Convenience and Comfort in a relatively small package. GCI Outdoor offers a fairly versatile seat option for flat seat canoes and several styles of kayaks…providing a greater level of comfort and support…translating into longer paddling days.
I have been paddling for over a half century and have owned several different canoes and kayaks during that time period. There are two common complaints I have when paddling long hours…#1 I yearn for greater seat cushioning and #2 as I age I desire more back support. As a result, I have had my eye on the GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seat for quite some time…but never pulled the trigger. I was elated when given the opportunity to test and review these seats for another website.
When paddling long trips on flat water in Canada or multi-day river trips I spend an inordinate amount of time dreaming of a perfect paddling seat…so expectations can run quite high when you finally get to review one. In this review, I will share what I like about the Sitbacker Canoe Seat and what I would like to change if I could.
What I liked:
- Split seat
- Thick closed-cell foam on seat
- Portage lock hook-n-loop tab
- One strap/buckle seatback adjustment
- Simple 2-snap buckle on seat attachment
- Dimensions. Large enough for comfort, small enough to fit a variety of boats
- Fabric used. Durable and proven Ripstop nylon and oxford packcloth
- Relatively lightweight
What I would change if I could:
- The seatback upper frame bar…it is straight and I prefer a contoured outward bend.
- Incorporate aluminum framing rather than steel (I reside and paddle mostly in a saltwater environment)
- Closed-cell foam in lumbar region to avoid sponging
- Aluminum or SS adjustment buckle and pivot bracket
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Now that may appear to be a lot of things I’d liked changed, but it is primarily because I live and play mostly in a hot and humid saltwater environment…which does not play well with steel framing, nor plastic/nylon/zytel fasteners. Plastic products of all qualities become brittle and either break or crumble.
I will have to be more diligent in my after-use maintenance, with washing these seats down with soapy water and strive to keep them out of the sun and heat.
Ease of Use:
Attachment and actual use cannot get much easier than fastening two snap-buckles and pulling the webbing taut…then opening the seat and sitting your tail-end on it. If you want less recline, you pull one strap on your right. If you want more recline, you lift on the yellow buckle to release tension on that same strap. Nothing complex about that.
Seat comfort is really dependent on a few variables…Activity, Duration, and Tolerance. I don’t care how much “cush” any seat has, eventually you’ll likely grow uncomfortable. Seats are a very personal thing…and I’m as persnickety as the next person, prefering the Barcalounger and still longing for the lush bench seats found in 1980’s Sedan de Ville’s that you would disappear into. So seats can be a point of division for folks.
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I felt that the GCI Sitbacker Canoe Seatoffers a nice balance. I like the thick, dense closed-cell foam on the seat bottom. It is far more comfortable than my kayak’s Phase 3 seat and my canoe’s cane bench seat.
I am not a paddling purist when canoeing, but do lean forward during my strokes, so the seat back is not critical at that point, nor when paddling my kayaks as I also lean forward. However, I do lean back when resting and fishing and at those times I desire “long-term” comfort. The Sitbacker Canoe Seat seat back is comfortable “short-term” and that can mean different things to different folks.
It is a sling style seat back, but if I really lean back with my full weight for an hour of fishing…I get to wishing the top bar was contoured to fit the shape of my back rather than a straight bar that tends to apply too much pressure directly below my scapula. I’m 6’0″ and my daughter in the photos is 5’10″ and fits her wonderfully. Is it a Deal Breaker? I don’t think so. There is a backward bend to the vertical seat back framing, but if I had a backward bow in the horizontal bar as well, it’d offer me long term comfort.
It’s The Small Things:
Isn’t it always the small things that bring us joy or make life just a tad easier? The “Portage Lock” is one of those small things. If you don’t portage your canoe, it probably won’t mean much to you…but if you do, it is just one small add-on that makes life so much easier. To be able to leave the Sitbacker Canoe Seat strapped onto your bench seat during portaging is great, but to loop one small sewn on hook-n-loop strap through an attached ‘U bracket’ to prevent the seat back from flopping down into your view during portaging is greater.
*Though some may choose to leave the GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seat attached to their paddlecraft with the Portage Lock secured during transport…I would not recommend it. Though I haven’t seen any alongside the roadway, better safe than sorry applies here.
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The GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seat is a product I like and can wholeheartedly recommend. The “Things I like” outweigh the “Things I’d change if I could” and most of those are speculative anyways. I look forward to putting countless hours on this seat, so if anything changes I’ll be sure to revisit this review with an update. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this, but you’ll do your own research and find it yourself…website MSRP is $45…but Dick’s Sporting Goods has it for $34.99, a considerable amount cheaper.
**Additional Notes: The GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seat is primarily designed and best suited for a flat bench-style canoe seat. It does work great also in my models of kayaks seen in the photos. Be aware that when securing the bottom retention straps around the sides of the kayak molded seat (purely to prevent them from sliding…which it has not slid), I believe it places a different stress on the fabric and straps than designed…which may result in premature fabric failure. Though I left the retention straps loose, when I would cinch the seat back strap tighter, I could feel the tension on the front of the seat-bottom…so much so that it would lift that front portion off the kayak seat. Worked perfectly but I know not to tightened the retention straps when wrapped to the side.
Second “note,” I’ve read other reviews complaining that the tension strap that snugs up the reclining to the seat back releases over time. Truth is, it does and it will. Any buckle that doesn’t have a cam-lock will. I find it a nonissue…shoot, the buckle on my shorts do that daily. Backpackers face the same situation with shoulder straps all day long on the trails. It’s not a negative.
I have been using these GCI Outdoor Sitbacker Canoe Seats for several weeks paddling day trips in the Mangrove Estuaries and fishing coastal bays and backwaters. Experience with removable canoe seats with adjustable seat back is nil…with permanent folding plastic, such as Old Town’s I have used and do not prefer. All my “sit-in” kayaks have built-in thinly padded, molded seats with folding seat backs. I find them marginally better than the hard plastic, as the padding is far too thin to be of benefit.