Dagger Mamba Series Whitewater Kayak Review

Dagger Mamba 7.5-8.0-8.5 Whitewater kayak Product Review

If there was ever a search for a lifetime kayak; a boat that would be easy to learn in, enjoyable to run beginning whitewater in, and then perform well in intermediate and advanced rivers, The Dagger Mamba series would rank pretty high. This is the boat of choice for the best whitewater kayak instructional programs in the world, as well as the river runner of choice for many people, including professional whitewater athletes. If river running's your bag, go paddle a Mamba sometime...you'll love it.







Paddler Weight



Mamba 7.5



41 lbs



57 GAL

120-170 lbs

Mamba 8.0



46 lbs



62 GAL

150-215 lbs

Mamba 8.5



50 lbs



72 GAL

175-260 lbs

Anna Levesque (longtime Team D member, and founder of Girls at Play) has plenty of experience with the Dagger Mamba. She has been using it as an instructional boat for quite a while, and has had tremendous success with it. Here is what she has to say: The Dagger Mamba is a forgiving, responsive, comfortable river running kayak that’s easy to roll. It’s my first choice for beginner paddlers as well as intermediate boaters who are pushing their skills into class IV river running. For beginners it offers comfort and stability that helps them build confidence through positive experiences. In addition to stability, the Mamba’s soft edges make it ideal for learning a good hip snap and progressing into the roll. It carries good speed and still turns quickly. Intermediate paddlers dabbling in class IV river running will love the responsiveness of the Mamba. It resurfaces well, is easy to maneuver and punches through holes effortlessly. It’s also great for paddlers who spend as much time in their playboat as they do in their river runner. The planning hull of the Mamba makes transitioning between the different types of kayaks uncomplicated. It boofs well and accelerates quickly. The Mamba comes in three different sizes to fit paddlers small or large. I put all of my beginner and intermediate students in the Mamba and most of them give the boat rave reviews. If you’re looking for a fun, stable, comfortable boat that performs well in big water and on steeper, narrower rivers then the Mamba is a great choice. Here is a video that does an excellent job at explaining why the Mamba is such a user friendly boat. It offers some in depth, quality information (as well as a plug for Otter Bar Lodge). If you are in Colorado and are looking for top notch whitewater kayak instruction, check out The Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center (RMOC).


  • Fire marshall Bill says "Safety first!"... He'd probably be a huge fan of the Mamba if he were a kayaker. There are quite a few rescue and safety features that have been handed down from Dagger's legendary creek boat, the Nomad. The step out wall (see photo below) allows you to use the center wall as a way to step out of the boat in an emergency situation. It also has a roto-molded tank style creek seat. Basically this means that the boat is bombproof. On the outside of the boat there are multiple rescue points which are useful for being towed to shore and also for rescue scenarios. Better safe than sorry.
    Here\'s a view of the roto-mold step out center wall. Hopefully you won\'t really have to use this too much. If you need it though...it\'s there. It also provides rigidity and overall strength to the boat.
    Multiple rescue points make the Mamba really easy to tow to shore. They are also useful in rescue/emergency scenarios.
  • The Mamba's got a planing hull, with some very forgiving edges(more so than the WS Diesel or Pyranha Burn). This makes it super easy to learn in, and also a great transition boat for those that want to eventually paddle a playboat or anything with a planing hull and edges.
    Here\'s the hull and edge of the Mamba.You can see the gradual transition from the flat bottom to the sidewall. This makes for easy yet crisp eddy turns and river river running.
  • Easy to Roll.
  • Average weight (41-50 lbs), but not overly heavy considering the safety features that this boat has.
  • This is a boat that you can have in your quiver for quite a while. Besides being an excellent choice for an entry level learning boat, it also excels at intermediate and advanced river running. The volume's in the right spots when you need it, it's fast (especially for it's size), and has all of the rescue features mentioned above.Some of our staff members use the Mamba on steep low volume creeks. It likes to make tight moves, has enough volume and speed for punching holes, and resurfaces from bigger drops well.
    The semi-displacement hull gets you where you need to go with speed and confidence. Check out the edges on the side. They are raised a bit which is keeps them out of the way when you don\'t need them.
  • Comfortable and simplistic cockpit / outfitting. There are plenty of foam shims and foot blocks to get yourself dialed in.You can be fully outfitted and in the water, in less than 15 minutes. Don't forget float bags and nose plugs.


  • The Mamba's are a great design but are not big volume creek boats. For the same reason that they are easy to maneuver, they may not be that great for heavier paddlers who want to paddle hard whitewater. The Nomad is a better choice for this. If you really want to max out the volume of your boat, look at the 93 gallon Mega Rocker. Note: The mamba 8.0 is one gallon less than the Jackson Superstar(63 gallons) and three less than the Liquid Logic Biscuit 65! Volume distribution is key.
  • The stern on the Mamba is a little thin for some people's taste. Again, the times that you will notice this is when you are paddling big water that is pushy enough to squirt the boat, most likely beyond class III/IV rapids. This applies mainly to heavier paddlers as well. If you are on the upper end of the weight range, and are going to run the sh#%$, maybe check out the Nomad (bigger), Karnali (bigger) or even the Mega Rocker(way bigger).
  • The Mamba's not really a free running play boat, nor is it a creek boat. It has too much volume to throw down in, and not enough to float you through meaty class V. If you want to creek and play a lot you will be better off with a full on play boat and a creek boat. If you're in the middle of the road, and want to own one boat for everything, the Mamba's a good choice.

The Verdict:

Beginning kayakers who have begun the kayak shopping process need to look at the Dagger Mamba. The boat was created to provide ease of use without sacrificing performance. The world's top kayak schools have the choice of using pretty much any boat in existence to teach in. There's a very good reason that the Mamba is their first choice. All of the factors that make the Mamba a great beginner boat, also make it a solid intermediate/advanced river runner. It rolls easy, has crisp edges that are forgiving at the same time, great hull speed without being "tippy", and is super safe. It's also priced competitively, at $949 fully outfitted.

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