DAGGER KATANA REVIEW FROM THE GRAND CANYON (SELF SUPPORT)
By John Nestler
The popularity of self-support trips on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado has increased exponentially over the years, and boat manufacturers are taking note of this. The wide range of crossover boats available allows the novice paddler to have a fast, stable boat for flat-water paddling, and more experienced paddlers to have a boat with enough storage space to spend weeks at a time on remote rivers.
Doing a 27-day solo Grand Canyon trip requires quite a bit of gear, and I knew I would need a behemoth of a boat to fit all the camping supplies, food, and filming gear. Additionally, I wanted the space to be easily accessible so I could spend more time exploring and less time fiddling with dry bags in the dark recesses of the stern. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when Dagger announced their release of the Katana 10.4 crossover kayak. A design based on the whitewater roots of legends such as the Green Boat and Mamba, but with the convenience of features such as a skeg, sealed hatch compartment, and removable center column made the 104-gallon Katana 10.4 a sure choice for my trip.
Due to both time constraints and a general trust of Dagger’s designs, I took my first paddle strokes in the boat while launching at Lee’s Ferry, AZ. The canyon would be a testing ground for the next 27 days, and I certainly put the boat through its paces.
- Dagger makes it easy to use every inch of space in the boat. A plastic removable center column can be unscrewed and removed to provide space, or keep it to provide additional structural support on harder runs.
- The foot plate is easily removed, and you won’t loose the bolts as they are attached to the kayak with rubber leashes.
- Hatch is dry. I repeat, it’s dry. This seems to be the Achilles-heel of crossover boats. I talked to boaters paddling other crossovers on the river, and most commented that their hatches were pretty dry, but not completely dry. Aside from plugging the Crystal hole the hatch on the Katana stayed on and was bone dry. Keep the important food in drybags, but having that compartment stay dry is oh-so-nice!
- There’s a ton of room in the hatch compartment. Dagger did a good job distributing volume so that one can fit a ton of gear in the stern and bow. This results in a longer boat with a little extra width, but that only translates to better stability on the water.
- The skeg was essential to keep straight on the Grand, and the spring release mechanism worked perfectly. Drop the skeg at the bottom of the rapid, and speed your way through the boils to camp.
- I’d creek Class V in the Katana. Unloaded the boat skips across the water, and I felt confident having the extra volume to keep the boat on top of the water on my Lava laps. Obviously the hatch, skeg, and lack of bomber grab-handles are a liability, but the hull design isn’t limited to just Class III.
- Dagger’s Contour Ergo outfitting is durable, and the leg lifter provides unparalleled control of the boat.
What Could Use Improvement
- It was a bit of a struggle to get the foot plate in and out. I ended up bending the metal supports a bit, but they held up just fine for the trip.
- I removed the center pillar to allow a drybag between my legs. I didn’t check initially, but removing the pillar exposes a screw that protrudes down 2” or so from the top deck. This screw ended up ripping my drybag, so I quickly capped it and taped it to prevent any more punctures. Be aware of this.
The Katana 10.4 paddles like a big creek boat with speed. Unloaded it will fly across the water with a stroke, and loaded down it will lumber down a rapid. A slight planing hull allows for effortless surfing and gentle carves, while the hull profile allows for strong primary stability and bomber secondary stability. There were a couple instances where I rode a brace through a rapid, fully expecting to flip, but stayed high and dry. Obviously the amount of weight in the boat will greatly affect handling, but I had no issues running the Class IV big water in the Grand Canyon even with 16 days of food and gear for a winter solo trip. I even brought six extra books, and a good amount of clothing that I didn’t use, so one could easily pack this boat for a 21 or 28 day trip by being smart with gear choices and utilizing all the space in the boat.
Crossover boats began hitting the market more than 5 years ago, and Dagger took its time responding to the demand, but the observation time definitely paid off. By combining the best aspects of their whitewater line-up with the tested features of a crossover boat, the Katana opens up new possibilities for extended self-supports in style.