Is a Sit-on-Top Kayak for You?

4-minute read

So you want to buy a kayak. How do you know if a sit-on-top or a traditional sit-inside kayak is best for you? Here are some things to consider.

 woman on a sit-on-top kayak

(Photo courtesy of @rachel.burress)

You Want a Kayak for the Family Cabin that’s Easy for Everyone

Are you looking for a kayak or two for your family cabin? Consider a sit-on-top model. They’re easy for everyone to get on, get off and paddle. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad and the kids can all use the same one(s).

Depending on your kayak’s length, you could have plenty of room to invite a small child or two along when you paddle, or the family dog. It’s a great way to introduce them to kayaking. Sit-on-tops are more stable than most sit-insides because they’re wide.

Entering and Exiting a Sit-Inside Kayak is a Challenge for You

If you have knee or hip issues and it’s painful for you to climb in and out of a traditional sit-inside kayak, consider a sit-on-top. It may even make the difference for you to be able to keep paddling as you get older.

It’s a simple matter to walk the kayak out to a water depth where you can simply turn and sit with very little bending required.

You Want to be able to Climb In from the Water

Similar to a stand-up paddleboard (or SUP), sit-on-top kayaks make it possible to enjoy a swim while you’re out paddling.

As long as your paddle is secure and the wind won’t blow your boat away (!), it’s easy to slip off your kayak into the water to cool off. Then, with a little technique, you can climb back on and keep paddling.

 man paddling a SUP/sit-on-top kayak hybrid

Some SUP manufacturers offer SUP/kayak hybrids, an alternative to a sit-on-top kayak, especially if you like the idea of an inflatable (photo courtesy of Scottie Peterson)

Or if you have kids with you, they can jump into the water from the kayak and easily get back on.

Self-Rescue is (Relatively) Easy

If you should happen to capsize—which is harder in a sit-on-top because of their width—it’s pretty easy to self-rescue.

Your kayak won’t fill up with water or sink, so it’s a matter of flipping it back over and climbing on. Both are doable for the average paddler compared to self-rescue from a sit-inside kayak, which is much trickier.

You’re an Angler and want to Fish from Your Kayak

Almost all anglers find it much easier to fish from a sit-on-top kayak than a sit-inside. They’re more stable and have loads of room for tackle boxes and other gear. Many fishing kayaks are stable enough to be able to stand on, which is a nice change from sitting all day.

woman in a sit-on-top fishing kayak, with a fish

This angler is using a sit-on-top fishing kayak (photo courtesy of @catherine.ragsdale)

If you love to fish and want to fish from your kayak, we recommend choosing one designed specifically for fishing. Many manufacturers specialize in fishing kayaks. You can also paddle recreationally from a fishing kayak if you want to do both.

Disadvantages of a Sit-on-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks have their disadvantages, too. They’re generally heavier than sit-insides of the same length. For example, the Wilderness Systems Recon 120 (sit-on-top fishing kayak) is 95 pounds, while the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (sit-inside) is 49 pounds.

And sit-on-top kayaks won’t win any speed records. If you’re interested in kayak touring—long day trips or multi-day trips—a sit-on-top will be too sluggish for you. Their width, extra weight and stability make them drag a lot of water.

How to Choose a Paddle for a Sit-on-Top Kayak

One of the main considerations when choosing a kayak paddle is the width of your boat. Because sit-on-tops are wide, you’ll need a longer paddle than you would for most sit-insides.

Here’s a chart to give you an idea of the paddle length you’ll need:

kayak paddle sizing chart from aqua bound

For more details see our Kayak Paddle Sizing Guide.

So there you have it. We hope this helps you decide on whether to add a sit-on-top kayak to your life!

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

More for you...