Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak – Which Is The Best?

Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak

Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak: both novice and seasoned paddlers often argue over whether to sit inside or on top of their kayak. Which kayak design is best? What should you buy with your money?

It’s challenging to provide a conclusive response to such queries. Kayaks that are designed to sit inside or on top both have benefits and drawbacks. The best choice for you will depend on a number of things, including how you want to use it, your degree of expertise, the environment where you kayak, and more.

Instead of telling you which design is the best, we’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can make your own judgment.

What Distinctions Do Sit-Inside And Sit-On-Top Kayaks Have?

Although there are many distinct sorts of kayaks, each built for certain functions and types of water, the majority of kayaks come in either the sit-inside or sit-on-top configuration.

Kayaks with seats inside and on top share several characteristics. Both vessels feature a deck, hull, bow, stern, and cockpit with a seat, and some include storage for gear. Both may be paddled with a double-ended paddle and are available in solo or tandem forms.

The main difference between the two is that while one has a deck that covers your legs, the other is open. It’s crucial to comprehend the other primary distinctions between sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks before choosing the one that’s right for you.


The cockpit is the primary distinction between the two, as was already established. In an open sit-on-top kayak, you sit on top of the cockpit as opposed to inside.

In contrast, the deck of sit-inside kayak curls around to envelop your legs. You enter the cockpit by putting your feet through a slot in the deck, and you may choose to add a spray skirt to keep water out. Spray skirts are not necessary for sit-on-top kayaks since the deck already has a number of tiny holes. These openings, known as scupper holes, enable water to escape from the cockpit.

Apart from that, many of the fundamental guidelines for kayak design remain the same. A longer kayak will go more quickly but turn more slowly. Similar to broader boats, wider kayaks are usually more stable but travel more slowly over the water and may be challenging to maintain a straight course. Sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks are also subject to these design guidelines.

With any kind of kayak, you may use a skeg or rudder, and both include a seat and foot brace. Knee braces that assist you in controlling the kayak may be included with a sit-inside kayak.

Seating & Comfort

Sit-on-top kayaks are more comfortable for many individuals. This is due to how much more liberating the open cockpit is. During a pause, you may sit cross-legged, stretch your legs, or put your feet in the water.

Additionally, sit-on-top kayak chairs provide extra back support. A sit-on-top kayak may accommodate a high-backed seat as a spray deck is not required. Even while a comfy seat can still fit inside a sit-in kayak, you’ll have to make do without complete back support and instead opt for a low-backed seat or backband.

Weight & Load Capacity

While the typical kayak may weigh up to 80 pounds, the lightest kayaks weigh at least 20 pounds. Sit-inside kayaks often weigh a little less than their sit-on-top counterparts, however, this may vary depending on the material used in construction.

Additionally, you may carry more gear since sit-on-top kayaks sometimes have larger weight capacities than sit-inside kayaks. The maximum weight capacity of both kinds of kayaks must be adhered to, which means that neither your weight nor the weight of your gear may exceed it.


You should think about where you’ll keep your gear whether you’re planning a multiday excursion or a picnic by the water. Both sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks include gear storage compartments; however, sit-inside kayaks have a larger dry storage capacity.

In the stern of sit-on-top kayaks with deck buggy, there is often a recess where you may connect your gear. A bow recess and a tiny storage hatch may also be included on longer sit-on-top kayaks and fishing kayaks. It’s much simpler to reach gear when on the water since you keep it on the deck.

The majority of the storage capacity in sit-inside kayaks is located beneath hatches in the bow and stern, despite the fact that they also have deck bungees where you may tie a small dry bag or jacket. Additionally, some sit-inside kayaks include a tiny hatch that is accessible from the cockpit.

Your kit should remain dry within the hatches, provided that your hatches and seals are in excellent shape. Although the hatch size restricts what you can carry, you won’t be able to access your gear while you’re on the water.


Determining the kayak’s length is necessary if you’ve chosen you want to choose a sit-on-top and sit inside the kayak. As a general rule, a kayak will travel more effectively the wider and longer it is. While a larger kayak would go slower, it will also be more stable. Due to their size and extreme solidity, the majority of sit-on-top kayaks are classified as “recreational” (or “rec”) kayaks.


Sit-on-top kayaks are often less expensive than sit-inside kayaks, however, both novice and expert paddlers may find plenty of affordable kayaks on the market. But you can often get secondhand sit-inside kayaks at a reasonable price as well.

Futhermore, when venturing into the realm of kayaking, many paddlers grapple with the decision between sit-on-top and sit-inside designs, each with its own unique features related to comfort and stability. Yet, beyond these considerations lies an equally important factor: financial accessibility. The world of best affordable kayaks is filled with diverse options, some striking a remarkable balance between quality and cost-effectiveness.


The broader the kayak, the more stable it will be. However, stability is also influenced by hull design. However, seat height also affects stability; a kayak will be less stable if the seat is higher than it is if the seat is lower.

The seat of a sit-inside kayak is often at or slightly above the waterline. Your center of gravity is lowered, which improves stability. In contrast, a sit-on-top kayak’s seat is somewhat higher, especially in fishing kayaks, which often feature mounted seats.

Sit-on-top kayaks are hence often broader in the bow and stern than their sit-inside counterparts. Since of their design, they are usually seen as being more stable because it offsets their greater center of gravity.


Performance refers to the kayak’s maximum speed and the amount of work required to propel it forward and maintain that pace. For instance, paddling a long, narrow touring kayak often allows you to cover a lot more ground with less effort than you might in a short, broad recreational kayak.

Equal-length sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks should function equally well, in principle. Sit-on-top kayaks are often broader, thus it takes more work to go at the same pace.

They also have certain commonalities

The two styles are very different in several ways, however, they are comparable in their core elements:

The kayak’s top is referred to as the deck, and it often has bungees or deck lines.

  • The hull is at the bottom.
  • The bow is in the front.
  • The stern is at the rear.

Both varieties of kayaks feature:

  • A seat (or seats in case of tandem kayaks).
  • Simple footwells or movable foot pedals that provide foot support (which are more comfortable on a full day of paddling).

The best kayaks will often have a built-in backrest to make paddling for extended periods of time more comfortable.

Which is preferable between sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks?

Both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks have advantages and disadvantages. These are the main things to consider while deciding between the two.

Sit-on-top Kayak Pros

  • They benefit from an advantage in early stability because to their larger beam. As a result, they are more stable and convenient to operate than sit-in kayaks.
  • They are easy to enter and exit. You can swim or dive into the water without risk, then climb out anytime you choose.
  • A SOT kayak has no cockpit, so if it turns over, it won’t swamp (fill up). It can be swiftly turned back over so you can get back on.
  • Self-bailing drain holes will allow any water that remains on the deck to drain away.
  • Both for launching and landing, the design is practical. If you launch from knee-deep water, you may swing your legs aboard and drop yourself into the kayak’s seat. Due of this, SOK kayaks are the preferred option for those with mobility limitations.
  • They are better for bigger individuals since there is no cockpit to squeeze into.
  • On the deck of a SOT, you can bungee anything, which is crucial for multi-day camping excursions since it has more room for storage.
  • Additionally, because everything is on the deck, it is easier to reach your gear. To grab your belongings, you won’t need to strain or reach far into your cockpit. This is crucial for fisherman, who want room to store their gear and unrestricted mobility to utilize it. All kayaks used for fishing are sit-on-top models.
  • Kayaks with seats on top are less expensive than those with seats inside.

Sit-on-top Kayak Drawbacks

  • Sit-on-top kayaks lack or have very little interior storage, which is a disadvantage. As a result, you must carry all of your gear in waterproof bags. If you capsize, there is also a higher likelihood that you may lose things.
  • The fact that sit-on-top kayaks don’t shield your lower body from the wind, rain, or splashes is another important drawback. Additionally, water may splash onto the kayak from below thanks to the scupper holes that enable self-bailing. Consequently, you should anticipate getting wet if you paddle a sit-on-top kayak. Because of this, sit-on-top kayaks are less ideal for paddling in chilly environments and cold water.
  • The fact that sit-on-top kayaks are often heavier is another disadvantage. They are more difficult to carry because of this and their wider bow and stern, and they travel more slowly than sit-inside kayaks.

Sit-inside Kayak Pros

  • Inside the kayak, you’ll find space to stow your belongings and keep them dry. The self-draining scupper holes featured on SOK kayaks prevent water from entering. Even some sit-in kayaks come with built-in, waterproof storage spaces.
  • You may use a shorter paddle with SIK kayaks because of its smaller beam. Because of the tighter moment arm, the boat is now easier to move ahead. The distance between your midline and the portion of the paddle that is in the water is known as the moment arm. It is simpler to paddle the shorter it is.)
  • The main benefit of a sit-inside kayak is that it has better secondary stability due to its lower center of gravity than a sit-on-top kayak. This makes it possible to maintain your balance in choppy waters by leaning the boat over on its side. However, there is a trade-off, which I’ll discuss in the section on the drawbacks.
  • You may rest your legs against the side of the kayak and the bottom of the deck while seated within a cockpit. In order to improve your control of the kayak and make it more maneuverable, your body almost merges with the body of the kayak.
  • Sit-inside kayaks may be much slimmer than sit-on-top models since they have a lower center of gravity. They are better suited for longer voyages since they are longer and thinner than SOT kayaks, which makes them quicker and simpler to paddle.
  • Sit-inside kayaks are less impacted by wind because of their lower profile.
  • Protection from the heat and choppy water is offered by the enclosed cockpit.
  • For complete protection from rain, snow, or icy water during winter paddling, a spray skirt may be quickly and simply fitted to the cockpit coaming. A high-quality spray skirt that is properly sealed may also be a safety feature since it will keep water out of the cockpit in the event that you overturn the boat (providing you can roll back and correct your kayak).

Sit-inside Kayak Drawbacks

  • The single largest drawback of sit-inside kayaks is that they are difficult to rescue because of how much water the cockpit can hold if you capsize.
  • To avoid this, touring kayaks often include one or two incorporated bulkheads. But you question, “What is a bulkhead?”
  • A kayak bulkhead is a built-in compartment that keeps air within the kayak. The bulkhead serves as a flotation chamber to keep the boat floating in the event of a swamp and restricts the amount of water that may enter it. Bulkheads also include a hatch, allowing you to utilize them for dry-storing goods.
  • Although the majority of recreational sit-inside kayaks lack a bulkhead, the better models feature one behind the seat.
  • Flipping a flooded kayak back is exceedingly challenging if you’re on your own, as is getting the water out of it. Without dry bulkheads, it is almost difficult to paddle a kayak that is full with water. Beginners using SIK kayaks should thus paddle near to the beach so they can swim out in case their kayak flips over and empty it.
  • You need a touring kayak with bulkheads if you want to paddle on open water, but before you do that, you need learn how to right a capsized kayak and get back in it. Although paddling along the coast is fun, you must be ready to keep yourself safe.
  • Only objects that fit through the cockpit and other hatches may be transported. When you tie heavier objects to the deck, your performance and balance suffer.
  • Recall how SIK kayaks’ reduced center of gravity led to better secondary stability? Here is the opposite, however. They have poorer primary stability because to their low sitting posture (i.e., when the kayak remains upright and stable when the keel is directly underneath a sitting paddler) Here is a justification for it.

You are reading: Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak

FAQs about Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak

Which One Is Better For Fishing?

The majority would agree that sit-on-top kayaks are preferable for fishing. You have access to your gear, can cast a line, and walk about. You can do all of that without falling in since sit-on-top fishing kayaks are highly stable.

Sit-on-top kayaks are virtually typically used for specialized fishing. A significant feature like raised seats, rod holders, pedals, or standing platforms may be added by manufacturers thanks to the design.

What kind of kayaks is best for sit-inside use?

For intermediate-advanced paddlers wishing to do a certain sort of activity, sit-in kayaks are suitable. Since these activities need specially designed kayaks, these kayaks are also more costly than regular recreational sit-on-top kayaks.

Whitewater and winter kayaking need protection from the elements, which is why a spray skirt should be added to a SIK.

Extended and slender touring kayaks make long paddling expeditions simpler.

You should also think about the kind and quantity of gear you’ll be bringing in your kayak. A sit-inside style can be a better option if you need to keep your equipment dry.

Who are sit-on-top kayaks the most suitable for?

If you are new to kayaking, merely want to paddle about casually, or if youngsters will be using it, you should choose a sit-on-top kayak. With this kind of kayak, it’s quite easy to go on the water and spend the day on the lake with friends or family. Anytime you want, you can take a swim and, with a little practice, securely climb back on. SOK kayaks are excellent for use by children or for playing on lakes since they cannot sink.

They are safer because they are more stable.

Sit on top Yaks offer a ton of open cargo space, which you should take into account if you want to go river paddling, scuba diving, or fishing for many days. On deck, your gear will get wet, but you may always store dry bags of clothing or water-sensitive equipment.

Another aspect that contributes to the attraction of SOK kayaks is their reduced price. If you’re just beginning out or uncertain about your interest in the sport, they could be better.

Which Is Better For Recreation?

Sit-inside kayaks may vary greatly in terms of their size, design, and intended use. Touring and leisurely sit-inside kayaks are the two distinct kinds of sit-inside kayaks (or sea kayaks). The recreational kayaks are longer and wider, and they have spacious cockpits. They don’t in any way feel constrained by it.

The bigger, more narrow dimensions of sea kayaks, commonly referred to as touring kayaks, improve their efficiency. The ability to manipulate the margins of the vessel is also provided by the knee-cups or thigh hooks that they have. The cockpits are more compact. Consequently, you’ll feel more constrained, but it’s also easy to get out of these boats.

You may select a shorter kayak if speed isn’t a priority for you since they are lighter and easier to operate.

What kind is better for ocean kayaking?

You should think about what would happen if you turn over and can’t obtain aid right away before you go out into the open seas.

You have a choice of:

  • A sit-on-top type that is easy to re-climb, or
  • A sitting touring kayak that has many bulkheads.

Both are suitable for use in the ocean, but before going too far from land, you should know how to empty and climb inside a touring SIK.

Who Are Sit-Inside Kayaks Best Suitable For?

Children and novices with no prior paddling experience should use sit-on-top kayaks. A sit-on-top kayak would be the most secure choice if you want to learn on your own and will not be enrolling in a paddle class.

Sit-on-top kayaks are also great for those who live in warm climates or who like to go paddling for fun in the summer. In addition, they are the most practical choice for paddling or fishing excursions alone.

Which Is Better For Beginners?

Either a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak is a good place to start learning how to kayak. However, since you don’t need to know how to execute wet exits, many novices choose to start in sit-on-top kayaks. The best kind of kayak for beginners will ultimately rely on how, when, and where you want to use it, as well as your objectives.

A sit-inside kayak is better if you want to paddle long distances on open water, compete, or navigate whitewater. Meanwhile, learning to paddle a sit-on-top kayak should meet your demands if your main uses are fishing or leisurely paddling.

Which Is Safer?

Parents of young paddlers and novices alike often ask this question. Compared to sit-inside kayaks, are sit-on-top kayaks safer?

Whatever kind of kayak you decide to paddle, you must be aware of the fundamental safety precautions and always carry the necessary safety gear. However, for novices and young children just paddling to paddle, sit-on-top kayaks are the safest choice. This is due to the fact that most recreational sit-on-top kayaks are very stable and almost unsinkable.

A sit-on-top kayak is reasonably easy to turn over and get back into if you manage to overturn it. Not that sit-inside kayaks are risky, however. However, you need to get instruction from an expert paddler on how to do wet departures and capsize recoveries.

Which Style of Paddling Do You Want to Practice?

The first step in determining whether to choose a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak is to respond to this question.

Kayaks with seats are a great option for:

  • Recreational kayakers that prefer steadiness over speed. In several sit-on-tops, you can even stand up.
  • Kayakers who prefer a kayak that they can simply enter and exit over a sit-in kayak that requires a bit more effort.
  • Kayakers like having the assurance that they won’t be flooded. If you capsize, you can usually turn it upright and get back on with a little skill.
  • Kayak fishermen

The best option for sit-inside kayaks:

  • Performance-oriented kayakers
  • Those who want to go on multi-day kayak expeditions
  • Oceans and vast expanses of water (sea kayaks)
  • Rivers with rapids (whitewater kayaks)

Which Is Portable More?

No kayak is easy to maneuver! However, sit-ins are often significantly lighter, which makes them simpler for one person to handle. If the sit-on-top doesn’t have a stern wheel or you aren’t utilizing a cart, two persons are usually needed to move it.

We really hope that this will enable you to focus your selection of a kayak. Enjoy your paddling!

Which Kayak Type Should You Select?

For the sit-inside vs. sit-on-top kayak dispute, there is no right or incorrect response. Both kinds of kayaks have benefits.

In the end, you need to choose the one that best meets your requirements. Consider your primary uses for your kayak: whitewater rafting, multi-day tours, fishing, or leisurely paddling. What kind of storage do you require?

Think about your objectives and skill level as well. Do you feel comfortable entering and exiting a sit-inside kayak? Can you maintain an upright kayak? Do you already have knowledge of capsize rescue techniques or are you willing to learn them? Do you have a more seasoned paddler to train with if you’re a beginner?

Read more: Are inflatable kayaks worth it?


Sit On Top Vs Sit In Kayak: which one ought you to choose then? It actually depends on what your intended aim is if you value performance more than ease of transporting.

Easy exit from the boat without having to climb over the side may be ideal for you if you wish to make lengthy journeys over open water, maybe overnight.

However, a sit-in kayak could be the best choice for you if you want a quick, maneuverable kayak. Whatever option you choose, it’s crucial to test out a few before investing in a long-term piece of gear. You may avoid spending money on a product that won’t meet your demands by physically testing out several sorts and models to see which one best suits them.

We thought that after reading all of this, you would have a better understanding of the kayak game and be able to choose what is best for you. We hope you have a fantastic trip and pleasant fishing.

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