For the past few years, I’ve been drooling over kayaks. I can’t explain why or when the fascination occurred, but one of my priorities every summer for the past few has been trying to figure out which kayak to get eventually. I knew it had to be something light, durable, and able to handle a pretty wide variety of adventures. Ponds? Yep. Lakes? Probably. Long overnight river trips? Uhm, yeah! Some mild whitewater? Heck yes.
Over time the list (which was once well over 30 kayaks long) was shortened to 2: Dagger Zydeco 9.0 and Dagger Zydeco 11.0. Why? Well, Dagger is just one of those brands synonymous with “our products can take a beating”. While other kayaks I had looked at would be have been ideal for ponds and the occasional branch run in at coasting speeds, Dagger screamed river runs, long trips, and learning curve acceleration. In the end, it was a no brainer.
Finally in June, I got my kayak – a stunning lime green Zydeco 9.0. It was love at first sight. So far, we (Rob snagged himself a Zydeco 11.0) have only put about 30 miles on our kayaks but with each outing, the kayaks get better and better.
I don’t know much about the folks who design these kayaks, but I can tell you that they thought of almost (I’ll get to that) everything when designing these water beasts. From material choices to features, design, and style – these kayaks are fantastically well rounded.
Soon after getting our kayaks we took them out to one of the largest lakes in Southern New Hampshire, Lake Massabesic. While most lakes are beautiful and flat, Lake Massabesic is one of those lakes that’s just notoriously windy and wavy. I had been out there before in other kayaks and found myself all too often spinning in miserable circles thanks to the elements, but with my Zydeco – piece of cake. Also happy to say that my Zydeco handled the incredibly large waves of Lake Winnipesaukee really well too!
After coming to terms with the fact that kayaks are made to be used, loved, and sometimes beat up, we decided to join in on a 21 mile overnight Saco River kayaking trip. We’re proud to say that our Zydeco’s held up to everything we threw at them: 20-30lbs of gear (could have fit way more), countless run ins with river debris, and spectacular performance while paddling up river for miles. I even pulled a canoe for a while…
And our favorite excursion of all? Most recently we took our Zydeco’s out for a short trip on the Merrimack River. I’m stoked to say that both Zydeco’s handled some mild whitewater fantastically well. Where other kayaks would have almost certainly spun and/or tipped, the Zydecos cruised right through responding to our every stroke. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to get my hands on a kayak skirt and try something a little harder!
Looking for the details on these kayaks? Here we go…
The Zydeco 9.0 is 9′-1″ long and has a width of 28.5″. While the width may be a little more than I was aiming for initially (I was ideally going for 24″ or less), the extra room has proven fantastic for stability and stretching. Maximum capacity is 220lbs and I can verify that anything over that will definitely make for a rather miserable journey (let’s just say I tried ferrying a cooler and a person on Lake Winnipesaukee – didn’t work). The kayak itself weighs 36.5lbs and is surprisingly easy to maneuver around on dry land as a small female.
The Zydeco 11.0 measures in at 11′-2″ long with a width of 27.75″. Rob has appeared incredibly comfortable in his kayak, so it seems the width and cockpit dimensions are working out nicely for him. Maximum capacity is 325lbs, and we haven’t even come close with this kayak. We did notice though that it’s definitely important to pack your kayak as evenly as possible when on long trips. Don’t put all the heavy stuff in the hatch! The kayak itself weighs in at 48lbs. It’s definitely a bit easier to handle on dry land with someone else, but still doable by yourself.
As for features, we’re loving a lot of things. When it comes to everyday usage, Dagger put a lot of thought into comfort and allowing individuals to customize their kayak to fit. Among those features are the “Comfort Fit Seating” system and the SlideLock foot brace system. Both make any length trip better.
When it comes to travel, Dagger made sure that these kayaks could carry it all. Between the bungee deck rigging, ample room in the bow and stern, and the watertight hatch on the Zydeco 11.0, you’ll have a hard time running out of room.
Anything not to love?
I’m hard on gear and won’t be shy about saying what needs to be improved, but overall I only have 2 very small gripes about the Zydecos.
- There’s a cupholder… under the seat. Why? I’d love to at least see something made to hold a water bottle from sliding all over the place. Perhaps on the back of the seat?
- It is a royal pain to drain the Zydeco 11.0 as there is no drain plug (there’s one of the Zydeco 9.0). It would be all sorts of fantastic to see one on of the 11.0!
Overall, these kayaks are fantastic. If you’re looking for your first kayak or are planning to upgrade – both the Dagger Zydeco 9.0 and the Zydeco 11.0 are sure to promise many adventures. Paddle on!