Class: Transition/Light Touring
Material: Polyethylene plastic
Weight: 54 lbs
Max Capacity: 300 lbs. / 136 kg
MSRP: $1199 USD
“Performance and versatility from lakes to slow moving inland rivers, rock gardens or surf zones, the Alchemy is the adventurer’s choice. Get added control and durability on your trip from the redesigned TruTrak Skeg System.”
When I first began doing research on the Dagger Alchemy series I was impressed by the two available variations: the Alchemy 14.0L (high-medium volume) and the Alchemy 14.0S (low volume). My previous experiences with kayaking had always led me to low volume boats. My smaller frame and lower weight range (145-150lbs) always set me up to fit in the LV class. When I first came across the two Alchemies I assumed, for obvious reasons, I would fit perfectly in the S version. This assumption did not prove true for the Dagger Alchemy.
To avoid writing on a tangent about my first impressions with the Alchemy 14.0S, I will just preface this review by noting that the 14.0S is designed ideally to fit a paddler in the 90-120lb range, thus, my personal experiences with the S version were not as expected.
Now for the review the of Alchemy 14.0L…
At first glance, the outfitting on the Dagger Alchemy is very impressive. From the mounded compass deck inlay to the whitewater-like seating, one can undoubtedly see both the touring and whitewater inspirations in the Alchemy design.
A front and rear bulkhead and hatch along with a small day hatch provide the Alchemy with plenty of storage for a day trip or weekender. Keeping in mind that I was demonstrating a new (non-broken in) kayak, I felt that the hatches were very stubborn and proved to be very challenging to remove and attach. Using the same hatch design found on most Perception kayaks, the Dagger hatches are proprietary to Confluence and lack the advantageous features commonly found on KajakSport and VCP hatches.
The drop-skeg controls are located out of the way from the paddle stroke reach, slightly behind the paddler, but in an area that is still easy to access.
The cockpit outfitting and seating is one of the best features of the Alchemy. Reminiscent of Dagger’s whitewater fleet, the Alchemy is outfitted with its signature Zone Outfitting seating which provides paddlers with a snug, comfortable fit. The cockpit provides ample room for moving your legs if needed, but allows the paddler to hold a tight diamond position during braces or lean turns.
The Alchemy is constructed of a single-layer polyethylene plastic which tends to be a little heavier than its competitors such as the Manitou 14. While on the heavier side at 54lbs, the Alchemy is very stiff and is structurally sound.
At 14 feet in length, the Dagger Alchemy combines maneuverability with the ability to track straight when needed. It doesn’t take much to turn the Alchemy on edge and bring it in your desired direction. Unlike many transitional kayaks in this class where maneuverability is compromised for tracking, the Alchemy matched both playfulness and touring capabilities very well.
The primary stability is sound and will provide even the newest of paddlers some unknown confidence on the water. Due to my lack of a spray skirt, I didn’t have the opportunity to truly test the Alchemy’s capability to take a hard lean. Although, I did find that the secondary stability locked in well during a slight to moderate lean. The Alchemy is stabile enough for a beginner paddler to feel comfortable but playful enough for an advanced paddler to test its limits.
The Alchemy is best suited in light touring environments such as inland ponds, lakes, and rivers. In addition, the Alchemy would handle comfortably in coastal ocean zones such as harbors, estuaries, rock gardens, or light surf. Due to its adaptive stability and versatility, the Alchemy would make a great skill-building kayak for a paddler looking to transition from recreational to touring environments.
The Alchemy 14.0L is best suited for medium to larger build paddlers in the 125-220lb range. For smaller paddlers in the 90-120lb range, I would suggest looking into the Alchemy 14.0S.
Pros: Great balance between tracking and maneuverability, solid primary and secondary stability, combines both whitewater and touring features, three watertight bulkheads, stiff and rigid construction
Cons: Stiff hatch covers, heavier than others in length class
See Also: Dagger Alchemy 14.0S Review
Boreal Alvik’s Take:
Alex hit the nail on the head with his review. Both Alex and I paddled the Alchemy on the same afternoon and the conditions were quiet flat with winds around 5 to 7 mph. One of the features I liked best was the somewhat peaked deck that would shed a 1 foot chop fairly well given its slightly raised bow profile. On a choppy and windy day, I envision the combination of the nicely recessed compass fitting and the pronounced front hatch transforming any water coming down the deck into a “refreshing “spray for the paddler I also found that it accelerated easily and once up to a comfortable cruising speed it responded well to a bow and stern rudder with a little edging. Overall, a nice transitional kayak that encourages a motivated novice to develop their skill set. At 5’6” and 160lbs, the 140L fit me well with the thigh braces being nicely positioned to afford a comfortable fit.