Kayak seats are an essential part of the comfort and mobility of a kayak and their value is sometimes greatly underestimated. If the kayak seat you use doesn’t fit you, is made of low-quality materials, or the construction isn’t very well made, there is no cockpit big enough and comfortable enough to save you. You will have issues, and serious ones, and you will make kayaking, which should be enjoyable, a pain and struggle. Here we have put together a guide that will help you choose the perfect and most comfortable seat for you as well as help you learn what really goes into making the best kayak seat.
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A kayaks seats material is an important factor in stringing together its structure by providing comfort, breath-ability and durability. The material a kayak seat is made of is essential in providing a high quality seat that will last and keep you happy on the water.
This is a type of synthetic rubber that is created through a process called polymerization of chloroprene. The material has good stability and flexibility in different temperatures and is usually sold in a rubber or latex form its most popular applications are, knee braces, fan belts and laptop sleeves.
Polyester is a fabric that is extremely small its defined as "long-chain polymers composed chemically of 85% weight of ester and a dihydric alcohol and terephalic acid" These fabrics are extremely strong and are usually used for making outdoor clothes for extremely harsh climates. **Though not used to create the entire kayak seat this is usually layered over.
This ones a bit of a mystery to us, the fluid gel is in reference to a gel padded seat. This one is a material directly from the creators at Skwoosh, is has been said to be one of the more comfortable seat materials on the market.
Even though there are some kayaks that come with their own seats and practically no way of modifying them, most of them actually give you the freedom of buying another seat and switching it in. That is completely up to the manufacturer of the kayak, but advanced paddlers and people who know what they’re looking for will make sure to have this as an option, mostly because the original seat doesn’t really fit them that well, or they want a higher performance one.
This is hands down the most important thing. If a seat isn’t comfortable, don’t buy it, it’s as simple as that. Comfort depends on a number of factors, and you should keep all of them in mind when purchasing. You can also try to see if you can test-drive a seat before purchasing it, as there are some dealers that have demo days where you can test their equipment.
This is important because no matter how comfortable a seat may look, you will never know unless you try it. When looking at the comfort, make sure that you feel good for a long period of time this can be difficult to gauge on the first sitting, and always look for additional lumbar support – you can never have too much of it.
The second important factor when deciding on the best kayak seat will undoubtedly be the padding, as well as cushioning. These are both key factors when discussing comfort and performance due to several reasons.
First, enough padding will keep you warm and not allow your legs to freeze, and there’s also some comfort here as well. Second, a well-cushioned seat will make you feel comfortable. However, not only the amount of cushioning is important, but the positioning as well.
It won’t do any good if the cushioning is in the wrong place and doesn’t provide comfort where it’s needed.
This is also a crucial factor, especially for kayak anglers. A good seat should offer stability and not allow you to wiggle around in the cockpit as this will be a performance hit and will also increase your chances of flipping over, more so if you’re in whitewater rapids. Stability gets even more important when you’re using your kayak for fishing. Having a seat that will allow you to sit comfortably and not affect your focus on casting and fishing is ideal as even the smallest instability could lead you to end up in the water.
This might affect you if you use your kayak often, or if you’d rather buy one seat and forget it as long as it fits you. Most of the seats you will find are built with durability in mind, but there are some strange ones here and there that might lose their performance or completely fall apart after using them for extended periods of time.
Therefore, if you consider yourself a frequent paddler, you should have durability and quality of build as some of the more important factors in consideration, as they may quite literally make or break a kayak seat for you, and let’s face it, who wants to go out and have to buy a new one every other month?
Even though many people don’t really need this since their kayak already comes with quick access storage, having extra storage in your kayak is never a bad thing. Keep in mind, however, that due to the size of the kayak seat itself, what you will get in terms of additional storage is not much, but it should be enough to let you store your essentials. This is also very useful if you’re fishing, as you can keep things you need quickly here, such as bait.
Possibly the deciding factor for many, price is something that you won’t be able to neglect. An average price for a decent kayak seat should be around $60. However, if that is outside of your budget, there are also several more basic options that can be bought for less, and if you can afford a more expensive one, you will undoubtedly find higher levels of ergonomics in the more expensive seats. A basic rule of thumb would be that you get what you pay for, but when debating kayak seats, there is usually something available for everyone, at different price points.
Even though not that obvious, a bad seat can lead to a myriad of problems, here are a few things to keep your eye out when buying:
Avoiding Physical pain, pain has taken away a few potential kayakers and beginners without them knowing that the true problem here was usually a poorly designed or cheap seat.
The comfort a seat offers is going to vary, and it depends a lot on things such as the material thats used to make the seat, the construction of the seat itself, as well as the padding of the seat. We recommend you use a heavy duty material and seat padding that's not too thin to make sure you get a high level of support.
Avoiding Overheating and Sweating, there are some materials that can cause you to sweat a lot because of their lack of breath-ability, and there are some that are simply uncomfortable because they don’t stretch enough, or they stretch too much, or they’re too hard on your skin. A material that's not right for you could drive you crazy over time if your a daily kayaker, this is why its important to make sure you pay that little extra for a seat that is a bit more padded and uses a higher quality build.
Avoid Bad construction can also be a deal-breaker, as a seat that is too stiff will most likely be uncomfortable for most kayakers, and the problem persists with seats that are too soft and wobbly. Another issue we have seen brought up by kayakers is uncomfortable cushion construction with grooves that just don't match up with you and may dig into you over time.
The last on the list, bad padding, is another big factor. Lack of padding on both the bottom and back will mean that you’re basically sitting in the kayak’s body, and not on your seat, which isn’t comfortable by any means, especially if you’re going over whitewater rapids. Make sure you can gauge the thickness of the padding and if its gel the sensitivity on the gel in relation to your weight.
As with almost anything that you can buy, there are certain brands that stand out for a particular reason. For kayak seats, the brands mentioned below either offer amazing comfort and performance, or offer a number of features at a low price, but there are certainly reasons why they made this list. If you’ve decided that you truly want an aftermarket kayak seat, but you aren’t sure which brand to go for, this list would be a good starting point.
Ocean Kayak is a brand that actually comes with a large range of products. They have everything, from complete kayaks, to accessories such as seats, hatch kits, rudder kits, clothing, paddles, life jackets, you name it. They offer products at various price ranges, each with its advantages and disadvantages. A good example from them would be the Comfort Plus seat back, which is designed for sit-on-top kayaks.
As its name suggests, the seat provides excellent comfort with the padded back. The nylon cloth construction is also there to guarantee durability even after longer usage. There are 4-way mounting straps which are adjustable and let you adjust how you sit in the saddle, for maximum comfort. There’s also a reflective logo with high visibility, as a safety measure.
Malibu Kayaks have been around since 1999, and they’re in the game to design and offer high-quality kayaks and accessories, which are also affordable in order to satisfy both hardcore enthusiasts, and recreational paddlers too. Their best offer is the Spider Angler seat, which is especially built for anglers and makes sure that you feel better and more comfortable while fishing.
It’s designed so it can be used on sit-on-top kayaks to maximize your pleasure while fishing. The high back, combined with a thick padding, will ensure that you’re comfortable no matter how long you’re in the water. There is also a rear gear bag, that allows you to store some small essentials, as well as built-in rod holders and tool holders. Also, not to be forgotten, there are D-rings that let you attach additional gear to it.
Surf to Summit specialize in kayaking gear, and not complete kayaks, as well as gear for other sports. Their inspiration to build seats came from the fact that back when they started, kayakers used to sit on a block of foam, and that was if they were lucky. They offer plenty of choice, both for sit-on-top kayaks and closed-cockpit ones as well. Their seats are made for touring, kayak fishing, whitewater rapids or recreational paddling – they have something for everyone.
Their most popular options are the GTS series’ Sport and Elite, which are both made for sit-on-top kayaks. The Sport is the smaller of the two, but both have advanced contouring which ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible, and provide enough lumbar support for anyone. The construction is also made with durability in mind, especially at high stress points.
Skwoosh is another company that offers seats for plenty of things, such as kayaks, motorcycles, office chair accessories, car seat accessories etc. Their technology relies on a patented, medically proven gel, which is then combined with high-tech fabrics. Every product of theirs has welded seams, non-skid bottoms, as well as a lightweight, fold-able, low-profile design.
Their best offer is the Big Catch High Back seat, which comes with unrivaled lumbar support and cushioning. The seat uses technologies that ensure it’s cool, comfortable, and firm, and all at levels that give you superior pressure alleviation and comfort. There are also modifiable side wings that give more back support, and will go well with your body shape for a comfortable experience. The reinforced fiberglass battens will give you more stability and enhanced performance.
One more brand that doesn’t really stick to kayaks, but instead offers seats for them (as well as some other accessories for other categories), also has several models that are made to suit a variety of people and a variety of environments. A perfect example is the simply called Kerco Sit-On-Top Kayak seat back, which is designed for sit-on-top kayaks, and made to offer support and comfort during long paddle trips. The cushion is made with molded foam, and has a nylon exterior, which provides a plus, durable seat that will last you for years. You also get ample back support, relieving you of any back pain and strain while you’re out on the water.
Even though the benefits should be quite obvious, there are actually a lot of variables to a good seat. If you’re a paddler, by now you know that the kayak you use should fit you first, and then anyone else that may be using it, this may sound selfish but your going to be the one using it. There is an exception to this rule, and that's when you have a tandem kayak – in which case you need to be considerate of the other paddler. A kayak’s comfort is a combination of multiple things, including your size, the cockpit size, and the seat you’re using. Your size isn’t something that you can change, and the cockpit size is most likely already decided on. However the kayak seat is a variable that can be changed for maximum benefit.
By now you’ve probably concluded that comfort is the primary thing that a seat offers. This may not make much difference to someone who doesn’t spend too much time in their kayak, but for advanced paddlers and those who want to go for hours, this becomes very important. Being uncomfortable in your kayak has much more of an impact than you’d think.
The other important thing about kayak seats is the support they’re able to offer. A well-made, high quality seat will give you excellent lumbar support, which is very important if you want to avoid back issues, both now and in the future, and let the lower back do its job, pain-free. Lumbar support will target the lower back, at the point where your spine curves inward in a natural way. A good seat will provide an adequate support cushion, and help maintain the curve of your back, as well as the muscles that are surrounding it.
This is crucial, especially for paddlers that sit for long periods of time, on a regular basis, because the human body isn’t actually designed for long periods of sitting. If, however, a seat fails to provide this kind of support, it doesn’t only damage your back muscles, but the spine as well.
Read More on the dangers of bad lumbar support
Lower lumbar damage can lead to stiffness and pain, which isn’t something any of us would like to deal with, especially when you take into consideration the fact that this can lead to much more serious issues, such as walking difficulties, and even paralysis in the worst case. Taking care of this isn’t something that should be avoided. It is rather like regular healthy habits such as quitting smoking, or brushing your teeth – you can never start too soon. If you’re a younger, more agile person, this might not be much of a problem at the moment, but it will definitely be in the future, and it isn’t something you’d like to be having issues with.
To better understand why this is so important while kayaking, you need to know what happens when you’re paddling. The traditional paddling technique is based on rotation of the torso which is initiated from your hips. This is a motion that is impossible to perform if you’re leaned towards the back, and can be best done if you’re sitting straight, or even better, leaning forward slightly.
This combination of leaning and continuously, repetitively rotating, puts a lot of stress on the lower part of your spine, which is also known as the lumbar spine. This happens due to the fact that it has to support your body, even when you’re rotating. To make matters even worse, while your lumbar spine is constantly rotating, your legs compress it against your seat’s backrest. This is actually how your paddling effort is transmitted from the paddle, through the body, and to the kayak, in order to propel it forward through the water. This force, which is by no means inconsiderable, is constantly applied to the lower spine, and that by itself is a pretty vulnerable area as it has no other bones to either support it or protect it. This is exactly why having a seat that reduces as much stress as possible from those areas, and provides enough support.
Yes, you’ve heard that right. Performance isn’t all about the body of the kayak, or the paddle you’re using. The seat has quite an impact on this as well, because even if your technique is good, and the paddle and kayak are great, your performance will suffer a loss if your paddling strength isn’t transferred to the kayak’s body entirely. This can be due to a seat being too soft, be it in the construction or the materials used.
A well-thought-out seat, and a well-made one, will allow you to transfer your strength from the water to the kayak with minimal loss, which is very important if you want to achieve higher speeds and maintain them.
Another big performance factor is being able to move the kayak with your body. This is especially important in whitewater rapids, where you have a smaller kayak with a tight fit, and you need to use your hips and legs to maneuver it. Having a seat that doesn’t do its job in this situation will lead to a drop in performance, and you might even hurt yourself unintentionally. Due to this, it’s very important that your seat has enough stiffness for strength transfer, and not too much, for comfort.
When you consider everything, getting the best kayak seat is by no means a simple task. There are plenty of variables to consider, and most, if not all, can make or break your kayaking experience. By far the most important thing is comfort, and this can lead to more issues if not addressed in time. This should be your primary criteria when you’re buying a seat, and one you should never neglect in order to get a cheaper, or a seat with more storage.
There are compromises that might need to be made, and if you’ve read all of the above, you should have a clear image of where you can let go of some things, and what you should always strive for before you purchase. Additional features such as ventilation or rod holders might sound attractive, but why have a rod holder when your seat is so uncomfortable you can’t even spend enough time in the water to be able to fish?
Before going out and buying a seat, do a bit of research. See what price range you’re looking at, according to your budget, and see what you can get in that price range. Then, try to read some reviews on the seats you can choose from. And last but not least, always see if you can get your dealer at their demo day to give you some of the seats you’re considering for a test ride – you can’t go wrong if you’ve tried the seat, can you?
Andrew is a seasoned kayaker with 15 years of experience under his belt. He began kayaking as a way to reduce work stress but quickly became an avid kayak fisher and lure expert. He currently enjoys both lake and ocean kayaking and loves to write and share his experiences.