Most Recent Reviews
Fast touring kayak, almost (but not quite) perfect.
I bought a brand new Epic 18x about 6 months ago and to date I've done two 100k races and the MR340 in it, so with training miles I've paddled this boat about about 600 miles in the last 6 months. Everything except the races was on flatwater.
The boat has held up well and overall I'm quite happy with it, but it's not perfect.
First the bad stuff;
Fit and finish wasn't what I expected in a $3,500 boat. The Epic boats are built in China and it shows. There's paint overspray under the rudder area, and there was white powdery residue (maybe mold release?) on all the hatch latches when I picked it up. Also, when retracted, the smart-track is actually a couple of degrees off center because the hole that the rudder lug retracts into isn't centered. This isn't an issue with the rudder down, just annoying that they didn't get the hole in the right spot.
The biggest issue was that a couple of days after delivery I had it up on the car top rack and happened to look up at just the right angle to see a hole a little smaller than a dime in the underneath side of the cockpit coaming where it had been sanded through during manufacture. Epic offered to deal with it under warranty, but their fix was just going to be filling the hole with epoxy. Since I was 200 miles from the dealer where I bought it I just did it myself and moved on.
Last week I noticed a couple of chips out of the gel coat at the lip of the day hatch. You would never notice them with the hatch closed, but I can only deduce that at some point when I was reaching back to pull a camelback out of the hatch, I caught it on the edge of the hole and popped up a couple of loose chips. Not structural, just annoying. The boat is still under warranty, so I sent pictures to Epic, but it's just cosmetic so even if they agree that it's not normal wear and tear I'll probably just repair it myself.
Other than the fit/finish issues, my only complaints have to do with rudder and seat adjustments. The rudder pedals are almost impossible to adjust after you're in the boat. It's definitely a case where you would want them to be adjusted before you shove off. Likewise, the seat slides on a track and if you get any sand in there it's really hard to move, so it's better to have it adjusted before you get in the boat as well.
Now the good stuff;
The performance and functionality of this boat is awesome. It has huge hatches that you could cram 3-5 days worth of supplies in if you needed to go that route, and with the hard hatch lids and mechanical latches, there's no fumbling around with neoprene covers or bungee cords to get to your stuff.
The day hatch is easily accessible from the cockpit, and the compartment that it accesses isn't just a hanging bag like most day hatches. It's an area of the hull that's partitioned by 2 bulkheads about a foot apart, so you can put a full day worth of supplies in there and access them without having to get out of the boat.
I'm an endurance paddler, not a fast paddler, but this boat is fast for a touring kayak. On flat water I can sprint at 5.5 mph, and can hold 4 mph for hours without a problem. The boat is 22" wide, so I would expect it to be a little faster than a 24" wide touring kayak, but I wasn't expecting the difference to be so noticeable. Primary stability is okay and secondary stability is quite good.
I'm 5'10" 170lbs and this boat fits my frame perfectly. I'm nowhere near the end of the seat or rudder travel, so I think that you could easily fit somebody up to around 6'4" in there, but you would definitely want to try it on for size if you were a big guy.
It's very comfortable for long distance paddles. I needed a seat pad in my last boat, but the plastic seat in the 18x fits me like it was molded specifically for my bum. Plus, it has a backrest I can recline if I want to stretch and the cockpit is big enough that when I need a quick break I can put my feet flat on the floor with my knees sticking out. On the first day of the 340, I paddled for 18 hours with only about a 15 minute break 1/2 was through and didn't need a chiropractor when I stopped. I kept a similar schedule on day 2. On day 3 I finished after doing 12 hours without getting out of the boat.
You can get this boat in two different layups and I chose the heavier one because it's a little more durable. It's taken some hits from debris in the Missouri river and held up well. Even though it's the heavier of the two layup options, it still only weighs 45 lbs, so I can easily load and unload it from the car top by myself.
Overall, I'm happy with the boat and would buy it again if I had to do it over. It goes fast, carries lots of stuff, and is super comfortable over the long haul. I would have given it 5 stars if the fit and finish had been better.
Great daily driver, but not bullet proof
I got this boat over the winter as the next step in my paddling evolution. Specifically, I wanted something faster than the Seaward Chinook that I raced in some long events last year.
The primary stability isn't as good as a 24" wide boat, but that's to be expected. I'll say that it's as good as any other skinny boat out there if not better and it's secondary stability is great. I have probably 100 miles of training laps in the boat at this point and 2-3 hour paddles are no problem at all. Plus, it only weighs 42 lbs, which is a huge benefit over my touring boat when you're trying to throw it up on the top of a Jeep 3+ times a week.
Last week I did an 60 mile overnight race on the Osage river in Missouri. I was in the boat for about 9 hours without stopping and about 6 hours of that was after dark. I didn't have any problems at all with the boat other than I blew out my core by using a mid-wing paddle rather than my normal small-mid (not the boat's fault)
I haven't tried to roll this boat, but others have said that rolling can lead to issues with maybe breaking the seat track. I can see how this might be an issue because the seat just slides on the one track that runs down the center of the boat. Also, at one point I got some sand in the bottom of the boat and it made it super hard to slide the seat until I took it out and cleaned the grit off the track.
The rudder pedals are more surfski style than gas pedal, which is nice for getting a good push with your legs for a power stroke, but I've found them pretty much impossible to adjust without getting out of the boat. Maybe it's just me.
So now the not so great; I can only give it 3 stars to my review simply because the fit and finish was sub par for a boat that cost this much. I bough it new and when it came it still had mold release (presumably?) caked on the hatch lugs and the rudder area had paint overspray on it from where the black tips had been painted. The biggest issue though was that after my first paddle I looked up at the boat on top of the jeep and the angle was such that I noticed an actual hole about 1/2" long by 1/4" wide in the underneath side of the cockpit coaming where it had been sanded through during manufacture/assembly. I contacted the dealer/factory and the fix was to fill the hole with epoxy, which I did at home rather than make the 3 hour drive back to the dealer.
The dealer was great to work with and it wasn't a big deal per se, but the response from the factory rep had more to do with covering their own backside. i.e. "don't lift it by the coaming until it's fixed" etc. It would have been nice if there had been an apology for selling me a new $3,500 boat with a hole in it, or even maybe a free coffee mug or paddling shirt for my trouble, but that didn't happen.
Overall, it's a fast boat and reasonably comfortable. Right now I'm paddling laps in my local lake about 3 times a week and it's holding up well. I'd buy it again, but I would definitely look it over closer for fit and finish problems before I loaded up. I might also go with the sport version which is about an inch wider, just because I paddle such long distances and that extra inch of stability might be worth the speed hit I would take.
Good little Rec Boat
The Dagger 10.5 was my first kayak. It's one of those boats that pretty much anyone can just hop into and paddle confidently. Pretty comfortable for a day trip, nice and stable, and the watertight bulkhead behind the seat gives some flotation in the event of swamping plus a reasonable amount of dry storage.
I've dragged this through numerous rock patches and it just keeps going. It's a super tough little boat and with me at 170 lbs it doesn't draft more than probably 3 inches. At one point I took this boat up a stream that got so small that by the time I dragged bottom I had to get out of the boat to turn around because the stream had gotten narrower that the boat was long.
For lake or big river paddling this boat doesn't track in the wind as well as a boat with a rudder, but the drop down skeg makes it tons better than most recreational boats. Plus, you can retract it if you are in the shallows and just keep on cruising without fear of breaking anything vital.
This boat is super stable because of it's width, but it's so short that it's still easily maneuverable. The down side is that the same features that make it so stable make it pretty much impossible to paddle it in flat water at anything much above 3 mph. it's width also make it next to impossible to roll upright if you are somehow able to get it upside down.
I say "next to impossible" because somewhere theres probably some kayak guru who can do it no problem, but I'm not him. I put it in the pool and intentionally flipped it about 10 times (really have to be motivated to get it to flip) and I was never able to roll back upright. Some of this is probably due to the absence of thigh braces, limiting the ability to get a good hip snap, but mostly it's just so wide that the stability that works for you when you're upright tends to work against you when you're upside down.
Overall, it's a great little recreational or day trip kayak for either inland lakes, rivers or creeks. I'd have no problem at all taking this over some shoals or day tripping down a river or inland lake, just don't think that this is a purpose built whitewater boat or touring kayak.
Absolutely great expedition or fast touring boat
I bought this boat used last year specifically to use in the MR340. This is a 340 mile non-stop race on the Missouri river. While there are checkpoints for resupply or sleeping and whatnot, I didn't have a ground crew so I needed to take pretty much everything except extra water with me for 3 days of mostly non-stop paddling.
The boat looks like fiberglass (smooth and shiny) but it's really thermo-mold plastic. This has it's pros and cons. The construction makes it a little heavier than fiberglass and my particular boat weighed in empty at about 67 lbs. on the plus side, boat ramps are a breeze, because plastic is so much more durable than fiberglass or kevlar.
At 24" wide, it's quite stable, and even though I got some 2 a.m. wobbles, I never felt tippy or like I was in serious danger of dumping it. It also handled the wind and some 2-3' barge wakes like a champ.
Due to its width, weight, and designed in stability, The boat isn't the fastest out there, but it has huge hatches and a ton of internal storage. It also has a very roomy cockpit and the seat is adjustable fore and aft with the front lip being adjustable up and down. The backrest is also adjustable fore/aft & up down and the rudder pedals have lots of adjustment as well. The key to this is that all of these adjustments are available to you while you're still in the boat. No stopping required to fiddle with changing position to get some relief after hours of paddling, or to swap out the empty camelback between my legs for the full one behind the seat.
Out of the 68 hours that it took me to finish that race, I was in the boat for over 55 hours. It was as comfortable as any kayak could be expected to be, was roomy enough for all of my stuff, and handled all the conditions I threw at it without letting me down.