2012 Dagger Mamba Series(7.6, 8.1 and 8.6) Review With Andrew Holcombe and Mark “Snowy” Robertson

Whitewater Kayak Product Reviews, Whitewater Kayaking

2012 Dagger Mamba Review with Andrew Holcombe, Snowy Robertson and Hobie

Even though the river in our backyard is almost too low to paddle, and boating season has all but come to an end here in Colorado, it’s still an exciting time of year for us. This is when we get to see all of the exciting new products for 2012. The NEW 2012 Dagger Mamba series is one of the most heavily anticipated items that we will be receiving. The Mamba has traditionally been a great seller for us here at CKS, as well as a fun boat for staff members to paddle. It’s user friendly, has nice outfitting, and can paddle in a variety of conditions very well. It’s as comfortable being used as an instructional pool rolling boat, as it is for an after work high water  Pine Creek / Numbers run. Dagger has had their world class wrecking crew and boat designers like Rush Sturges, Tyler Bradt, Andrew Holcombe, Ken “Hobie” Hoeve and Snowy Robertson working on a bigger and better version of this already great boat for about a year. They’ve finally released the 2012 design to the general public. Here is what we know so far:


Pros / Information:

  • I spoke to Dagger team manager Andrew Holcombe about the new 2012 Mamba. His first point that he noted was “this is a different boat”! This is not the same Mamba with new colors, or a thicker seat cushion. The whole boat has been redesigned.
  • The most noticeable change is the additional volume in the hull and the stern. The boat sits higher on the water, which makes it more capable in harder whitewater. By changing the volume distribution, there is also more room in the knee wells, and more comfort for the paddler overall.
  • Andrew also mentioned that there is a planing hull with a nice rail, but the stern was still rounded out. The end of the boats are freed up a bit, which means that you can surf, carve, and even spin. Because the stern of the boat still has a traditional displacement feel, it will not window shade beginning paddlers as much as other planing hull creekers and river river runners (The Burn).
  • Beginning and intermediate paddlers are going to progress quicker. Because the boat has more volume, they will feel more stable paddling down river. The planing hull is also very stable, compared to a displacement hull. The rounded stern is still EXTREMELY easy to roll, which will give confidence for beginners.

    Anna Levesque is using the new Mambas as her teaching / learning boat of choice.
  • Intermediate and advanced paddlers are going to REALLY be able to take advantage of the changes. The planing hull, edge, changed rocker profile (more on that below) and added volume launch the Mamba into the planing hull creeker class. Wicked!The Mamba   will thrive on runs like Gore Canyon, Pine Creek and Numbers on The Arkansas at high water, Section IV of the Chatooga, The Upper Gauley, etc…Heck, you can send it down Gorilla on The Green if you’ve got the skills.

    Ken Hoeve (Hobie) took the Mamba 8.6 on Gore (Gore rapid sneak at 1,220cfs in October)I got in touch with him to ask about it – His response was “Dude, the boat absolutely rocks. Foolproof. I’m a major fan of it.”
  • I spoke to Hobie yesterday, and he is totally stoked on this boat, to say the least. He said that he has not even sat in his Nomad 8.5 since he has had his Mamba 8.6. Hobie is a big guy, and is especially loving the fact that the large creeker version is 89 gallons, and is available with all of the same outfitting that his Nomad has. He said that the older model Mamba’s were sometimes a little tough to turn quickly. This “is a nimble big boat“, and has all of the volume that you need to run solid class IV+ and V (and V+ for the right paddler). “People like Rush and Tyler are going to run some crazy s#$t in this boat“…according to the big man. For all of you SUP’ers out there, the 2012 Mamba is comparable to the Surftech Universal 12’0″. It does it all really well. Not every SUP can do it all well, but the Universal can.
  • Guys like Rush Sturges and Tyler Bradt are loving the Mamba for an all around boat. It’s a creeker (89 gallons!!), big water boat and river runner all in one. The size and type of this boat is perfect for throwing down on really big,  hard runs. The planing hull surfs and spins, but there is more volume than most free runners have, which means you will not get tossed around as much paddling down river. Check out the review that Tyler wrote; it’s a recap from an epic trip on The Clarks Fork of The Yellowstone.
    3 days in a row of this in the new Mamba. Photo from Tyler’s R and D trip down the Clarks Fork.

  • The Mamba would make a good travel boat for places like Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Africa. It’s got enough volume to run class IV and V, but also is a blast on class III/IV play runs. Kick flips, wave wheels and surfing on big fluffy pillows will keep you busy.It’s not too bulky hauling around the airport either. Maybe look at the play seat version (and not the creek seat) which will save you 2 lbs overall.

    Bring it to NORWAY and charge hard!
  • What boats does the Mamba compare to??? The Pyranha Burn has a similar hull, and speed. The Mamba however will be a little bit more forgiving. The Liquid Logic Remix is also a comparable boat. It’s got similar volume, speed and comfort. If you are looking at, or paddling one of these boats now, check out the new Mamba.
  • I spoke with Snowy Robertson, Dagger’s lead boat designer,about the changes that he made to the Mamba. Here’s what he had to say:
    The boat is built on the same platform that the older Mamba was, but with tweaks and changes to make it more capable in creek situations, while very user friendly and fun for paddlers of all ability levels. The rocker is the same, but it is a smoother profile. There is no sudden transition, which makes the boat spinable, easy to turn on a dime, and user friendly. It is not edgy. Snowy said that Dagger took a detailed look at the rails of the boat, and changed them up a bit. They are there to carve and turn, but are softer in the stern. The rail is tucked under the bow, and there is not as much of a sidewall up front. This allows water to pass under the boat, rather than hit the sidewall and either turn it, or flip it over. In short, it will not get pushed around as much because it is a very forgiving shape.I asked Snowy about product testing, and where he drew his “real world” info from. He mentioned that the boat had been paddled on everything from the class II/III Nantahala, The Narrows of The Green, The Clarks Fork of The Yellowstone, epic huge water runs in Africa, and here in Colorado. Besides testing the boat The United States, Dagger also had quite a bit of R and D work done in Europe on rivers in the UK, Norway, Italy and Slovenia. In fact, for the first time ever Dagger Europe will be producing the Mamba’s over seas.
  • The 2012 Mamba comes in a regular model, as well as a creek version. The main difference between the 2 is The Creek Seat. The whole seat is a heavier duty system, that comes with a rotomolded center wall(step out pillar). Again, with the increase in volume, modified rocker and hull, and heavier duty outfitting, The Mamba has now become a solid advanced river running /  creek boat.
The Mamba’s home turf. Class III/IV river running in the South East.


  • The Mamba is all new for 2012. As with any new design, it will take a little for “real world” boat info to come out. So far, Team Dagger has been paddling the boat all over, and loving it. It will be good to get some feedback from real world paddlers too.
  • The Mamba is not a play boat. It has a planing hull and edges, but too much volume to get vertical (squirts, bow stalls, cartwheels, etc). It’s super fun for kick flips, and even huge wave wheels, but you will not be throwing down in your local hole in a 2012 Mamba. Keep and eye out for Dagger’s new 2012 playboat though!
Surfing in The Mamba. The planing hull is great for carving on a wave.

The Verdict:

We are very excited for the arrival of the 2012 Dagger Mamba. This new boat looks like the perfect choice for someone who needs one kayak that can do it all. Here in Colorado, you could take The Mamba on a solid class IV or V big water run, and then lend the boat to your friend who is learning to kayak. The same forgiving design and added volume, that allows you to nail your line in a challenging rapid is also what will help a beginner progress to an intermediate level very quickly. The Mamba’s been around for quite a while, for good reason. With a new and improved version in the molds for 2012, it probably will be around for a long time to come.

Thanks to Scott Martin for letting us use his photos!

41 thoughts on “2012 Dagger Mamba Series(7.6, 8.1 and 8.6) Review With Andrew Holcombe and Mark “Snowy” Robertson

  1. Young Pak

    My weight is 65kg(143lbs).
    Which size is fit for me?
    please let me know.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      You could paddle either the small or medium boat, depending on your height, and paddling abilities. You may be more comfortable in the medium…

  2. brett

    Hey quick question about the 8.6 version. I’m 6’7″ with a 37″ inseam (current river runner is the villian), does the mamba 8.6 have much more legroom than the 8.5?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      To answer your question, yes, the 2012 Mamba 8.6 has more room than the previous versions. It is just under 90 (89) gallons, whereas the Mamba 8.5 was only 72. 15 gallons extra is A LOT more volume. Most of this volume is displaced in the stern, and the knee well. The knee ares is where you are going to need it with a 37″ inseam. It’s tough to tell exactly how much room is in a boat until you sit in it. The rocker profile and volume displacement have a lot to do with it.
      For example, the Liquid Logic Stomper is 90 gallons, and you would not fit in that boat. The Pyranha Karnali is only 80 gallons, and you may fit in that one and be comfortable…Bow rocker makes a big difference.
      I would look at the 8.6 for sure, it seems like it could be a good match for your size, but you never know till they are released to the general public and we have a chance to measure for ourselves.

    2. Atomcrawford

      You will fit. I have a 36 inch inseam and just sat in one. I had room to spare. Way more room than the Villain. Atom…

  3. Joan

    What boat(s) do you recommend for all around paddling, including Class IV creeks, for someone who is 120 lb.? If the new Mambas are larger, would the 7.6 be too big? Other ideas? Thanks.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      No – the smallest mamba would be perfect. You want more volume for harder paddling, especially creeks that can get steeper. You would fit for sure. Also, look at the Stomper 80, med or small Burn and the new Pyranha Shiva 77.
      If you want to be able to play a little bit the Liquid Logic FreeRide is a great option for a class IV river running play boat.

  4. NatalieG

    Please can someone who has paddled both compare and contrast the 2012 Mamba with the Villain? Thanks! Have the old Mamba but wanting a more nimble creeker & big water boat.

    1. ckspaddler

      Hey Natalie-
      The 2012 Mamba sounds like it is what you are looking for if you already have one, and want to step it up a little bit. The Jackson Villain is a creeker with semi displacement hull. The only downside to that boat is that it could be pretty big for you, depending on your size.

      The Mamba is available in 3 sizes, so it may be easier for you to find the right fit. It has a planing hull, but the bow and stern are rounded out so you get that creeker feel when you are in lots of current and crazy boily eddies….Also, there is more rocker than the older model and lots more volume in the stern and bow. It is a beefier boat all around.

      The main differences between Mamba and Villain would be the hull. The Mamba has a flat hull with an edge, and the Villain is a semi-displacement. If you are doing more big water boating the edge on the Mamba may be what you are looking for.

      We are going to do a head to head shoot out with all of these river running creekers as soon as it warms up a little bit; so keep and eye out.

      1. NatalieG

        Thanks for the quick response! Design changes sound like a definite improvement. Sure would like to try them both on some moving water before ours thaws! (Minnesota).

        1. ckspaddler

          Come to PaddleFest on Memorial Day weekend! We will have all boats available for free demo.

  5. Gary

    I’m torn between the Mamba 8.6 and the Liquidlogic Jefe Grande. The Jefe will take my weight at 124 kg. The volume and length are the same for both and I can just get into the 8.5 but over the weight limit.
    I think the prices are similar so your opinion would be appreciated.
    Thank you

    1. ckspaddler

      If you are creeking I would go with The Grande, and if you are doing more river running I would try the Mamba. The jefe has more rocker, and a rounder hull. The new Mamba has a flatter hull, so is better suited for river running (and creeking too). Where will you be paddling?

  6. Montana Mark

    Why didn’t dagger just make a bigger Nomad? This is what serious creekers need and want. Dagger has the best creeking design, but the Shiva, the Villan, the Stomper, the pure are selling b/c the got 90+ gal. I weigh 225. I want a big Nomad!!!

    1. ckspaddler

      I am with you! I want a 100 gallon Stomper actually. I weigh 215.
      I have heard rumors of Dagger tossing around the idea of a Nomad XL (not sure how big prob. near 90 gallons).

      Would be awesome.

      Dagger redid the Mamba because it appeals to a larger audience than the Nomad. It’s a great beginner boat, but with the added volume and reshaped hull, it is also good for class V and big water.

  7. Des34

    i am looking at either a shiva or mamba, im 6’1 and 231 lb 16st . any body got any advice was looking at lrg shiva

    1. Bobby Kuepper

      Where do you plan on paddling??
      At your size you could paddle either one; it would depend on if you creek more, or paddle downriver more. If you favor the steep stuff, go for the shiva. If you are more of a river runner, get the Mamba.

  8. Sioux

    I have a 59 remix. Absolutely love the boat but it is heavy … I have trouble believing the spec weights. How would the small, new mamba compare? I do big water boating but also enjoy smaller class 4 creeking. I want a boat that handles like the remix but weighs less. Carrying this boat is killing me especially on rough, rocky areas.

    1. Bobby Kuepper

      I think that the new Mamba may weigh in about the same if you get it with the Creek seat. Overall, Jackson’s are a little bit lighter (Hero or Zen). The Zen would make a stellar big water boat that you can creek in. Light too.

      Also, be sure to check out the Pyranha Nano. It is 68 gallons, and 7’2″. Short, light and good for small creeks. It has an edge on the hull so it would do well in big water too…

  9. Yupper

    I’m 5″11, 180lbs with a sizee 12 shoe. Which size Mamba would work best for me?

    1. Bobby Kuepper

      You could paddle either one. You are right on the fence as far as your height and weight go, but your shoe size may be better for the 8.6.
      Also, it depends on what type of paddling you are doing. If you’re going to paddle anything more than class III, you’ll like the 8.6 better because it have more volume in the stern and bow…It will power through larger features easier…
      Overall, with size 12 feet, the 8.6 could be the way to go for foot comfort.

  10. Griff

    I am about 160 ish and 5′ 10” what model would fit me best? Also i was looking on the dagger website and they also have a creeker version. What would be better for an intermediate like me?

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      The 8.1 would be a great boat for all of those rivers. It would have enough volume to handle the bigger water during spring, yet would not be too big for you. The only reason that you would ever think about the 8.6 would be if you wanted to do self supports – there are some great ones in that area.
      We only stock the Creek Seat version Mamba’s. The reason for that is because the price is the same, and the outfitting and rigging is safer. Basically, the creek seat is heavier duty, and also comes with a roto-molded center wall.

  11. Griff

    I would be paddling they Middle fork of the Salmon,Payette (not quite the north fork yet), and The Main Salmon. Thanks

  12. Jack

    Looking at the Mamba, however I am wondering whether the 7.6 or 8.1 would fit me better. I’m mostly paddling III-IV+ rivers and I’m 5’10”, 150 lbs.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      I would go 8.1 for sure, especially if you are going to paddle anything bigger than class III. You will appreciate the added volume when you paddle class IV and IV+. The outfitting in the Mamba is awesome. It is super easy for paddlers to size up a boat, and get snug. The leg lifters really do a great job getting your legs into the knee wells.

  13. Lea

    I have a 2012 Burn and love it but had knee surgery and can’t feel comfortable in it any more. I have tried padding it out every way I can think of. I sat in a Mamba 7.6 and it is more comfortable but I was unable to test it in water. Do you think I could be happy with it if I changed boats? I don’t have anywhere I can demo. I need to order online.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      The Mamba is the most popular river runner that we sell. It’s popular because it is very stable, has an edge under the seat (where you need it)but is not very edgy at the bow or stern. It is more user friendly than the Burn, but also less precise. People have been using the Mamba as a big water boat and creeker because of it’s overall ability to paddle all types of well.
      Also – the new 2013 Burn may be of interest to you. It’s going to have a narrower knee area, so you may fit in it better. It will also be faster (longer)…

      Overall – if you are looking to order a boat with paddling it first, and do not want to take a risk with outfitting or funky handling that is hard to get used too, the Mamba is the way to go. It is as good as it gets.

  14. Chase

    After searching for the right outfitting that fits my body for over a year, I have landed in the Dagger Contour outfitting. The entire year I had been trying to modify and customize outfitting in different boats so that my legs did go to sleep and my back didn’t hurt. It wasn’t until I paddled my new jitsu that I finally found comfort without sacrificing control. I’m 5’8″ and 190lbs, I have a muscular frame and thick legs, and most outfitting won’t allow my legs to bend enough or the seat will dig into the back of my legs and they would always go to sleep constantly.

    My question:
    Now that I’m set on a Mamba I need to know which size I should look at. I’ll mainly be paddling class 3 and 4 rivers with some creeking thrown in the mix. Considering I’m 5’8″, 190lbs, 32″ waist, and have a size 9 shoe I would think it’s a toss up between the 8.1 and 8.6. Am I too heavy to paddle bigger stuff in the 8.1?

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      Hi there-
      You could actually paddle either one. They will both fit you really well inside, because the outfitting is so nice.
      The 8.6 will sit up higher out of the water and will be a better big water boat, and better class IV/V boat for you – it just depends on if you ever want to paddle harder water in it.
      As for class III whitewater the 8.6 would make the rapids easier – you would be less affected by holes and waves. The 8.1 would feel smaller and more precise…

      So if you are looking for a boat that will handle larder rapids, go for the 8.6. If you like the feeling of being in a smaller boat, get the 8.1.

      If it were me I would go with the 8.6 so I could carry some spare gear, a rescue kit, and make the rapids a bit easier…


  15. domen

    My weight is 92kg(202lbs) at 186 cm (6.1).
    Which size is fit for me?
    please let me know.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      You want the 8.6 for sure.

  16. Coyote

    Hi, I’m looking at the Mamba 8.5. I’m 5’10” ~175lbs and 10.5 shoe size. Not sure if the boat is too big or I’m at the minimum weight area.

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      Hi –
      Yes, you could paddle either size (8.1 or 8.6). In regards to actual “fit”, you’d fit just fine in either boat. You would have more area in the knees in the 8.6, but would end up adjusting the outfitting to fit like a glove in each one.
      I would determine the size boat that you end up getting by your paddling style. IF you are going to paddle more big water, class IV or V, or steep stuff, get the 8.6 for sure. It will take care of you better, be more stable, have more volume to get you out of tough pour overs, holes, boofs, etc…If you are ever going to do a self support trip, go for the 8.6 – there is more room in the back.
      If you are used to free running and play boats, and like the feel of a boat that is more maneuverable, get the 8.1.

      What sort of paddling will you be doing?

      1. Coyote

        I’m fairly new and will be shooting for Class I-III in 2015. I’m in DC area and have a lot of variety on the Potomac and other local rivers. Keeping my eye out on downriver boats too.

        1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

          The Mamba is the best learning boat out there. It is a great boat because it is super easy to learn in, but when you get good, it will carry you though intermediate and advanced paddling. That is why it is so popular. Have you seen this review? It is more recent:
          Overall, I would go with the 8.6. When the Potomac is big, and has a lot of water in it, you will learn quicker. Eddy turns will be easier because you are sitting higher out of the water. Wave trains will not feel as big because the boat is more stable. It is still just as easy to roll, and is not that much more volume in front of you, a lot of the volume is in the tail – that is a nice thing when you go into a hole without a lot of speed – it will carry you through it.

          Also check out the Jackson Karma – it is a great boat to learn in, and keep for a long time.

          1. Coyote

            Awesome thanks! Glad I came across this site/community.

  17. Rabies

    At 160 lb (winter sloth weight) I’m right on the line between the 7.6 and the 8.1…in theory I imagine going for the bigger boat would be best, but I’m only 5 feet tall and I have short arms and legs which means stuffing a ton of foam in the front and a harder time reaching up and around the wider boat. Lost my roll for awhile after switching to my current boat, a Mini Mystic (Bliss Stick) and have a love/hate relationship with it. I paddle on Class III to III+, creeky bony stuff and big water, I love it all!

    1. bobby@coloradokayak.com

      Hey there – Have you seen the outfitting for the Mamba’s? They have a foam pad that comes with the boat, and you can insert it underneath the seat – it will get you higher out of the boat. I am not sure if it will be enough to get a really good extension on your roll, but would certainly help. Another thing that the Mamba has going for it (as opposed to the Bliss Stick) is that it is super easy to roll in general. It is much more rounded, and is easier to get over. There are no boxy edges to catch….

      I think that for III and III+ you could be OK in the 7.6, but could come to appreciate the volume of the 8.1 in bigger water…

      Let us know what you end up ordering, and what you think of it!


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