There’s been a surge in the popularity of sit-on-top kayaks in the last few years. This isn’t surprising since, of all kayak types, sit-on-tops are the most accessible and so are a great option for those who are elderly or have other physical limitations.
The fact they’re easy to embark and disembark also makes them a convenient choice for your average kayaker.
Since you’re interested in sit-on-top kayaks, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve gathered eight of our favorite examples of these products. Each one has been described below, namely their specs and why we think they’re good for purchasing.
We’ve also included some info on sit-on-top kayaks so you can learn more about them, allowing you to identify better kayaks for yourself when searching the market.
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The first kayak we have for your consideration is Ocean Kayak’s Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational model. It’s a popular kayak, so you may well have heard of it if you’re active in kayaking scenes. The Frenzy is at our number one spot because it’s great as an all-rounder kayak. It’s very stable, making it a good choice for beginners, and features Ocean Kayak’s Tri Form hull that enables it to track well.
It weighs just forty-three pounds and measures in at nine-foot, so it’s certainly not the heaviest kayak you’ll find out there, which is great if you plan on carrying it around a lot. You’ll find handles on both sides of the kayak, at both bow and stern, that’ll help you in lifting it. Whilst it may weigh under fifty pounds, it’s capable of supporting two hundred and seventy-five to three hundred and twenty-five pounds when out on the water.
The interior, insofar as there is an interior, comes with a removable padded seat that has back supports to keep you upright but comfortable. This Comfort Plus seat is also four-way adjustable, making it ideal for kayakers of various sizes during long paddle sessions. There are also two strapped sections at the front and the rear to store your gear, though this model lacks a dry storage space built into the kayak itself, so bring valuable electronics onto this kayak at their own risk.
Next, we have the Pescador 10.0 Kayak from Perception Kayaks, an option we’d suggest for those who plan to tackle smaller rivers and lakes. These models track well thanks to their shapely, buoyant molds, and are stable when used under moderate conditions, making them a perfect choice for hobbyists.
Weighing in at just under sixty pounds, these kayaks support a maximum capacity of three hundred and twenty-five pounds. Made in the USA, the body is just one piece, making it more durable and consistently weighted, and it's leak-proofed too. It even has built-in buoyancy properties so that the kayak remains nimble out on the water. The shell design has been made with moving it in mind, with a skid plate for dragging this kayak around without causing any damage to it.
There are loads of storage options, from a latched lid front hatch to a large rear tank well, as well as straps to store paddles. There are even drink holders built into the body of the kayak, perfect for fishing or other leisurely activities where you may find yourself with a drink in your hand.
The seating system is comfort-oriented, featuring thick padding to add to that comfort whilst also being ventilated, so you shouldn’t get too stuffy from that extra padding that’s there. This means these ergonomic seats can keep you comfortable for prolonged periods of time. They also recline both forward and backward, so you can adjust to fit your height, or simply depending on how active/lazy you’re feeling.
Our third kayak we’d like to recommend is one for those of you who are operating on a budget. Don’t let the fact it’s a bargain kayak deter you yet though, it still has enough quality to make it this high on the list. We’re talking about the eMotion Spitfire Sit-On-Top Kayak, the only inflatable kayak on this list.
That means it comes with a whole host of differences to some of the other options on this list, but we’ll try to keep it simple and brief. Firstly, it’s a lighter boat at just forty-five pounds. Secondly, the stability and tracking of these kayak models isn’t the best, since it’s not often an inflatable can go toe to toe with a shell-body kayak where tracking is concerned. That’s why, like our second product, we’d suggest it’s great for learners, beginners, or those who want a sit-on kayak for strictly leisure purposes.
Made with UV-protected polyethylene, it won’t get damaged or bleached by the sun, making it a good choice for those who want a kayak they can lounge on. There are storage options built into much of the boat, from paddle keepers to secure your paddles when they’re not being used to a covered storage space at the stern for valuables. Handles on the side also make it an easy kayak to carry around out of the water.
As for the seating, it has a padded UltraLite Seat that keeps you comfortable. The seating is combined with molded-in footwells that keep your feet anchored to the kayak, securing you whilst still affording you the freedom and easy escape that sit-on-tops are known for.
At the fourth spot on our list is the Lifetime Triton Angler 100 Fishing Kayak, a model with a stable hull and an integrated skeg that improves tracking performance to keep you on the straight and narrow when you want to be.
It carries two hundred and seventy-five pounds off of its forty-nine-pound body, making it easy for you to carry whilst being able to store most camping and fishing gear sets. It’s especially easy to carry on land thanks to toggle handles on its bow and stern. Part of this storage is a tank well complete with shock cords so you can fasten gear to the body of the kayak. Speaking of fastening, two flush mount rod holders and an adjustable rod holder should have any fisherman out there covered.
Multiple footrests mean that people of most heights can find themselves comfortably accommodated by these kayaks, and the footwells are molded into the boat body so it’s harder to slip out or lose your footing, providing extra security despite being sit-on-top. The seat has an adjustable quick release back that allows for reclining and other adjustments that can make the model comfortable for most sizes of people.
When in use, the natural movements of your kayak on the water will direct surface water to scupper holes in the kayak’s body, making it effectively self-draining. These are present in both the cockpit and the tank well, keeping you and your important gear as dry as possible.
Here we have the Tarpon 120 Fishing Kayak by Wilderness Systems, a large twelve-foot kayak with an even larger three-hundred-and-fifty-pound weight capacity, making it a good choice for the larger paddlers out there, or those who anticipate needing a lot of room for fishing or camping gear.
In fact, there’s plenty of storage room with this kayak. The deck is large enough for some open-air storage that’s encouraged by bungee cords at the kayak’s stern, whilst a large bow hatch is available to store valuables and other sensitive gear that may need protection from the weather and water splashes. A second hatch at the center conceals a Dry Tec removable dry box that’s better for storing personal effects and other items you’ll want to keep close but protected when on the water.
The Tarpon’s Phase 3 Air Pro seat is not just padded and ventilated, but it’s also slightly elevated, so it’s both comfortable and puts you slightly above the kayak shell so you can see all that’s going on around you. This kind of spatial awareness is great for kayak anglers, and the gear tracks along the sides of these kayaks can also be used to store fishing rods if need be. The seat is also adjustable thanks to a locking lever so kayakers of most sizes can enjoy this model. Even the footrests below the seat are padded to keep you comfortable.
The sixth kayak we have to show you is the Vibe Yellowfin 100 Fishing Kayak, a short but wide-hulled model that comes in at ten feet long and fifty-seven pounds in weight, supporting a maximum carrying capacity of three hundred and seventy-five pounds, one of the highest capacities you’ll find on this list.
Its compactness makes it great for beginners but seasoned anglers who want a smaller fishing vessel capable of reaching inland streams and other tighter waterways will find this a capable kayak for those purposes. That higher carrying capacity is also very handy if you’re hauling around a lot of gear, like when angling or engaging in other outdoor activities like camping.
The seating is the Vibe HERO Framed Seat, which is made from mesh fabric. This makes it sturdy whilst having natural ventilation to keep you comfortable when seated for long periods. It’s also adjustable, allowing you to tailor these seats to your height, body type, and preferred reclining angle. This can also be used to prop you up a bit higher, providing more visibility for careful kayakers or those on the lookout for signs of fish life.
Where storage is concerned, you have a stern well that comes complete with bungee cords so you can secure gear to the kayak shell itself. There are also two smaller, watertight hatches that have bag inserts, keeping any small and sensitive items safe when you’re out on the water. There are even four flush mounts that can accommodate fishing rods, if you were planning on using this for fishing.
The Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-On-Top Kayak is the boat to go for if you want a lot of storage options. It weighs forty-seven pounds and supports up to two hundred and fifty pounds of carrying capacity, meaning whilst you won’t be able to store as much on this kayak as others, you’re spoilt for choice in how many ways you can store gear.
First, there’s a dry storage area situated at the stern end of the boat which, when you attach the included rain cover, will protect its contents from the outside world. Then, at the bow, there’s an open area where shock cords are included to hold your gear down, which is good for storing sturdier possessions like camping supplies.
What sets this kayak apart, however, is the inclusion of a Portable Accessory Carrier, or PAC. This is a unit that ties to the back of the kayak and floats behind you when in motion, so think of a small trailer for your kayak, which can then be used to store additional gear separate from the kayak body itself.
The seating area is padded, by which we mean both the seat itself and the cockpit edges, so you can remain comfortable even when your legs are coming into contact with the molded kayak body. This kayak’s adjustable foot brace is handy for accommodating kayakers of all heights, too.
The final kayak we have for your consideration is the Lifetime Manta Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, a hard-shelled tandem kayak that’s light for its type at sixty pounds. It supports a massive five hundred pounds in weight, making this a great option for those who need top tier carrying capacity.
The fact this kayak supports a great carrying capacity means it’s a shoo-in for small families, especially since a third person can fit in the center of this kayak. Of course, if you’re going it alone, this extra space can just be put to use as some very welcome extra storage room that’s within arm’s reach. Speaking of reaching, you’ll also be pleased to know that drink and rod holders are built into this kayak’s body.
This kayak retails with the expected peripheral tools, like paddles and backrests, making your kayaking experience simpler and more cost-efficient since you won’t be chasing these accessories around. When seated, there are multiple footrest positions you can use depending on how tall or short you are, affording you stability and control of this kayak no matter your height.
Best Sit-On-Top Kayak - Buyers Guide
Why Choose a Sit-On-Top Kayak?
As we mentioned above, sit-on-tops provide an unrivaled ease of use where getting on and off these kayaks are concerned. The entire design of these kayaks can only be described as open, with an open cockpit and no spray skirt or shell that obscures your body. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of sit-on-top kayaks.
An open-air kayak design isn’t just easy to get on and off. Their openness, whilst creating less hassle for disembarking kayakers, is also great for those who are claustrophobic, or otherwise don’t like being enclosed when out on the water. This lack of restriction makes certain kayakers feel safer too. A particular fear that beginner kayakers have is the idea that the kayak will roll over and they’ll be trapped upside down in the water. Sit-on-top kayaks mitigate these fears by being more open.
That openness is also great for keeping cool, particularly when you’re kayaking in spring and summer. A covered cockpit will get stuffy fast which will be very distracting for some people. Just remember that you’ll need to use sun cream when exposed to the sun for prolonged periods.
The lack of a covered cockpit also means you’ll have some more room. Kayaks will have hatches to keep certain valuables dry but, if you want to store other items on the kayak itself, you can do that with sit-on-top models. This is great for your camping or fishing gear, if your kayak is just part of a larger camping or fishing trip.
Where one advantage is how these kayaks will keep you cool during hot weather, the flipside also applies where cold and wet weather will get to you more than they would with enclosed models. This means your choice of kayak type can largely depend on the weather near you. Sit-on-tops will not only leave you exposed to the elements, but they’ll also leave you exposed to splashback when paddling through rivers and other active bodies of water. If this is a worry for you, then there are waterproof kayaking suits that can help.
You also can’t Eskimo roll in these kayaks. This is somewhat offset by the fact that sit-on-tops are much less likely to roll anyway and, even if you do, they’re much easier to get back on board again. Also, sit-in kayaks have better leg support, which is great when paddling faster, so this is something a lot of sit-on models will miss out on. This also puts your center of gravity lower, meaning you have more control over the kayak.
As we mentioned in the advantages section, you’ll want to use more sunscreen when on sit-on-top kayaks since more of you are exposed to the sun. The fact you need to take more extra care to protect your skin is a disadvantage to these kayaks. Applying sunscreen should be a basic ritual for anyone that spends large amounts of time outdoors, even when it’s cloudy since sunburn can still occur under those conditions, especially since rays will get deflected from the water and back up at you. Grab some sun cream with a factor of thirty as a bare minimum, preferably higher, and apply it approximately every two hours, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are sit-on-top kayaks more stable?
A general rule to keep in mind is that the longer and narrower kayaks are, the faster it’ll slice through water, though it will be less stable in doing so. That means that, on the flipside, wider kayaks are slower but more stable, and you’ve probably seen already that most sit-on-top kayaks are wider than most other kayak types available.
Most sit-on-tops are so-called recreational kayaks because of the fact they’re wide and very stable, making them best for hobbyist use, whether that’s for families or fishermen. The center of gravity is also higher with sit-on-tops over sit-ins, so their initial stability will always be higher than thinner, sit-in variants.
How big of a kayak should I get?
The three most important factors in getting a kayak is usually the length, width, weight capacity, and gauge these against where you’ll be using the kayak and the height of the kayaker.
Shorter kayaks are best for maneuvering and turning with ease, which is preferred for a lot of recreational styles. Longer style kayaks have better tracking and longer paddles that minimize how much energy you need to go fast and straight.
Wider kayaks are more stable, as the answer above detailed, and you can also stand up in them which is handy for fishing. The performance of these kayaks gets worse as they get wider, however, so it’s a tradeoff you need to consider if you want to retain speed and tracking ability. Rudders and skegs can offset this issue, if it's important you keep speed.
Weight capacity is pretty straightforward with campers and fishermen requiring a lot of storage. Consider your own weight and how much gear you want to bring and buy accordingly; it doesn’t get much simpler than that. We’d suggest taking your body weight and aiming for one hundred pounds above that.
Understand which environment your kayak will be used in, such as the depth and width of the waterways you’ll be traversing, whether they’re deep rivers, shallow streams, or still lakes. You should do this because it will determine how much turning or tracking capability you need, which will inform how long or wide you want your kayak to be.
Your height is also important for determining the legroom. An adjustable seat with multiple or adjustable footrests is best to keep you comfy and secure on your kayak, and most kayaks of all styles and sizes are capable of having these, so we’d suggest holding out for one with these supports.
What is a good size kayak for a beginner?
Recreational kayaks are probably where most kayakers have started off, so they’re a great choice. Many sit-on-top kayaks are recreational because they’re wider and more stable. With beginners, you want a kayak that’s stable enough to support them whilst being speedy and having enough tracking capability that the beginners can actually learn how to maneuver the kayak.