The Best Sit On Top Kayak Guide – Kayak Reviews

Previously the sit on top kayak was slightly less popular than their traditional counterpart sit in kayaks however over the past years the market has exploded with hundreds of new models and ever increasing market share.

The need for these sit on top kayaks is justified because of their easy handling, manufacturing, and storage capabilities. The market continues to grow with an estimate being that sit on top kayaks will replace their traditional counterparts in the near future.


Sit On Top Kayaks Are On Fire!

Deciding first steps

The first thing you will have to decide is what you’re going to use the kayak for, and see if you need a touring kayak, or a fishing kayak, etc.
Next, decide whether you want to get a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak. There are subtle differences between the two.
Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be the most user-friendly ones, as they’re very stable, and fairly easy to get in and get out. You also don’t feel closed inside them, and they usually come with scupper holes that allow water to be drained through. However, they leave your body exposed, and they’re more suited for warm environments. Plus, it’s certain that you won’t remain dry while you’re paddling, which is something that a lot of people tend to avoid.


Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, shelter your entire lower body, protecting it from wind, which makes them much better for situations where you need to remain warm, or colder environments. If you want to remain dry while you’re paddling, they’re your best bet. They are also best suited to people who look at the kayak as a vehicle for traveling, instead of a toy.

Tips and Guide For Buying Your First Sit On Top Kayak

The following is a list of a few steps to guide you on your first purchase.

1. What do you plan on doing with your kayak?

No sit on top kayak is made as a multi-functional vessel, and buying a kayak for your exact needs is important. For example, fishing in a whitewater kayak is difficult, as you don’t have nearly enough mounts and storage for all your gear, so make sure not to buy the wrong kayak. Is is going to be used for family trips, used on the weekend at a nearby river or lake. Have you seen videos of more extreme kayaking like white water  or ocean kayaking and like the idea of doing something like that.

choosing kayak

Maybe you like to fish and have decided that you would like to try out kayak fishing. There is no point buying a 13ft long self baling kayak if you plan to use it on your local lake and you won’t want a inflatable if you plan on shooting rapids or hitting the ocean waves.

2. Transporting & storing your Kayak

If you have a decent sized vehicle, a garage with some space in it and a little bit of cash to spare  then you can look at any kayak that suits your budget. If you have limited space, don’t have a suitable vehicle or have limited cash then you might want to be looking at an inflatable kayak for transporting your best sit on top kayak.

transport kayak

3. How often will you use the Kayak

This is the question I always ask to the kayak novice, I mean you can buy a kayak for under $200 that will do just fine for some recreational kayaking on weekend and family trips and if looked after will last a number of years.  So ask yourself is the kayak going to be used enough to warrant it’s cost. If you buy a hard shell kayak for a $1000 for white water kayaking and then only get out in it once or twice a year isn’t that going to be a waste of money? You’d be better off hiring one for the time you are going to be using it instead.

calendar kayak

4. Cost

Now that you have read points one to three you can decide on how much you will need to pay for the sit on top kayak, depending on your budget, what and how often you will use the kayak and what you will be using it for. It’s your first kayak, and you will most likely use it to learn the basics, as well as some more advanced things.


Get a polyethylene kayak, they’re fairly cheap, and difficult to damage. If you happen to like the sport, you will use this kayak as a stepping stone to a more expensive one, thus it is smart not to spend too much on it.

Components of a Sit On Top Kayak

The cockpit

This is the inside area of the sit on top kayak there are three main types for traditional kayaks, the recreational cockpit, the keyhole cockpit, and the ocean cockpit. Force it on top kayaks the cockpit is always in open design making it easier to get in and out and recover if it is flipped.


The Hull

The hull of the kayak is the most important part of the kayak it can be designed from different types of material including: thermal formed or carbonate plastics, fiberglass, Kevlar, polyethylene and more.
You should know that a cockpit should fit you properly, and you should be aware of this when you’re buying the kayak (more on that later). A cockpit that fits you right will allow you to use your entire body to help you with moving and maneuvering the kayak, which makes things much easier once you get the hang of it. You will find that it’s much easier to turn and lead the kayak in the direction you want it to, using your hips and legs and not only the paddle and your upper body half. You will feel like the kayak is an extension of your body, and you will see plenty of people that say a proper sit-in kayak is a thing you wear, and not sit in.

The bow or the nose

The nose of the kayak can improve speed when breaking through water.


The Stern or the tail

The tail of the kayak helps in directing water after the break and can provide a more aerodynamic kayaking experience.

Beam Profile

When we’re discussing the build and construction, it’s important that we mention the beam profile, which is the key thing about stability. If you measure the width of the hull’s cross-section, you can easily see what the boat is best suited for. A shorter beam profile will give you a more agile kayak. A v-shaped hull can also give you a lot of stability in certain situations. It is also worth mentioning the kayak’s rocker, which describes the lengthwise curvature of the kayak. The more curve it has, the shorter it’s waterline is, and you get sharper handling which is essential with high-performance kayaks like the ones used in whitewater.

The seat

The seat is one of the most important parts of the sit on top kayak it ensures that you are comfortable and avoid back problems. A good kayak seat can run up to $100 or more. Seats come in many types including homemade seat pads, sleeping foam pads, many cell phone and sculptured foam seats.


The hip pads

The hip pads only used for the best sit on top kayak or semi open kayaks are more orthopedic and use and help the sitter have a more comfortable experience by allowing foam or material to absorb impact from the sides of the kayak.

Spray skirt?

First of all, what is a spray skirt? It’s basically something that the kayaker wears, and it connects you to the cockpit, thus creating a watertight seal. This is excellent as you won’t get wet, and you also won’t get water inside your kayak.

spray skirt kayak

A basic rule of thumb would be that if you don’t always paddle in calm conditions, you should wear a spray skirt. If you have no intentions of going near waters such as rapids or rivers, you will be fine without a spray skirt.
First of all, the spray skirt must be easily removable during an emergency or capsize, and you should always try it out before buying it, because not being able to get it out may be a serious issue. You should also be careful whether the skirt you’re buying will keep out water 100%, as some don’t. This might not be an issue during summer, but in the cold winter months, this is a big deal. You can also look around for spray skirts that have extra features such as storage pockets or adjustable waist bands etc., but keep in mind that they have a bigger possibility of leaking.

Sit On Top Kayak Materials

The next thing you should know about sit-in kayaks is the materials they’re made of. There aren’t many, and they all come with discernible differences, as well as prices. Here are the ones that are most commonly used, as well as their primary characteristics:
Rotomolded polyethylene kayaks are usually the cheapest ones, and the heaviest too. They’re best suited for recreational paddlers who don’t want to spend all their money on a kayak. The material is known as a fairly flexible one, and that also makes it the most impact resistant one. However, flexing means that if you don’t store it properly, it can easily get deformed, and there will be a loss of strength when you’re paddling. Polyethylene is usually the material of choice for whitewater kayaks, where paddling efficiency isn’t that important, but impact resistance is.


You should be careful, however, as it can easily wear through if you constantly drag it around on rough surfaces. The price makes it ideal for a first kayak, but advanced paddlers tend to go to more expensive options.
Thermoformed or polycarbonate plastics are the next step up, price wise. They’re more scratch resistant than a polyethylene kayak, and hence have less drag in the water. They’re cheaper than fiberglass, and more repairable than polyethylene, making them the perfect middle ground if you don’t want to spend too much, but don’t want to buy the cheapest option either and need a lighter kayak. However, you should be aware that they haven’t exactly excelled in durability.


Fiberglass is one level up, and a fairly common choice for sea kayaks. It’s lightweight and lasts for decades. It can take a beating, but it doesn’t quite match the impact resistance of polyethylene. This kind of kayaks are usually covered with gelcoat, which improves scratch resistance and reduces drag at the same time. They’re also very good with the fact that if you happen to damage the kayak, it is easily repairable, and you can even do it yourself, as materials for repair are available at a number of stores. What you should avoid is chopped mat glass, and see if you can find woven cloth lay-ups, as the quality of the fiberglass can make a huge difference.


Kevlar is very similar to fiberglass, and also covered in gelcoat. However, Kevlar kayaks are much more lightweight than fiberglass which can raise the prices by up to $400 or $500 more. However, a lot of people say that Kevlar boats can suffer from gelcoat cracks, but that depends on the construction itself. Kevlar doesn’t tear, nor puncture, but if laid up in very thin layers it might flex. The gelcoat, however, doesn’t flex, and in these circumstances it cracks. When buying, look for a carbon-reinforced Kevlar, or go with a heavier layup that won’t flex as much.


Wood is the final option, and usually the go-to material for a do-it-yourself kayak project. Kayaks made of wood are both strong and lightweight, and they’re easy to repair and customize. With wood you get an either “stitch and glue” construction which is easier for beginners, or a “strip built” kayak that requires a bit more skill. Building your own wood kayak will give you fiberglass or Kevlar-level quality, but at a polyethylene price. However, if you have it built for you, you will pay more than a Kevlar kayak would cost, but the aesthetics and craftsmanship are well worth it.


Foldable or inflatable kayaks are also there, but people tend to avoid them, except if they really don’t have where to store a hard-shell kayak, as they don’t last as much and tend to suffer performance losses, as well as being very susceptible to punctures.

inflatable material

The Health Benefits of a Sit On Top Kayak

There are not that many physical recreational pastimes that appeal to people of all ages, male or female and from all walks of life but kayaking is certainly one of them. Kayakers are the most diverse group of people you can find.

It can also increase your strength and overall fitness it especially works the upper body and abdominal muscles and what’s great is that you are having fun while getting fit, not pushing weights in a stuffy gym but breathing fresh healthy air!


Key Benefits of Kayaking

- Weight Loss
- Cardiovascular Health
- Cholesterol Reduction
- Stress Reduction
- Back, Arms, Chest, Abs Toning and Strength
- Joint Health

Last important words

When all is said and done, you will see that choosing a kayak after you’ve read this sit in kayak guide isn’t in fact so difficult. It is true that there are quite a few variables, but if you have a clear image of what you need the kayak for, as well as what your budget is, you can make a decision you won’t regret. Of course, you should always try before you buy if that is an option, but if you read the aforementioned guide carefully, you can be sure you won’t make a mistake.

We at kayaker guide know that Sit On Top Kayak kayaking is an amazing recreational sport and pastime and sit on top kayaks are a great way to participate. The guides and rankings on this site have been researched thoroughly and have taken many man hours to compile. Please use this information and we wish you the best of luck when choosing your next sit on top kayak.

About the Author Andrew Bell

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.

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