The Mamba from Dagger has been around since 2005 and has become a firm favourite with paddlers at all levels. Over the last couple of years Dagger’s designers and test paddlers have been working on making the Mamba even better, the result has been some major design changes that have brought the Mamba bang up to date. In many senses the 2013 Mamba is a completely new boat.
Old Mamba or new Mamba? It’s pretty easy to tell the two apart. The new Mamba has a bow security bar that runs across the front deck and an additional security bar has been added just in front of the cockpit and the drain plug is now positioned in the centre of the stern. The design change occurred in 2012 with those kayaks supplied with the older Dagger outfitting system.
For 2013 the Mamba comes equipped with Daggers new Contour Ergo outfitting. This is similar in design to Wavesport Core outfitting system. Mambas are available with two different specifications of Contour Ergo outfitting – River and Creek. The River ergo system equipped kayaks come supplied with the Contour Ergo play seat and the Creek spec comes supplied with the Contour Ergo Creeker seat. Both systems are extremely similar with the main difference being that the creeker system includes a plastic step out pillar and additional storage trays (with bungee cord) to the front of the seat.
The new outfitting is designed around ease of use and adjustment. For example the front edge of the seat can be raised or lowered through the use of the same kind of ratchet system that we are all familiar with on kayak backrests. The hip pads come supplied with a range of shims that can be added/removed to provide the optimum fit.
A couple of quick release buckles allow easy access to the back of the pads to add/remove the shims. The backrest provides a broad support base and adjusted via two ratchets positioned near the front of the cockpit.
All Mambas are supplied with a fully adjustable full plate footrest system that incorporates a system that allows the plate to expand thus eliminating gaps between the footrest and kayak shell thereby reducing the changes of foot entrapment. The bolts that hold the footrest rails in place have a leash system that prevents the bolts from being dropped within the boat and potentially lost.
Plenty of storage and clip in points are provided both in front of and behind the seat. The throw bag storage position is flat just in front of the seat and can be secured in place using the strap system. The system seems nice and secure. In this position the throw bag is very easy to access whilst you are sat in the boat. The whole outfitting system is simply superb. It probably took me around 10-15 minutes to get the Mamba set up for my style of paddling.
For 2013 a number of new colour options are available for the Mamba and other kayaks within the Dagger range. Other changes are much harder to spot on first inspection.
Overall the new kayaks in the Mamba series are bigger in both length and volume. Volume has been added in a couple of key areas that pushes the Mamba firmly into the world of a capable planning hull creeker as well as still being a versatile river-runner. More volume is located in the knee area to increase comfort levels and change the paddling positioning. Additional volume has also been added to the stern which means that the Mamba sits a little higher in the water than its predecessor. This in itself adds greater levels of stability and with a smooth transition from hull to side to deck results in a kayak that is very forgiving and stable whilst side surfing or trapped in a sticky hydraulic. The edges of the Mamba are quite pronounced at the bow and run to just under the seat before tapering out towards the stern. This again aids the stability of the boat. After paddling a new and old Mamba back to back I could instantly feel the difference between the two.
On the water the Mamba is quick and easy to turn. I felt that the kayak was very predictable, and stable. Yet just a little knee lift to get the boat on edge resulted in some nice snappy turns. The speed of the Mamba is pretty good due its planning hull and it certainly holds its own against the likes of the Liquid Logic Stomper and Wavesport Recon. I found it very easy to punch through stoppers, break through larger sea waves/surf and boof. The Mamba resurfaces very well and the deck sheds water incredibly effectively.
I spent a bit of time playing with the position of the seat that is adjusted by loosening off a few bolts. Even the smallest adjustment makes quite a big difference to the way in which the boat paddled. I positioned the seat just forward of centre. I would recommend any new Dagger Mamba owner to do the same to dial the boat in to their own paddling style.
The Mamba is available in three different sizes 7.6, 8.1, and 8.6 so there are lots of options, which should allow most paddlers to find a Mamba that is ideal for them.
Overall I would say that the new Mamba is an extremely versatile kayak. It will appeal to beginners and more advanced paddlers alike.