Dagger Nomad 8.5


First, let’s talk about how it handles large boofs (15-25 feet). As I mentioned, it is relatively easy to pull up the bow on this boat. This remains true on larger drops, and I find that it maintains a lot of stability coming off complex lips. It would be nice if the Nomad could carry more speed off some large drops, making it easier for the paddler to clear the holes that often lurk in the landing zone.

Dagger Nomad 8.5, Blister Gear Review
David Spiegel, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. (Photo: Will Stauffer-Norris)

As for its performance on truly large drops over 45 feet, I can’t honestly speak to it yet. I’m not really a true waterfall junkie, but I will update this review if and when I decide to paddle this puppy off some big ones. I have, however, had a lot of success with the Nomad on medium-sized drops (30-45 feet). I find that it is predictable when setting an entry angle and stable when resurfacing. I like that the Nomad turns on a dime, so I can always make a quick adjustment right at the lip to get my bow pointing in the right direction.

Safety Features, Outfitting, and Sizing

On safety features, the Nomad is solid. It has a standard array of metal grab loops for boat rescue. The center pillars, both bow and stern, are securely attached. One aspect that I would love to see changed, however, is the bulkhead.

Modern bulkhead systems, like the Jackson Kayak “Uni-Shock Bulkhead” (which has a lot of cushion to absorb high impacts to your bow) give me a lot more confidence that I won’t break my ankles if I piton too hard. Dagger’s bulkhead on the Nomad is still the same old fixed piece of plastic.

The Nomad’s outfitting is perfectly functional, but I don’t find it as comfortable as newer systems like the Liquidlogic “Bad Ass Outfitting,” which is extremely quick to adjust and really form-fits to your behind. When paddling Liquidlogic boats, I definitely found that my feet weren’t falling asleep as often. The Nomad’s system keeps me snug, but I find myself making frequent adjustments to keep it comfortable.

I would also love to see some updates to the Nomad that would allow the paddler to pack more gear for an overnight trip. For instance, I would love a more easily removable bulkhead, or a slightly wider opening into the stern. That being said, the outfitting is completely adequate and easy enough to use that it is not a deal breaker.

Sizing tends to be a matter of personal preference, and I personally like to paddle creek boats in the 80-gallon range. It also matters what kind of water you are usually on. If you are a bigger paddler (over 190 pounds) and often find yourself out on big water, you will want to investigate larger options in the 90-gallon range. Pyranha, Liquidlogic, and Jackson have good offerings in the “big boy” department with the Shiva, Stomper, and Villain.

In low-volume creeks, the boat will accommodate a wider range of paddler size. Smaller paddlers (under 150 pounds) will find that the Nomad 8.1 paddles very similarly to its larger counterpart.

Bottom Line

The Dagger Nomad remains one of the top boat designs on the market. Even though my recent experiments with other boats have me hooked on newer outfitting systems, the Nomad still performs well in all conditions and continues to be a top performer in low-volume creeking. For larger paddlers, I think it would be awesome to see a 90-gallon Nomad.

Overall, the Nomad is a great choice for those looking for a forgiving, do-it-all kind of boat for both river running and creek boating. If you exclusively paddle on big water, or want something more playful for occasional surfing, consider boats with a longer hull profile and less rocker.

Whether you are an expert boater charging class V, or out for some fun in big class II-III, the Nomad’s stability and forgiving nature will be confidence inspiring.


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