2009 Dagger Nomad Whitewater Kayak Review

Dagger Nomad 8.1 and 8.5 Whitewater Kayak Review By Corey Volt and CKS

Update: Check out this new POV Helmet cam action of The Nomad on Escalante Creek. The camera resolution is incredible and the lens doesn't even get wet. Sick video.

POV camera on Escalante Creek. 20 miles south of Grand Junction, Colorado from ken hoeve on Vimeo.

Nomad: A member of a people who have no fixed residence, but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory(the world). I can't think of a better description for boaters as a whole. I also can't think of a better tool for the trade than a boat by the same name.

The Nomad has been the choice boat for top paddlers all over the world for the past 5 years, and is still at the top of its field in safety and performance. At Dagger,their top priority is your safety. That's why every Nomad comes stock with an adjustable rotomolded seat, and "step-out wall", creating a roll-cage inside the boat to provide safety and comfort as well as horizontal grab handles which make holding or grabbing the boat a lot easier without pinching your fingers. No matter what type of creek you want to tackle, the Nomad is up for the job. From the road side park and huck, to the full on expedition,the Nomad's ready. It comes in 2 sizes the 8.1 and the 8.5. There is plenty of room behind the seat to access a large storage area in the back of the boat, which makes putting your overnight gear in the back a breeze.


Nomad 8.1

  • Length: 8' / 240 cm
  • Width: 25.25" / 63 cm
  • Weight: 42 lbs / 19 kg
  • Cockpit: 34" x 19" / 85 cm x 47.5 cm (Large keyhole size)
  • Volume: 68gal / 257 L
  • Deck Height: 12.5" / 31.2 5 cm
  • Paddler Weight Range: 110–190 lbs / 49.9 kg-86.2 kg

Nomad 8.5

  • Length: 8'5" / 252.5 cm
  • Width: 26.5" / 66.25 cm
  • Weight: 45 lbs / 20 kg
  • Cockpit:34" x 19" / 85 cm x 47.5 cm (Large keyhole size)
  • Volume: 78gal / 295 L
  • Deck Height: 13" / 32.5 cm
  • Paddler Weight Range: 150–240 lbs / 68 kg-108.9 kg


  • The Nomad is a tried and proven tool of the trade for the world's most elite paddlers, and holds many world records, as well as race records(check out the short boat results on the bottom of the page for the preceding link). This boat is great for anything from tight technical creeks to the largest waterfalls being run all around the world.
  • The Nomad has a displacement hull, which means that the bottom of the boat isn't completely flat like a play boat's planning hull.The benefits of having a displacement hull in a creek boat is noticed when your boofing a drop, and there is a lot of energy that has to go somewhere on impact. A displacement hull displaces the water around the boat offering a soft landing. This insures that the energy isn't displaced in your back, where if you were to land flat with a planning hull, it would be like belly flopping off of a diving board (i.e-The Pyranha Burnhas a flatter hull than the Nomad).
  • The Nomad is a boofing machine. Wether it's big or little drops, this boat will keep you on the surface. With it's well distributed volume and peaked deck, it will resurface very predictably allowing you to be ready for whatever comes next.
  • The Nomad is fast....There is no question about that. Just check out the results from any of the extreme races (I.E. Green Race, Homestake, Burnt Ranch, Fish Creek)...You will see the Nomad 8.5 at the top of the podium most every time.
  • Lots of rescue access points for emergency situations (see photo).
  • Rotomolded seat(see cockpit photo).
  • The Step out wall: This is a very important safety feature that Dagger has been putting in their creek boats for years. What is the Step out wall? It's the Rotomolded front pillar in the boat (see photo below). The pillar has a dip molded into it, to allow you to easily clear your leg, and actually stand on the pillar to "Step Out". This helps to give you a better chance for a safe ejection from the boat in an emergency situation. Why have a rotomolded pillar opposed to a foam pillar? The rotomolded pillar is made with the same process as the kayak itself, which makes it a lot stronger/more rigid than a foam pillar.It is also bolted into the boat which will prevent it from moving in a pin situation, providing a safe zone inside the boat for the paddler.


  • The displacement hull on the boat takes some getting use to if you have just jumped out of your play boat.
  • This thing's burly! All of the rotomolded features and plentiful rescue points add to the weight of the boat. This can be a drawback for smaller paddlers and beginners who may want a kayak that is easy to transport, portage around rapids, and is light weight. A Jackson Hero weighs almost 10 lbs. less (35lbs. vs. 42lbs for the 8.1 or 45 lbs for the 8.5).
  • Beginner paddlers are paying for technology and features that they may not need. The Nomad's meant for Creekin', not roll sessions at the pool. The main difference between the Nomad in the Mamba can be seen in the hull of the boat. The Mamba has a planning hull which will be a little bit easier to transition to from a play boat,making the Mamba an easier boat to paddle all around.

The verdict:

If you're ready to go butter the Gnarr and are looking for one of the safest and most proven creek boats on the market, the Nomad is for you!! This boat is meant to be paddled hard down big drops. Everything about it is over built (step out rotomolded center pillar,rotomolded seat with bolt in cushions, multiple safety attachment points,etc.) which is great for advanced paddlers who want a safe boat to bring into extreme situations. Beginning paddlers may want to look at The Dagger Mamba instead of The Nomad because it is easier to paddle, and is designed to be more of an "all arounder" instead of a full on creek boat.

Last but not least, check out the Quicktime video link below (right-click to "save as"). It's worth waiting for it to download. The Nomad's, not just a creeker, it's a play boat too (if feel good about your kick flip on shallow Class V):


Click here to buy a Nomad to take on your next adventure!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

About Us

We're a group of whitewater kayak, raft, and stand up paddleboard enthusiasts committed to stocking the highest-quality gear and deliver it to you as quickly as possible.

Learn more about us

Don't Forget About These

What else are we up to?

View all
Down and Dirty: 9 Items You Need for Your Dry Suit Repair Kit

Down and Dirty: 9 Items You Need for Your Dry Suit Repair Kit

GearJonny Ortiz
Whitewater dry wear is the largest apparel investment any boater can make. For those who want to extend the life and use of their dry suit (or dry top), it's best to keep a dry suit repair kit on hand. Read our 9 recommendations for the best dry suit repair kit!
Whitewater Kayak Paddle Buying Guide

Whitewater Kayak Paddle Buying Guide

Jonny Ortiz
Choosing the right paddle for whitewater kayaking can be daunting with all the available paddle options to consider. We are here to help! ...
All Aboard the Love Boat!

All Aboard the Love Boat!

Benjamin Thornton

Have you ever had a tough time convincing your family that your black eye isn't that big of a deal? Or spent an hour explaining to your Tinder date the difference between "homeless" and "houseless," just so they would understand why you brought them back to a tent in the woods? 

If you answered yes to either of these things, hopefully this blog can help avoid some of those awkward conversations!