Comes in a variety of colors, as well as a camouflage pattern. For 1 or 2 people. Paddles store when you're not using them. Easily mounts a trolling motor. Tracks well and paddles fast.
Takes on water more than other models. On the large and heavy side. Screws loosen easily; consider upgrading to locking nuts.
Easy to get into. Paddles nicely in calm waters. Inexpensive, yet durable and sturdy. A good choice for beginners or occasional users.
It comes with a paddle, but it's not very durable. Not ideal for serious kayaking enthusiasts because it doesn't handle well in rough waters.
Well constructed and durable. Steady and stable. Tracks in a straight line, even when paddling hard. Lightweight.
The seat is a little on the narrow side, and you may want to upgrade it with better cushioning.
Very compact. Comes with a wide array of extras: paddle, plugs, storage inserts, and rod holders. Stable and easy to maneuver. Easy to get in and out of the water.
Some buyers found this kayak to be a little too small. Seat is on the hard and uncomfortable side.
Easy to paddle and tracks well on the water. Users sit lower than in other sit-on-tops, giving this model great stability. Lightweight and decently priced.
The seat has minimal padding and could offer more support. Lacks scupper or drainage holes in the bottom.
Whether you go on long kayaking adventures or you merely want a simple vessel for a bit of fun on the water, a sit-on-top kayak will serve you well.
But not all sit-on-top kayaks are the same. Some are designed for serious touring, and others are better suited for light recreational outings, and you don’t want to use the wrong one. Choosing the best sit-on-top kayak to fit your needs can be challenging, especially if you're a first-time buyer and not well versed in all things kayak.
We at BestReviews can help take the confusion out of shopping. We’ve done the research so you don't have to. Below you'll find our full shopping guide to sit-on-top kayaks, which will tell you all you need to know to find the right one for you. When you're ready to buy, scroll up to the product list to see our top five sit-on-top kayaks.
Sit-on-top kayaks (also known as SOTs) are less traditional than sit-inside kayaks, so you might be wondering if an SOT is right for you. Of course, the choice is yours, but here are some of the benefits of sit-on-top kayaks over sit-inside kayaks.
Wider and more stable
Easier to get in and out of for hiking or exploring
Easier to get into from the water for swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving
Safer for newbies
More appealing to nervous kayakers
Don’t need bailing (scupper holes for draining any water in the hull)
Designed for riding the ocean surf, these SOTs are short and wide for stability and have a lot of curve the the hull, or rocker. Though these kayaks are great at what they're designed for, they're slow on flat water.
Made for general use (but nothing too ambitious), recreational SOTs tend to be good all-rounders, but they don't necessarily excel at any one thing. These have some storage, but not as much as touring models, and they tend to be more suited to flat water rather than surf.
Touring SOTs are designed for longer trips. They have enough storage space for supplies to last a day or two. They tend to be fairly long and track well (move straight through the water).
SOTs made for scuba divers are stable enough to stand up to waves and slightly choppy water. These don't need a vast amount of storage space but should have a tank well big enough to carry your diving tank.
Make sure to choose a sit-on-top kayak of an appropriate length for your needs and abilities.
Longer kayaks are faster and have more room for storage, but these can be tricky to steer through obstacles.
Narrow: If you're looking for the fastest sit-on-top kayak out there, you'll want a narrow one. While this increases your speed, it will make your kayak less stable and easier to capsize. The narrowest SOTs aren't good for children, complete beginners, or nervous kayakers.
The vast majority of SOTs are made from two types of hard, molded polyethylene plastic.
Single-layer or linear polyethylene is the standard variety found on basic SOTs. It's tough and offers good performance overall, but it’s heavier and doesn't stand up to UV light as well as high-density polyethylene.
Some sit-on-top kayaks come with seats and others don't.
No seats: SOTs that don't have seats usually have a dipped or indented area for you to sit in. The manufacturer may sell seats as an optional extra.
You can expect to pay between $200 and $1,500 for a sit-on-top kayak.
Basic SOT kayaks
These sit-on-top kayaks cost roughly between $200 and $400. Don't expect to get any bells and whistles at this price point, just a simple single-person vessel.
Mid-range SOT kayaks
These sit-on-top kayaks cost between $400 and $700. In this price range, you'll find kayaks of various lengths and widths, suitable for many purposes, as well as some basic two-seater options.
High-end SOT kayaks
These sit-on-top kayaks cost between $700 and $1,500. You can find some excellent one- and two-person kayaks for this price, with lots of extra features, such as comfortable seats, paddles, and ample storage.
Check the positioning of the footwells. SOTs tend to have footwells positioned at a set distance from the seat, which means they may not be comfortable for people of every height. If the footwell positioning isn't right for you, try another model or look for an option with adjustable foot braces.
Think about how much storage you need. Will you be going on overnight kayaking trips or do you just need enough space to store your phone, keys, and wallet? We'd recommend a kayak with at least a few dry storage spaces for valuables.
Consider how many people you want to fit in your kayak. Do you want to kayak solo or do you want to paddle with your child or partner? Some people even take their pets kayaking.
Choose the SOT that's appropriate for how you'll use it. You shouldn't head out on rough waves in a kayak designed for use on calm water. Think about how and where you'll use your kayak and select accordingly.
Q. I've heard the term "rocker" when looking at kayaks. What does it mean?
A. A kayak's rocker refers to the curve of the hull from front to back. A sit-on-top kayak with a lot of rocker has a banana-shaped hull, while a model with very little rocker has a straighter hull. Kayaks with a lot of rocker are highly maneuverable and ideal for navigating narrow waterways with obstacles or whitewater use but not so good at going straight. Kayaks with little rocker track extremely well through the water but don't maneuver easily. For general use, choose a kayak with medium rocker.
Q. Do sit-on-top kayaks have a maximum weight capacity?
A. Yes, all SOTs have a maximum weight capacity. It's often close to 250 pounds, but it can be slightly more or less, so always check before using. Bear in mind that this weight capacity includes you, any other passengers, and any gear you have on board.
Q. How do I transport my kayak?
A. Unless you're lucky enough to live right by the water, you'll probably have to transport your sit-on-top kayak from place to place by car. The good news is that you don't need a large vehicle to transport your kayak. Even a regular sedan will do the job, but you will need an appropriate roof rack.
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