Sit on Top vs Sit in Kayak - Choosing the Right Design

I still remember the day when I went shopping for the first kayak of my life.

One of the first questions the shopkeeper asked me was whether I wanted a sit-on-top kayak or a sit inside kayak.

The question left me dumbfounded as until then, I never knew that kayaks came in multiple types.

Fortunately, my parents helped me with making an informed decision on what model to get as they were more knowledgeable on the subject than me.

However, now that I look back to that moment, I cannot help but question whether I would have made the same decision had I then had the same information about kayaks as I do now.

It’s the embarrassment, that I felt back then, that convinced me to come up with this guide. It contains all the information that you need to choose between a sit on top vs sit-in kayak. Go through it, and you won’t have to rely on anyone to find the best kayak for your needs..

As the name implies, a sit-on-top kayaks (sot Kayaks) contain no cockpit and requires you to sit on a seat mold or chair attached to the top. Their relatively straightforward kayak design allows their manufacturers to provide sit-on-top kayaks at a low price point, making them a great choice for beginners.

They don’t cost you to rob a bank doesn’t mean that sit-on-top kayaks are unsafe, as the absence of holes makes them nearly unsinkable when you’re paddling out on the water.


Following are the major advantages of these sit-on-top kayaks:

Easy to self-rescue

Since sit-on-top kayaks have a completely sealed top and bottom, all you need to do to get them up and running in the event of water capsizing the kayak is to flip them back upright and climb back onto the kayaking seat. You don’t need to have any special self-rescue skills or be an expert at kayaking.

Don’t fill with water

As stated at the start of this article, sit-on-top kayaks have no holes. That makes it extremely less likely for them to fill with water. For this reason, even when they are flipped upside down, you could still paddle them back to the shore without having to empty them.

Better drainage

Almost all sit-on-top kayaks have a drainage system that allows water scurrying on top of them to get back into the water. This drainage system channels the water into the sea through the bottom of the hull.

Safe for kids and first-timers

Due to the advantages of sit-on-top kayaks mentioned above, sit-on-top kayaks are the best choice for kids and first-time paddlers. They are also recommended if you’re going to kayak in pleasant water conditions.

Great for fishing

As the paddler is sitting on top of their surface, you have an excellent range of motion that is required for casting, reeling, and trolling when kayaking fishing. Many sit-on-top fishing kayaks even have built-in rod holders as well, giving anglers a break when needed.


Following are the major disadvantages of kayaks:

Leave the paddler more exposed

With no cockpit to protect the paddler from rain or other elements, sit on top kayak models leave you more exposed to the elements. Also, their scupper holes that drain excess water back into the sea might also allow water back into the kayak from beneath.

Require you to wear special clothing

Since you’ll be more exposed to the water while paddling a sit-on-top kayak vs a sit inside kayak, you’ll have to wear a special type of clothing gear, especially if it’s cold out on the water, to protect yourself from hypothermia.

Limited storage space

While some of the larger sit-on-top kayaks do have designated compartments to let you store your gear, most that are available in a budget to buy don’t provide you much room to store your gear.

Sit-in Kayak Model

Sit inside kayak has a closed design, provide more stability when you’re kayaking and keep you dry as you’re paddling out on the water. The kayaks extended storage space gives you a lot of room to store your gear, though sit inside kayak charges a hefty price for their offerings.


Following are the major benefits of sit inside kayak:

Sit in Kayak offers Higher stability

Sit-in kayaks have a pre-designed cockpit to house the paddler. That makes them more stable to ride than the sit-on-top kayaks that leave you on the mercy of elements like water and air as you’re navigating the water waves.

Offer more comfort

Since you’re ‘boxed-in’ from all sides, you’re more likely to remain dry while driving a sit inside kayak. They offer protection from all sides and make it less likely for water to splash right on top of you.

More Storage Space

Want to know the reason why expert kayakers and prefer sit inside kayak? The extra space that they offer inside their cockpit allows them to carry all the essential gear. That allows you to ride on the water for hours without having to return to the shore for supplies.

Better for distance traveling

As they offer plenty of storage space for your accessories, are incredibly stable, and keep you protected from water, sit inside kayak is a great option for distance travel. You can ride them for hours without having to worry about your safety.

These Kayaks are Easy to maneuver

Ask any paddler who has ever ridden a sit inside kayak, and they might tell you how agile and lightweight their design is. That is precisely what makes turning these recreational kayaks – using their paddle strokes – a cinch


Following are the major disadvantages of sit inside kayak:

Not recommended for fishing

Since you’re sitting inside the cockpit of the kayak and not on the kayak itself, the range of motion that is necessary for proper reeling and casting is limited. That makes these kayaks less conducive for kayak fishing.

Difficult to launch

Unless you have a person giving you a helping hand to launch the kayak, getting down inside the kayak and launching these boats is much more difficult than simply hopping atop sit on top kayaks.

Expensive and require more skill

Provided you’re a newbie who doesn’t have much prior experience of kayaking or you cannot afford to spend over the odds, sit inside kayak, which are expensive and require more skill for their handling, may not be the great option for you.

Choosing the Best Kayak for You?

Our comparison of sit on top kayaks and sit inside kayak has everything you need to know to find the best kayak for your needs. Provided you’re a newbie who is tight on a budget and want a virtually unsinkable kayak, we recommend you go for the sit on top kayak.

Conversely, if you’re a pro who would like to paddle for long distances and want a kayak that is a cinch to maneuver and can afford to pay a little bit more, sit inside kayak is the best buy for you.

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