Good all around boat for bouncy water. A bit more playful, but also a bit faster, than the Dagger Alchemy line it replaced.
Sizing, the Stratos 14.5Sfalls between the Alchemy S and Alchemy L. I am 6' and 215lbs and fit the Stratos S. It fits nicely. The Stratos 14.5L required some paddling at the thigh braces to get a decent grip for rolling.
Intermediate, 5'6", 145 pounds. I've had the Dagger Stratos 14.5S for 13 months. Fits me fine. Paddled it in the Delaware River, and open water of a nearby reservoir throughout the Summer and dead of icy Winter, in flat water, wind and chop. Adjustable skeg helps in wind. Stable and easily turned with skeg up. Great kayak. Highly recommend... Only reason I gave it 4 stars is the back band isn't great for my build. It supports, but I keep tweaking it for a better fit.
Viewpoint for review: 5'8", 11.5 stone, 29 inside leg. Paddling 40 years, slalom, white water racing, teaching. Proficient rolling and hand rolling.
I bought the stratos a week ago after a lot of research into the conundrum of speed versus play.
This week I have been surfing in 4-5' waves at Sennen cove and done a trip around Lands End in a force 4 gusting 5.
This is a great boat.
She is slow and I reckon 3.5 -4 mph is a natural speed for the hull with easy effort. But as recompense you get a real boat: an Intercity 125 goes great in a straight line and is an A-B machine. But a Mini goes round corners and delivers so much involvement for the same journey. They both get there but one does it with a smile.
I'm smiling. I got boiled in the surf break, managed to turn on the face of the wave, and became immersed and involved in this boat, which fits like a glove.
Then we set off around Lands End, one of the potentially nastiest tide/weather headlands in the south of Britain, dropped the skeg, and ploughed into a southerly 4-6 Beaufort against the tide (for an easy ride back the other way). She's narrow enough to ride confused crossing seas without tilting, made good speed through the tidal race chop, and plunged with agile willingness into narrow convoluted gaps in the rocks to take close in shortcuts.
The hatches dribbled a bit.
The footrest sliders jam with sand.
She's heavy compared with my fibreglass slalom boat.
But: what a hoot! Feels so safe, really capable in confused seas. Good tracking with the wind on the quarter and mixed swells. Skeg doesn't jam.
And then up with the skeg and into the detailed stuff, rocks and eddies and caves, bow rudders, leaned turns, draw strokes, spin her around and out again. While the rollers cap and smash into the rocks all around.
I love the dedication and enthusiasm of the mile eating long boat brigade. But for me the comprise on speed is so, so worth it. Just plan a trip that is 25% shorter, and have a boat that is more responsive to paddle stroke skills.
The Stratos is one of those.
I am a new paddler and when i started shopping i was recommended the Dagger Stratos. I did a load of research on it and i have to say. This Boat lives up to everything people say about it! Its forgiving enough for a beginner but agile enough to have a load of fun in rough water and surf. Its quick enough to go touring but great for short trips down lower class fast moving water. I'm 100% in love with this boat!
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 bought a demo model of the Stratos 14.5 S at a paddling expo in Old Forge, NY in 2015 as my first kayak. I'd been waiting and saving $ for almost a decade & having finally paid off the student loans, I was ready! I did hours and hours of online research, rented and test paddled boats, even was able to take a beginner lesson in the Stratos before I made my final decision. I talked to numerous paddlers in my local outdoors club as well, and was able to narrow it down to the Stratos or Alchemy. In the end, I liked the rocker and extra length on the Stratos, and the skeg mechanism worked better.
I am 5'4", about 145 lbs, and have plenty of room in the cockpit but feel like I still have good contact with the boat using the hip pads. I live in Western NY & use the kayak for everything from short lazy trips to kayak camping in the Adirondacks to playing in the waves on Lake Ontario to long distance days on the Finger Lakes. Recently, I brought it to Acadia National Park in Maine and tried a few short trips along the coast. I am not and have never been a particularly athletic or naturally skilled person, but am relatively active; I haven't ever had trouble keeping the Stratos tracking straight as long as I keep moving. Once I stop paddling, all bets are off - but I've found if I drop the skeg she'll stay pretty straight even then. That said, I've played with the skeg to see how it changes the tracking, but never really used it otherwise. I've enjoyed the maneuverability while on a local creek during spring floods, and once I got the hang of it I took to seeking out narrow spots & obstacles to weave around even on flat water. I never feel unstable, and even when I edge, I feel like I could sit there all day. There's plenty of room for camping gear - I use my backpacking gear - and even when paddling full of equipment, I don't have any issues maneuvering. The lack of a day hatch worried me at first, but there's so much room between the seat & the rear bulkhead it's never been a problem.
I've had several friends who've never kayaked before jump in for their first time on the water and take off happily with no issues; I've also received a lot of compliments & questions from experienced kayakers who admire it. Most recently I went on my longest trip yet - a 30+ mile, 11 hour day on a large lake. Around mile 24, it occurred to me that it was odd that I wasn't sore or stiff from sitting so long (I am not usually comfortable on any kind of chair for that long!) The seat appears pretty minimalist but it's somehow very comfortable.
Finally, the only time I've unintentionally gone swimming was my first attempt at at surfing some significant looking stuff. That was a clear case of user error.
Bottom line / Too Long Didn't Read: Love of it as a first kayak. Have been getting pretty involved in the sport & still love it & have yet to outgrow it. Very versatile: camping, small rivers, touring big lakes, surfing.
On the sea I have the skeg down all the time now. Yesterday I was very pleased with the way the boat handled. I felt confident in the swell and really enjoyed it. I think that the boat tracked very well for its size. I seem to keep up with the other boats no problem. Now I think I made a good choice. I have not loaded it with anything heavier than a packed lunch as yet but I'm hoping to try some overnight camping trips next year.
I was very happy with my Easky until I tried the Large stratos
I was advised to purchase the small and so glad I did, as it is a bit narrower and less volume I am 5'10 and 78kg
What I like about the Stratos:
A)It has plenty of rocker so no heart in your mouth when you catch a wave In fact surfing the waves adds a new dimension to my kayaking.
B) I find it easy to get in on a self rescue due to its low rear profile.
C) it really rides the waves well and handles the rough stuff.
D) it turns like a top or Skeg downt tracks well for a boat with lots of rocker.
Besides the above its easier to paddle and feels very stable.
This is a purchase review. Once I have been on the water more I will have more to share. First, I have been doing a lot of research on kayaks trying to figure out what I wanted. I wanted a kayak that could do everything. I looked at the Katana, the Axis and other crossover boats with the sister companies of Dagger. I did not think a touring kayak would fit the bill but I finally picked the Stratos. After picking the Stratos I needed to figure out what size I needed S or L. I read reviews, called Dagger, called kayak stores, and tried to find stuff on YouTube. Finally, after a drive to find a store that had one I was able to test paddle both sizes and picked the small. I am 165 lbs and 5'8". There is a big difference in the cockpit between the S and the L. The one measurement that really set the two apart is the deck height. The S is 13.5" and the L is 16". This makes a huge difference in the fit. I love the boat! I have test paddled it and it was very comfortable great fit.
The boat tracks like an arrow with the skeg dropped and turns right around with it up. I am looking forward to more aggressive water to play in and see how much faster it is than my beginner 10'. The rocker makes it very manuverable and the cockpit has a stiffener bar and wedge to battle the rougher water, not a feature talked about much on line. Bottom line sit in one for fit, test paddle if you can. Great multi purpose boat!
Initial float was on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and it performed wonderfully. Tracked well, comfortable, moved across the water with ease.
After 3 days on the river, I still love this thing. Not to mention, it looks great as well.
The Stratos has an excellent profile, and fairly fast for it's size. With a good rocker profile, it's highly maneuverable and spins on a sixpence, and edges well too. I don't find I need the skeg very often, but when it does threaten to weather cock, the skeg adds the necessary control. The skeg does make a wee bit of noise fully extended, but I rarely extend it that far.
There's decent amount of storage in the fore and aft hatches for it's size, ample for few days touring. The hatch covers are waterproof, I've not seen any leakage. The only negative is the front one can be a tad difficult to get off with cold hands.
Little to dislike about it, it's reasonably light for plastic kayak and cinch to load onto a car's roof rack.
I've the got the small (14.5 S), being 5ft 10, and 65kg there's ample room but would say feet wise if you're larger than UK size 10, I'd go with the large version (14.5 L).
Certainly a recommend.