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Product Review & Information

Best Sit On Top Kayaks Reviewed

Make it easy to get on and off your kayak this summer with these high quality brands.

by PITeam

Product Review & Information

Best Sit On Top Kayaks Reviewed

Make it easy to get on and off your kayak this summer with these high quality brands.

by PITeam

by PITeam

If you’re looking to enjoy the fine summer weather, a kayak might be just what you need. Although kayaking has been popular for some time, sit on top kayaks become more in-demand in the last few years.

What is a Sit on Kayak?

Rather than having an enclosed cockpit, a sit on kayak has an open design, making entry and exit from the boat easier and stopping the user feeling too claustrophobic.

They’re perfect for enjoying different activities including adventure-filled day trips upstream, wildlife hunting, racing, and even fishing.

We know how confusing it can be when you’re just trying to find a good kayak for your budget and needs; searching online, only to be presented with hundreds of kayaks. That’s why this guide is the only thing you need to help you find the best sit on kayak.


Categories of Sit on Top Kayaks

  • Recreational 
    These are designed for paddlers of various experience levels and abilities as they are more comfortable, easier to paddle, and stable. They're best suited to flat bodies of water.
  • Touring
    These are also known as sea kayaks and are designed for paddling in more open bodies of water. Unlike recreational kayaks, they’re constructed to cope with longer trips and have features and extras that enable them to deal with less forgiving weather conditions
  • Tandem
    Also referred to as doubles, are designed to be used by two people. As such, you'll only be able to successfully paddle, navigate, and turn in a tandem kayak if there are two of you there.
  • Fishing
    Kayak fishing is becoming an especially popular pastime, and as such, kayaks are being designed primarily for fishing, with features such as pontoon stabilizers, flatter hulls, and pole rests being incorporated into the traditional sit on kayak design.
  • Pedal
    Pedal sit on top kayaks are designed to make it easier to enjoy a fast and stable than a sit in kayak. Instead of relying solely on paddling, they incorporate the use of a pedal drive system to help propel the boat along.

4 Benefits of Sitting-on-Top of Kayaks

1. Easy to Climb In and Out

One of the most important benefits of a sit on top kayak is the fact that it’s much easier to get on and off it. You don’t need to worry about tightening and loosening it around your waist. Neither do you need to try and maneuver into a tight cockpit.

2. No Feelings of Claustrophobia or Too Closed In

The feeling of claustrophobia in a tight and enclosed cockpit puts many people off kayaking. Many worry about capsizing and being trapped underwater.

3. More Carrying Space

You have more room to store stuff. As it will be out in the open, you’ll have easier access to it.

4. Keep Cooler During the Summer

An enclosed cockpit can also get hot during the summer months. With a sit on top kayak, however, you'll be out in the open more. You need to remember sunscreen, though.


Choosing Top Quality Sit on Top Kayaks

  • Usage/Primary Paddling Location
    One of the most important things you need to consider when selecting a top-quality sit on top kayak, to ensure you get the best for your needs, is where you intend to use it.The kind of locations you may choose to paddle in a sit on top kayak include:
  • Around Coastal Areas
    If you want to paddle around coastal areas, you’ll be pushed to the limit, but it’s not difficult. Depending on whether it’s calmer, cooler inlets or more open, warmer waters, sit on top kayaks are an ideal choice.
  • Lakes
    Sit on top kayaks are suitable for mid-sized lakes. You need to remember though, the bigger the lake is, the bigger the boat you should be using on it. A longer and wider boat will help you feel stable and safe.
  • Big Rivers and Smaller Lakes
    Small lakes and big rivers, because they're typically quite slow-moving are easy to handle with a sit on top kayak.
  • Smaller Rivers
    Smaller rivers, interestingly, move quicker than most of the larger ones, and it’s generally accepted that sit on top kayaks are only suitable for Class II rapids or lower.

Durability, Design & Comfort

The Cockpit

This is a key part of a kayak design, as it’s where you’ll be sitting, paddling and controlling the boat. This should be made from durable material made to stand the pressure of your weight and have a design that accommodates your legs, so you’re not too cramped. This will help give you a more comfortable and enjoyable experience overall.

The Hull and Materials Used

The best and durable kayaks are made with high-density polyethylene, or HDPE for short have the necessary UV protection. ABS is another common material used. This can improve the efficiency of the boat and enhance its durability while keeping it lightweight. It also benefits from being more resistant to UV rays. However, it's pricier.

Seating Setup

In terms of the seating, this is only an issue, if you intend on kayaking with a friend or relative. Then you'd need a tandem model. However, try and find one with padded seating, as you’ll be spending most of your time in the same position.

Size/Dimension, Speed and Weight Capacity

The most important aspect of the kayak size is its length, and this ranges from 6 to 14-inches. Shorter kayaks are a lot agiler, whereas longer kayaks are better at maintaining a straight paddling path.

Other considerations with size are longer kayaks are roomier for gear, while providing greater stability.

When it comes to user weight capacity, unless they’re specifically kids’ kayaks, which have a maximum user capacity of about 130-pounds, adult models can range from 250-pounds to family options that are between 375 and 475-pounds. 

Stability and Safety Features

The rocker is hugely important because it impacts how safe and stable it is. This, along with other features like self-bailing scupper holes, can help keep you upright in the water and prevent accidents from happening. It's not always necessary to invest in the most stable kayak, though, especially if you're trying to perfect your balancing and controlling skills. If it's too stable, you won't be able to learn.

Self-bailing scupper holes are the holes that allow any splashed over water that lands on the deck to drain away, stopping you from taking on too much water.

Storage & Portability

Sit on top kayaks are often not the lightest things in the world. Family or tandem sized models can be quite heavy. You need to consider your situation and health. Look for designs with sturdy and practical handles.

You want a kayak that offers the right amount of storage space you need. So, if you're going fishing or camping/touring, it's more important you have access to the necessary space for storing all that gear. Be aware, the size and storage capacity of a kayak will influence how portable and lightweight (or not) it is.

Extra Accessories & Features

Depending on what you’re going to use your sit on top kayak for, how long you’re going to use it for and where you’re going to use it, there are other extra accessories and features you should be aware of, including:

  • Splash Guards
  • Spray Skirts

Both help to protect from the inevitable water splashed onto and into the kayak. Taking on water, while it would be impossible to avoid it from happening altogether, can impede your paddling experience, slow you down, and even pose risks of capsizing.

Ease of Setup

The amount of setup will depend on if you’re getting a sit on top kayak that’s inflatable or a hardbody design. Even if you do opt for an inflatable kayak, though, the setup time is relatively short. The paddles generally hook into place, and then you just need to place it in the water or launch from a beach or side of the water, get in, and then you're ready to go.

Budget & Warranty

Finally, when choosing a high-quality sit on top kayak that will meet all your needs, you need to factor in the cost. We'd seriously recommend that you avoid, if possible, the lowest priced models, because there is, as ever, a reason why they're so low in price. Mid-priced models or even more expensive ones will serve you well, and if they come with a good warranty, you know you're onto a good one.


9 Best Sit on Top Kayaks Reviewed

1. Lifetime Tamarack Angler

Our #1 Choice

Max Load Capacity

275 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

10-feet x 31-inches

Kayak Weight

52 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5-Year Limited Warranty

Lifetime is a brand you'll see more and more of, as you look at sit on top and other types of kayaks. The reason they're so popular right now is thanks to their amazing balance with regards to reliability, features, and price. The Tamarack Angler is made from an HDPE that provides a high level of protection against UV rays. So, you know investing in this boat will be a good value for money and bring you a high return on your investment. 

What really made us excited about this, when researching it, was the fact you're not restricted to how you rest your feet. Lifetime has taken into consideration the fact that different riders with different body types and sitting stances would be using it. Comfort really has been a priority, which makes sense when it's designed primarily for anglers (see the name), with a seat pad and padded and fully adjustable seatback.

For the keen anglers, there are 2 flush-mounted holders for fishing rods and 1 holder on top too, that's bolstered by the two generously sized 6-inch storage units to the back and at the center. This is an exceptional piece of equipment and even boasts T-handles to the front and back to make it easy to transport. This and the fact it handles well on the water made quite a few customers happy.

Pros

  • Nicely sized for easy transportation, even by one person
  • Great handling and maneuvering
  • For the price, great starter kayak

Cons

  • Does not come with oar

2. Perception Pescador Pro 

Best for Fishing

Max Load Capacity

375 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

12-feet x 32.5-inches

Kayak Weight

64 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5-Year Limited Warranty

This is very much a mid-size and mid-range option, and it’s the value it offers that keeps the Perception Pescador Pro 12 as a leader in the market and if you’re looking specifically for a high-performing, affordable fishing kayak. It’s a great balance between affordability and compactness with roominess and performance.

It has a one-piece construction that's leakproof and has integrated buoyancy for additional safety on waters of all conditions. Storage space can be found to the rear, and the front and the seat is adjustable and covered in breathable mesh that prevents pain and offers comfort throughout the day, even on those long fishing trips.

Perception has considered the needs of anglers with each gunwale benefitting from built-in accessory rails for rod holders, fish finders and so much more.

Pros

  • Very comfortable seating
  • Incredibly stable
  • Lots of storage space

Cons

  • The rear storage space could be more natural to use

3. Lifetime Lotus

Best Sit on Top Kayak Under $300

Max Load Capacity

250 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

8-feet x 30-inches

Kayak Weight

38 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5-Year Limited Warranty

The third entry overall is the second entry from Lifetime in our guide. Like the Tamarack, this is made from HDPE, giving it a lightweight feel that doesn’t take away from the quality of the build. Compared to some of the others in our guide, this low-priced offering, as you’d imagine is shorter too. That further drives down the overall weight.

Due to its narrowness though, and the sturdy and rigid nature of the bow and stern, it tracks efficiently through the water. It must be said though, that compared to pricier models, the tracking lacks. For the price, though, it still exceeds expectations.

Given it's marketed for kayak fishers, it's appropriately kitted out with generous storage space. In fact, the space, along with the durability, is why we had to include this in our guide.

Pros

  • Lots of storage space
  • Incredibly robust and stable
  • Very easy to use

Cons

  • Seats can be uncomfortable to sit on for long periods

4. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90

Best Lightweight Model

Max Load Capacity

300 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

9-feet x 32-inches

Kayak Weight

46 lbs

Warranty

Yes, Limited Lifetime Warranty on defective kayaks, 1 Year Warranty on parts

This is one of the shortest in our guide, even for a single-person angler kayak. Don't let its diminutive features put you off because even though it's 46-pounds in weight, this HDPE-constructed boat can still cater to loads of as much as 300-pounds.

As it's primarily a fishing kayak, it's not surprising that many of the mounting points and bungee paddle parks are in place for various fishing-related accessories. That doesn't mean it can't function as a recreational boat too. However, looking at it from the fishing aspect, the very pronounced edges along the sides enhance its stability, meaning you're even able to stand and cast off (which is going to serve you better when you're gunning for that prized catch).

Its size is a blessing again when you're faced with tight and narrow bodies of water like those winding and twisting rivers that we've all been on or at least seen. The keel is reminiscent of a razor's edge and extends out from the stern to the bow for awesome tracking. Its length also stops it from being especially quick.

Pros

  • Able to handle the tightest of waterways
  • Tracks well and offers superior stability
  • Lightweight with 4 sturdy carrying handles

Cons

  • As it’s short, it’s not especially quick

5. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T 

Best Tandem Sit On Top Kayak

Max Load Capacity

500 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

12.2-feet x 35-inches

Kayak Weight

72 lbs

Warranty

Yes, Limited Lifetime Warranty on defective kayaks, 1 Year Warranty on parts

To say the Vibe Skipjack 120T sit on top tandem kayak was dazzling would be an understatement. There’s no way you’d go missing easily out on the open sea in this bad boy. It’s more than just a great looking piece of boating engineering though as it doesn’t just carry 2 people but can at a push carry a 3rd too. It’s also rather tough too.

Obviously, though, that means it's not especially small or lightweight. To help make your adventures safe and enjoyable, there are a total of 4 base plate mountings, and these are fully customizable to meet your needs. Controlling and maneuvering this boat, as you'd expect with the Vibe name on it, is easy and effective. Very heavy, though. But what do you expect in a kayak built for 2?

Pros

  • Space for 3 people and lots of storage
  • Superb handling and tracking
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • Heavy

6. Ocean Kayak Frenzy 

Best Sit on Top Kayak Under $500

Max Load Capacity

325 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

9-feet x 31-inches

Kayak Weight

43 lbs

Warranty

Yes, Limited Lifetime Warranty

Ocean Kayak is a name that really should need no introduction if you've spent any time learning about kayaking or are an experienced kayaker. With the Frenzy, Ocean Kayak has put their expertise into a relatively affordable and beginner-class boat that's sturdy enough not to let down the more experienced of you.

What makes this one stand out, particularly? The price for one thing. But the durability and stability you get for that price is the mark of a truly remarkable piece of kayaking engineering. Despite its small dimensions, it's got a cool, molded footrest that ensures that no matter how short or tall you are, there will be enough room for you in this beast.

The very comfortable seat and the bungee storage system make this one you can't afford to skip on if you've not got a very generous budget. The rear skid plate is replaceable that protects it when you're maneuvering it in and out of the water, and when it's in the water, thanks to its Tri Form hill, it's stable and tracks relatively well.

Pros

  • Handles and tracks well
  • Affordable
  • Great for beginners

Cons

  • The seat is very straight

7. Perception Tribe 

Best for Beginners

Max Load Capacity

350 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

11.4-feet x 30.25-inches

Kayak Weight

43 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5 Years Warranty

If you’re in the market for a sit on top kayak for beginners, then you won’t be fussed about the bells and whistles you get with other models. Undoubtedly, though, you want something that's going to keep you on the right side of the water surface. The narrow design hull means the Tribe cuts through most waters easily and ensures it tracks straight, even when things get a bit choppy.

Everything is a little on the basic side, as we've noted already. For example, the storage offered is mostly uncovered areas at the tank wells to the rear and front. With one dry hatch for storing belongings right between your legs. The seat is comfortable enough if a little basic in its adjustability.

If anyone other than Perception made it, we'd not be very quick to rate this highly, but for a beginner who is just finding their feet in the water, this is ideal.

Pros

  • Great tracking and glide control
  • Very stable for the price
  • Wave cutting abilities

Cons

  • Seat is not very comfortable at all

8. BKC RA220

Best for Rivers

Max Load Capacity

450 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

11.6-feet x 34-inches

Kayak Weight

68 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5 Years Warranty

Second to last in our guide is this curious entry from Brooklyn Kayak Company. It's wide, flat and one of the longer kayaks on the market. The fact that this model is so jam-packed with extra features and storage options is a testimony to its creators. Their principal goal since their inception has been the design and construction of boats that are virtually ready-to-go when you receive them and have all you need to get out and on the water.

This boat represents fantastic value for anglers and would probably suit the more experienced. It's incredibly stable, and with 450-pounds maximum capacity, there's more than enough space for all you need.

Pros

  • Plenty of storage space to boot
  • Excellent for beginners and experts
  • Is stable and tracks well

Cons

  • Difficult to stand on

9. Sun Dolphin Camino SS

Best Value for Money

Max Load Capacity

225 lbs

Body Type (Material)

Polyethylene

Dimensions

8-feet x 30-inches

Kayak Weight

40 lbs

Warranty

Yes, 5 Years Warranty

Are you looking for a kayak that is an all-around good value for money? One small enough it's compact and portable, but size doesn't affect performance, the Sun Dolphin Camino is worth considering.

Not only does it look great, it feels great with the adjustable padded seat to suit your needs. The solidly constructed hull ensures that while it's a relatively quick paddler, it remains steady and tracks well. The square-shaped stern helps when it comes to turning.

Pros

  • Great square stern for turning boat
  • Quick paddler
  • Sturdy

Cons

  • Been known to take on some water

Top Brands of Sit On Top Kayaks

If you're new to the world of kayaks and sit on top kayaks, you will be interested to learn what the top brands responsible for making the best models are. There are a number who make all kinds of kayaks, but we've highlighted some of the best and most popular who have sit on top kayak offerings.

  • Perception
  • Lifetime
  • Sun Dolphin
  • Ocean Kayak
  • Vibe

All of these are featured in our guide above, and all are extremely popular and known for designing and building high-performance boats for all levels of experience and different activities.


Sit on Top Vs Sit Inside Kayaks

As the names suggest and we’ve already noted elsewhere, there are several distinct differences between sit on top and sit inside or enclosed kayaks. It’s all in the name. But really, what makes one better than the other? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that as it all comes down to personal preference.

For example, if you don’t like feeling enclosed or panic in any remotely claustrophobic situation or environment, then a sit inside kayak will not suit you.

Sit on top kayaks are much easier and more comfortable in a lot of ways. They are more likely to take on water, but between the two types of boat, you will find some models that are better for staying buoyant than others.


Using a Sit on Top Kayak

  • Remember safety should come first. Think about it like you’re riding a bike and when you first started by using safety equipment and stabilizers. Your buoyancy aid is the equivalent.
  • Practice, practice, and practice at the basics like paddling forwards, paddling backward and turning the boat.
  • Kit yourself out with some proper kayaking clothing
  • Find somewhere fun to try it for the first time on the open water

Kayaking Safety Tips

  • Always be aware of water temperatures and weather conditions and prepare for any changes in either and if there is a chance you might capsize. When paddling in colder waters, a dry or wetsuit is great to invest in.
  • Wear the appropriate clothing for the climate
  • Take care when paddling offshore as winds that blow off into the sea can make it harder for you to get back to dry land
  • Always obey the local boating and kayaking laws and rules wherever you are paddling
  • Never take recreation or prescription drugs or drink alcohol when kayaking
  • Never try to take on more than the user weight capacity of your boat
  • Always check every bit of equipment before you set off
  • Take a class to learn the basics, if you are completely new
  • Always wear a personal floatation device.
  • Inform someone of your paddling plans and route, when you are going and when you are expected back.

Care & Maintenance

  • Keep it clean, making sure it is clean before and after you use it
  • Protect it against the sun’s rays, using a protectant spray of some kind
  • Keep an eye on any bungee cord you have and deck lines
  • Store it and transport it properly with care

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paddle should I get for a sit on top kayak?

Your paddle will depend on a few different factors, including the size of your kayak and the size of your body. To find the perfect fit for a sit on top kayak paddle, we recommend checking out this sizing guide from REI.

Can I go whitewater rafting on a sit on top kayak?

Yes, but you need to make sure the rapids are not higher than Grade II for safety reasons.

Are sit on top kayaks more stable? Do sit on top kayaks tips over easily?

As they have a much higher set center of gravity, they are much wider than enclosed/sit inside kayaks so are much more stable, even if just initially.

How can I stay dry when paddling?

Wear the correct clothing, avoid getting your limbs wet, try to keep the water out of the kayak and bring an emergency kit with stuff to keep you warm, including extra clothes, paddle float, extra water, snacks, backup paddle, emergency blanket, whistle, headlamp, signal kit, first aid kit and fire starter kit.

Do I really need to wear a life vest when kayaking?

You need to wear them legally by law, so yes. We also want to ensure that you are kept safe!

Are sit on top kayaks good for rivers?

Yes, they are, and we’ve featured several kayaks suitable for rivers in our guide.

What disadvantages do sit on top kayaks have?

They are generally slower, do not offer the same amount of control and maneuverability, leave you more exposed to the elements, and because of the self-bailing scupper holes, there is always some water in the deck.


Conclusion

So, now we've had a look at the best sit on top kayaks. You know the best options for a variety of different situations and users. This should help you find the right one.

Any of the models we've highlighted, we feel would be an excellent option for someone, or we wouldn't have reviewed them. Of all the models, though, if we had to pick out one, it would be the Lifetime Tamarack Angler.

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