Stratos 14.5 L Description
Designed to excel in surf, rock gardens, and open water paddling, but just at home on tidal estuaries and meandering rivers, the Stratos is the perfect balance of tracking, maneuverability, and forgiveness.
Beginners will love the stability and forgiveness, while intermediate and expert paddlers will find that the Stratos’s sporty hull is fast and maneuverable on any adventure. An adjustable drop-skeg aids tracking, and with two hatches, bulkheads, and deck bungees, gear storage has never been easier. Perfect for multi-day touring adventures, and just as capable for a day trip to your favorite rock garden or surf spot, the Stratos is a do-it-all kayak that stays with you on every step of your journey.
The 14.5 L kayak has a bit more room for larger paddlers
Read and submit reviews for the Stratos 14.5 L.
Stratos 14.5 L Specs and Features
- Structure: Rigid / Hard Shell
- Cockpit Type: Sit Inside
- Seating Configuration: Solo
- Ideal Paddler Size: Average Adult, Larger Adult
- Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
- Ideal Paddler Size: Average Adult, Larger Adult
- Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
- ConTour CFS Seating System
- Adjustable Padded Thigh Braces
- SlideLock Foot Brace System
- Bow, Stern Hatches
- Bungee Deck Rigging
- Soft Touch Handles
- Hull Beam
- TruTrak Adjustable Skeg System
Stratos 14.5 L Reviews
It is THE kayak. You're not…
It is THE kayak. You're not going to head to a kayak race with this boat. You're not going to head out camping for five days in this boat. Although...you can. It's just not what is best suited for.
It's best suited for absolutely everything else. For most, it's the best "one boat quiver" contender that ever existed. And I can firmly plant that flag because I have owned many of the other "one boat quiver" boats and they didn't even hold a candle to this kayak.
THIS is a kayak in its own category. It's the only kayak I could put a newbie in and feel confident that they will feel confident. And yet....it's the only kayak I would put a thoroughly advanced paddler in and say, "yeah, right there....you see what I'm talking about!?!?"
And....they will. They will feel it. They will know it's real good. If not superb.
It is the "nearly everything" kayak. It's the "nearly one kayak quiver" kind of good. If I meet paddling people and they don't own one of these or have paddled one, I will feel that their advice is suspect.
I now know that I NEED two kayaks. A Stratos and maybe a composite touring yak for those long treks. I'm working on obtaining the longer trip kayak now, but I rarely feel the need to paddle anything other than the Stratos.
It's JUST that GOOD.
I bought the boat as my day…
I bought the boat as my day paddler on small lakes and slow rivers. It was maneuverable, stable and well designed and began to see articles and videos about using it for rock gardening. So, I racked it up for an ocean trip to see for myself. It was a blast. It handled big waves and surfing without hitch. It's a fun boat with capabilities far above recreational paddling.
I've had the boat for about a…
I'm 225lbs, 5'10" I would say…
This is my first Sea kayak…
This is my first Sea kayak and I purchased the Stratos for kayaking in the open ocean and touring around offshore Islands which will include overnight camping trips. Immediately after I purchased this kayak I visited a local lake to test it. Quickly after getting the kayak in the water I noticed that the Kayak was stable and very easy to paddle. Tracking was very good with the skeg deployed and there was little to no variation in heading. One thing that was obvious is that turning the kayak with the skeg deployed is not an easy task. After a few hours of kayaking around the lake I felt comfortable enough with the performance of the Stratos to take it out in the ocean.
I planned a 15-mile day trip off the coast of Portland, Maine around some of the Casco Bay Islands. The weather conditions were very good in the morning with less than 5 MPH winds and seas were less than 1-2 feet. I paddled most of the day with the skeg down and paddling was efficient and easy. As the day progressed so did the wind and the size of the swells but this had minimal effect on the performance of the Stratos. I found the kayak to be very predictable, stable and easy to paddle. When adjusting my course lifting the skeg was quick and easy and this kayak turns very well simply by using the paddle as a rudder or by adjusting the type of stroke.
As perfect as the Kayak is and as well as it performed there were still some things that I wish the Stratos had. I wish the bow had a little more rise as this would help eliminate the amount of water coming over the front of the boat when paddling through swells. As far as sea kayaks are concerned, I think the front end of the Stratos is on the low side. The Stratos uses a skeg system instead of a rudder and this is new to me, but I think for sea kayaking a rudder would have been easier to use for tracking. Although it was nice to not have to deal with foot pedals that move, and this made paddling more efficient. Jury is still out on whether I prefer a skeg to a rudder or vice versa and the Stratos tracked as well as any kayak with a rudder would have in my opinion. Others have commented on the comfort of the seat but to me it felt somewhat flimsy and didn't provide much back support. Even after making several adjustments I still couldn't find a sweet spot. Lastly, if the Stratos were available in a 16' platform I would have purchased it over the current length. For a boat in this size category it performs very well but different length options would be nice.
The list price for my boat was $1299.00, but I was able to find mine on sale for $799.00 and that's an absolute steal for this kayak. At $1299.00 I probably would have been looking a little harder at some of the Wilderness kayaks. I had the pleasure of paddling a Perception Carolina in the same length and the Stratos gets the nod for performance and stability. This is simply a fantastic kayak.
Had mine now for 12 months…
Had mine now for 12 months and been out quite a bit-I love it!-after looking at a tsunami which seems to be pretty bomb proof i wanted a craft that i could push myself along in skills so the stratos fits the bill nicely.Skeg up it is so playful but skeg even partly down it is like an arrow.I too had a loose bolt on the skeg cable/bungee fitting-no real drama but makes you want to check it all over and nip them all up.Quite hard to carry on shoulder any distance without padding But really excellent on water where it is made to be.Will never part with this one!!!!!
I purchased this boat nearly…
I purchased this boat nearly a year ago after several recommendations and absolutely love taking it out. I tried several other more expensive yaks and didn't feel them worth the extra money. If you're not a 'professional' you'll love the Dagger as much as I do.
Have owned one for over a…
Have owned one for over a year now. Good, playful boat. Comfortable seats with lots of adjustment.
Hatches have remained watertight on mine, but others have complained about hatches leaking some (especially large rear hatch) on theirs.
This is a large volume boat. As compared to the Alchemy 14.0L which it replaced, it is a much roomier boat (and the Alchemy was not a small boat).
I wish the rear bulkhead was closer to the back of the combing. If you wet exit and go to drain the boat by lifting bow and flipping upright, that area will catch a lot of water.
I’ll use Dagger’s mission…
I’ll use Dagger’s mission statement as the yardstick. It’s a maneuverable pocket sea kayak with a nod to stability, that’s at home in surf and rock gardens. It fills the bill very well.
You can check all the boxes this entails: thigh braces, skeg, deck lines, hatches and a rockered hull. It’s easy to turn, roll, draw, etc.
It’s a good value for the price, but not the optimal product. If you’re going to tout it for the rough stuff then drop in whitewater-style outfitting, as P&H does with their Delphin and Hammer. The hull is heavy duty enough to take the punishment, but maybe too much so. The boat requires a beam to keep the hefty boat rigid. It would be better to use a layered molding for a lighter rigid hull. While you’re at it, shave an inch off the width to make it faster and edgier.
Now, let’s talk about quality control. When I got it home and unwrapped, I found some nuts rattling around in the cockpit, which was not the first time I’ve encounter loose hardware in a Dagger. It leaves you wondering if it fell out of an installers pocket or is something unfastened. There were also a few grommets (or rubber washers) on the floor of the cockpit behind the seat. I went to pick them up but couldn’t because they had evidently been glued in when the bulkhead was installed. There doesn’t appear to be an adequate level of care or quality control.
While not perfect, the Stratos beats out most of the boats in this genre and price range.
Lets set the stage here a…
Lets set the stage here a bit. I teach paddling for a living. I have for over 30 years and have paddled just about everything that floats. A lot of reviews of this boat seem to get hung up on its lower top end speed or its capacity. That's not its design goal...its not meant to be a fast cruiser or a tripping sea kayak. Its meant to be a comfortable day boat and weekender that has a reasonable cruising speed and can be a sport play boat in rougher water. It fills that niche exceptionally well. I've been teaching students in both sizes of Stratos that last two years and I find that I'm getting much better skill building success from them much more quickly. Stratos outfitting is such that you can get a connected fit for a large variety of body types and sizes allowing a better feel for what your strokes are doing. Students have been going from "I don't get it" to "AHA!" much faster in these boats than they ever did when I was teaching in more traditional sea touring kayaks.
If someone is looking for a boat that they can enjoy on flatwater, fish out of, do weekend trips in or use a surf play boat, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Its a great first kayak that will encourage your learning curve and continue to be a Swiss Army Knife of kayaks. You can paddle it down the Grand Canyon or simply work on your bow rudder in your back yard pond. If you doing extended trips or looking to go straight and fast with minimal energy expended, then you need a different boat. The Confluence design team really did a fine job on this boat. I do hope to see one with a day hatch up under the deck or another truly S size (smaller than the current S...which fits me at 185lbs and 5' 9") if I were to give them my wish list. The Stratos really hits a lot of usage points for your investment.
I am fairly new to paddling,…
I am fairly new to paddling, having only paddled low-end recreational kayaks before I cannot compare this boat to anything else. When I went to purchase this boat I was looking for something that I would be able to use on larger water than what I could confidently or easily paddle in my recreational boat, would have room for overnight trips and still work on the smaller rivers around me. I was also hoping to find a boat that I can advance my paddling skills in. So far I'm very pleased with this boat. at 6 foot, 170 lbs, a 34 inch inseam, and a size men's 11 foot this boat fits me very comfortably and allows me to achieve a very firm fit. I sat in several other boats in the same size range but this one felt the most comfortable for me. I was able to test paddle one at the mouth of one of the rivers feeding the Chesapeake Bay and fell in love with the boat. Since my purchase at the end of July I've had it on several of the lakes around me and on one of the smaller rivers and am very pleased with this boat's handling and feel, it also handles the winds on the lakes nicely. I am very excited to get this boat back onto the rivers after their levels come back up to recommended paddling height.
Dagger Stratos Torture Test
I just paddled the Watertribe North Carolina Challenge. The event is a 90 mile race in the Neuse River and Sounds of North Carolina. The area has a nasty reputation for rough water and a small craft advisory was in effect at the time of the race. I chose to paddle the Dagger Stratos because of its capabilities in these type of conditions. The boat handled the conditions well. It actually made them fun, was confidence inspiring and fast enough to keep pace with a Nigel Dennis Explorer and P&H Capella without issue.
We dealt with 40 mph gusts and confused seas that made the top of the water a washing machine. Never once did I feel uncomfortable in the conditions. The boat was fun to paddle in these conditions and handled them extremely well.
Watertribe has an extensive list of required equipment. For more information on what we are required to carry, see http://watertribe.com/PDF/MustRead/WaterTribeRequiredEquipment.pdf. The Stratos carried all of this gear with room to spare. My drinking water supply was limited by my own perception of a need to reduce weight. I carried enough for a day and a half (5 quarts of gatorade and 6 quarts of water) with the intent of refilling water at the half way point. Once I started the event and was immersed in the rough conditions I realized I could have easily doubled the amount of drinking water and gatorade without significantly reducing performance of the boat.
There were no issues with comfort in the boat. We stopped three times in 15 hours of paddling on the first day of the event. I am able to sit comfortably and paddle in the boat for extended lengths of time. This is necessary in order to cover large distances. The Dagger has ample room to move the feet around to different positions and the seat was never noticed.
The North Carolina Challenge was a test to determine if the Stratos is capable of the 300 mile Everglades Challenge. Is it fast enough? Can it carry the weight and handle rough water? Is it comfortable enough to stay in the boat for long periods of time? The answer to these questions is affirmative. The boat is comfortable and capable of carrying the loads needed while maintaining a pace to finish a 300 mile Watertribe challenge.
I hope Confluence keeps this boat around for a long time. The Stratos is an absolute jewel.
Great for its niche, but...
Had the Stratos for a couple months now and have had it on flatwater, class 2/3 rivers and some really windy lake surfing days. I am a mid level sea kayaker. 5'10" 220lbs athletic Marine type. Previous boats include WS tsunami, WS tempest, WS focus, dagger alchemy and fenn surf skis. I bought this boat to be a mid sized river and play boat. Plus I row with my wife most of the time and shes really slow so speed wasn't a concern for this boat.
The bad first, bear with me it gets better.
I knew getting into it that it would be a bit slower with the rocker profile and length, but wow, it is slow. Definitely not the "lets go crank out 20 miler on flatwater" kind of boat. I can keep it around 3.5mph comfortably. So set your own bar on speed. In comparison my ws tempest (given...with 2 more feet of boat and 4 inches skinnier) holds around 4.8mph for me. So i guess its not that its bad, its just not that good unless you are ok with 3mph... Secondly, the seat... This is my 2d dagger. My previous being the Alchemy. Alchemy had same seat. Horrible to spend any more than a few hours in at a time. Once again, if you get our of your boat all the time its too bad, but for me the seat causes butt/leg numbness that no amount of adjustment makes up for. And the backband never really feels supportive. It just digs into my lumbar. Dagger could learn a lot from WS on both the seat and backband systems. In comparison i can sit in my tempest and except for bio breaks i dont need to get out of the boat all day. In either of the daggers I'm 2-3 hours tops without getting out and stretching.I am going to find a way to fix this. Maybe a new band and resurface the seat pan with some foam or something. Also, after using a phase 3 seat in all my boats i hate the way these adjust. Really Dagger, go buy a WS phase 3 airpro off a shelf and steal that seat design.
OK enough bashing. All that said i love rowing this boat for the kind of water i bought it for. It is especially fun on nasty water. Very stable, I find myself doing things in it that i would shy away from in my other boats unless i just felt like practicing my bracing and rolling skills lol. Turns great but skeg settles it down when its time for going straight. The deck height is like 16 inches. After coming from low profile boats it feels like i could do flips inside it. Lots of room to move legs around. The seat does hold you in really good and the braces are decent for a RM boat. The pedal adjusters are a bit finicky for me but not too bad. Hatches stay dry. Rolls easily. The skeg rope mechanism works very well and it removed the skeg slider that rubs my leg wrong on the alchemy. To me this boat was what i wanted from the alchemy, but it just never seemed to pull off. Build quality is good, no blemishes or weirdness to speak of. And ebing 14 feet i can still load it in back of truck or jeep top it if I don't feel like breaking out the kayak trailer.
All said, i still gravitate towards my longer boats when i have to cover miles or I'm rowing with a faster crowd. But if any kind of craziness is in the forecast then I don't pass up the opportunity to play in this boat. Chattahoochie flooded or enough wind for lake swells? Grab the Dagger! Very niche, but it does that niche extremely well.
The Stratos is a kayak that can take someone from a beginner to an advanced paddler!
I acquired the Dagger Stratos L in January of this year. After starting with a Wilderness Tarpon 120 sit-on about 4 years ago, I quickly realized that I enjoyed lake touring and river running more than fishing. The Stratos is now my fourth sit-in. The others were a Wilderness Tsunami 125, a Delta 12.10 and a Perception Expression 11.5 in that order. I still have the Delta and will likely keep it indefinitely. It is fast and lightweight and visiting newbies find it very forgiving. But I am really taken with this new Stratos. I was looking for a kayak that would allow me to advance my paddling skills such as edging, draws, sweeps, sculling, re-entry and rolling. After only 2 months I am certain that the Stratos is a kayak that can take someone from a beginner to an advanced paddler!
Comfort: The backband, thigh lift straps and thigh braces are all very good and there is still ample room to pull your legs out quickly during a wet exit if needed. I am on the smaller end of the recommended weight and size for this kayak at 5’7”, 174lbs with short legs. So I fabricated some knee pads out of 1” minicell and attached using velcro glued to the hull adjacent to the thigh braces. These helped lock me in better for rolling, edging, carving and other paddling maneuvers. I really like the knee height available with the higher deck and it does not interfere with paddle strokes in the least.
Performance: The speed of this boat is surprising, especially given the amount of rocker the hull has -which makes it extremely maneuverable! While is it not as fast as my Delta 12.10, as that boat is thermoformed with a medium V keel and 10 lbs lighter! Still, I can maintain the Stratos at a touring speed of about 4mph for an hour without needing a break and for several hours at 3.5mph. My top speed for a ¼ mile was 5.5mph and I could have maintained that for at least another ¼ mile. On the rivers, I find the Stratos to be very maneuverable and quick to get up to speed from a stop. I recently had to do a rescue in which the bow of another boat was wedged under a tree root by a strong current. The paddler had to bail out and because the strong secondary stability of the Stratos, I was able to free his kayak without ending up in the drink myself. The class II rapids were no problem, but given its length, I would not consider this boat as a dedicated whitewater kayak. But don’t tell that to the guy in the video titled “Dagger Stratos 5 Falls” on YouTube. It would be perfect for rock gardening or surfing, but those environments are too far away from home for me. It really lives up to the “All Water” moniker that dagger has given it – see their website for videos. Outside Magazine gave it a “Gear of the Year” award for 2016!
“Weaknesses”: The wind blows quite a bit in this part of Texas (except when it’s 100+ degrees and we can’t seem to get even a breeze), so I often find myself paddling in 10-12 mph winds. While the amount of rocker and the shallow V make this boat very maneuverable, that also makes it susceptible to weather cocking. This might at first frustrate a beginner, until they learn to edge or correctly adjust the skeg. The skeg easy to deploy and very effective in reducing weather cocking, but I can definitely detect a drag on the speed of the boat when using it. So I mostly only use the skeg when the wind is between 30 to 45 degrees off the bow or stern. In most other cases I find that edging is more effective and efficient than using the skeg, and this boat is easy to edge with its great secondary stability.
I should also mentioned that I tried out the Dagger Alchemy before buying the Stratos. Both are excellent kayaks but the Stratos allows me to get my knees higher, which for me means less strain on my lower back during longer paddles. It is also a bit more maneuverable and stable due to more rocker and a slightly wider and flatter hull at the cockpit. I also think it is a drier ride through the short wavelength one-footers that are common on our local lakes. Keep in mind I have not had the chance yet to paddle the Alchemy and Stratos back to back, but I will update my review after doing so.
My compliments to “gchambers” who posted the first review of the Stratos (L) on Paddling.net. I had read the other reviews of the Stratos (S) and several reviews from other sources, but his post and subsequent follow-up are what finally convinced me that the Stratos was the boat I was looking for. His credentials and attention to detail gave me the confidence to place a special order for this boat without being able to paddle one beforehand.
I bought the Dagger as my…
Construction was fine, the deck hatches were really tight and as such never leaked. The seating area was pretty tight but the back band never really gave me any support. I am around 100kg and around 6 foot.
The boat has a fair bit of rocker and so it can turn on a six pence which is great for exploring all the nooks and crannies in the local lochs. However, if you want to chew up some miles then you will need to use the skeg I suspect. And like all skegs, it works just fine although it would slip out when stored.
My average cruising speed was about 3.5mph on a 12 mile paddle, so it is not too bad. Stability was great and gave me confidence in spades. I took many a photograph when out on the water in this boat.
I think it would be a good choice for someone looking to get into loch/lake and estuary/sea paddling. And possibly suitable for someone looking to play in the waves, something I never did try.
This is a follow up review…
There are three weak points. The first is the Stratos will not keep up with surfskis and racing kayaks. I was killing myself trying to run with someone in a custom John Winters designed racing kayak. We already knew top end speed was not part of the package with the Stratos and I cannot take points off the prior score of a perfect 10. The Stratos has no problem averaging 3.5 knots without the paddler working too hard. This is ample speed to keep up on almost any recreational kayak club paddling excursion.
The second weak point is water pools around the cockpit combing when washing the boat after a paddle. There is no drain for this water molded into the kayak. This is insignificant. The only reason I mention this is that the water comes off the recessed area around the cockpit combing when I pick the boat up after washing it. I get a wet shirt or pants when I pick the boat up. No big deal. It has no effect with on the water paddling.
The third weak point is the skeg makes a little bit of noise raddling in the skeg box when deployed fully. The function of the skeg is flawless. It doesn't jam and is fully adjustable. My suggestion is not to change what is working. It is a good system. The noise is not bad and it doesn't impact performance. I got used to it and don't really notice it anymore.
Weight is in the high 50 lb range. Because it is a short boat, the weight isn't very bad. It has less leverage than my 42lb 19 foot boat. The 19 foot boat can put more torque on me when lifting it to the top of the roof rack. The short length of the dagger makes the weight easy to manage.
The good points of the boat that have been discovered since the last review are it rolls like a dream, edge turns very well, is extremely maneuverable, is confidence inspiring in rough water and surfs beautifully.
This is by far the easiest boat I have ever rolled. I used too much force in my first roll and had to brace to keep from going over the other direction. It is so easy to roll this boat that it is fun to get wet. There is complete confidence in ability to roll this boat.
I paddle a twisty narrow creek and try to edge turn the entire length. This boat can do it. It is very responsive to edge turning and makes the maneuver fun.
With edging I can turn 360 degrees with 4 sweep strokes. I can turn 135 degrees with a brace turn. This boat is extremely maneuverable for a sea kayak.
I paddled in a surf zone broadside to the waves. The Stratos handles rough and turbulent waters very well. The stability and responsiveness inspire confidence and make the paddler comfortable with pushing the limits.
This boat surfs extremely well. The bow has enough buoyancy to keep from burying. The maneuverability and stability make this an extremely fun surf zone and surfing boat. It catches waves easily and rides them with confidence. When the waves break, the Stratos rarely broaches and maintains stability.
This is a very comfortable boat that handles like a dream. Despite the wet clothes from picking up the boat after washing it and the lack of top end speed, I still give this boat a perfect 10. The handling of the Stratos makes kayaking so much fun. This boat is a keeper and the design team for this boat really did a fantastic job. This is by far the most fun boat I have ever paddled.
The Dagger Stratos is a…
I have been paddling both canoes and kayaks for 23 years. My first experience in a kayak was a five day expedition that covered about 150 miles. My paddling in the early years involved long distance multi-day expeditions. Most of these expeditions were solo and unsupported beyond having someone pick me up at the destination. In recent years I started participating in organized paddling events such as Watertribe's 300 mile Everglades Challenge and local paddling club excursions. Through paddling with others, my skills and enjoyment of different styles of paddling have increased significantly. Likewise, my understanding of different boats and their capabilities has also expanded.
My thoughts on the Stratos are that Dagger really hit it out of the park for a great all around boat. This boat does everything well. In the following paragraphs I go through the design to show why I believe this is one of the best boats on the market. The key points are price, bottom profile, hard chines, stability, speed, tracking, and most importantly, comfort.
The MSRP for the Stratos is around $1250. The boat is well equipped with deck tie downs, lifelines, carry handles, foot pegs and an extremely comfortable adjustable seat. It has two bulkheads that seal the fore and aft cargo compartments. There is also a stiffening beam along the cockpit floor. After paddling this boat, I think you will agree that Dagger is providing an incredible boat for the money.
The Stratos has a V shaped bottom with hard chines. What this means is the boat heels over and hits a point where the righting moment increases significantly. A paddler can heel the boat over to the point at which water touches the cockpit combing very comfortably and without feeling unstable. The beauty of the Stratos' stability is readily apparent when putting the boat over on edge for maneuvers. The hard chines or sharp angled transition from the sides to the bottom of the boat allow the boat to turn when heeled over or leaned. This is called edge turning. Put this boat up on edge and it will respond by turning. A paddler can keep a steady forward paddle stroke and turn the Stratos to the left or right by simply leaning the boat to one side or the other. Because of the stability of the Stratos, the boat will provide confidence for beginner and intermediate paddlers who are first learning skills involving edging. For an expert paddler, the carving edge turns, responsiveness, maneuverability, comfort and sea kindly ride keep this boat fun to paddle. Dagger gets an A+ on stability profile and responsiveness to edge turning.
The Stratos is not a slow boat. In fact, the cruising speed is surprisingly fast. What you need to know is I can comfortably keep up with true expedition touring kayaks on a day paddle. I think the reason for this surprising speed is the stiffness of the Stratos. Dagger uses an internal stiffening frame in the boat. This causes the boat to deflect less than most plastic boats when moving through the water, thus improving efficiency, speed and handling.
What is the difference in cruising speed between the Stratos and my 19 foot expedition kayak? Nothing. You may think I am crazy, so I will say it again. There is no significant difference in cruising speed. The cruising speed of the Stratos is about the same as cruising speed of most touring kayaks. The key difference between the Stratos and my 19 foot expedition kayak is glide, not cruising speed. The sleeker and longer hull of my expedition boat allow the boat to glide further and hence hold its speed longer between paddle strokes. In the expedition boat I pause between paddle strokes and take advantage of the boat's glide. My pause between paddle strokes in the Stratos is shorter to maintain cruising speed. In the Stratos there are more paddle strokes per unit time to keep up with expedition touring kayaks cruising at 3.5 to 4 knots. This loss of glide is expected with the Stratos' hull being 5 feet shorter and 4 inches wider.
The effect of having a shorter and wider boat is more paddle strokes per mile, and hence less rest between paddle strokes. Keeping up with touring boats for a few hours is no problem for the Stratos, but the increased number of paddle strokes will take a toll after a long day or on a multi day trip.
On a side note, the shorter length and high stability of the Stratos may be an equalizer in certain conditions. A longer and less stable boat often requires diverting energy into maintaining course and bracing with the paddle to stay upright when the wind and chop pick up. In the Stratos, I spend less energy fighting stability issues or fighting the wind to stay on course. I can put more energy into moving forward.
What the Stratos' design gives up in glide, it gains in maneuverability and capability. The Stratos can turn on a dime with the combination of sweep strokes and edging. The Stratos has a good deal of rocker which helps turn, smooths out the ride in chop and improves stability in rough water. In a surf zone the Stratos rides over waves well and surfs like a dream. The high volume of the bow keeps the nose of the kayak above the water when surfing.
The Stratos tracks well and very little energy is lost keeping this boat in a straight line in crosswinds, tailwinds or headwinds. With the skeg up and without paddler input, the Stratos does exactly what a well designed boat should. It points its nose to the wind. This is a safety feature that allows a paddler to keep the bow into the waves and prevent being blown up on an inhospitable shore. Automatically pointing to weather is indicative of good design. With the skeg down the boat can go any direction relative to the wind and handled cross winds well. There is very little increased resistance with the skeg deployed.
The seating system and cockpit comfort of the Stratos gets an A+. I spent about 2 minutes playing with the seat and foot brace adjustment prior to the maiden voyage. The first paddle of this boat was just under 6 hours without stopping to get out of the boat. The boat was comfortable and paddling non-stop for 6 hours would not be possible with any significant comfort issue.
In other notes on comfort, there is plenty of leg and foot room to change positions and prevent numb feet or pain from constant pressure on the back of the heels. To put cockpit room in perspective for others, I have a 30" inseam and a size 11 shoe.
I am glad Dagger specs a back band rather than the high rigid seat back in most Confluence boats. The back band allows laying back on the deck of the boat and gives more freedom of movement for advanced maneuvers. The high seat back on most Confluence boats interferes with the spray skirt seal and doesn't seem to add anything in comfort.
I hope this review has been helpful. If you are considering a day touring boat, an ocean play boat or a weekend warrior expedition boat, I encourage you to find a Stratos to test paddle. The Dagger Stratos is a fantastic boat with great stability, great handling and decent speed. This boat is perfect for the beginner due to excellent stability. The handling, responsiveness and rough water capabilities of this boat will keep a paddler excited about the Stratos from first learning to paddle to the expert level. This boat is the real deal and Dagger pulled off the impossible with this design. I give it a 10, especially when one considers the very reasonable MSRP for such a fantastic boat.
On a closing note, I judge a boat by whether I could do the Everglades Challenge or a similar expedition event in the boat. The answer for the Stratos is a resounding yes with a few minor modifications to the boat and float plan. The boat modifications would include installing a small sail rig and some additional deck fittings for storage of spare paddles. The float plan modification would be obtaining additional water at each checkpoint to avoid overloading the boat with cargo weight. The Statos can carry supplies for about three days without being overloaded. A week long expedition is no problem as long as there is opportunity to resupply along the way.
Do I plan to use the boat in the Everglades Challenge? Not my Stratos. I like my Stratos too much to start drilling holes in the deck.
Is it out of the question that I would do the EC in a Stratos? Not at all. There are many places on the EC course where the Stratos would be a great boat choice. I believe the Stratos would handle rough water in Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico more comfortably than my expedition boat. If Dagger wants to supply a Stratos for me to drill some holes in the deck, I will take the Stratos on a 300 mile adventure from Tampa to the Keys by way of the Everglades Wilderness Waterway. This is a very comfortable boat with exceptional rough water capabilities.