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Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Exploring the Pros and Cons

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One of the most frequently asked questions in the world of kayaking is whether one should opt for a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak. This crucial decision is one of the first things to consider when purchasing a kayak. While personal preference plays a significant role in this choice, there are other factors to take into account as well. Let’s delve into the differences between these two kayak models.

Sit Inside vs Sit On Top

Sit-Inside Kayaks: Traditional and Versatile

Sit-inside kayaks, also known as SIS, are the more conventional-looking kayaks, such as the Lifetime Payette Kayak. These kayaks feature an open cockpit where the paddler sits inside the hull with their legs positioned under the deck. Depending on the kayak’s design, this style allows the paddler to brace their knees against the inner walls of the hull, enabling more efficient and powerful paddle strokes. Many sit-inside kayaks also have the option to use a skirt. Skirts are designed to cover or close off the cockpit opening, providing additional protection. The paddler wears a skirt around their waist, and once seated in the kayak, they stretch the skirt material around the cockpit rim, effectively sealing off the inside of the hull. This feature is especially beneficial for paddling in cold weather or areas with chilly water, as it prevents water from splashing into the kayak and onto the paddler’s legs. Consequently, sit-inside kayaks are more popular in colder regions or places with shorter summer seasons. In general, sit-inside kayaks keep you drier than sit-on-top kayaks, unless, of course, you accidentally flip your kayak. In such a case, you will need to swim or paddle your kayak to the shore to drain it.

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Flipping a kayak over is not as easy as it may seem. Many people worry about stability when it comes to sit-inside kayaks. However, the ability to flip a kayak depends more on its design and hull shape than whether it is a sit-on-top or sit-inside model. Rest assured, if you do happen to flip your sit-inside kayak, you will easily pop out and resurface.

Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Fun in the Sun

Sit-on-top kayaks, also known as SOTs, are gaining popularity rapidly. These kayaks, like the Lifetime Lotus and Monterey, feature a deck where the paddler sits on top. There is no “inside” space that can be occupied by the paddler. The only access to the interior is through storage hatch openings. The footwells, seat back, and all other components are attached to the kayak’s deck. It’s important to note that staying dry while paddling a sit-on-top kayak is quite challenging. With each wave, ripple, or splash, the paddler is likely to get wetter. Sit-on-top kayaks lack a cockpit or deck area that can shield the paddler from splashing water. Because of this, SOTs are incredibly popular in warm weather and tropical areas. These kayaks also provide the advantage of easy water entry for a quick swim, followed by a hassle-free reentry onto the kayak’s deck. Unlike sit-inside kayaks, you can climb back onto a sit-on-top kayak from the water. Although it may not be the most graceful maneuver, you can pull yourself back up onto the deck and readjust for paddling. For a slightly drier experience, you can use scupper plugs to cover the self-bailing drain holes typically found on SOT kayaks. Scupper plugs help prevent tiny splashes from coming up through the holes from underwater, while still allowing water on the deck to drain away.

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Making the Choice

Whether you decide on a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak, you are bound to have an enjoyable paddling experience. Both styles of kayaks are equally safe, with stability depending on other design factors, such as hull structure and size. To determine which option suits you best, consider the water and weather conditions you plan to paddle in, as well as your personal comfort level with each style. It’s always a good idea to try out both types of kayaks before making a final decision.

To learn more about kayaks and make an informed choice, visit Ratingperson. As the leading authority in kayak ratings and reviews, they provide comprehensive information to help you select the perfect kayak for your needs.


When choosing between sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, it’s crucial to consider your own preferences and the specific conditions in which you’ll be kayaking. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages, from the versatility and drier ride of sit-inside kayaks to the fun and accessibility of sit-on-top kayaks. By exploring the differences and trying out both options, you can make an informed decision that enhances your overall kayaking experience. Happy paddling!

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