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Your Guide To Sit-on-Top Kayaks & How To Choose Yours?

I may be a bit sentimental but I think kayaking is one of the greatest watersports today. You get to explore all kinds of waters from the comfort of your kayak, from rugged coastlines to inland rivers. A model of kayak that has gained a lot of popularity over the years is the Sit-on-Top kayak.

Sit-on-Top kayaks are very comfortable, spacious, and allow you to move around the deck, a big advantage for people that don’t like the feeling of confinement you may otherwise get from traditional kayaks. They can also withstand strong and rapid torrents making you enjoy your time on the water knowing you are safe. You can easily spend hours or even days on a Sit-on-Top kayak.

Whether you are a beginner or experienced kayaker or an experienced fisherman, there will always be a Sit-on-Top kayak that will meet your needs and improve your experience when kayaking.

As you’d expect, there are so many Sit-on-Top kayaks on the market which seem to be increasing every year. This makes it difficult for one to separate the very best Sit-on-Top kayaks from all the options available. I’ll be taking you through an extensive buying guide. Here you’ll learn all the factors you need to consider when buying a sit-on-top and thus be able to make an informed decision.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sit-on-Top Kayaks vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks have many advantages over conventional sit-in kayaks some of which will be highlighted below:

  • It’s easy to enter or exit a sit-on-top kayak due to the open cockpit. It’s common to see kayakers leaving a sit-on-top kayak to go swimming when the kayak is on the water because of the ease of entry and exit.
  • The open-air cockpit of sit-on-top kayaks makes the kayaker feel less confined and claustrophobic. Most sit-on-top kayakers also have excellent stability and will not capsize easily. It’s literally unsinkable.
  • You’ll also be cooler when paddling on hot days as you receive more fresh air.
  • There is more space to store your gear as there is no enclosed cockpit to limit the size of the storage area.
  • There are drain holes on sit-on-top kayaks to help drain water out of the vessel without going to the shore.

The only disadvantage of sit-on-top kayaks is that you are exposed to the elements. This means you are going to feel hot if the weather is hot or feel cold if it’s windy. As you paddle, there’s a high chance that you are going to splash some water onto your body due to the open design. Now, this is a good thing in hot climates as the water can cool your body. It’s also advisable to use some sunscreen if you’ll be paddling on a hot day.

But you see, getting wet in cooler climates is far from fun. So a sit-on-kayak may not be the best in colder climates because you’ll be exposed to the elements.

Where and What Will You Use Your Sit-on-Top Kayak For?

There are four main types of SOT kayaks which will be discussed below:

Recreational SOT kayaks are designed for use on flat water. This type of kayak has high stability and is also easy to maneuver making them a great choice for beginner kayakers.

Touring SOT  kayaks are designed for longer kayaking expeditions. Because of this, they are designed to be faster and more stable. Touring kayaks can handle oceans and river rapids better than recreational kayaks.

Whitewater SOT kayaks are specifically designed for use on whitewater rapids. This type of kayak is generally shorter for increased maneuverability.

Surf SOT kayaks are designed for kayakers that want to wants to go surfing while enjoying the stability and convenience a kayak offers.

The type of water you intend to kayak on is another factor you have to put into consideration. Recreational kayaks are designed for use on calm or flat water. Touring kayaks are more equipped to handle torrents or rapids due to their larger size and thus increased stability

Best sit-on-top kayaks - Guide

How to Choose Your Sit-on-Top Kayak


The material used to manufacture a sit-on-top kayak will determine its weight capacity, rigidity, price, and durability. Below are some of the most popular materials used to manufacture sit-on-top kayaks.

Polyethylene is a popular material used to manufacture kayaks because of its durability and affordability. The material is also easy to mold and color.

Polycarbonate Plastic is especially used for middle-priced kayaks. The material is less susceptible to damage from sunlight when compared to polyethylene.

Fiberglass is very lightweight, durable, and can easily withstand UV, abrasions, scratches, and so on. The material is mainly used for high-end yaks that are usually very expensive.

Kevlar is even more expensive and lighter than fiberglass. Kayaks made from fiberglass and kevlar aren’t as popular because of their high price. There’s also the fact that high-end polyethylene and polycarbonate yaks have high performance.


The comfort of your kayak is very important as uncomfortable yaks may force you to cut your kayaking short. Comfort is even more important for touring kayaks that are meant for long-distance paddling. Always go for kayaks that have well-padded seats as well as back support. Some kayaks even have adjustable footrests to make you more comfortable when paddling.

Weight Capacity

Your SOT kayak will have a weight capacity that will be clearly specified. Exceeding the weight capacity of your kayak will lead to the vessel getting worn out at a faster rate. This diminishes the durability and consequently the longevity of your vessel.

Take your weight and that of your gear into consideration before buying a kayak. If you want to carry a large amount of gear along, look for yaks with a high weight capacity. Touring kayaks generally have more space than other types of yaks in order to allow the kayaker to carry enough gear and supplies needed for longer expeditions.

Length, Width, Shape

The length and width of a kayak have an effect on its performance. Generally, shorter and wider kayaks are more stable but slower. Most recreational kayaks are designed this way because the recreational kayaker is more concerned about stability.

On the other hand, narrower and longer kayaks are usually faster. Sporting kayaks are usually designed in this manner. However, these kayaks are usually less stable.

Overall, sit-on-top kayaks are more stable than other types of kayaks as they have a higher center of gravity as well as wider body shapes.

Portability & Storage

You have to consider how lightweight and portable a SOT kayak is before buying it as you’ll have to transport your yak to and from the water. Lighter yaks will be more comfortable to transport in your car with the appropriate roof rack. You can also use a trailer to transport your kayak.

There is also the issue of storage. Storing your SOT kayak will be easy if you have a garage, barn, or storage shed. The most compact SOT kayaks may be difficult to carry on stairs or through a door.

If you don’t own a car or have adequate storage space at home for your yak, you can take a look at folding kayaks or inflatable kayaks.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the very best sit-on-top kayaks available on the market and a buying guide to help simplify the decision-making process for you. No matter your paddling needs, there’ll always be a sit-on-top kayak for you. Sit-o-top kayaks are fun, easy to use, and affordable. Get one today and start ruling the waters!

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