Best Sit on Top Kayak

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and enjoy the fresh air! There are several types of kayaks on the market, but sit-on-top kayaks are one of the most popular categories as they are super stable and easy to use.

As the name depicts, sit-on-top kayaks have a large, open cockpit with a seat that the kayaker simply sits on, making them easy to enter and exit and use on the water.


Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and enjoy the fresh air! 

Things to Consider When Choosing a Sit-on-Top Kayak

So you’ve decided to take to the water in a kayak, but the array of models on the market is daunting! Sit-on-top kayaks are ideal for beginners but how do you choose a sit-on-top kayak that is suitable for your needs? 

There are several factors to consider when shopping for a sit-on-top kayak such as stability, length and width (a size that caters to your height and weight), portability, and whether or not it will suit your needs.

Let’s take a look at the factors to consider when selecting a sit-on-top kayak. These include:

  •         Activity
  •         Stability
  •         Capacity
  •         Length
  •         Width
  •         Portability

Activity

The most important factor to consider when purchasing a new sit-on-top kayak is what activity you plan on using it for – is it for fishing, surfing, white-water rapid riding, or simply recreational kayaking?

As you will see as you progress through this article there are specific kayaks that are designed for specific activities.

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed for specific activities and are available in a variety of hull designs. The hull design will depend on what activity you plan to use the kayak for. For example, a kayak designed for white-water rapidly will have a different hull design to that of a recreational-use only kayak.


Sit-on-top kayaks are designed for specific activities and are available in a variety of hull designs. 

Stability

The stability of a sit-on-top kayak is very important for beginner kayakers and it’s essential to get a kayak that you can learn and develop your stability skills on. It’s a good idea to get a sit-on-top kayak that you can “grow” into.

Capacity

Capacity refers to the weight that the kayak is designed to take and it’s important to consider the capacity of your kayak of choice – make sure that the kayak you buy is capable of handling your weight, as well as any additional weight of any gear you have. The same will work for tandem sit-on-top kayaks, which are designed to take two people.


Capacity refers to the weight that the kayak is designed to take. 

Length

Kayaks that are narrow and long are generally faster than shorter and wider kayaks which will be more stable and slower. A short sit-on-top kayak will have good stability and will be easy to paddle and maneuver, while a long kayak will glide further after each paddle stroke, move faster, and track straighter.

Width

The width of a kayak plays a role in the stability of the boat and a wider sit-on-top kayak will be more stable than a narrow one. While a narrow sit-on-top kayak will be easier to paddle and maneuver, a wider kayak is a better choice for taller people as it offers more stability and space for the legs.


The width of a kayak plays a role in the stability of the boat.

Portability

Portability is an important factor if you plan on carrying your kayak to good fishing or surfing spots. The easiest and lightest sit-on-top kayaks to carry would be those that are inflatable.

Which Type of Sit-On-Top Kayaks Do You Need?

As we mentioned before, sit-on-top kayaks have specific hull designs according to the activity they are designed for or the environments they will be used in. There are sit-on-top kayaks for a range of activities and environments, including:

  •         Recreational boating
  •         Kayak fishing
  •         Kayak surfing
  •         Ocean touring
  •         Whitewater rapid riding

Let’s take a look at the different types of kayaks that are best suited to the above-mentioned activities.

Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Designed to be used in calm water, recreational sit-on-top kayaks have flat bottoms and are very stable. These are a good choice for beginner kayakers as they are usually wide and stable and have very little rock.

Fishing Sit-On-Top Kayaks

A sit-on-top fishing kayak is designed for fishing on calm waters. These kayaks have flat bottoms that make them very stable, and an elevated swivel seat similar to those found on bass boats. The outstanding stability of these sit-on-top fishing kayaks allows for good casting and stand-up fishing and many have extra features like rod holders and additional space for catch and equipment.

Surfing Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Surfing sit-on-top kayaks are specifically designed for surfing waves in the ocean and are generally short in length with rounded hulls to handle rough water. These kayaks tend to rock a lot so would not be suitable for a beginner kayaker. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.

Ocean Touring Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Ocean touring sit-on-top kayaks are designed to cover long distances in the ocean. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.

Whitewater Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Whitewater sit-on-top kayaks are specifically designed for surfing waves in the ocean and are generally short in length with rounded hulls to handle rough water. These kayaks tend to rock a lot so would not be suitable for a beginner kayaker. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.

Best Sit-on-Top Kayak

We tried and tested a wide range of sit-on-top kayaks and came up with a list of the best sit-on-top kayaks.  

Best for Beginners: Sun Dolphin Bali 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Sun Dolphin Bali 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is a recreational sit-on-top kayak that is comfortable, lightweight, and spacious. Made from fortiflex polyethylene, the single-person kayak weighs just 44 pounds and has a weight capacity of 395 pounds with a large, spacious seating area with an adjustable padded seat and adjustable foot paddles.

Designed for small bodies of water like lakes and rivers, this is a great choice for beginner kayakers as it is very stable and has carry handles making it easy to carry and travel with. It has an open tank for extra storage.  

Pros

  •         Great for beginners
  •         Wide and stable
  •         Large, spacious seating area
  •         Adjustable padded seat
  •         Adjustable foot braces
  •         Easy to carry

Cons

  •         Unreliable tracking and challenging to navigate in harsh conditions

Best for Lake Fishing: Pelican Sentinel 9’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Pelican Sentinel 9’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak is a great kayak for cruising around lakes and rivers and fishing. Made from RAM-X with a UV finish, the kayak has a multi-chine flat-bottom hull that provides excellent stability that is ideal for casting lines and reeling in fish. Measuring nine-foot, five inches, and weighing only 44 pounds, the Pelican Sentinel is lightweight and very easy to transport with convenient handles.

The Pelican Sentinel 9’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak has a large comfortable seating area with a floor mat that provides a good grip. It has a removable storage compartment that can fit into the tank for additional storage space and a secure bungee system in the storage area. The kayak has a weight capacity of 275 pounds for one person.

Pros

  •         Good for fishing
  •         Wide and stable
  •         Floor mat for extra grip
  •         Removable storage compartment
  •         Secure bungee system in the storage area

 

Cons

  •         Does not come with a paddle

Best for Ocean Fishing: Lifetime Triton 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Lifetime Triton 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is designed for ocean fishing and outstanding balance, maneuverability, and stability. Made from high-density polyethylene and weighing 48 pounds, the Lifetime Triton kayak boasts an integrated skeg that allows for easy maneuvering and tracking.

The Triton has a weight capacity of 275 pounds and has toggle handles on the bow and stern that make it easy to carry and transport. It is outfitted with several features including bungee storage straps, a comfortable adjustable seat pad with a quick-release seatback, molded footrests, and a bottle holder.

Pros

  •         Excellent balance, stability, and performance
  •         Integrated skeg for easy maneuvering and tracking
  •         Toggle handles for easy carrying
  •         Bungee storage straps
  •         Comfortable adjustable seat pad with quick-release seatback
  •         Bottle holder

Cons

  •         Limited storage compared to other kayaks

Best for Family: Emotion Spitfire 9’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Emotion Spitfire 9’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is one of the best sit-on-top flatwater kayaks for the whole family. Made from blow-molded polyethylene, the Emotion Spitfire 9 is very stable and secure and perfect for beginner kayakers. It has a defined keel and a slight rocker that helps with maneuverability and tracking and a large, spacious seating area with a padded Ultralite seat.

The Emotion Spitfire 9’ Sit-On-Top Kayak has ample storage space in both the nose and tail of the kayak, as well as a storage hatch below the seat. Additional features of this fantastic sit-on-top kayak include side carry handles, molded paddle keepers, molded footwells, and secure bracing. The Emotion Spitfire 9’ Sit-On-Top Kayak weighs 45 pounds and has a weight capacity of 350 pounds.

Pros

  •         Great family kayak
  •         Stable and secure
  •         Spacious seating with padded seat
  •         Ample storage space
  •         Molded footwells with bracing
  •         Side carry handles – easy for transport

Cons

  •         Tracking is limited

Best for Beginner and Intermediate Kayakers: Perception Tribe 11’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Perception Tribe 11’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak is an extremely versatile recreational sit-on-top kayak that is a good choice for beginner and intermediate kayakers. Weighing 52 pounds, it is slightly heavier than other models, making it more stable in all kinds of water.

It has several features including an adjustable framed seat back with comfortable padded seats, integrated and adjustable footrests, bungee system, nose, and tail handles, and front and back toggles for easy carrying.

There is ample storage in both the front and rear of the kayak, a center storage hatch for small accessories, and a built-in drink holder. Made from polyethylene, the Perception Tribe 11’5” Sit-On-Top Kayak has a capacity of 350 pounds.

Pros

  •         Excellent maneuverability and tracking
  •         Adjustable padded seats
  •         Ample storage space
  •         Toggles for easy transport
  •         Built-in drinks holder

 

Cons

  •         Heavy
  •         Doesn’t come with plugs

Best for Traveling: Lifetime Lotus 8’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Lifetime Lotus 8’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is a super lightweight kayak and ideal for travelers. Boasting a uniquely dynamic shape, this kayak is fast and maneuverable and has a weight capacity of just 250 pounds so is more suitable for lighter and small kayakers.

Made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the Lifetime Lotus features a spacious rear bungee storage area, a dry storage area below the seat, integrated paddle holders behind the seat, and at the nose, molded footrests, and toggles. It also comes with a five-year warranty.

Pros

  •         Super lightweight – great for traveling
  •         Stable, supportive, and comfortable
  •         Fast and maneuverable
  •         Dry storage area below the seat
  •         Five-year warranty

Cons

  •         Very low maximum weight capacity
  •         No handles for carrying

Best for Wave-Riding: Brooklyn Kayak Co. FK184 9’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Brooklyn Kayak Co.’s FK184 Sit-On-Top Kayak is a robust and highly maneuverable sit-on-top kayak with an ergonomically designed hull that is ideal for riding waves in rivers or the ocean. Made from high-density polyethylene and weighing 44 pounds, the Brooklyn Kayak Co.’s FK184 Sit-On-Top Kayak is very buoyant and stable with a weight capacity of 330 pounds for a single person.

Other top features of the kayak include a comfortable seating area with a premium memory foam seat, paddle parks with bungee cords, two watertight storage units, an adjustable aluminum paddle, and several flush-mount rod holders for fishing. A large cargo area can take additional gear for multiple-day adventures.

Pros

  •         Ergonomically-designed hull
  •         Outstanding overall performance
  •         Waterproof storage hatch units
  •         Flush-mount rod holders
  •         Adjustable aluminum paddle

Cons

  •         Footrests are very close to the seat

Best for Experienced Kayakers: Lifetime Tioga 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Lifetime Tioga 10’ Sit-On-Top Kayak Lifetime Tioga is a popular sit-on-top kayak for experienced kayakers that offers exceptional performance and maneuverability, as well as a high level of comfort and stability.

The Lifetime Tioga features molded footrests, toggles, and deep hull channels for good tracking performance. It has different areas for storing equipment and a waterproof storage hatch for valuable items. 

Pros

  •         Ergonomically-designed hull
  •         Outstanding overall performance
  •         Waterproof storage hatch units
  •         Flush-mount rod holders
  •         Adjustable aluminum paddle

Cons

  •         Low capacity limit

Best for Combination of Kayak and SUP: Perception Hi Life 11’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

Perception Hi Life 11’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is built for fun! Part sit-on-top kayak and part stand-up paddleboard, the hybrid Perception Hi Life is made from polyethylene and has a sleek and stylish design that is best used on cam, flat, and slow-moving water.

The kayak/SUP has a supportive foam deck which makes it very comfortable to use and front and rear swim decks with low sides for easy access from the water. It has a supportive elevated padded seat with a folding backrest and a weight capacity of 280 pounds.

Another great feature is a built-in cooler under the main seat for drinks or snacks and a convenient drinks holder to prevent spillage. Weighing in at 55 pounds, it is fairly heavy to carry and transport but stores well.  

Pros

  •         Hybrid kayak and SUP
  •         Built-in cooler for drinks and snacks
  •         Good storage
  •         A back platform for easy access from the water

Cons

  •         Paddle sold separately
  •         Not the most stable kayak
  •         Doesn’t handle waves well
  •         Moderate tracking
  •         Heavy

Best for Portability: Wilderness Systems Ripper 8’ Sit-On-Top Kayak

Made from polyethylene, the Wilderness Systems Ripper 8’ Sit-On-Top Kayak is one of the lightest and easiest sit-on-top kayaks to carry around. This lightweight sit-on-top kayak is designed for recreational use and is suitable for all skill levels.

The Wilderness Systems Ripper weighs just 39 pounds and has a weight capacity of 225 pounds for a single person. It has a molded-in design with a comfortable seating area with plenty of space for the legs, ample dry storage, handles for carrying, and toggles.

Pros

  •         Lightweight and easy to carry
  •         Molded-in design
  •         Ample dry storage

Cons

  •         Average buoyancy
  •         Plugs sold separately

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the differences between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks?

A: The most obvious difference between these two types of kayaks is that you sit on top of one and you sit in the other. There are, however, other differences between these two types of kayaks.

Sit-on-Top Kayak Sit-In Kayak
Skill level Sit-on-top kayaks are better for beginners because they are very stable and easy to handle. Sit-In kayaks are better for more experienced kayakers as if the kayak capsizes, it takes some skill to upright again.
Getting wet You will most likely get wet on a sit-on-top kayak because they are not enclosed. Sit-on-top kayaks have to scupper holes to drain the vessel. Sit-In kayaks do not have scupper holes, but the design of these vessels is such that they do not take on the water unless they capsize.
Storage Sit-on-top kayaks have open storage areas with bungee cord systems so waterproof bags are needed for storing gear. Some models have built-in storage compartments beneath the seating area. Sit-In kayaks have waterproof storage within the kayak that is accessed via a hatch at the front or rear.
Balance and stability Sit-on-top kayaks have good balance and stability and are suitable for beginner kayakers. Sit-In kayaks have less balance and stability than sit-on-top kayaks so they are a better option for experienced kayakers.
Structure Sit-on-top kayaks are generally molded from a variety of materials such as polyethylene with areas for seating, thighs, and feet, as well as storage. Sit-In kayaks are designed for the kayaker to sit within the vessel with their legs and gear covered.
Entry and exit Sit-on-top kayaks are very easy to enter and exit from both the beach and dock or water. Sit-In kayaks are easy to enter and exit at the dock or the beach, however, more challenging when the vessel capsizes in the water.

 

Q: What are the different kinds of materials that are used to make sit-on-top kayaks?

A:

  •         Polyethylene
  •         Composite
  •         Wood
  •         Thermoform or ABS plastic

 

Polyethylene

Polyethylene is the most popular material used for making sit-on-top kayaks, which are also known as rotomolded boats due to their manufacturing process. Polyethylene kayaks can also have a rudder or skeg.

Pros Cons
·         Durable

·         Cheap

·         Prone to oil-canning and UV damage

·         Heavier and slower than other kayaks

 

Composite

Kayaks made from composite are preferred by professionals due to their excellent performance and speed. Composite kayaks tend to be lightweight, durable, and fast.  

Pros Cons
·         Lightweight and fast

·         Easy to repair

·         Easy to maneuver

·         More expensive compared to other materials

·         Not as durable as polyethylene

 

Wood

Wood is generally used to make kayaks by craftsmen and can be beautiful in design and style.

Pros Cons
·         Aesthetically pleasing

·         Lightweight and easy to maneuver

·         More expensive compared to other materials

·         Not as durable as polyethylene

 

Thermoform or ABS Plastic

Thermoform or ABS plastic is another type of material used to make sit-on-top kayaks that are impact-resistant and extremely durable.

Pros Cons
·         Very durable

·         Lightweight

·         Affordable

·         Slightly slower than your average composite or fiberglass

·         Can degrade if not properly maintained

 

Q: What are the different kinds of kayaking events that I can enjoy with a sit-on-top kayak?

A:

  •         Surf kayaking
  •         Ocean racing
  •         Sea kayaking
  •         Flatwater recreation
  •         Freestyle
  •         Slalom
  •         Sprint racing
  •         Sailing
  •         Marathon racing
  •         Wildwater

Q: What are the different parts of a sit-on-top kayak?

A: The cockpit is where you sit down and paddle.

The seat is placed in the cockpit. On a sit-on-top kayak, the seat is higher than in a sit-in kayak.

The cockpit rim is the border around the cockpit.

The deck is the front part of the kayak.

The bow is the front of the kayak.

The stern is the back of the kayak.

The rudder is an optional part of the boat that can help with tracking.

The grab handle sits in front of the bow of the kayak.

The drain plug is used to drain the water from the kayak.

The foot brace is where you place your feet.

The hatch is a storage compartment to keep gear dry.

The bungee shock cords or the deck lines are cords that are on the bow of the kayak.

The hull is the underside of the kayak.

The bulkhead is an optional part of a kayak that keeps the water away from the storage area.

The hip pads give the paddler more movement from side to side and control.

The perimeter lifelines are found in some models that enable someone to grab the kayak from the water in case of emergency.

Q: How does an inflatable sit-on-top kayak compare with a non-inflatable one?

A:

Inflatable Non-inflatable
Stability They can be less stable due to the lack of weight. They are more stable and can be easier to maneuver.
Speed They may be slightly slower than non-inflatable. They are more stable and hence faster.
Maintenance May require major maintenance Minimal maintenance
Portability Very portable as they can be inflated and deflated to carry and travel Not as easy to carry and transport
Seaworthy Some of them may not be sea-worthy due to their material quality and puncture possibility. Solid ones are more seaworthy because of their durable material.
Readiness They need to be inflated before use Quick and easy to use

 

Q: What should I bring when I’m going kayaking?

A:

  •         Comfortable and waterproof outdoor clothing
  •   Wet gear bag for supplies
  •         An extra change of clothes and socks
  •         Windproof or waterproof jacket
  •         Sun protection gear, such as sunglasses, hat, sunblock, and a towel
  •         Water bottle and drinking water
  •         First aid kit
  •         Personal floatation device or any buoyancy vest
  •         Map for you to navigate, or a GPS device

Q: How many calories do I burn on average when kayaking?

A:

125 lbs 283 calories per hour
150 lbs 340 calories per hour
200 lbs 454 calories per hour

 

Q: What is weathercocking?

A: Weathercocking is turning the kayak into the wind.

Q: What are scupper holes on a sit-on-top kayak?

A: Scupper holes are well-spaced holes in the bottom of sit-on-top kayaks for bailing water out of the vessel. These self-bailing holes are designed to allow water that enters the kayak to drain out instead of pooling in the floor of the kayak.