13 Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks (2024) – Highest-Rated by Experts

best sit on top kayaks

Searching for the best sit-on-top kayak can be time-consuming and tedious. Searching through reviews, feedback and demo videos can quickly become overwhelming, and it’s not always easy to see which kayaks are worth your consideration.

Check out our list of the best sit-on-top kayaks as recommended by experts. We’ve gone above and beyond and collected the expert opinions and hands-on reviews of some of the leading kayaking professionals and reviewers out there. 

We’ve compared what experts have to say about the most popular sit-on-top kayaks, and summarized these findings; from how the kayaks handle, to how they handle, to how comfortable they are to paddle, to how easy they are to transport or store.

So check out our roundup of the best sit-on-top kayaks, and see if any of these models are right for you.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks Compared

Ocean Kayak Malibu 95 sit on top kayak review
Sizes: 9'5" x 33"
Weight: 54 lbs
Eddyline Caribbean 14FS sit on top kayak review
Sizes: 14' x 29"
Weight: 50 lbs
Perception Hi-Life sit on top kayak review
Sizes: 11' x 34"
Weight: 55 lbs
Feelfree Nomad sit on top
Sizes: 9'6 x 29.25"
Weight: 46.2 lbs
wilderness systems targa 100 sit on top kayak review
Sizes: 10' x 32"
Weight: 57 lbs
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 sit on top
Sizes: 14' x 28"
Weight: 64 lbs
Swell Scupper 12 sit on top kayak
Sizes: 12' x 28"
Weight: 62 lbs
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two sit on top kayak review
Sizes: 12' x 34"
Weight: 63 lbs
swell scupper 14 kayak review
Sizes: 14'1" x 25.5"
Weight: 64 lbs
ocean kayak caper sit on top kayak
Sizes: 11' x 31"
Weight: 45 lbs
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL kayak top view
Sizes: 13'4" x 35"
Weight: 90 lbs
Feelfree Moken 10 V2 sit on top kayak
Sizes: 10.3' x 35"
Weight: 60.6 lbs
Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS kayak review
Sizes: 9'6 x 29.5"
Weight: 41 lbs

Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks For (2024)

Below, you’ll see the top sit-on-top kayak models, according to experts. If you’re in the market for a sit-on-top kayak and wondering which one to choose, you’ve definitely come to the right place!

1. Ocean Kayak Malibu 9.5 – Best Sit-On-Top Kayak (8.2 / 10) (Full Review)

Ocean Kayak Malibu 95 sit on top kayak

Having spent quality time with the Ocean Kayak Malibu 9.5, I can confidently say it’s one of the top contenders for the best sit-on-top kayak of 2024. This kayak isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s built for fun and functionality. One of the first things I noticed was its impressive tracking and buoyancy. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the Malibu 9.5 offers a smooth ride on flat waters. However, for those planning longer trips, a bit of caution is advised.

What truly sets this kayak apart is its versatility. It’s designed to handle both surf and flat water conditions. The ample storage onboard is a boon for those planning day-long adventures. You can pack your essentials without worrying about space. And speaking of space, the kayak offers ample storage, making it a clear upgrade from other Ocean Kayak models. It remains stable even in challenging conditions, ensuring a safe experience.

Comfort is another area where the Malibu 9.5 shines. The padded seat and built-in foot-pegs ensure a comfortable ride, regardless of the duration. Its design prioritizes stability and comfort, ensuring a pleasant experience even for beginners. While there isn’t much feedback on its durability, the brand’s reputation speaks volumes about its quality.

However, it’s essential to consider a few things. The kayak might not be suitable for taller riders, and there’s limited feedback on its durability. But, weighing the pros and cons, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 9.5 stands out as a reliable, fun, and functional choice for recreational kayaking.

What I Like
  • Ample storage space
  • Highly supportive and comfortable
  • Easy to stack and store
  • Clear upgrade from other Ocean Kayak models
  • Keeps nice and stable
What I Don’t Like
  • Not much comment on durability
  • May not be long enough for taller riders – consider the 11.5

2. Eddyline Caribbean 14FS (7.9 / 10) – Best Kayak for Tall People (Full review)

Eddyline Caribbean 14FS sit on top kayak review

Having had the pleasure of experiencing the Eddyline Caribbean 14FS kayak firsthand, I can confidently say that it’s a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. This kayak is a dream for enthusiasts looking for a vessel that effortlessly picks up speed and remains stable across a variety of water conditions. Its award-winning design is complemented by a notably comfortable seat, providing the support one needs during long paddling sessions.

One of the standout features of this kayak is its ability to track and turn with ease. I was genuinely impressed by its speed and how quickly it accelerates. The streamlined shape of the Caribbean 14FS plays a significant role in its performance, allowing it to slice through water seamlessly. However, potential buyers should be aware of its sensitivity to high winds.

The upgraded seat is a game-changer. Not only does it elevate the paddler, ensuring they remain dry, but it also offers unparalleled comfort. The ample storage onboard is another noteworthy feature. The kayak boasts numerous compartments and pockets, making it convenient to access essentials during a trip.

While I didn’t encounter any durability issues, it’s worth noting that Eddyline is an award-winning manufacturer, which speaks volumes about the quality of their products. The Caribbean 14FS seems robust enough to withstand the usual wear and tear of kayaking adventures.

In comparison to its competitors, this kayak stands out for its stability. I felt an immediate sense of security from my first ride, with no unsettling rocking motions. The design ensures a level experience on the water, making it ideal for both beginners and seasoned kayakers.

In conclusion, the Eddyline Caribbean 14FS is an excellent choice for those seeking a reliable, comfortable, and efficient sit-on-top kayak. Its combination of speed, stability, and storage makes it a top contender in its class. If you’re in the market for an entry-level kayak that doesn’t compromise on features, this might just be the perfect fit for you.

What I Like
  • Very easy to track and turn
  • Impressively fast
  • Lots of storage that’s easy to access
  • One of the most stable boats in its class
  • Seat is comfortable and supportive
What I Don’t Like
  • May not react well to high winds

3. Perception Hi-Life (7.8 / 10) (Full review)

Perception Hi-Life kayak review

Having personally experienced the Perception Hi-Life kayak, I can confidently say it’s a top-tier choice for 2024. Contrary to its appearance, this kayak offers remarkable stability and smooth handling. It’s built to endure, and it’s evident from its robust construction that it can withstand quite a bit of rough handling. The onboard storage is generous, making it convenient for longer trips.

One of the standout features of the Hi-Life is its hybrid nature. It seamlessly transitions between paddle boarding and kayaking, offering versatility that few other kayaks can match. While it excels in calm waters, I’d advise caution in whitewater or rapid conditions, especially given its relatively lower weight capacity. However, this limitation doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment.

Its lightweight design is a boon for transport, and I was pleasantly surprised by its stability, whether I was standing or seated. The high seat ensures comfort for extended kayaking sessions, and the under-seat cooler and fishing accessory rail are thoughtful additions that enhance the overall experience.

However, it’s essential to note that the Hi-Life isn’t built for speed. But for recreational paddlers like me, this isn’t a significant concern. If you’re in the market for a durable, versatile kayak that prioritizes stability, the Perception Hi-Life is worth considering.

What I Like
  • Extremely stable on various waters
  • Easy to get on and off when swimming
  • Tracks and turns well
  • Nearly indestructible
  • Nice and easy to move and store
What I Don’t Like
  • Won’t win any races
  • Not likely to cope well in class two waters
  • Fairly low weight capacity

4. Feelfree Nomad (7.6 / 10) (Full review)

Feelfree Nomad sot kayak

I can confidently say that the Feelfree Nomad kayak is an exhilarating ride that’s both fun and functional. One of the standout features is its resilience; this kayak can handle choppy waters with ease, making it perfect for those adventurous days out on the water. Its lightweight design makes it a breeze to transport, and I’ve found it particularly easy to carry from my car to the water’s edge.

Storage is another strong point for the Nomad. It offers ample space, and while some compartments aren’t entirely waterproof, with a bit of preparation (like using dry bags), it’s manageable. The kayak’s design allows for upgrades, enhancing comfort and convenience, which I find to be a significant advantage. It tracks brilliantly, ensuring a smooth ride without compromising on stability.

A few personal experiences worth noting: The molded handles and keel wheel are incredibly practical, making storage and movement effortless. However, it’s worth mentioning that it’s best handled on flat surfaces as it can struggle a bit on grainy terrains. Performance-wise, the Nomad stands out in its class, especially in terms of durability and portability.

In comparison to other kayaks, the Nomad offers a balanced experience. It’s not just about speed or power; it’s about the overall enjoyment of kayaking. Whether you’re a beginner or have been kayaking for years, the Nomad is a reliable choice that promises a memorable experience every time.

In conclusion, the Feelfree Nomad kayak is a top contender in the sit-on-top category. Its combination of durability, portability, and performance makes it a favorite among many, including myself. If you’re in the market for a kayak that offers a mix of fun and functionality, the Nomad is worth considering.

What I Like
  • Lots of ways to upgrade
  • Light and easy to transport
  • Extremely durable
  • Tracks brilliantly
  • Handles choppy waters
What I Don’t Like
  • Some storage isn’t completely waterproof
  • Might not be ideal for heavier riders

5. Wilderness Systems Targa 100 (7.5 / 10) (Full review)

wilderness systems targa 100

The Wilderness Systems Targa 100 kayak is a top-tier choice for sit-on-top kayaks. This kayak is a true day boat marvel. Built with precision and durability in mind, it offers an incredibly comfortable ride, even for extended periods. One of the standout features that I personally appreciated was its easy drainage system, ensuring that any water mishaps are quickly resolved.

The Targa 100 is not just about comfort; it’s also about customization. It boasts ample space for all your gear, and the removable cooler was a highlight for me. Its lightweight nature, given its size and style, is commendable. The rigid handles and rack support make transportation a breeze, a feature I found particularly useful.

Performance-wise, it’s a gem. It tracks efficiently, reaches commendable speeds, and handles Class I waters with ease. Its design exudes confidence, and the specialized seat ensures weight distribution is optimal. I could spend hours on it without any discomfort, thanks to the footpegs and the generous space it offers.

However, it’s essential to note a couple of things. While it offers storage, it isn’t waterproof. And for those taller than six feet three, it might feel a tad cramped.

In conclusion, the Targa 100 is a kayak that promises longevity. It’s perfect for day trips and doesn’t require expert handling. From my experience, it’s a reliable, comfortable, and value-for-money choice that will serve both beginners and pros well.

What I Like
  • Impressively stable up to Class I
  • Very rigidly built – a lifelong choice
  • Easy to carry and store
  • Designed for balance between performance and stability
  • Extremely comfortable for long periods
What I Don’t Like
  • Storage isn’t waterproof
  • May still be pretty heavy for some boaters

6. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 (7.4 / 10) (Full review)

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 sit on top kayak on the water

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 is a top-tier sit-on-top kayak, especially for fishing enthusiasts. One of the standout features of this kayak is its stability. Whether you’re on calm waters or navigating slightly choppy conditions, the Tarpon 140 remains predictable and balanced. This stability is a boon for those who, like me, enjoy leaning back to fish without the constant worry of tipping over.

The comfort level of this kayak is unparalleled. Thanks to the manufacturer’s innovative seating technology, air circulates freely, ensuring that paddlers remain cool and comfortable throughout their journey. The seat is not just about comfort; it’s also about functionality. It’s adjustable, offers excellent thigh support, and is water-resistant. However, it’s worth noting that while the laid-back design is great for relaxation, it can sometimes make paddling a tad challenging.

Storage is another area where the Tarpon 140 shines. From its ample hatches to the tank well bungee, there’s a place for everything. As an avid fisher, I appreciate the specialized fishing accessories and the sheer volume of storage options available. It’s clear that this kayak was designed with the angler in mind.

However, no product is without its drawbacks. The Tarpon 140 is on the heavier side, making it a bit challenging to transport alone. Additionally, while it excels in stability and storage, it’s not the fastest kayak on the water. But for me, the trade-off is worth it, especially when considering its performance in unpredictable weather and choppy waters.

In conclusion, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 is a solid choice for those seeking a reliable, comfortable, and storage-rich kayak. Its design and features make it ideal for fishing, ensuring a pleasant experience on the water.

What I Like
  • Lots of scupper holes for a dry boat
  • Very comfy seat with lots of air flow
  • Super stable on choppy waters
  • Tons of storage
  • Nice and secure
What I Don’t Like
  • Very heavy to carry alone
  • Fairly low top speed

7. Swell Scupper 12 Sit On Top (7.3 / 10) (Full review)

Swell Scupper 12 sit on top kayak

The Swell Scupper 12 kayak stands out as a remarkable sit-on-top kayak. The first thing that caught my attention was its impressive speed on flat water. It’s not just about the speed; the kayak ensures that I, as a paddler, remain in close contact with the vessel, making the experience more intimate and controlled.

Experts and I concur on its power. Despite its size, the Scupper 12 tracks exceptionally well. It’s not just a kayak for leisurely paddles; it’s built for power and secondary stability. This might not make it the first choice for those seeking gentle trips, but for someone like me who’s looking for a compact alternative to the Scupper 14, its ability to achieve speed swiftly is a significant advantage.

The seating position is another highlight. It strikes a balance between being too loose and too tight, ensuring that I can comfortably sit without any discomfort. The kayak’s design emphasizes secondary stability, meaning it’s unlikely to capsize unless deliberately forced. However, if you’re hoping to just float around, it might not remain perfectly level.

From a storage perspective, it’s spacious enough to accommodate essential gear, which is crucial for longer trips. The kayak’s length and width are generous, instilling confidence in its capacity.

Comparing it to other kayaks, especially the Scupper 14, the Scupper 12 has its unique charm. It’s responsive, agile, and perfect for those who prioritize performance. However, it’s essential to note that its primary stability leans more towards performance, which might feel a bit tight for some paddlers.

In conclusion, the Swell Scupper 12 is a kayak that demands respect for its power and design. It’s a testament to how a product can evolve to cater to specific needs, ensuring improvements and addressing issues. If you’re in the market for a kayak that offers a blend of speed, stability, and comfort, the Swell Scupper 12 should be on your radar.

What I Like
  • Tracks reasonably well for its size
  • Good amount of space available
  • Easy to turn and pivot
  • Fantastic speed potential
  • Secondary stability is great
What I Don’t Like
  • Primary stability is low – it’s built for performance
  • The seat setup may feel tight for some paddlers

8. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two (7.2 / 10) – Best Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak (Full review)

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two sit on top kayak review

Having had the pleasure of experiencing the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two firsthand, I can confidently say it stands out as one of the top sit-on-top tandem kayaks of 2024. The moment it hits the water, its stability is undeniable, making it a perfect choice for those who prioritize safety. Its maneuverability is equally impressive, allowing for smooth navigation even for beginners.

One of the most commendable aspects of the Malibu Two is its versatility. Whether you’re a beginner paddler or planning a parent-child adventure, this kayak instills confidence. The comfort it offers is noteworthy, with multiple seat positions and built-in footplates catering to most riders. However, if you’re seated at the back, be prepared for a bit less legroom.

While its storage might seem limited initially, the kayak offers potential for upgrades. I found myself wondering why there weren’t dry hatches from the get-go. But where it truly shines is its durability. The fact that Ocean offers a lifetime warranty speaks volumes about its robustness. I’ve personally tested its resilience, and it’s safe to say that it would take a lot to even scratch this vessel.

On the downside, its weight is on the heavier side, but that didn’t deter me. With expert assistance, carrying and storing it was a breeze. If you’re looking for extra storage, consider the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL.

In conclusion, the Malibu Two is not just a kayak; it’s an experience. It promises fun, safety, and durability, making it a worthy investment for any kayaking enthusiast.

What I Like
  • Extremely stable
  • Highly receptive tracking
  • Customizable and versatile
  • Will last a lifetime
  • Lots of fun to ride
What I Don’t Like
  • Not much storage available initially
  • Unlikely to win any races!

9. Swell Scupper 14 (7.2 / 10) (Full review)

swell scupper 14 sit on top kayak

The Swell Scupper 14 is a top-tier kayak that offers a blend of performance and stability. One of the standout features is its ability to track well for its size, ensuring a straight path even in challenging waters.

The onboard storage is impressive, with ample space for long trips and overnight adventures. The kayak’s design is geared towards performance, and while this means a slight compromise on primary stability, the secondary stability is commendable. There’s no noticeable wobble, and edging into secondary stability feels intuitive.

The Scupper 14 is not just about performance; it’s also about the experience. The seating is low, which might be uncommon for this style, but it offers a unique connection between the paddler and the water. This design choice enhances the feeling of being one with the kayak, making every paddle stroke feel more engaging.

However, this performance-centric design does mean that comfort takes a slight backseat. But the positioning of the feet below the hips is a thoughtful touch, ensuring sustainable paddling sessions.

On the downside, portability can be a challenge due to its weight. While it’s lightweight for its size, getting it on and off a vehicle might require some effort. But once it’s in the water, the Scupper 14 truly shines. It’s a kayak that feels like it’s built for enthusiasts, offering a blend of speed, power, and control.

In conclusion, the Swell Scupper 14 is a fantastic investment for those looking for a high-performance kayak without compromising too much on stability. Its design, storage capacity, and overall experience make it a great value for money.

What I Like
  • Tracks well for its size
  • Tons of storage onboard
  • Surprisingly powerful
  • Comfortable and engaging with low seating
  • Great value for money
What I Don’t Like
  • Portability can be awkward due to weight
  • Not ideal if you prioritize primary stability

10. Ocean Kayak Caper – Best Budget Sit-On-Top Kayak (7.2 / 10) (Full review)

ocean kayak caper sit on top kayak

The Ocean Kayak Caper stands out as one of the top sit-on-top recreational kayaks of 2024. As someone who values stability and ease of use, the Caper did not disappoint. Its lightweight design makes it perfect for beginners venturing into the world of sit-on-top kayaking. The storage is ample, though I did notice that the onboard hatch might not be the best fit for dry bags.

One of the most commendable features of the Caper is its impressive stability. It instilled confidence in me as a novice, and I can see how it offers seasoned kayakers secondary stability in choppier waters. While it’s designed for gentler rides, with a bit of effort, it can handle rougher waters.

However, it’s essential to note that while the Caper excels in calm conditions, it might require more effort in choppier waters. The storage is generous, but the main hatch tends to get items wet, so I’d suggest being cautious with what you store there. On the brighter side, its portability is a significant plus. The kayak is light for its size, and the handles make it easy to carry.

In my opinion, the Caper offers a good balance between performance and stability. It remains steady, allowing you to sit comfortably without the fear of tipping over. But, if you’re planning to tackle deeper waves and faster currents, you might want to consider other options.

In conclusion, the Ocean Kayak Caper is a reliable choice for those looking for a stable, beginner-friendly kayak. It offers ample storage, is easy to transport, and performs well in calm conditions. However, be prepared for some water ingress in the storage areas and consider its limitations in rougher waters.

What I Like
  • Very stable regardless of how you sit
  • Highly customizable
  • Nice and easy to carry
  • Lots of room on board
  • Tracks great in calm weather
What I Don’t Like
  • Not ideal for choppy waters
  • Some onboard storage is likely to let in water

11. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL (7.2 / 10) (Full review)

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL sit on top tandem kayak review

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is a game-changer for those who love kayaking adventures. This sit-on-top kayak, designed for two persons, is an upgrade from the highly-rated Ocean Kayak Malibu Two standard version. One of the standout features is the ample storage space it offers, which is complemented by its potential for accessorization.

The Malibu Two XL is lauded for its versatility. Whether I’m out for a solo trip or with a companion, its stability never disappoints. Surprisingly, for its size, the kayak is quite light, making it easy to transport. It’s the perfect choice for those who wish to venture out fishing with a partner, given its roominess.

Performance-wise, while it’s not built for speed, its tracking capability is commendable. The storage onboard is a significant upgrade from the standard version. However, I found it beneficial to invest in third-party fittings for more convenient access. The kayak’s design ensures comfort, even more than one would expect just by looking at it. It’s ideal for those planning to paddle with a partner and carry gear for extended trips.

On a personal note, I’ve found this kayak to be a fantastic family boat. With a few upgrades, I’ve managed to enhance its storage, making it even more convenient during our water adventures. It tracks well and provides decent comfort for up to two adults and a child. The kayak’s design and features make it a top choice for both recreational and fishing activities.

In conclusion, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is a blend of comfort, versatility, and performance. Its design caters to the needs of both solo and tandem kayakers, ensuring a memorable experience on the water.

What I Like
  • Highly versatile
  • Lots of storage compared to standard version
  • Reasonably comfortable and ergonomic
  • Easy to add and remove storage to and from
  • Tracks great despite its size
What I Don’t Like
  • Some may find the storage options a little clunky at first
  • Isn’t likely to reach high speeds

12. Feelfree Moken 10 V2 (7.1 / 10) (Full review)

Feelfree Moken 10 V2 sit on top kayak

The Feelfree Moken 10 V2 is one of the top sit-on-top kayaks, especially for beginners. Its portability is unmatched, making it a breeze to transport to and from the water. Despite its compact size, it boasts a surprisingly wide build, offering stability that’s hard to find in kayaks of its class. Experts and I concur on its stability, which is a testament to its design.

One of the standout features is its keel wheels and robust handles, simplifying the process of moving it around. Its stability is further emphasized by its suitability for both fishing and recreational activities. The kayak’s power is commendable, allowing for swift movement even in challenging currents. This is surprising given its size, but it’s a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

Adjustability is another strong suit of the Moken 10 V2. Whether you’re on the water or preparing to get on, the kayak’s seat can be easily adjusted. The presence of standing clips is a thoughtful addition, especially for those who like to switch positions during their journey.

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. The storage, although adequate, could benefit from a more waterproof design. While it offers various storage options, there’s a risk of your belongings getting wet, so precautions are necessary.

In conclusion, the Feelfree Moken 10 V2 is a “grab and go” kayak that doesn’t compromise on performance. Its design and features make it a top contender in its category, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a reliable sit-on-top kayak.

What I Like
  • Excellent keel wheels and sturdy handles
  • One of the most stable kayaks in its size
  • Great for fishing and recreation
  • Offers an impressive amount of power
  • Highly adjustable and easy to secure
What I Don’t Like
  • Storage won’t keep your kit dry
  • Could benefit from universal rails for accessories

13. Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS (6.6 / 10) (Full review)

Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS sit on top kayak

The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a top contender among budget sit-on-top kayaks for 2024. While it’s primarily designed as a simple fishing boat for short trips, it does have its limitations, particularly in tracking and speed. However, for its intended purpose, these attributes might not be as crucial.

One of the standout features of this kayak is its plethora of storage options. From rod holders to bungees and cavities, it’s evident that the designers had the angler in mind. But, a word of caution: its relatively low max capacity might limit the full utilization of these storage options. The kayak’s hard plastic shell is commendable for its durability, ensuring resistance against rough terrains. However, a personal tweak I’d suggest is plugging the scupper holes, as they aren’t always reliable. I even found third-party earplugs to be a handy solution!

Comfort is a mixed bag with the Journey 10 SS. The lack of seat padding is noticeable, especially during extended paddling sessions. The backrest, though slightly padded, offers some relief, but shorter riders might find the foot and thigh pads less accommodating.

In terms of performance, it’s essential to manage expectations. The Journey 10 SS is affordable, and while it doesn’t boast “kayak of the year” features, it’s a reliable vessel for light fishing and day trips. As an expert, I’d advise potential buyers to be aware of its tracking challenges, especially on flat waters.

In conclusion, the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a fantastic choice for those on a budget, looking for a simple, no-frills kayak for short fishing trips. While it has its shortcomings, its benefits, especially at its price point, are hard to overlook.

What I Like
  • Very lightweight and easy to move
  • Adjustable seat and rests are easy to manage
  • Durably polyethylene construction
  • Stacks of storage options
  • A great budget choice
What I Don’t Like
  • Tracks very poorly
  • Slow on most waters
  • Doesn’t perform well in bad weather

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Sit-On-Top Kayak

Still not sure how to pick the best sit-on-top kayak for your needs? Don’t worry.

This guide will take you through all you need to know about choosing the best sit-on-top kayak of your needs. Take a look at this in-depth guide, which will tell you everything you need to know when considering a sit-on-top kayak. 

Why Choose a Sit-On-Top Kayak Over a Sit-In Kayak?

As the name suggests, sit-on-top kayaks don’t have an enclosed cockpit like sit inside kayaks do. Instead, you sit on top of the kayak when paddling. Sit-on-top kayaks aren’t better or worse than sit-in kayaks – they’re just different. 

Advantages of a Sit-on-top Kayak

There are several advantages when it comes to a sit on kayak. Here’s why you might choose a sit-on-top kayak over a sit-in kayak:

  • You are much less likely to capsize a sit-on-top kayak as they’re so stable. If you do manage to capsize, then the open cockpit means there’s no risk of you getting trapped in the boat.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks are almost unsinkable. Unlike sit-in kayaks, which can fill with water if you capsize, sit-on-top kayaks have a sealed hull that traps air and prevents them from sinking.
  • Sit-on-tops make for a wide and stable kayak. As the paddler sits on top of the kayak rather than inside a cockpit, they’re a great choice for kayak anglers or those who love scuba diving (since they’re easier to stand up in and enter or exit from the water)
  • Many sit-on-top kayaks have ample storage space in the form of a tank well in the stern that’s large enough for a cool box or other bulky items.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks have scupper holes that allow any water that splashes into the cockpit to drain out.

Disadvantages of a Sit-on-top Kayak

Of course, there are also some downsides to using a sit-on-top kayak as opposed to other types of kayak. 

  • While they are good for recreational paddling, sit-on-top kayaks are slower and require more effort to paddle than sit-in kayaks. Many budget models struggle with tracking (moving in a straight line) and are harder to handle in windy or choppy conditions. This makes them best suited to short trips on calm waters and activities such as fishing and diving.
  • Your body is exposed to the elements when paddling a sit-on-top kayak. You’ll need to slap on the sunscreen in summer and wrap up warm if you’re using the kayak in winter. If you’ll be doing a lot of paddling in cold water, it may be worth investing in a dry suit.
  • It’s common for sit-on-top kayaks to have a small amount of water in the cockpit. If you’re heavy, the water can come up through the scupper holes, leaving you with a wet butt. You can buy scupper plugs to prevent this.
  • Because of the open cockpit, you can’t brace your legs against the side of the kayak as you would in an enclosed cockpit. This gives you less control and maneuverability.

In summary, sit-on-top kayaks are a great option for beginner and recreational kayakers who prioritize fun over performance.

ALSO READ: How To Stay Dry in a Sit-on-Top Kayak

What to Think About When Buying a Sit-On-Top Kayak

Before you even start looking for a new sit-on-top kayak, you should at least have a few ideas about how you intend to use the kayak and what sort of paddling activities you’ll do. Sit-on-top kayaks are a great option for anglers (most fishing kayaks are sit-on-tops), but if you only plan on paddling recreationally then a fishing kayak won’t be the best choice for you. 

Therefore, it’s important to have an idea of what your primary needs will be, before you even begin looking for your new sit-on-top kayak. Consider some of the following questions;

What Do You Plan to Use It For?

Sit-on-top kayaks are generally designed for recreational use on flat water. They’re ideal for small lakes, ponds, or slow moving rivers. Most models can be used on calm coastal inlets, and some are specifically designed for surf.

The best kayak for you will depend on what you plan to use it for. If you’ll mainly be messing around in the shallows for a couple of hours on weekends and vacations, then a stable, low-cost kayak will do the job.

If you want to kayak for longer periods, then a comfortable seat is a must. You’ll want space to stretch your legs out and accessible storage for snacks, drinks, and spare clothes.

For kayak fishing, you’ll want a stable platform with fishing rod holders, somewhere to stash your paddle, and plenty of storage.

As a general rule, shorter kayaks are more maneuverable, whereas longer kayaks tend to track better and be more efficient over long distances.  

What Size Sit-on-Top Kayak Do You Need?

Choosing the right size kayak for you will depend on various factors, including:

  • Your height and build
  • How much space you need for gear storage
  • Where you’re going to store your kayak
  • How you’ll transport your kayak to the water

The length and width of a kayak also affect its performance. Long, thin kayaks glide through the water more easily, whereas wide kayaks tend to be more stable.

Do You Need a Single or Tandem Kayak? 

If you’ll always be paddling solo, then it makes sense to buy a single kayak. Single kayaks are easier to transport and typically have more storage than the equivalent sized tandem.

However, there are several advantages to buying a tandem. The most obvious is that they can carry multiple people (or dogs!). They’re particularly useful if you have a young child, as you can sit them safely between two paddlers.

You can also change the layout of a tandem, which makes it more versatile if you want a boat that you can paddle on your own as well as with your family.

Although tandem kayaks are typically more expensive, buying one tandem is likely to work out cheaper than buying a pair of single kayaks.

Of course, the deciding factor might be your relationship with your partner. Can you cope with arguments over who gets to be the backseat driver?!

What’s Your Budget?

Sit-on-top kayaks are pretty budget-friendly. Recreational paddlers can pick up a basic kayak for under $300, but for something that’s more comfortable and efficient to paddle, expect to pay upwards of $500. 

Sit-on-top kayaks can make for a versatile boat that’s fun to paddle – but you’ll need to figure out how much you’re willing to invest in one, to ensure you don’t waste your money on something sub-par. 

Features to Look For In a Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks aren’t ‘one-type-fits-all’, and each individual kayak will have different features and attributes. It’s important to have an idea of the types of features you want your sit-on-top kayak to have. 

Do you need a fishing kayak with a large weight capacity, lots of storage space, and fishing rod holders? Or are you more interested in a comfortable sit-on-top kayak with a padded seat and plenty of gear storage for long days of recreational kayaking?

Consider the different features you’d like to see in a sit-on-top kayak, as well as the standard features that all quality kayaks should possess:

Durable Materials and a Stable Design

Most sit-on-top kayaks are made from high-density polyethylene – a hard, durable plastic. This makes them long-lasting and easy to maintain. 

Lighter kayaks are easier to transport, but will typically have thinner plastic, which could affect their long-term durability.

As you sit on top of the kayak, your center of gravity is higher than in a sit-in kayak. This is why choosing a kayak with sufficient weight capacity is important. Larger paddlers will find a wider kayak with a greater weight capacity more stable and comfortable to paddle.

When calculating the capacity you need, don’t forget to account for the gear you’ll be carrying with you. 

Scupper Holes and Drainage

Most sit-on-top kayaks come equipped with scupper holes in the cockpit. These operate as a self-bailing system, meaning you don’t have to carry a bilge pump.

Although they’re effective at preventing water from building up in the cockpit, water can splash up through the holes in choppy conditions. If there are scupper holes in the seat, this means you could end up with a wet butt.

A Comfortable Seat

A padded seat or at the very least an adjustable seat is a must if you’ll be spending more than an hour in your kayak. Look for a padded seat cushion and an adjustable backrest for maximum comfort. You can add a seat cushion or stadium seat to most kayaks, so this may not be a deal-breaker.

Sit-on-top kayaks typically come with either molded footrests or adjustable foot braces. Molded footrests are not quite as adjustable, but there are no moving parts to break!

Different Storage Options

Sit-on-top kayaks most often have open storage areas with shock cord deck rigging to hold gear in place. This makes your kit easy to access but it’s more likely to get wet, so dry bags are a must for clothing and other items you don’t want to get wet.

Some kayaks have sealed storage compartments for keys, phones, and other small items. These shouldn’t be confused with storage hatches, which open into the main hull of the kayak. Drop your keys in there and you’ll be fishing around for a while to find them!

Fishing Features Such as Flush Mount Rod Holders

Some of the best sit-on-top kayaks have specific features for fishing. Flush mount rod holders are usually mounted behind the seat. There may also be a mount point for a swivel rod holder in front of the seat.

Gear tracks are rails fitted to the side of the kayak that allow you to attach accessories such as a fish finder screen or camera.

You’ll also want a kayak that has plenty of space to store your tackle and catch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Sit-On-Top Kayaks More Stable?

Sit-on-top kayaks are wider than sit-inside kayaks, giving them a higher degree of initial stability. This makes them hard to capsize and if you do end up in the water, it’s easy to get back on board.

What Are the Advantages of Tandem Kayaks?

Tandem kayaks offer more flexibility than single-person kayaks. Most can accommodate up to three people, meaning you only have to buy and store one kayak for your family. You can also paddle a tandem solo, which gives you plenty of space to stash your gear.


Sit-on-top kayaks offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the great outdoors and have fun on the water. With their stability and versatility, sit-on-top kayaks are an excellent choice for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. From fishing to touring and everything in between, there’s a sit-on-top kayak out there to suit pretty much anyone’s needs.

This list recommends some of the best sit-on-top kayaks available, so whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly option or a top-of-the-line model, we’re confident that the collated opinions and advice from kayaking experts here will help you decade on your next kayak. 

So get out there and enjoy all that nature has to offer!