Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-In Kayaks: Which Is Right For You?

March 25, 2020 4 min read

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the difference between a sit-in and a sit-on-top kayak is? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one and you’ve come to the right place! We’re going to guide you through the tricky waters of picking out your perfect kayak today. It can be tough when it comes to making this decision. Maybe you’re a beginner and want to know where to start or maybe you’d just like to switch it up. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each and help to make your decision easier!

First of all; what even is the difference between the two? I thought there was only one and all I had to do was pick a color! Now I’m hearing something about sit-in’s vs sit-on’s. It can be confusing sometimes! There is a big difference between the two and it can be tough to pick out which one is for you.

A sit-on-top kayak is just like it sounds. You sit on top and it typically has a seat either attached or simply a molded into the kayak. This particular style is something that is common among novice kayakers. It’s a safer alternative to the sit-in and is generally designed for calmer waters.

A sit-in kayak has a hollowed out space inside for the user to slip into through an opening in the top. This style is used more for whitewater, long distance or simply more intermediate to pro level use.

Now that we’ve covered a bit of what each particular kayak does we’ll introduce you to some pros and cons of each so you can pick out your perfect kayak today!


- The Sit-On Kayak -

This kayak; as mentioned above, is probably the safer choice between the two. Sitting on top of the kayak reduces the risks of tipping. It also practically eliminates the chances of your kayak sinking due to water intake. This style is generally cheaper as well so if you’re looking to get your foot in the door then this is a fantastic start. In fact, most beginners will start out with a sit-on kayak. They are more stable and more user friendly.

If you’re looking for a kayak to attack those whitewater rapids with or to go on a long distance trip, then a sit-on may not be the kayak for you! While these are excellent beginner kayaks you will find that more advanced users will opt for a sit-in kayak instead. A sit-on will be better used for calmer waters or activities near the shore but won’t hold up well in rougher waters. They also typically won’t have a storage compartment; unlike a sit-in, so long distance trips will prove to be more difficult when it comes to storing your supplies. If you’re going kayaking then you probably won’t mind getting wet but make sure to keep in mind that you will always be wet while sitting on top a kayak! There isn’t much protection from water so these won’t be ideal for colder waters! Better to save this one to a warm summer day.


- The Sit-In Kayak -

Now that we’ve discussed a few pros and cons to the sit-on kayak, we’ll go through some for the sit-in kayak.

This kayak is generally of higher quality than a standard sit-on. Therefore, making it more expensive. An extra expense you may want to consider as well is a spray skirt. What’s a spray skirt, you may ask? Well, a spray skirt is a waterproof cover that goes around the opening of your kayak. This will help to reduce the water that comes in as well as aid in keeping you dry! Having half your body sheltered; in addition to having a spray skirt attached, will help to keep the wind off you as well. This style kayak is better suited when battling the elements. While it can be great for casual use it is also the best for long distances and rough waters such as whitewater. Speaking of long distances, these also come with storage compartments! A majority of them will have waterproof compartments for holding your supplies or just a snack while out on the water!

Now onto some cons that come along with a sit-in kayak. A big one is safety. These kayaks will be more prone to sinking and/or flipping due to the hole in the top. Having a high quality spray skirt will help to reduce the chances of this happening but unfortunately will not eliminate the odds. As mentioned above, this is a more expensive option as well. This kayak is used most by intermediate kayakers so if you’re a beginner you might want to think twice before purchasing yours; unless you are planning for some rough waters!


 - Conclusion -

If you’re looking to kayak for pleasure and a more laid back experience, than a sit-on kayak is the perfect choice for you. Generally, they are more safe, inexpensive and aren’t made to handle anything rough.

If you’re looking to kayak for adventure or some whitewater rapids, than the sit-in kayak is most definitely the best for the job! While typically more expensive, they are designed for rougher waters and longer distances.

There are many differences between the two but both will guarantee endless fun! Whether it be for pleasure or adventure; there is a kayak out there for everyone. I hope that through reading this, you have gained a better understanding and that this will aid in making your decision towards your future kayak!



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