BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details

Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Updated July 2022
Bottom line
Best of the Best
Perception Crank 10 Sit-On-Top Pedal Kayak
Crank 10 Sit-On-Top Pedal Kayak
Check Price
Best Performance
Bottom Line

A fast, easy-to-use, and feature-packed pedal kayak that easily outperforms its rivals.


An efficient pedal system allows you to propel the kayak without a paddle, leaving your hands free for other activities. Can easily switch between forward and reverse. Features adjustable captain's chair seat and plenty of storage.


Has more moving parts than standard kayaks. Propeller can potentially get tangled in weeds.

Best Bang for the Buck
Vibe Skipjack 90 Kayak
Skipjack 90 Kayak
Check Price
Bargain Buy
Bottom Line

A lightweight and easy-to-maneuver kayak that is just as suitable for fishing as casual paddling.


Equipped with 4 rod holders and a fish finder mount. Open storage areas in front and back provide plenty of room for gear. Also features a waterproof compartment. Molded carrying handles for convenient carrying.


Can get knocked off track by wind and light currents.

Perception Zip 9.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak
Zip 9.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak
Check Price
Best for Beginners
Bottom Line

Stable and requiring minimal effort to paddle, this kayak is the perfect entry-level model for beginners.


Easy to get in and out of the water. Perfect for lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, and calm coastal environments. Features cup holders and 2 storage areas. Bungees for securing gear. Self-draining scupper holes.


Low 250lb weight capacity. Does not include seat pad.

BOTE Aero 12'6" Zeppelin Inflatable Kayak
Aero 12'6" Zeppelin Inflatable Kayak
Check Price
Best for 2 Paddlers
Bottom Line

This highly-portable, inflatable kayak is packed with features for a comfortable ride.


Crafted from rugged PVC material for durability. Convertible design accommodates 1 or 2 paddlers. Feels stable in most water conditions. Action cam mount on the front for recording adventures.


Second chair must be purchased separately.

Perception Pescador 12 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
Pescador 12 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
Check Price
Best for Anglers
Bottom Line

Designed with a focus on fishing, this kayak has plenty of space for gear.


Adjustable backrest and foot braces for user comfort. High 375lb weight capacity makes it suitable for heavy paddlers. Sturdy molded-in rod holders. Tracks for attaching accessories.


Large size makes it difficult to lift and transport.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

Category cover

Buying guide for Best sit-on-top kayaks

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.

Content Image
Your legs are out in the open in a sit-on-top kayak, which is great for warm water or warm weather use but less appealing during colder weather.

Benefits of 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)

Types of sit-on-top kayaks


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.

Content Image
For your safety
U.S. law states a personal flotation device, such as a life vest, should be on you or within reach at all times when using your kayak. We'd recommend wearing a life vest while paddling.

Sit-on-top kayak features to consider


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.

  • Shorter kayaks are more maneuverable and often feel more stable, plus they're easier to transport with a smaller car. These also tend to be lighter, which is good news if you have to carry one a fair distance to the water.


  • 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.

  • Wide: Wider kayaks feel much more stable and won't capsize easily. These SOTs can accommodate larger-bodied people, but they do move through the water more slowly. These are good for novices and children.


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.

  • Super-linear or high-density polyethylene is stronger and lighter than single-layer polyethylene. It's also more UV resistant, so it won't fade or degrade as easily over time.


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.

  • Seats: SOTs can have high-backed or low-backed seats. Note that while high-backed seats offer more support, they can infringe on your paddling motion because you're less able to twist your torso. Low-backed seats don’t offer as much support but allow for a better range of motion. We'd recommend low-backed seats for longer excursions or if you have a need for speed. High-backed seats are more comfortable for leisurely cruising.
Content Image
Expert Tip
When choosing a paddle for your kayak, remember that you'll need a longer paddle for a kayak with a wider hull and for taller paddlers. Lightweight paddles help reduce fatigue.

Sit-on-top kayak prices

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 tandem kayak 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.
Content Image
Although you might think the stability of your kayak is of prime importance, most adult kayakers quickly learn to balance even in less stable models.


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.