Do I want a sit-in or sit-on kayak?

sit on top Kayak


Have you been contemplating the world of kayaking, but can’t decide between a sit-in or a sit-on-top kayak? This article will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision. By exploring the differences, pros, cons, and factors to consider, you’ll be able to determine which type of kayak suits you best. So, let’s dive in!

Understanding Kayaks

Sit-in Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks have a cockpit where the paddler sits inside, with their legs and lower body enclosed. These kayaks are designed to provide more control and protection from the elements, making them ideal for more experienced paddlers or those looking to tackle more challenging waters.

Sit-on-top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks, as the name suggests, have a seat on top of the kayak’s hull. They are user-friendly and more accessible to beginners, providing better stability and ease of entry and exit.

Comparing Sit-in and Sit-on-top Kayaks


Both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks offer stability, but sit-on-top kayaks generally have a wider and flatter hull, making them more stable for beginners or those with limited experience.


Sit-on-top kayaks have an open design that allows for easier movement, making them more comfortable for some paddlers. However, sit-in kayaks provide better support and allow for more efficient paddling, which can be more comfortable for long-distance trips or rougher waters.

Storage Capacity

Sit-in kayaks usually have more storage space compared to sit-on-top kayaks, making them suitable for longer trips or for those who require more gear.


Sit-in kayaks provide better control and maneuverability, especially in rougher waters or when performing advanced techniques, such as rolling.


Sit-on-top kayaks are generally considered safer due to their self-draining design and ease of re-entry if you capsize. However, sit-in kayaks offer more protection from the elements and can be equipped with spray skirts to keep water out of the cockpit.

Pros and Cons of Sit-in Kayaks


  1. Better control and maneuverability
  2. More storage capacity
  3. Protection from the elements


  1. More challenging entry and exit
  2. Limited movement while seated
  3. Less stable for beginners

Pros and Cons of Sit-on-top Kayaks


  1. Greater stability
  2. Easy entry and exit
  3. More comfortable seating for some paddlers


  1. Less storage capacity
  2. Less maneuverability
  3. Less protection from the elements

Choosing the Right Kayak for Your Needs

Your Skill Level

Beginners and those with limited experience may find sit-on-top kayaks more appealing due to their stability and ease of use. However, more experienced paddlers may prefer sit-in kayaks for their better control and maneuverability.

Intended Use

Consider your intended activities before choosing a kayak. For casual paddling or fishing on calm waters, a sit-on-top kayak may be ideal. For more adventurous trips or long-distance journeys, a sit-in kayak might be a better choice.

Environmental Factors

Take into account the environment you’ll be paddling in. Sit-in kayaks provide better protection from the elements and are suitable for colder or rougher waters. Sit-on-top kayaks are better suited for warmer climates and calm waters.

Additional Factors to Consider


While the cost of a kayak varies depending on the brand and materials used, sit-on-top kayaks are generally more affordable due to their simpler design. However, it’s essential to consider other factors such as durability and features before making a decision based solely on price.

Weight Limit

Both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks have weight limits, which determine how much weight they can safely carry. Be sure to check the kayak’s weight limit and compare it to your needs, considering your own weight along with any gear you plan to bring.

Ease of Maintenance

Sit-on-top kayaks typically require less maintenance than sit-in kayaks, as they have self-draining scupper holes that help keep the kayak dry. Sit-in kayaks may require additional care to prevent water damage, such as using a bilge pump or sponge to remove water from the cockpit.


Some kayaks can be customized or upgraded with various accessories, such as fishing gear, storage compartments, or even a pedal-drive system. If adaptability is important to you, consider looking for a kayak with a modular design or options for upgrades.

Tips for Kayak Shopping

  1. Test before you buy: If possible, try out different kayak types in person to get a feel for their comfort, stability, and overall performance.
  2. Read reviews: Look for reviews from other paddlers with similar needs to gain insight into the kayak’s performance and potential issues.
  3. Choose a reputable brand: Opt for a kayak from a well-known and reputable brand to ensure better quality, durability, and customer support.
  4. Consider used kayaks: If you’re on a tight budget or unsure about committing to a specific kayak type, consider purchasing a used kayak from a trusted source.
  5. Seek expert advice: Consult with experienced paddlers or kayak retailers for guidance on selecting the right kayak for your needs and skill level.


When choosing between a sit-in and sit-on-top kayak, consider your skill level, intended use, and environmental factors. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to weigh your options and decide which one suits your needs best.

Whether you decide on a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, remember that the most important factor is finding a kayak that meets your specific needs and preferences. By considering the various aspects discussed in this article and seeking advice from experienced kayakers, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your time on the water. Happy paddling!


Are sit-in kayaks faster than sit-on-top kayaks?

Generally, sit-in kayaks tend to be faster due to their streamlined design and more efficient paddling position.

Can I install a fishing setup on a sit-on-top kayak?

Yes, many sit-on-top kayaks can be equipped with fishing gear, such as rod holders and tackle storage.

Is it easier to flip a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak?

Sit-on-top kayaks are generally more stable and harder to flip. However, both types can capsize if not used correctly.

Can I use a sit-in kayak in warm weather?

Yes, you can use a sit-in kayak in warm weather. Just make sure to dress appropriately and be aware of the potential for overheating.

Which type of kayak is easier to transport and store?

Both types of kayaks have similar dimensions and weights. However, sit-on-top kayaks can be easier to transport due to their open design, making them less likely to be damaged during transport.