2016 Dagger Nomad Review

Boats/Boards, Creek Boats, Kayaking, Whitewater Kayaks
Ty Skoe

The Dagger Nomad has long been one of the top creek boats on the market. First introduced in the early 2000’s, the Nomad was revolutionary. From expeditions to big water to creeking to waterfalls, the Nomad could do it and do it well. Over the years, the boat developed a sort of cult following and for good reason. The original Nomad was stable, forgiving, predictable and would boof anything thrown its way. However, after nearly 12 years, Dagger decided that it was time for a change. At this point, the real question was how to improve on such a successful and well regarded design.

Dagger’s answer was the 2016 Nomad, dubbed the “Newmad” by some.

Fred Morrison in the 2016 Dagger Nomad Large. Photo by Nelson Jones

The first major difference in the 2016 Dagger Nomad is the addition of a “Large” model. Previously, the Nomad was available in two sizes, the 8.1 and 8.5. By today’s standards, the larger of the two models, the 8.5, was much smaller than a typical large at a mere 78 gallons. The 2016 Large Nomad comes in at a whopping 96 gallons, perfect for bigger paddlers. The Medium size is 86 gallons, while the new Small model will be 76 gallons, nearly the same volume of the previous generation 8.5.

2016 Nomad M versus the previous generation Nomad 8.5

Though the boats share the same name, there are many other differences in design, as slight as they may be. Immediately noticeable is the difference in rocker profile. The old Nomad had a fairly continuous rocker profile, meaning that the bow and stern had similar amounts of rocker. This helped with boofing, stability, and tracking. The 2016 Nomad has a progressive rocker profile. What this means is that the rocker was increased in the bow and flattened out in the stern. On the water, this means that the boat is easier and carries its speed much better than the previous generation.





It’s easy to see the additional rocker in the Newmad.



Typically, when rocker is increased, speed and tracking suffer. This is not the case with the 2016 Nomad. The rocker is accentuated at the tip of the bow and stern, which keeps the waterline of the 2016 Nomad longer than its predecessor. More rocker, more speed, better tracking. What more could one ask for?


The edge (or lack thereof) is another point of difference between the two boats. The original Nomad had a very round hull, with almost no visible edge. The round hull would bounce off of any rock in a predictable and forgiving manner, however in big water, the boat would tend to get pushed around and struggle to hold a line while ferrying. Not wanting to stray from the predictable, forgiving and stable nature of the original design, the 2016 Nomad remains a full on displacement hull, however, it now has slightly more edge. The boat is much more responsive when it comes to ferrying, eddy catching and carving. In big water, the 2016 Nomad is still a bit of a pig, especially compared to a designated river runner, such as the Dagger Mamba, Dagger Axiom, Jackson Zen, Pyranha Burn or 9R. It struggles to make tough ferries in big, pushy water, but will stay on-line, punch holes, and boof everything, as expected. Though the Nomad is not ideal for big water, I would not hesitate to paddle it on a high volume class V run. The stability and forgiveness the boat offers is hard to beat and is a great confidence booster.

Though it is hard to see, the 2016 Nomad has a much more defined edge, making the Newmad more responsive.


The 2016 Nomad saw an increase in volume across the board, much to the delight of creekboaters everywhere. The increased volume helps power the boat through hydraulics and allows for more storage space for self-support trips. The 2016 Dagger Nomad is a bit narrower than the previous generation, so most of the extra volume lies in the bow and the stern. Some of the extra volume comes from the increased height in front of the cockpit. The new, higher knee position gives paddlers more leverage, making the boat easier to put on edge, therefore more responsive.

The final main difference in the boat is in the outfitting. To save on weight, Dagger removed the seat tray in the 2016 Contour Outfitting. The center pillar in the 2016 Nomad is now anchored into the boat via screws.


  • Boofs amazingly well
  • Stable, predictable, forgiving (what paddlers have come to expect from the Nomad)
  • Faster
  • More responsive
  • Comfortable
  • More grab handles than the previous generation


  • Heavy
  • Easily pushed around in big water

All in all, the 2016 Dagger Nomad is a huge improvement on the previous generation. Without straying from what made the original Nomad great, Dagger was able to improve on a very successful design. The increase in volume and length give creek boaters the speed and capacity needed for paddling of all types, while the tweaks to the rocker and edge of the boat made it more responsive than ever. I have been paddling the boat for a few weeks now and have been nothing but impressed. Oh Be Joyful season is just around the corner and I can’t wait to get this boat on it.

Entering Tunnel Falls on Gore Canyon in the 2016 Nomad Medium. Photo by Nelson Jones



13 thoughts on “2016 Dagger Nomad Review

  1. Jay

    Great review thanks — can you comment on the sizing of the 8.5 vs the 8.6? I know the 8.6 has more volume, but that’s a somewhat meaningless stat in some ways given the distribution — so does the 8.6 actually paddle “bigger” and have capacity for a bigger paddler than the 8.5? I’m 185 lbs and tried the large — it was simply too big for me. Paddled the 8.5 for years and always wished for a “bit” more of a bigger feel. Thanks!

    1. Ty Skoe

      Jay, I upgraded to the 2016 Nomad from a 2015 Nomad 8.5. Upon first sitting in the 2016, it felt huge. However, after outfitting it, it felt perfect for me at 5’11”, 155 lbs. After paddling it, it seems to paddle smaller than it is. For an 86 gallon boat, it is surprisingly responsive and quick. You are right in between sizes and I can’t recommend a demo enough. I know people who are around 170 paddling the Large, so it really comes down to personal preference. I think that throwing the extra foam seat pad that is included in the outfitting kit works wonders if the boat feels small.

  2. Luc Lafreniere

    Great review. Thank you. Have you spoken to Dagger about production of this boat? I pre-ordred mine in early March through a local retailer. It was suppose to arrive mid April… then I was told that Dagger had manufacturing delays. It’s now almost mid May, still no boat. I’m intrigued as to whether there are issues or not? I’ve very anxious to get my boat!

    1. Ty Skoe

      Luc, we received our first shipment of Large Nomads in January, the Mediums in March, and the Smalls just last week. Dagger has been backed up on production of this boat due to the high demands from what I understand. With that said, it is surprising to hear that your retailer does not have them in stock. We have had plenty in-stock since the boat was officially released. Dagger has done a great job getting boats to retailers to sell to customers.

  3. Emory Meeks

    Great review Ty … good, practical detail with a really good comparison of old vs. new. I’ll have to consider the Newmad Lg when I get around to considering a creek boat.

    1. Ty Skoe

      Thanks Emory! I have been very happy with the boat so far. The new model is much improved!

  4. andrew

    any comments on ideal seat position? rear of center like the old nomad?

    1. Ty Skoe

      Andrew, I think it depends on the paddler in all honesty. Seeing as though I am fairly small in the Medium, I have my seat just a notch forward from center. I think the best way to find out is to play around with it a bit.

  5. Matt

    At 210-215 lbs, 5’11” and fit. Which size would you recommend for the new nomad? I’m thinking the large? I’ve been using an 8.5 for the past 6 years but they are discontinued. Any advice is appreciated.

  6. Matt

    At 210 lbs 5’11” and fit. Which size would you recommend for the new nomad? I’m thinking the large? I’ve been using an 8.5 for the past 6 years but they are discontinued. Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Ty Skoe

      I think at your size, the Large would be preferable. At 96 gallons, it is a lot bigger than the 8.5 was, but I think it will float your weight much better than the Medium would.

  7. Matt

    Cool. Thanks! I’ve been on the fence about this one. I’m sure the extra volume will be better on the hard stuff, I’ve just never paddled a boat that long on tight creeks.

  8. Tom P

    I demoed the medium size of the Nomad on the White Salmon in Washington for a day. I think that venue is appropriate for its intended purpose and I was very impressed. I am 6 foot 180 lbs. Occasionally it would get swatted out of alignment if I wasn’t paying attention but all it takes with that boat is half a stroke to correct it then the rest of the stroke to put power to the new direction. Amazingly for a displacement hull it surfed ok nothing like hip carving a planing hull on a fast wave but for typical junk waves at least I could keep it on them unlike the Nirvana I tested out the day before which in theory should have been a better surfer. It is not uncommon for new improved kayaks to actually end up being worse even with minor tweaks, not this one, at least the medium one anyway. I was very comfortable and confident in this boat and like the best sports gear when they nail it it feels like an extension of your body.

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