Best Sit on Top Kayaks in 2020

Best Sit on Top Kayaks in 2020

Are you looking for the best sit on top kayak?

There are so many brands and so many types of sit-on-top kayaks out there.

Sit-on-top kayaks can be long, wide, narrow, short, tandem, solo, fishing, touring, whitewater, inflatable, hard-shell and so on. With so many options, finding the right one can be daunting.

In this guide, we answer all your questions.

We rank the kayaks on the basis of their quality, performance, comfort and additional features.

Here are our top picks for the best sit-on-top kayaks:

Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-on-Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a solid contender when it comes to sit-on-top kayaks. It is spacious, comfortable and price effective. If you are looking for the best recreational sit-on-top kayak, this could be the right one for you. After all, it is manufactured by one of the best sit on top kayak brands.

Build 

The hull is made of high-quality HDPE polymer that makes it resistant to impact and provides UV protection as well. The Tamarack is a brilliant performer. You will love how stable it is and how well it tracks on water. It is made with not just performance but also utility in mind.

Performance

The kayak has a flat bottom and stability chine rails that give it tremendous stability when you cast or reel in. The kayak has a molded-in skeg that keeps it moving in a straight line and a sharp bow to help cut through water and glide easily.

The Tamarack Angler stays stable even when there is wind or waves. When you are riding it on a river, it feels sturdy enough not to scrape over rocks and gravel. It stays stable even with the rider standing up.

Comfort

The seat bottom and backrest have sufficient padding that allow you to have long and comfortable kayaking and/or fishing sessions. You can adjust the backrest using straps to bring it to a more supportive position. The footrests are molded in at multiple positions for riders of all sizes.

Features

There are many interesting features in this kayak. There are three rod holders: two flush mount holders behind the seat and a swivel rod holder on the right side of the kayak. Lifetime as a brand is also impressive, it offers excellent customer service and goes the extra mile to please their customers.

Upgrades

Some users have reported how the Tamarac is comparable to the more expensive kayaks, especially when it comes to fishing experience. A user recommends using an off-the-shelf stadium seat for better comfort for longer use, even though the stock seat has good back support.

Pros

  • Remains stable even on rough waters
  • Padded seat with adjustable backrest
  • Built-in skeg
  • Three rod holders
  • High-quality and durable
  • Value for money
  • Two storage wells
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Great customer service

Cons

  • Arrives in wrapped plastic
  • Seat needs more cushion

Overall

Overall, the Tamarack Angler is a phenomenal kayak, especially in the entry-level segment. It is stable, durable, lightweight and easy to maneuver. It also comes with great additional features. If you are looking for the best sit on top kayak under $500, the Lifetime Tamarack Angler is the one to go for.

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Perception Rambler 13.5 | Sit on Top Tandem Kayak | Recreational Kayak for Two

Riot Escape 9If you are looking for the best sit on top tandem kayak, you are in the right place. Perception Rambler 13.5 is a great sit on top kayak with seating capacity for two people.

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you will thoroughly enjoy the Rambler 13.5. It is a versatile kayak – take it out on a river, lake or an ocean – it will leave you impressed. It is one of the best sit on top kayaks under $600.

Build

It is built with solid HDPE material that lets it accommodate 550 lbs. So not only can you bring a dear friend, but also all the gear you want.

Comfort

The Rambler 13.5 has a spacious deck and comfortable seats with adjustable back support. There is an additional mold-in center seat when you have your kid or dog along with you. There are multiple footrest options suited for people of all sizes.

Storage

The Rambler has plenty of room for storage as there is a big and spacious tank in the rear. So you can not only have fun alone with all your gear, you can bring a friend along and have a long fishing or recreational kayaking session together.

There are three carry handles on the front, rear and side to easily carry the kayak. Also, some customers found the storage space lacking, even though the company advertises otherwise.

Performance

One can configure the kayak for solo paddling using four deck loops. The kayak tracks well and remains stable on water. Keep in mind that this kayak doesn’t come with paddles. The kayak is heavy at 80 lbs., so you will need help loading it on the top of your car.

Another thing to note is that the kayak doesn’t come with pad eyes for the middle seat, although the product photos may show that it does. So you will need to buy your own.

Pros

  • Sturdy
  • 550 lbs. capacity
  • Two comfortable seats with mold-in center seat
  • Multiple footwells
  • Carry handles
  • Versatile – use it on ocean bays, lakes or slow rivers
  • Removable padded seat
  • Center seat for a kid or dog

Cons

  • No pad eyes

Overall

Overall, the Perception Rambler 13.5 is a great 3-person kayak. It doesn’t come with any frills, but it is heavy and stable even in rough waters. If you are looking for the best tandem sit on top kayak , the Perception Rambler 13.5 is the one.

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Perception Tribe 9.5 All-Around Fun Sit On Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9The Perception Tribe 9.5 is an amazing kayak both in terms of design and performance. It is a great kayak meant for slow moving rivers, calm lakes or ponds and coastal waters with light waves. It is one of the best recreational sit on top kayaks you can buy.

Build

It is built with sturdy HDPE material that makes it resistant against impact and abrasions.

It seems quite compact at 9.5’, but it is not exactly lightweight at 45 pounds, so you will need to buy a cart to carry it to the water and back.

Performance

Whether you take it into calm water or deeper choppier waters, it handles beautifully, tracks straight and remains stable. However, the scupper holes allow water to seep into the boat from the bottom, so your feet and items stored in the rear well can get wet.

Comfort

The seat is comfortable so you will enjoy taking it out for long rides. It has a tall back support and adjustable recline seat. This is definitely one of the most comfortable kayaks on our list. The seat also folds down for compact storage.

Multiple mold-in footests ensure that riders of all sizes are comfortable. The center dry storage bag has enough room for storing a couple phones or a wallet.

Storage

It has a plastic lid with a snug fit so that your items stay dry. Front and rear tankwell allows you to store larger items. The bungee cord lashes allow you to secure gear of all shapes or sizes. It also has sturdy side handles for easy transportation.

Pros

  • Solid quality
  • Comfortable
  • Good stability
  • Enough room for storage
  • Foldable seat
  • Multiple footwells
  • Side handles
  • Tracks straight
  • Camera mount

Cons

  • None

Overall

Overall, the Perception 9.5 is as pleasing in its performance and utility as it is in its design. It is remarkably comfortable and handles well on water. If you are looking to take your kayak in calm waters or onto light waves, this one is a solid contender. This is indeed one of the best sit on top river kayaks you can buy. It is also one of the best sit on top kayaks under $500.

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Emotion Spitfire 9 Sit-On-Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9The Emotion Spitfire 9 Sit-on-Top Kayak has many quality features that make it a top contender on our list. It is one of the best sit on top kayaks under $400 that you can buy.

Build

It is made of HDPE material that is strong, durable and provides UV protection. The kayak can accommodate a total of 350 pounds including the rider’s weight and the gear. This weight limit is enough to ride with some camping gear for a long recreation evening at your local river.

Paddle holders on either side help secure your paddles. Molded-in footrests at multiple positions help accommodate riders of all sizes. Molded-in handles on the side allow you to carry the kayak easily.

Comfort

The seat is comfortable with enough padding. It can be adjusted or folded flat for compact storage. Scupper holes help drain water from the cockpit and tankwell and prevent it from accumulating. The kayak weighs 45 lbs. so you may need a cart to pull it up to the shore.

Storage

There is plenty of room for storage on this 9-feet long kayak. The storage well at the back has a cargo net so that your gear stays secure. Near the bow, there is a smaller tank well that holds dry items with bungee cords. In the middle, there is a dry hatch secured with a plastic lid. You can use it to store smaller items like your wallet and/or phone.

Performance

The kayak is a great performer. It stays stable on choppy waters. You can sit comfortable in the kayak even when the water is choppy, the weather is windy or power boats glide by you creating wakes in the water.

You can easily get on and off this kayak, it will never feel like it is going to tip. A couple users have mentioned that it needs a skeg to be able to track straight. But most users were satisfied with its tracking.

Some users have mentioned how the side carry handles are virtually unusable. This is because you can barely fit the tips of your fingers into them. The remedy is to install aftermarket handles on either side to be able to handle it properly.

Pros

  • Stable
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Comfortable seat
  • Multiple footwells
  • Easy to get on and off
  • 350 lbs.
  • Lightweight
  • Scupper holes for draining water

Cons

  • Carry handles are useless
  • Short in size, so doesn’t have the best tracking
  • No cup holder

Overall

Overall, the Emotion Spitfire 9 Sit-on-Top Kayak is a solid, fun and compact kayak. It comes with many practical features for storage but lacks in some areas. It is stable on water but may not track as well as you would expect.

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Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-On-Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9For those looking for the best 10 foot sit on top kayak, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is a compelling option. 

Sun Dolphin Bali SS has many cool features that make it worthy of our list of top 10 sit-on-top kayaks. It isn’t too heavy, has multiple storage options and performs well on water. This is one of the best recreational sit on top kayaks out there. You can even use it for fishing by adding some rod holders and mounting points for accessories.

Build

The kayak performs well on water and its handling is so easy enough for beginners. Its multi-chine design keeps it stable on water even when the water is choppy or the kayak is riding the waves.

Storage

It comes with unique storage options. The portable accessory carrier can be placed inside the rear storage well or it could be used separately as additional storage. Inside the cargo area, it provides a sealed storage space. Taken out, you have an open storage well free to use. You can store large items in the rear storage well and secure them with bungee cords.

Right in front of the seat there is a storage space, with a lid on top, to store small items. There is a cup holder too. The adjustable foot rests make paddling comfortable. The thigh braces are padded to provide additional comfort and protection.

Comfort

The seat is molded in but the back rest is padded for comfort. Some users found the seat too hard, especially for long rides, and attached aftermarket seats. Others suggested using a seat cushion to make the seat more comfortable. The kayak is 2’6” wide, so there is plenty of space to make yourself comfortable.

Performance

The kayak is 10 feet long and 30 inches wide, which makes it easy to handle on water. While narrow and long kayaks are tough to handle, the Sun Dolphin Bali is a good fit, even for the beginners. The kayak tracks well due to its v-shaped hull design that easily cuts through water.

Some users also complained about lack of carry handles and installed their own to resolve the issue. It is worth noting that the deck area can get slippery so you can add some anti-skid tape.

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Stable on choppy water
  • Good storage options
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Tracks straight
  • Value for money

Cons

  • No carry handles
  • Seat is hard

Overall

Overall, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is a great kayak that can be used for various activities. It is the best sit on top kayak for beginners. It is easy to handle and offers plenty of storage space. If you are looking for the best 10-foot recreational sit on top kayak, the Bali SS is worth it.

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Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9Lifetime Lotus Sit-on-Top kayak is one of the best high-quality and affordable kayaks you can buy.  It is also one of the best lightweight sit on top kayaks. If you want a basic kayak with the sufficient features for a nice recreational ride, the Lifetime Lotus is a solid contender. It comes with a kayak paddle, unlike many other kayaks in this list.

Lifetime Lotus is the best cheap sit on top kayak on our list. But it is also high-quality. Here’s why:

Build

There is a reason the Lifetime Lotus is the best inexpensive sit on top kayak. It is built with sturdy polyethylene material that can last a long time and is resistant against impact and abrasions. The multi-chine design makes this kayak very stable and hard to tip over. In fact, it will require a lot of effort to swamp this kayak.

Comfort

The kayak comes with a carry handle molded in the kayak’s body. The handle is designed well enough so that you can carry it yourself. The seat comes with adjustable, ‘quick release’, back support so that you are always comfortable. However, the seat needs a cushion, as the hard plastic can make it uncomfortable.

Performance

The kayak is easy to maneuver and tracks well. It also stays remarkably stable, so you can even take a nap on this one without worrying about anything. However, its design makes it a bit slower than sit-in type kayaks. However, the ride is still enjoyable as the handling is smooth. You can take it on the ocean bay, a river or lakes, it will leave you amazed with its performance.

Storage

The flat stern allows you to store it vertically standing in your house, which is a huge space saver. The kayak is easy to transport too. There is plenty of room for storage in the rear tank well. The bungee cord lacing helps you secure items effectively.

The kayak weighs 38 lbs, so you can easily carry it yourself. It can accommodate 250 lbs. of weight, which is enough for a single rider and some essential gear. If you are used to carrying a lot of gear, look for a kayak like the Emotional Spitfire 9 above, that can accommodate 350 lbs. of weight.

Pros

  • Strong build quality
  • ‘Quick release’ back support
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Tracks straight
  • Amazing stability
  • Stands vertically for storage
  • Hard to tip over
  • Well-designed carry handles

Cons

  • Seat is hard, needs cushion

Overall

Overall, the Lifetime Lotus is a great kayak if you want something affordable, durable, stable and fun. It is hard to tip over and allows you to have a relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle of life. So if you want the best budget sit on top kayak or the best sit on top kayak under $300 that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance, go for the Lifetime Lotus sit on top.

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Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Sit On Top Tandem Kayak

Riot Escape 9If you are looking for the best sit on top kayak for the ocean, look no further. The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Sit on Top is a high-quality recreational kayak with two-person capacity. It also has a molded-in center seat to bring a child or pet along with you. You can configure it as a solo kayak too.

Build

This kayak is built with polyethylene, a lightweight and durable thermoplastic that can absorb impact and is resistant against scratches or abrasions. The hull is solid and further fortified by the company’s lifetime warranty.

Comfort

One of the best features of this kayak is its comfortable seats. The seats are four-way adjustable, which means everyone can find a comfortable position when sitting for a long time. The seats can be detached when needed. You can use the kayak as a solo rider without a lot of effort. There are three sets of footrests in the kayak, so you can plant a seat in the center to have a solo ride.

Performance

If there is one area where the Ocean Malibu Two delivers, it is performance. After all, it is one of the best sit on top whitewater kayaks on our list. The kayak tracks well despite being a sit-on-top. It is also remarkably stable since it is quite wide. It fares well both on calm and choppy waters.

Capacity

The kayak has a staggering 425 lbs. weight capacity, which shows that it is as heavy-duty as they come. The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two doesn’t come with many storage options, but there are some straps at the front and the back that let you secure small items.

Pros

  • Lightweight and sturdy polyethylene material
  • Super comfortable seats
  • Stable
  • Tracks straight
  • 425 lbs capacity
  • Heavy duty
  • Molded footwells
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Room for a child or a dog
  • Good for rough waters

Cons

  • Limited storage options
  • A bit heavy

Overall

Overall, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a high-quality kayak with practical features. Whether you want to use it for a challenge or have a relaxing evening with a friend, the Ocean Kayak can do it all. If you are looking for the best sit on top kayak for the ocean, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a solid contender.

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Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Sit on Top Kayak for River

Riot Escape 9If you are looking for the best sit-on-top tandem kayak, the Lifetime 10 Foot Kayak is a solid contender.

Build

It is built with durable high density polyethylene material. It is also UV resistant, so it won’t fade, peel or crack. Customers seem to love how stable it is in the water. You feel safe whether riding alone or with someone, and it is hard to tip this kayak over. You can sit sideways to take your stuff, have additional riders sit on it, stand on it or crawl up to the front – it will stay stable no matter what.

Performance

The kayak is compact at just 10 feet of length, so it is easy to store or move around. Its unique hull design gives it good tracking on water. But since it is quite wide at 36 inches, steering it while making a turn is difficult.

Even when the water is choppy, you will be able to stay stable in the kayak. Since the kayak has a wide design, you won’t be able to navigate fast. Doing so will lead to poor tracking, so you will have to move slowly through water.

Space

It can accommodate two adults and still has enough room for a kid or a pet to tag along.

Here is an image that shows customers enjoying their Lifetime 10 Foot Kayak.

Although the company says that the kayak is lightweight, it weighs 60 lbs which means you may need help carrying it. There are multiple molded-in footwells in the kayak so that riders of all sizes are comfortable.

The kayak’s build quality is further reflected by the fact that it can support 500 lbs. of onboard weight. This means you can take plenty of gear and supplies and still have fun. The scupper holes drain the accumulated water out of the cockpit.

Comfort

The kayak has molded-in carry handles on the front and rear. The kayak comes with two backrests with padding. It also has ditty trays and shock cord straps that allow you to carry loose items. However, the boat doesn’t come with any paddles.

The kayak comes with a 5 year limited warranty, so you don’t have to worry about its durability.

Pros

  • Ultra stable
  • Sturdy and durable
  • UV resistant
  • 500 lbs capacity
  • 5 years warranty
  • Multiple footwells
  • Accommodates 2 adults and a kid/pet

Cons

  • Hard to steer
  • Doesn’t track well when moving fast

Overall

The Lifetime 10 foot kayak is a great option for those looking for a strong and stable tandem kayak with good maneuverability. If you are looking for a 10 foot kayak, this one is a solid contender.

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Perception Access 11.5 Sit on Top Kayak

Riot Escape 9If you want a high-quality sit on top kayak, the Perception 11.5 is a serious option.

Design

The Perception access 11.5 is a versatile kayak – it can be used for fishing, a regular recreational evening on the weekend or any other adventure you have in mind.

Performance

The kayak is quite fast for a sit on top. It tracks straight whether you are in an inshore bay or a large lake. It is also quite stable, which means it is good for both beginners and experienced kayakers. This boat is amazing value for money although it isn’t a cheap sit on top by any means.

Whether you are kayaking on a calm lake or riding through rapids, the kayak moves smooth like butter. But that is not all – you can even stand on it while navigating through rapids (not that we advise it) and the kayak will still stay stable. The only downside about maneuverability is that the kayak doesn’t turn quickly and needs some extra effort to turn around obstacles.

Storage

The Access 11.5 has some space for storage, but it is not massive. The dry storage access is just a tiny space with a small bag to store your valuables. You will need some thoughtful planning before loading your stuff on the kayak. The kayak has sufficient space to bring your pet along.  The molded carry handles on the rear, front and side provide a good grip.

Comfort

Although the company has provided rod holders for fishing, they are not effective. The stock seat isn’t comfortable, so if you want to have long kayaking and fishing sessions, you will need a high back seat.

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Stable
  • Value for money
  • Carry handles
  • Smooth through choppy waters & rapids
  • Practical

Cons

  • Uncomfortable seat
  • Small storage space

Overall

The Perception Access 11.5 is a smooth and stable kayak that you can have a lot of fun with.

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Perception Hi Life 11 | Sit on Top Kayak – SUP/Paddleboard

Riot Escape 9In the market for kayaks but want something different? The Perception Hi Life 11 sit on top kayak might be the one for you. It combines the practicality of kayaking with the uninhibited fun of paddleboarding. And it sure turns a lot of heads. If you want the best whitewater sit on top kayak, the Perception Hi Life 11 is a compelling option.

Design

This brilliant product has been awarded the bronze medal for the 2018 International Design Excellence Award. The flat areas in the front and the back are good for standing, storage or pets. It comes with a built in cooler under the seat to keep food, drinks and accessories. But it is not just the design, this is one robust kayak – it will last a long time.

Performance

The kayak has amazing stability. You can have a dog rocking in the back and your kids standing in the front, yet it will remain absolutely stable. It won’t tip over. The kayak, however, is made for calm waters as it tends to sway easily. It is quite long at 11 feet, so it doesn’t track as well as other sit on top kayaks. The company has resolved this by providing a removable fin for better tracking. Still, the kayak is not made for riding waves or ground swells.

Comfort

The kayak comes with an elevated seat along with a foldable backrest. The seat has thick padding to make rides comfortable and pleasant. Underneath storage makes storage easy. The kayak also comes with effective carry handles in the front and rear. However, you will likely need a hand to transport it to or from water.

It also comes with drink holders to make things fun when you’re cruising into the sunset. The deck is cushioned throughout to make it comfortable for you and your loved ones to enjoy the ride.

Pros

  • Award winning design
  • Excellent stability
  • Padding throughout the deck
  • Removable fin for improved tracking
  • Mold-in carry handles
  • Foldable backrest
  • Cooler under the seat
  • Cool Hybrid

Cons

  • Tracking not as good as other sit on tops
  • Elevated seat means the rider can get wet
  • Not made for choppy waters

Overall

Overall, the Perception Hi Life 11 Sit on Top kayak is an excellent option for those who want to do both kayaking and paddleboarding. It has amazing stability and rides like a fun cruiser on calm waters.

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What is a sit-on-top kayak?

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed such that the sitting position is above water. The paddler sits on top of the kayak deck. There is no inner area to take shelter into. The only ‘inner areas’ include the storage areas which you can access through hatch openings. Apart from that, everything including footwells and seat back are designed on the open deck.

Unlike sit-inside kayaks, the cockpit or deck doesn’t prevent the water from splashing in and onto the paddler. For this reason, sit-on-tops are commonly used in areas with warm weather. Another reason for their popularity in tropical regions is that it is easy to get off a sit-on-top kayak for a swim and then quickly climb back.

What is a sit-inside kayak?

Sit-inside kayaks have a closed cockpit. The cockpit is the sitting area inside the kayak. The paddler sits inside the hull of the kayak with their legs extended under the deck. This area is enclosed in sit-in kayaks which also prevents water from coming in.

The cockpit opening can further be closed using a spray skirt, that prevents water from getting inside the kayak. In general, sit inside kayaks don’t allow as much water as sit-on-top kayaks. This is a big reason sit-inside kayaks are used where the water is cold or where summers don’t last long.

Which is best: Sit-on-top or Sit-in kayak?

Both sit on top kayaks and sit in kayaks have different features and advantages.

Storage

If you want a lot of space to keep your gear and supplies, you should go for a sit on top kayak. If you want to stand while riding the kayak for fishing, a sit on top is the way to go as it has an open deck design.

Re-entry 

If you want to get out and get in easily, a sit on top would be better. This is because there is no cockpit to “sit inside” or adjust into when you are considering a sit on top kayak.

Climate

Moreover, if you live in a tropical region with warm weather, a sit on top would be good as you can easily get off for a swim and climb back.

If you live in an area where the water is usually cold, a sit-inside kayak would be better. It has a closed deck and has the on  m  ption to attach a spray skirt which prevents the water from getting inside. The closed deck design also helps you stay warm and protects you from cold breeze.

Self-Rescue

With sit on top kayaks, you can easily re-enter the kayak if it capsizes. This is because sit on tops are sealed from top to bottom and don’t hold water, unlike sit inside kayaks which can hold water and need to be emptied when tipped over.

Tandem Use and Paddling Away From the Shore

When it comes to tandem kayaking, there is no advantage of the sit on top over the sit inside design or vice-versa. The right type depends on the intended use. If you want to take the kayak far from the shore, go with a sit on top kayak. If you want to stick to shallow water and protect yourself from splashes of cold water, go with the sit-inside design.

Storage

If you plan to use the kayak for camping, it is best that you buy a sit-in touring kayak. Sit in kayaks have bulkheads and hatches at the bow and the stern. Inside the bulkheads are storage compartments are storage compartments that can hold plenty of gear and supplies. This also ensures that your gear stays dry.

Sit on top kayaks also have storage options, but they can’t hold as much stuff as the sit in kayaks and they usually have little dry storage.

Weight

Sit-in kayaks typically weigh less than sit on top kayaks. Many inflatable sit inside kayaks weigh as low as 20 pounds, while a typical sit on top kayak weighs as much as 35 lbs.

Fishing

If you want to buy a kayak for fishing, you would need enough space and mobility to cast, fight and land fish. This is why most fishing kayaks are sit-on-tops. They often come with standing platforms and rod holders.

The only advantage of a sit inside fishing kayak is that they protect the paddler in cold weather. A sit inside kayak has a closed cockpit, so it helps the rider stay warm and dry.

Customization

If you want to add new features or accessories to your kayak, a sit on top would give you more options. You can plant mounts for fishing poles, GPS devices, cameras, rudders and even motors.

Buying Guide: How to Choose a Sit-on-Top Kayak

1. Where will you use the kayak? What will you use the sit-on-top kayak for?

Type of kayak

Before you buy the sit-on-top kayak, it is important to understand where you will use it. Some sit on tops are made for calm waters such as lakes, others are made for more challenging conditions like the ocean.

Type of Use

What will you use the kayak for? People use kayaks for different things like fishing, touring, diving or even camping. Based on the intended use, you can look for a specific kayak. Fishing kayaks come with specific features such as rod holders, deck padding for standing, rudder control etc. However, almost any kayak can be modified with fishing accessories to use it like a fishing kayak.

If you are buying a kayak for touring you would need a kayak with enough storage space for a day’s worth of supplies or cargo. If you plan to go on an expedition, you would need one with enough space for a week worth of supplies.

2. Will you ride solo or take someone along?

It also matters whether you are going to ride the kayak solo or take a friend or perhaps a dog along with you. If you are using the kayak for solo use, don’t get a two-person or tandem kayak just to have “an option”. This is because tandem kayaks don’t perform as well for solo use.

If you like adventure and want to ride wild waves or white water rivers, look for whitewater kayaks since they can stay stable in challenging conditions and are easy to maneuver.

Also consider that tandem kayaks are heavy and you would need help to carry it from one place to the other. If you just want to take your kid or dog along, you don’t need a two-person kayak. Many solo kayaks come with extra space to accommodate a kid or a pet.

Consider the following factors before you buy a sit on top kayak:

  • Stability

If you want to stand on the deck to fish or climb out of the kayak for a quick swim, you would need a kayak that doesn’t tip over and capsize. You can’t paddle peacefully if you are scared of falling at every moment. Even if you want to move fast through water, you need a stable kayak or it may lose balance upon encountering waves or rough waters.

However, don’t go with stability alone. Wider kayaks are the most stable but they also lack speed and agility.

  • Tracking

Tracking is defined as the ability of the kayak to move in a straight line – its ability to stay “on track”. If your boat keeps moving left or right while you want to move forward, it will be annoying. Some kayaks come with detachable skegs (a fin-shaped accessory) that help with tracking.

  • Speed

Everyone loves some adventure once in a while. If you want to move fast through water, you would need a kayak that isn’t too wide. Usually, speed is directly proportional to how narrow and long a kayak is. Speed also counts when the wind is against you and you need more power to reach your target.

  • Capacity and Storage

Not all kayaks can accommodate 500 lbs. Whether you want to bring a lot of gear and supplies along with you or ride with a friend, make sure to check the weight capacity of the kayak before you. Kayaks come with “tank wells” on the front and rear of the deck to provide for storage.

  • Maneuverability

You want a kayak that is easy to handle. This means the kayak should be responsive to each paddle stroke and should turn easily without resistance. A thumb rule is that shorter kayaks with flat bottoms have better maneuverability.

  • Transportation

Does the kayak come with carry handles? How much does the kayak weigh? How big is it? You may have to buy an aftermarket kayak cart if the kayak doesn’t have handles or if it is too heavy. If it is small, you will be able to fit it inside your car. If not, you may need to install a roof rack on your car. If the kayak weighs somewhere around 30 pounds, you will be able to carry it on your own. This is especially important when you are buying a solo kayak.

  • Budget

You don’t have to shell out a thousand bucks to buy a quality sit-on-top kayak. But high-quality kayaks often come at a higher price. Our recommendation is to avoid the kayaks that are too cheap, as they aren’t durable.

There are many affordable high-quality kayaks in this guide. For example, you can check out the Lifetime Lotus sit-on-top kayak or the slightly more expensive Emotion Spitfire sit on top kayak. If you want a mid-range kayak, go for the Lifetime Tamarack Angler, one of the best sit on top kayaks under $500.

  • Storage

If you are going to use your kayak to have a relaxing evening, you might not carry a lot of gear or supplies. But if you are using it for touring or fishing, you will need adequate storage space. So pay attention to the storage space available including tank wells,  bungee cord lacing and so on. Many sit on tops come with a center dry storage box with a lid as well.

If you want to better understand the anatomy of the kayak, Lifetime has created definitions of all kayak termsfor your convenience.

Final Thoughts

A kayak is a great way to blow off steam and have quality time with your friends. To select the right sit-on-top kayak, understand what you want and how you will use the kayak.

If you want a lightweight kayak that is stable and fun, go for the Lifetime Tamarack Angler sit-on-top kayak. It has amazing stability with its flat bottom design, tracks well and offers additional features such as rod holders too.