Sit On Top vs. Sit In Kayak: Which is for You?

Imagine yourself out on the water surrounded by the peacefulness of nature with the gentle sound of your paddle gliding through the water. Kayaking offers an opportunity to reconnect with the beauty of the great outdoors, providing an escape from the daily hustle and bustle. Whether you’re a kayaker or a newbie eager to explore this exciting world, one important decision you’ll face is choosing the right kayak.

Within kayaking, there’s a choice: sit on top kayak or sit in kayak. Each type offers its experience, impacting your comfort, performance, and overall enjoyment on the water.

In this guide, we’ll deeply dive into the Sit On Top vs. Sit In Kayak debate without relying on clichés. We’ll examine both styles advantages and disadvantages and consider factors to help you make an informed decision and ultimately guide you toward finding the perfect kayak that suits your specific needs. So, whether you crave rapids or prefer a peaceful paddle, join us on a serene lake as we navigate the captivating kayaking world and discover which vessel aligns perfectly with your aquatic aspirations.

Short Answer:

The choice between a sit-on-top and a sit-in kayak depends on your preferences and intended use. Sit-on-top kayaks are more user-friendly and suitable for beginners, offering easy entry and exit, while sit-in kayaks provide better protection from the elements and are favored by experienced paddlers. Consider your skill level and the type of kayaking you plan to do when making your decision.

Understanding Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit on top kayaks are well known for their easily accessible design. Unlike other kayaks, with enclosed cockpits they provide a different kind of experience that focuses on stability.

Sit-On-Top yellow kayak in the sand on the beach by the sea

Advantages of Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Getting in and out is a breeze; Boarding and disembarking from a sit on top kayak is easy peasy. Since there’s no cockpit, you don’t have to worry about squeezing yourself in, which makes it a great choice for people with mobility concerns.

No more water worries; Sit on top kayaks have these cool scupper holes that let water drain naturally. You don’t need to manually pump out any water and you can enjoy a dry seating area even if there are splashes. It’s super convenient!

Rock solid stability; One of the best things about sit on top kayaks is how stable they are. Thanks to their wide hull design, they provide a solid platform that reduces the chances of tipping over. That’s why anglers who want to stand while fishing love them.

Perfect for beginners; If you’re new to kayaking, sit on top kayaks are an absolute dream. They’re stable and designed with beginners in mind, making them the ideal choice for learning how to paddle like a pro.

Limitations of Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Being in an open top kayak exposes you to the elements, like wind, rain and water splashes. It can feel refreshing in warm weather, but it might not be as comfortable when it’s cold or wet outside.

Compared to sit in kayaks, sit on top models usually have less storage space available. This can affect your ability to carry a significant amount of gear.

Ideal Candidates for Sit-On-Top Kayaks

For individuals who are new to kayaking and value stability and user friendliness, sit on top kayaks are a great option.

In areas with warmer weather, where getting wet adds to the enjoyment, sit on top kayaks are preferred by kayakers.

Tips for Selecting a Sit-On-Top Kayak

Size Considerations; Make sure the dimensions of the kayak are suitable for your body, providing a comfortable fit. If possible, try it out beforehand to ensure it’s a good match.

Accessories and Customization; Think about any accessories or extras you might need, like paddle holders, fishing rod mounts or extra storage options. Personalizing your kayak can greatly enhance your overall kayaking experience.

Understanding Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks are recognizable by their cockpit design, which encapsulates the paddler within the vessel. This design provides a different experience compared to the open-top sit-on-top kayaks.

Sit-In Kayaks at the Bow River in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Advantages of Sit-In Kayaks

One of the main benefits of using sit in kayaks is the protection they offer against the elements. With their enclosed cockpit, you can stay relatively dry even in rainy, windy or splashy conditions, making your ride more comfortable regardless of the weather.

Many paddlers prefer sit in kayaks because they provide efficient paddling techniques. The enclosed design reduces wind resistance and allows for smoother and more effective strokes.

Another advantage of sit in kayaks is their ample onboard storage space. Unlike sit on top models, they offer more room to store your gear, which comes in handy for longer trips or specific activities like touring or camping.

Limitations of Sit-In Kayaks

Entry and Exit Difficulty; The design of an enclosed cockpit can make it slightly more challenging to get in and out compared to sit on top kayaks. This can be especially true for people with limited mobility.

Reduced Stability for Beginners; Sit in kayaks usually have a narrower hull, which can decrease initial stability. As a result, beginners may need to adjust their balance and paddling techniques as they advance.

Ideal Candidates for Sit-In Kayaks

Experienced kayakers often prefer sit in kayaks because they provide efficiency and protection, which they highly value.

For those who enjoy kayaking in cooler climates, the enclosed design of sit in kayaks is a popular choice. It helps them stay dry and warm during their excursions.

Tips for Selecting a Sit-In Kayak

When choosing a kayak, it’s important to think about the size of the cockpit. Make sure it can comfortably fit your body. Some kayaks have adjustable cockpits, which is great because it allows different paddlers to use them.

Another thing to consider is the materials used in constructing the kayak. You should think about factors like durability, weight and what type of kayaking you’ll be doing before making your decision.

Sit-in kayaks offer a distinctive kayaking experience, emphasizing protection, efficiency, and storage capacity. Understanding these features and advantages will help you make an informed decision when chosing.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the ongoing debate between Sit On Top and Sit In Kayaks, the decision really boils down to your own preferences, skill level and the kind of adventures you have in mind. As we’ve delved into the unique qualities of each kayak type, it’s clear that neither one is universally better; instead, they cater to different needs.

For beginners or those who enjoy warm weather trips where getting wet is part of the excitement, Sit on top kayaks are a great starting point. They offer convenience, stability and accessibility for people just beginning their kayaking journey.

On the other hand, experienced paddlers and those exploring colder waters often prefer sit in kayaks because they provide protection against the elements. They are efficient and offer more storage capacity—making them appealing for long journeys, touring or specialized activities like fishing.

Ultimately, choosing the best kayak for you requires careful consideration of your skill level, where you plan to explore, your storage requirements and personal comfort preferences. It’s important to take your time and try out different kayaks whenever possible—to get a real feel for what suits you best both practically and emotionally.

Ultimately, no matter if you opt for a sit on top or a sit in kayak, what truly matters is embracing the sheer delight of kayaking. These boats serve as your gateway to unlocking a realm of thrilling escapades, tranquil moments and profound connections with the natural world on the water. Therefore, armed with your paddle, set forth on an exploration and uncover the limitless splendor that lies ahead, be it gracefully gliding atop the water’s surface or nestled safely within its depths. Enjoy your kayaking adventures to the fullest!

About the author

My name is Brock Browning. I’m the founder of I have a passion, for kayaking that runs through my veins. It has driven me to create a central hub where everything related to kayaking comes to life.

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