When it comes to choosing a kaya, the previous favorite used to be sit in kayaks. They were comfortable, they provided great paddling performance and plenty of storage options, and they were reasonably priced. However, lately, there’s been a shift towards a different category of kayaks – sit on top kayaks.
These are a bit more comfortable, a lot easier to get in or get out of, and come at very nice prices with plenty of options to boot. This makes them the kayak of choice for a lot of paddlers, who would rather get one of the best sit on top kayaks, than a sit in option.
If you’re one of those paddlers, chances are you’ve done some research and you know that you’re looking at an incredible amount of options. A lot of manufacturers have jumped on the sit on top kayak bandwagon, and there are some really nice models.
To make things a bit easier, below you will find two things. One of them is a guide that explains how you should go about choosing your kayak – we’ll discuss all the important things that you should be paying attention to. The second is a list of the 10 best sit on top kayaks that have shown themselves as proven models that work great in a variety of situations.
Quick Summary: Top 10 - Best Sit On Top Kayaks
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Best Overall: 1. Ocean Kayak Frenzy"The reliable kayak perfect for every occasion" Runner-Up: 2. SUNDOLPHIN Bali SS 10-foot"A well designed one person kayak with lots of storage area." Best Budget Option: 3. Tioga Sit-on-top Kayak With Paddle"Packed with all the necessary features an adventure kayak needs at a great price " Best Fishing Kayak: 4. Perception Pescador Pro 10"An awesome choice for both beginners in kayaking and fishing" Best Inflatable Model: 5. Intex Explorer K2"For people who want to relax and enjoy the mild rivers and lakes" Best Large Option: 6. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Angler"The sturdy build quality of this kayak allows for crazy advantures" Best Flat-water Fishing Option: 7. Riot Kayaks Escape 12 Angler"Smooth through the waters with the well designed kayak from Riot Kayaks" Most Versatile Option: 8. Lifetime Sport Fisher"Take another person while kayaking in this 500 lbs capacity kayak " Best Lightweight Option: 9. eMotion Stealth Angler"Even at just 51 pounds, this kayak still offers great stability!" Best Tandem Fishing Option: 10. Malibu Kayaks Pro 2 Tandem"Challenge all types of water in this 13 feet well built kayak from Malibu"
The Frenzy has been around for a while, and for many, it’s the go-to single person sit-on-top kayak. Ocean Kayaks have been making some really nice kayaks recently, so there’s no surprise there.
The kayak is a very versatile model. Not only is it very stable and responsive when you need it to, but when you put it in flat water, it behaves very well. You won’t have any issues with tracking or maneuvering it, and when you need it to stay stable, it will. This is mostly thanks to the Tri-Form hull that is a great combination of primary and secondary stability.
To add to this, you’re looking at two pretty large bungee cord sections that will take care of all your storage needs – you can easily fit two larger backpacks and a lot of gear here. Oh, and it’s got carrying handles molded in. It’s really a great pick.
SUNDOLPHIN is another one of those brands that consistently make excellent kayaks, and the Bali SS is one of their best selling models. There are a lot of reasons for that, from the reasonable price to the host of versatility you get from it.
To begin with, you’re looking at an open cockpit with a very comfortable seat. It has thick padding that will keep you comfortable for longer hours. It also has an accessory carrier, as well as a dry storage space at the rear, and bungee cords at both the front and the rear.
Combine this with the excellent performance in any type of water, and this might very well be one of the best sit on top kayaks out there.
If you’d like a pretty basic but decent performing kayak, and then you realize that you’ll want one for your friend or partner too, the Tioga 2-pack is a great choice. For a reasonable price, you’re looking at two kayaks and two paddles, that are pretty well made.
To begin with, they’re 120 inches long and made of high density polyethylene. This is a material that will not deteriorate due to the sun, and is fairly resistant to nicks and scratches. The paddles are also pretty well made and have drip rings to keep your hands dry.
The kayaks are rather comfortable thanks to the great seat back, and you’re looking at plenty of storage options. There’s a small dry hatch in front of the seat, as well as two bungee cord sections at the front and rear. This does give you plenty of storage options, so you’re taken care of in that regard, too. What more could you be looking for?
Perception Kayaks have long been at the top of the game when it comes to kayaks, but their forte is definitely fishing kayaks. The Pescador Pro 10 is one of the best sit on top kayaks for fishing, and it comes with a host of features.
To begin with, the lawn chair style is extremely comfortable, even when you sit in it for longer periods of time. There are large open storage sections at the front and rear, so you can keep plenty of gear, and you’ve got accessory rails that allow you to put rod holders, a fish finder, or any other accessories.
Performance is excellent, too. The Pescador Pro 10 not only tracks well and is easy to maneuver, but you can also rely on it to remain stable when you need to stand up. If you’re looking for the best sit on top fishing kayak, this is it.
When it comes to inflatable kayaks, there’s one brand that immediately springs to mind – Intex. Their Explorer K2 has been around for a good while, and Intex are keeping it alive with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
This is a two-person kayak, but with the seats being removable, you can turn it into a single person kayak with plenty of storage space. That’s not to say it isn’t roomy – you can easily have a lot of things stored in front of you or behind you.
While inflatable kayaks don’t really boast with great performance, that’s not the case with the Explorer K2. It tracks very well, and you won’t find any issues with it not being a hard shell. Maneuverability is great, too. Add to this the paddles and pump you get with it, and you’ve got a very nice option for day-to-day paddling.
If you’d like a fishing kayak, but one that’s slightly larger and gives you a bit more storage space, the Tarpon 120 Angler is the one you should be looking for. At 12 feet it’s pretty long, while maintaining decent maneuverability and stability.
The seat is one of the comfiest seats out there, and the seating position is great for long days out on the water. There is plenty of legroom, too, and the kayak does have a lot of room if you want to stand up.
Add to this the host of storage options with two dry hatches and a bungee cord section at the rear, and you’ve got yourself an excellent fishing option. Oh, and there’s plenty of room for accessories.
Best Flat-water Fishing Option
While both of the fishing options we spoke about are excellent in their own regard, if you want to go all-out and get an expensive model with plenty of advanced features, the Escape 12 Angler is the one to go for.
Not only do you have five rod holders, but there’s also a rudder system that allows you to turn and maneuver the kayak while keeping your hands free. Add to this the integrated console with cup holder and room for things like a fishfinder or other additional accessories, and you see that Riot Kayaks spared no expense while making the Escape 12.
When you factor in the impeccable performance in just about any situation, you’re looking at one of the best, albeit expensive, sit-on-top fishing kayaks. Just, be prepared to pay for the pleasure.
Not everyone who wants a kayak for fishing is prepared to spend a lot of money on one, and that’s what Lifetime hopes to help you with. Their Sport Fisher is a 10 foot kayak that adds a lot of versatility because if you don’t want to take advantage of all the fishing gear room, you could seat up to three people.
You get two padded backrests that you can attach, so you can choose whether this is a single person, or a tandem kayak, and taking your kid or pet for the ride is certainly a possibility, too. There are three fishing pole holders, and plenty of storage, so you’re well taken care of with accessories, too.
When you factor in the HDPE construction with one of the most stable hulls out there, you’re looking at an excellent kayak for a variety of situations.
Most of the fishing kayaks out there boast with massive weight capacities and storage options, but eMotion are taking a different approach. The Stealth Angler is made to be lightweight and come with a rather reasonable maximum capacity.
At maximum 275lbs, you won’t carry too much weight, but it’s more than enough for a single paddler and a bit of fishing gear. There are three rod holders, as well as a Comfort Rest System that is great even during extended sessions out on the water. It’s really a great choice.
Performance is stellar, the kayak tracks pretty well and you can maneuver it with ease when necessary. Add to this the closed storage options and webbed storage section at the rear, and you’re looking at a great all-round kayak that’s great for shorter fishing expeditions in flat water scenarios. Oh – and it’s really, really stable.
Best Tandem Fishing Option
Most of the fishing kayaks are compact and only a single paddler can seat comfortably. However, the Malibu Pro 2 Tandem, at 13 feet, can easily seat two paddlers and plenty of fishing gear. You will be sacrificing a bit of comfort, though.
To begin with, there are no seats, just molded-in seating areas. This is by design, so you can move freely around the kayak, but it does take away from the comfort. On the other hand, you’re looking at plenty of storage options so you can take along a lot of gear and accessories with you.
Add to this the stability of the kayak, which is excellent, as well as the fact that you can use it on anything from lakes to oceans, and you’ve got a very versatile fishing option for two people.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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