Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak: Find Your Perfect Match 2023

sit in vs sit on top kayak

Table of Contents

Single and double kayaks can be found for sale in either the sit-on-top (SOT) or sit-inside (SIK) style. As you probably guessed, a double is meant for two people and a single is for one. It’s also worth noting that these can be purchased either as a hard shell or as an inflatable, with links to both types appearing on relevant websites.

sit on top kayak, Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak

However, Sit-in vs. Sit-on-Top The unfamiliarity that comes with not knowing what to look for when shopping for a kayak can make the process more challenging, but the good news is that kayaks have many of the same parts. For instance, the top of these kayaks is called the Deck or Kayak Deck, and the bottom is called the hull. The forward section is called the Bow, and the rear section is called the Stern. Deck lines or bungees are commonly present in addition to the deck.

Grasp handles, and possibly rudders, are located on the kayak’s tail. Different from skegs, which are placed in the water to help keep the boat heading in a straight line, rudders can be swung horizontally with the use of a foot control. Both of these instruments play crucial roles in guiding the ship.

This sit-on-top kayak, like sit-inside kayaks, has a seat and foot wells for comfort and stability. And because paddlers come in all shapes and sizes, the foot pedals can be moved along the track to accommodate them. The foot wells are handy, but the foot pedals are what you need for a full day on the water. They’re more supportive and comfy than your regular shoes. The most comfortable kayak seating is provided by models that include a backrest.

The sit-inside kayak is distinguished from the open kayak by its enclosure. It’s in this control center, or “cockpit,” that you’ll spend most of your time. Any cockpit worth its salt will have a cockpit rim around which a spray skirt can be fastened to keep water out of the cockpit. You can adjust the seat and foot pedals in the cockpit to suit your own personal needs. These are also easier to get on and down.

Sit-On-top Kayak Pros & Cons


sit on top kayak


  1. User friendly

  2. Very Stable

  3. Easy to ride and no confinement feeling.

  4. Self bailing (small holes- scupper holes – assist the water to drain through them)

  5. You can slip on or slip off if you want.

  6. For people who want warm environment and who want to paddle with kids.


  1. You are likely to get wet while paddling almost guarenteed. (But sit in doesn’t have that issue)

Sit-in Kayak Pros & Cons

71y 5NswxqL. AC SL1500


  1. provides shelter to your lower body from the wind (makes it much warmer)

  2. Great if you kayak in the cold.

  3. Keeps your body dry.

  4. large cockpits

  5. Only few provide waterproof compartments which can be accessed through hatches in the deck.


  1. You have less freedom to move in or out of the water.

  2. If you flip, recovery is complicated. (Kayak likely to be filled with water) Disaster right?

Boat Length:

kayak boat length

Sit-in kayaks, as opposed to sit-on-top kayaks, tend to be longer and narrower so that the paddler can move more quickly and efficiently through the water. In addition, the longest sit-in kayaks available are 14 feet (4.3 meters) in length, while the most common ones are around 10 feet (three meters) in length (3.1 meters). Because of their greater tracking and stability on the water, sit-in kayaks are the best choice for extended paddling trips.Talking about kayaking excursions, why don’t you check out best winter kayaking places?

In contrast, sit-on-top kayaks are more manageable because they are shorter and wider than traditional kayaks. Typically, sit-on-top kayaks range in length from 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 meters), but shorter (1.8 meters) and longer (4.3 meters) models are available as well (4.3 meters). Due to their shorter length and increased maneuverability, sit-on-top kayaks are perfect for surfing and whitewater paddling.

These are just suggestions; the ideal kayak length will vary depending on the activity in which it will be used, the paddler’s height and weight, and the paddler’s own preferences.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Material & Weight

The exterior of both kayaks is made of a hard plastic that is both extremely long-lasting and low-maintenance. It’s also neat that modern kayaks can be fashioned out of advanced composites like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar. That makes them lighter, but the trade-off is that they don’t hold up well to abuse and are very expensive.

There is a wide variety in kayak sizes and styles, and not all of them are constructed from the same materials. Some typical components of these watercraft include:

  • Polyethylene: This is like the sweatpants of kayak materials. It’s cheap, comfy, and can handle some wear and tear. But don’t leave it out in the sun too long, or it might fade and get all brittle like an old pair of sweats.


  • Fiberglass: Think of this as the Lululemon of kayak materials. It’s lightweight, strong, and looks good, but you’ll pay a premium for it. And just like your fancy workout clothes, it’s not the best choice for rough terrain.

  • Kevlar: This is like the body armor of kayak materials. It’s tough, lightweight, and can withstand impacts and abrasions. But unless you’re planning on going to war in your kayak, it might be overkill.


  • Carbon fiber: This is like the sports car of kayak materials. It’s super fast, super expensive, and only for the most hardcore paddlers. And just like a fancy car, it might make people jealous (or annoyed) when you show it off.

Carbon fibre

In the end, the choice of material depends on your budget, intended use, and personal style. Just remember, no matter what material your kayak is made from, it’s all about the journey, not the destination (or the price tag).

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Design

The cockpit is the primary design distinction between sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. Just like in a convertible car, the open cockpit of a sit-on-top kayak lets you enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. A sit-inside kayak, on the other hand, is more akin to a snug cabin, what with its enclosed leg space and weather protection (unless you forget to attach your spray skirt, then you might be in for a wet surprise).

Sit-on-top kayaks, as I mentioned at the outset, don’t require you to get stuck if you capsize, and they’re simple to enter and exit. In warmer months, you can jump in the water and cool off without feeling suffocated. Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, are not as stable as sit-in kayaks, making them harder to handle in rough water.

Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are more secure and permit greater command over the craft’s movements, making them the ideal choice for outdoor excursions in inclement weather. You can wear a spray skirt and stay dry, making them ideal for the fall and winter. It may take more effort to enter and exit a sit-in kayak, and you’ll need to practice a wet exit in the event of a capsize.

Both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks adhere to the same fundamental design principles. A longer kayak will travel further without tiring as quickly, while a wider kayak will be more stable but slower moving and trickier to steer. Both sit-on-top and double kayaks feature seats, foot braces, and rudders or skegs to aid in navigation.

So whether you prefer the open-air feel of a sit-on-top kayak or the cozy enclosure of a sit-in kayak, there’s a design out there that’s right for you. Just don’t forget your sunscreen (or spray skirt)!

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Performance

Sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks of similar length or diameter should theoretically perform similarly. However, in practice, the wider sit-on-top kayak usually requires more effort to reach the same speed as the shorter, narrower sit-inside kayak.

Performance in a kayak is measured by how quickly and efficiently you can paddle. One can travel the same distance with much less effort in a long, narrow touring kayak than in a short, wide recreational kayak.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Storage

You should think about how to store your gear on your kayak, whether you’re going on a weekend trip or just need a place to stash your snacks. Like pickup trucks, sit-on-top kayaks have a large cargo area on top, making it easy to store and retrieve gear. In addition, having all your kayaking gear out in the open will make you feel like a true kayaking cowboy.

On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks resemble miniature houses in that they have storage spaces where you can safely stow your gear out of the water. Trying to pack all of your gear into the cramped compartments without jamming the hatches is like playing a game of Tetris. In any case, at least you’ll have a sense of order and mastery.

Here are the key points to consider for gear storage:

  • Sit-on-top kayaks have a recess in the stern for attaching gear, and longer models may have additional storage in the bow and center.

  • Sit-inside kayaks have hatches in the bow and stern, and possibly a small hatch within reach of the cockpit.

  • Sit-on-top kayaks make it easy to access your gear on the water, while sit-inside kayaks keep your gear dry and organized.

  • Sit-on-top kayaks are great for hauling larger items like coolers or camping gear, while sit-inside kayaks are better for smaller, more valuable items that you want to keep safe and dry.

So whether you’re a gear junkie or a minimalist, there’s a kayak storage solution out there for you. Just don’t forget to bring your kayak cowboy hat (or tiny house blueprints)!

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Cost

The most advanced type of kayak available today is the sit-in variety. They’re fast, fashionable, and perfect for road trips across the country. They are, however, quite expensive. It’ll set you back a pretty penny to get your hands on one of these bad boys. Because of this, you should be prepared to empty your bank account if you want a kayak that will make you feel like a king on the water.

Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, are the “economy class item” of kayaks. Although they lack the glamour of more expensive options, they are just as effective. You can get one for a lot less money than a sit-in kayak, and it will still provide you with the opportunity to get some exercise and appreciate the outdoors.

Keep in mind that a sit-on-top kayak does not provide much protection from the elements. Although pricey, wetsuits and drysuits may be required for kayaking in cold or rough waters.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Stability

Stability in a kayak is affected by width and hull shape, but also by the height of the seat. A higher seat position will decrease stability.

  • Wider kayaks are more stable than narrower kayaks.

  • The shape of the hull also impacts stability.

  • An elevated seating position decreases stability.

  • In sit-inside kayaks, the seat is usually at or just above the waterline, which provides a lower center of gravity and greater stability.

  • Sit-on-top kayaks typically have a higher seating position, particularly in fishing kayaks that have mounted seats.

  • As a result, sit-on-top kayaks are typically wider at the bow and stern to compensate for the higher center of gravity, making them more stable.

    Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Stability Comparison table:

    Kayak type Seat height Seat position Width Stability
    Sit-inside Low At/above waterline Narrower More stable
    Sit-on-top High Elevated Wider Less stable (compared to sit-inside)


Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak for comfort?

Well, Sit-on-top kayaks are generally considered much more comfortable than sit-inside kayaks because of their open cockpit design and the type of seat they offer which are great.

  • Open cockpit design of sit-on-top kayaks provides less restriction and more freedom to move and stretch.

  • The open cockpit allows you to stretch your legs, sit cross-legged, or dangle your feet in the water during a break.

  • Sit-on-top kayak seats provide more back support than sit-inside kayak seats.

  • The absence of a spray deck allows for a higher-backed seat to be fitted in a sit-on-top kayak.

  • Sit-inside kayaks may have a comfortable seat, but you’ll likely have to make do with a low-backed seat or backband, which doesn’t offer full back support.

    Comparison table of Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak:

    Kayak type Cockpit design Seat type Back support
    Sit-inside Enclosed Low-backed seat or backband Less back support
    Sit-on-top Open High-backed seat More back support


For Whom Are Sit-Inside Kayaks Best ?

Paddlers who value dryness while venturing out into the open water should opt for sit-inside kayaks. An enclosed cockpit and movable foot pegs make for a relaxing and stable ride that lets you keep your mind on the job at hand. Sit-inside kayaks provide an ideal balance of stability and maneuverability for paddlers of all experience levels. You can use them for angling, sightseeing, or just relaxing on the water. A sit-inside kayak is the best option if you want to stay dry while paddling and still have the freedom to roam the open water.

For Whom Are Sit-on-Top Kayaks Best For?

Sit-on-top kayaking is an enjoyable way to enjoy the water and the outdoors. In addition to being user-friendly, stable, and comfortable, these options also offer a smooth ride. Anyone interested in experiencing the thrill of paddling will find that sit-on-top kayaks are ideal, whether for a relaxing day on the lake or an exciting journey downriver. This is because their open layout is good for paddlers of all skill levels. Whether you’re fishing, camping, or just exploring your local waterways, sit-on-top kayaks have something to offer everyone.
Check In-depth Sit-on-top kayak review

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Which Is Better for Beginners?

Since each person and their planned kayaking activities are unique, it’s difficult to say definitively which is best for beginners. Beginners should prioritize finding a stable and easy-to-paddle kayak, whether they opt for a sit-on-top or sit-in design.

The best kayaks for beginners are those that are easy to paddle and maintain a steady course.

As a kayaker, your needs and preferences will determine whether you’re better suited for a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak.

People who want to go kayak fishing will likely choose a different kayak style than those who want to go kayak camping.

Determine whether a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak is more suitable for your needs and preferences as a beginner.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Which Is Better for Fishing?

Sit-on-top kayaks are the most common type used for fishing from a kayak. In these open-deck kayaks, you can cast farther, fight fish more effectively, and bring them in more easily. Many sit-on-tops also feature standing platforms and pedal drives, making them a great choice for active anglers.

And yet, sit-inside kayaks shouldn’t be discounted just yet. New hybrid designs that combine elements of canoes, kayaks, and sit-on-tops have expanded the range of vessels available to anglers. On chillier days, a sit-inside kayak is the way to go because of the added protection it provides from the elements. In order to save both time and money, you should consider retrofitting your existing sit-inside kayak for fishing purposes.

  • Sit-on-top kayaks are the go-to choice for most fishing enthusiasts.

  • These open-deck kayaks provide better mobility for fishing activities.

  • They feature standing platforms and pedal drives for an optimal fishing experience.

  • Sit-inside kayaks might be a better choice for anglers who prefer staying dry and warm in cold weather.

  • Some innovative designs blur the lines between different types of kayaks and canoes.

  • Kayakers can easily outfit a recreational sit-inside kayak with fishing accessories, saving money and hassle.

Whatever type of kayak you like to fish from—a sit-on-top or a sit-inside—remember that the most crucial thing is to have fun and reel in some fish!

Which Is Better for Ocean Kayaking?

There is a constant tug of war between those who prefer sit-on-top kayaks and those who prefer sit-inside kayaks when it comes to recreational paddling. However, sit-on-top kayaks are the best option for long distance paddling, especially on the ocean. They function similarly to the floaties used in swimming pools to keep one’s head and arms out of the water in the event of an accidental plunge.

Conversely, ocean paddling is not a good fit for sit-inside recreational kayaks due to their larger cockpits and lower levels of flotation. You must avoid going down like a ship in distress. But touring kayaks with seats inside are a different animal entirely. Like sleek speedboats, they are capable of navigating the rough seas.

Despite the fact that they may feel less stable than recreational kayaks, their cockpits are protected from flooding by bulkheads. These bulkheads double as life preservers, keeping the kayak afloat in water over its head. Don’t forget to bring your knowledge of self-rescue and practice getting back into the boat after a capsize.

Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak Which Is Safer?

An inexperienced paddler, or the parent of a young paddler, may wonder which type of kayak is safer: a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak. Although different paddling techniques have different advantages and disadvantages, all paddlers should always remember to adhere to standard safety procedures and to bring along any necessary protective equipment.

But sit-on-top kayaks are widely regarded as the more secure choice for first-time paddlers and younger kids. Since they are designed to be nearly unsinkable and recreational sit-on-tops are typically quite stable, capsizing is highly unlikely. If you capsize a sit-on-top kayak, you can simply turn it over and get back in.

As a matter of course, sit-inside kayaks don’t pose any sort of danger to their users. If you want to use this type of kayak, you should ask a more experienced paddler for advice on how to safely execute wet exits and capsize recoveries. The three most crucial elements of safe kayaking are preparation, information, and experience.

What Are the main Differences Between Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayaks?

The two most common kayak designs are sit-inside models and sit-on-top models. They’re both wonderful for recreational paddling, but there are some important distinctions to keep in mind before you buy. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast sit-inside kayaks with sit-on-top kayaks to help you pick the right one for your needs and skill level.

Comparison table of Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak

Whoa, if you still are wondering about the main difference between sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, I got you covered. Here’s a Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Kayak comparsion table to help you out:

Sit-Inside Kayaks Sit-On-Top Kayaks
Closed cockpit design Open cockpit design
Less mobility Better mobility
Lower center of gravity Higher center of gravity
More protection from elements Less protection from elements
Limited floatation Unsinkable
Can be more tippy More stable
Less room for gear and accessories More room for gear and accessories
Great for touring and longer trips Great for fishing and shorter trips

Remember, both types of kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really comes down to personal preference and intended use. Happy paddling!





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