it. The seat also has adjustable under thigh support which as well as giving good support and control can provide a real relief for those that suffer with lower back issues.


To give you more storage space the Stratos, somewhat counterintuitively comes with just two hatches, foregoing the day hatch. This means they don't have to fit a third bulkhead, which in plastic boats have to be thick foam blocks which takes up valuable space. In place of the day hatch Dagger have gone for the rather old school route of setting the bulkhead behind the seat further back to give storage space there. Unfortunately this means the boat doesn't empty as well as it could in a deep water rescue. The two hatch's combined with the boat's width means there is space for overnight trips at a push, even in the 12.5's, as long as you pack sparingly. However I wouldn't be tempted to take them for any longer than that.


So is the Stratos right for you? Firstly, although they are very similar designs, the 12.5 and the 14.5 are completely different boats that will suit different needs. They will both suit novices who will benifit from the Strato's stability, manoeuvrability and confident edges. If storage is an issue the 12.5 will fit into the smallest garages and be generally easier to carry and transport, however its shorter length will limit you from joining sea kayaking group trips out on open water as it is just too slow. The 14.5 will allow you to join groups, it won't be the fastest boat out there but it will help you cope with rough conditions if you end up in them.


Intermediate paddlers who are looking for one boat to do everything might not be drawn to the Stratos either as it isn't really suitable for multi day expeditions. Although even the 12.5 can do an overnight trip if you pack sparingly neither of them carry the speed to efficiently do long distances day after day. However for advanced paddlers who are looking for an N+1 Ocean Play specific boat the Stratos could really appeal. If you are really into the extreme stuff the 12.5 is more manoverable but you will have to paddle very hard to keep up with a group. The 14.5 strikes more of a balance of being a Day Tripping boat as well as Ocean Play.

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UK Deals 

Leam Boat Centre (eBay) - £1019

AS Watersports - £1020

US Deals  

Rutabaga Paddle Sports - $1539

Offshore Marine - $1679

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By Philip Clegg

With over two decades of working in the sea kayaking industry, Phil can be found on a daily basis coaching for Sea Kayaking Anglesey.  That's when he's not expeditioning, playing or putting kit to the test.