Roaming free – Dagger Roam 9.5 Review

When the Roam 9.5 first arrived at our office I have to admit that I didn’t quite know what to make of it. On the surface it is a fairly broad nine and a half foot kayak fitted with a great seat and foot pegs. My initial thought was a small, comfortable fishing kayak stripped back for general purpose use. That sounded rather unlikely from Dagger, and a closer look left me with some questions: Why the rounded hull? What’s with the skeg? And what is the deal with these thigh straps?

“easily one of the best seats I’ve tried on a sit-on”

Let’s start with that seat: Bolted to the hull with a couple of heavy duty screws the Roam’s “Contour Surround Seat” is a permanent feature rather than the clip on pads that we are more used to seeing with sit-on kayaks. It is also easily one of the best seats I’ve tried with a sit-on. It’s certainly comfortable: Well padded, secure and with adjustable back adjustments and leg lifter it also drains and dries quickly when it needs to.

The design though is as much about performance as comfort, snugly holding you in the boat, increasing points of contact and never budging or slipping when you apply the power. Being permanently fixed, the seat does present a challenge if you transport your kayak top down on a roof rack, but moving the kayak stern-first seemed to solve that on most car/rack combinations.

Adjustable foot pegs

Foot support comes in the shape of an adjustable rail and footpeg system. The pegs themselves are slightly padded and angled for comfort and purchase. The pegs offer 22 positions, giving flexibility to satisfy our team (who range in height from 5’7 to 6’4).

Removable mesh storage bag

One touch we loved on the Roam was its removable mesh storage bag. This clips into the rear storage well offering a secure (if wet) place to store your essentials. Remove the bag and clip on the thigh straps and you have a handy lightweight backpack.

General outfitting

Throughout the Roam, the outfitting is of a conspicuously high standard. From double clip bottle-carrier through attachment points, thigh straps and paddle-keeper the outfitting looks good, seems solid and is plentiful.

Spring-loaded skeg

Dagger have also equipped the Roam with an adjustable drop-skeg to improve tracking on flat water. This is operated by a small pull-tab to the right of the seat, allowing you to raise or lower the skeg by any amount you choose. The system works well, with a spring loading mechanism ensuring that the skeg drops reliably.

Performance

The Roam is a well put together boat with an impressive amount of standard kit, but is the Dagger Road any good on water? Dagger bill the Roam as an “all water craft” and one of the reasons that this review has been slow coming is that I really wanted to test it in a variety of conditions before writing it up. Having now clocked up a few miles in as varied conditions as I can I have to say that I really like the Roam and appreciate that Dagger have tried to do something a little different with it.

 

Whatever your perceptions are of the Roam I think you’ll be happily surprised. When you first jump on the Roam you can really feel the effect of that rounded hull. It’s a stable craft, but one that isn’t afraid to offer up some movement before it settles. This secondary stability will feel wobbly to some, but that roll is key to the Roam’s performance.

Combined with the control offered by the seat, foot pegs and thigh straps (if used), that roll makes the Roam surprisingly nimble to what is quite a large and comfortably boat. Get it on an edge and it not only turns sharply, but rides a wave well. In fact, in small to moderate surf I was surprised just how well it coped, manoeuvred and handled for such a big boat. On land you’d be forgiven for thinking the Roam is simply a touring boat, but not so. Dagger bill the Roam as a cross-over and you do feel more sat “in” compared with pure sit-on-tops. This drops your centre of gravity, but also lends itself to a dryer ride even in chop. During testing the Roam was chucked at some fairly chunky walls of white water and the boat’s gunnels do an admirable job of deflecting saltwater. Although we didn’t get the chance to try in the river we think this trait would help when passing through/over moderate rapids and wave trains. Drop the skeg and the Roam feels like an altogether tamer beast. The roll gets dialled down and tracking improves significantly allowing you to cover water more quickly and in comfort. We only tested the 9’6”, which is certainly not a tourer, but it is a boat capable of getting you from A to B and ensuring that you have some fun whatever conditions you meet on route.

Conclusion

As far as an all rounder goes, ie a sit on kayak that does a bit of everything, the Roam more or less nails it. Obviously you’ll never have a boat that does everything 100% efficiently but the Roam is close for what most intermediate paddlers want. Price £679.95 Info Dagger Europe