Dagger Mamba 8.6 Creeker
- Length: 8’6″
- Width: 27.5″
- Depth: 15.5”
- Weight: 48 lbs.
- Volume: 89 gal
Blister Verified Stats
- Length: 8′ 8.5″
- Width: 27″
- Depth: 15.25″
Recommended Weight Range: 175-260 lbs.
Reviewer Info: 6’2″, 200 lbs.
- Inseam: 34”
- Shoe Size: 11.5 US
Days Tested: 25
Locations Tested: Quebec, Vermont, New York, Maine
Test Environments: Fully loaded multi-day expedition, big water, steep technical creeks, river running
[Editor’s Note: Our test was conducted on the 2012 Dagger Mamba 8.6, which, other than the outfitting, is unchanged for 2013.]
The Mamba 8.6 is Dagger’s high-volume planing hull big water and creek boat. The largest of the three Mamba sizes, it’s offered in both a “creeker” and a “river-runner” model. The only difference between the two is the outfitting—the creeker has a roto-molded seat that’s more resistant to collapse in the event of a pin.
If you’re going to paddle on whitewater over class III, there’s no reason to get the “river-runner” version. Really, the creeker outfitting is the best option for most paddlers, with the exception of school fleets that need to quickly and easily adjust seat position.
The entire Mamba series was revamped for the 2012 season, with designers adding volume, tweaking the rocker profile, updating the edge profile, and making a few other minor changes to each of the three models.
That makes the 2012 Mamba a completely different boat than its predecessors. The 2013 line-up has Dagger’s new contour outfitting, but is otherwise unchanged from the 2012 model. I tested the 2012 boat, so I won’t address the contour outfitting in any depth here.
Enough with the new lineup details, let’s get to the juicy stuff…
Shortly after getting my hands on this boat at the end of July 2013, I took it up to northeastern Quebec for some big water testing on the West Magpie and the Lower Magpie rivers. (Check out our facebook page for photos of the trip.)
Even with the Mamba loaded down with six days worth of food, camping gear, and safety equipment—the boat weighed about 80 lbs.—I found that there was still enough volume to keep me up above funky currents and maintain good steering. The few boof lines that I found on that trip were a little awkward, but that’s something to be expected with any fully-loaded creek or river-running boat.
What really struck me as exceptional was that, even when the Mamba was heavily loaded with gear and a 200-lbs. paddler, I could still drive the boat aggressively in large rapids with big crashing waves and curlers trying to push me off line. I didn’t have to work as hard as I’d expected to keep the boat on-line, and even when I did get blown off line, I could easily transition to defense and make the necessary changes. I attribute this primarily to the edge and rocker profiles on the Mamba.
The Mamba has moderate, recessed edges that extend from the bow back to the paddler’s butt, where they smooth out into a softer chine. The soft stern edge combined with the very high volume stern allows this boat to make quick, last-minute adjustments in a rapid, similar to what you’d expect from a dedicated creeker such as the Dagger Nomad or Liquidlogic Stomper, boats that have soft edges or a displacement hull. The rounded edge prevents water from catching it in a hastily initiated turn, and the volume keeps the stern up out of the water even when you’re paddling from the backseat.
The hard edge up front and its defined planing hull give the Mamba a sporty feel and the ability to drive from a center or forward body position through big water, similar to what you might expect from a boat like the Pyranha Burn. These edges up front also make the Mamba surf really well. Of the smattering of boats paddled during my Magpie trip (Jackson Karma and Villain, Liquidlogic Jefe and Stomper 90, Wavesport Habitat 80) the Mamba 8.6 was by far the best surfer.
This was extremely noticeable when we dropped into wave trains full of glassy overhead waves. Continuously rockered boats (Jefe and Stomper) went skittering off the wave as soon as they caught it, and even the planing hull Karmas struggled to stay loose on the face. In the Mamba, however, I could carve big, confident arcs across the waves. Even compared to boats like the Remix (which fits the Mamba’s genre more closely), I think the Mamba is still superior on a wave, mostly owing to the edges on the forward two-thirds of the boat.
The Mamba 8.6 has what I would classify as progressive kick-rocker in the bow, and a more linear profile in the stern (for more on types of rocker and other design features check out Boats 101), but some of the rocker does carry in toward the center of the boat. This is especially evident when you compare the redesigned 2012/2013 models to their predecessors. The progressive bow rocker helps keep the bow riding up and over waves, and makes it easier to get the bow up when dropping into a hole or off ledges. I’ll write more on boofing in a bit…
The linear stern rocker creates a longer waterline, which makes the boat faster and helps with tracking at speed when more of the stern drops into the water. In my opinion, the best thing about the rocker profile is the ever so slight creep of the rocker line toward the center, which is what allows the Mamba to pivot more easily that I would have expected from a boat like this. The Mamba is not as maneuverable as its continuously rockered brethren, but it pivots much more easily than the Remix 79.
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