How to Choose: Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-In Kayaks
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Choosing Between Sit-on-Top and Sit-In Kayaks: A Comprehensive Comparison

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woman paddling a sit-inside kayak

When you’re in the market for a new kayak, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want a sit-on-top or a sit-in model. In this article, we will walk you through the key differences between the two and help you choose the right kayak for your needs.

What Type of Paddling Do You Want to Do?

Answering this question is crucial in determining the type of kayak that suits you best. Let’s break down the advantages of each:

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are an excellent choice for recreational kayakers who prioritize stability over speed. In fact, many sit-on-tops even allow you to stand up while paddling. They are also suitable for kayakers who value easy accessibility, as getting on and off a sit-on-top kayak is much simpler than a sit-in kayak. Additionally, these kayaks offer peace of mind in terms of buoyancy. If you happen to capsize, you can easily flip the kayak upright and climb back on with practice. Sit-on-top kayaks are especially popular among kayak anglers.

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Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks are the preferred option for paddlers who prioritize performance. They are ideal for those interested in multi-day kayak trips, as well as for navigating oceans, big open water, and rivers with whitewater. Sit-in kayaks provide better control and maneuverability compared to sit-on-top kayaks, thanks to their lower center of gravity. Additionally, sit-in kayaks can be made of lighter and faster materials, giving them an edge over sit-on-tops in terms of speed.

kayakers paddling sit-on-top kayaks

Comparing the Performance Between Sit-On-Top and Sit-In Kayaks

When it comes to performance, sit-in kayaks have the upper hand. Here’s why:

  • Lower center of gravity: Sit-in kayaks have a lower center of gravity, allowing them to be narrower while still maintaining stability. This narrower design enables a sit-in kayak to move through the water more efficiently compared to a wider sit-on-top kayak.
  • Body connection: Sit-inside kayaks provide better body connection with the kayak itself. While sitting lower in the seat, your thighs, knees, and feet are actively engaged, enhancing your control and paddling efficiency. It’s like comparing wearing flip flops to running shoes.
  • Materials: Sit-on-top kayaks are typically made of heavy molded plastic, whereas sit-inside kayaks can be crafted from higher-end materials that are lighter and contribute to increased speed.

Stability of Sit-On-Tops vs. Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed for stability due to their wider width, making them an excellent choice for anglers and stability-focused paddlers. On the other hand, sit-in kayaks offer something called edge stability, which allows you to roll them onto their edge and keep them in that position. This feature is especially beneficial for paddlers who prioritize performance paddling over stability. However, it’s worth noting that even the more affordable recreational sit-in kayaks are designed with stability in mind, making it difficult to capsize even if you try.

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kayak angler using a sit-on-top kayak

Comparing the Comfort

When it comes to comfort, sit-on-top kayaks take the lead. Here’s why:

Sit-on-top kayaks provide a more liberating experience as you are not confined inside the boat. This freedom of movement allows for greater leg mobility, and you can even stand up to stretch during long days of paddling. The seats of sit-on-tops are often described as “downright luxurious.” Many sit-on-top models also offer height-adjustable seats, providing you with added seating options.

Exploring the Different Features

The value of the features offered by sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks is highly subjective. It mainly depends on the type of paddling you intend to do. Here are a few key considerations:

Sit-inside kayaks typically offer great features for day trips and multi-day excursions, such as covered hatches with ample storage space for your gear. They often feature bulkheads that create separate compartments, helping to keep water out.

Sit-on-top kayaks shine when it comes to fishing, with their open deck design allowing for easy customization according to your preferences.

What About Safety?

While the type of kayak you choose plays a role in safety, there are more important factors to consider:

  • Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when you’re on the water.
  • Know your paddling skills and limitations.
  • Use common sense.

Between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks, sit-on-tops are generally safer, especially for beginners. They are unsinkable and can be righted in the water even if they capsize, allowing you to easily climb back on with practice.

However, it’s important to note that higher-end sit-inside kayaks are safer in the hands of skilled kayakers. They excel in challenging conditions such as ocean and large lake paddling with waves and tides, as well as in rivers with heavy currents. Learning to roll your kayak in these situations gives you greater control and the ability to maneuver out of potentially risky scenarios.

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sit-inside kayak in waves

Which Is More Portable?

Moving any kayak around can be challenging, but sit-in kayaks tend to be lighter, making them easier for a single person to carry. Many sit-on-top kayaks require two people to carry, unless they have a stern wheel or you’re using a cart.

In conclusion, we hope this article has helped you gain clarity on the differences between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks. Happy paddling!

Let our friendly Customer Service Team help you choose a kayak paddle today! Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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