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December 03, 2021 12 min read

Best Sit-In Kayaks For Water Lovers

Woman paddling with her dog on a sit in kayak

There’s no better feeling than gliding across the water, be it with a sit-in kayak or stand up paddle board. Escaping into nature and getting some water time is good for the soul, trust us! 

Perhaps you’re already into paddle sports. Or maybe you’re considering entering the world of paddling and need some help deciding what direction to take. Inflatable paddle boards are epic for traveling and exploring new places. However, some days do just call for a sit-down kayak session. 

We’ve picked out ten epic sit-in kayaks, perfect for recreational use. So whether you’re thinking about a hard shell or inflatable, here are the best recreational kayaks you should consider, along with top tips on what features to look out for.

GILI's Top 3 Picks

Best Overall
Blue aruba 10 sit in recreational kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

Sun Dolphin’s Aruba 10 is designed for lakes and rivers. This recreational kayak has a paddle holder, as well as adjustable seat and foot braces, to make your ride the most comfortable as possible.

Why we like it:

  • Hardshell
  • Perfect for rivers
Check Latest Price
Best Budget
Intex Explorer Inflatable Kayak
Intex Explorer K2

Intex’s Explorer K2 is an inflatable tandem recreational kayak. This tandem kayak is perfect for sharing fun and adventure with a friend. There is a removable skeg for added stability and to help turn this inflatable kayak.

Why we like it:

  • Inflatable
  • Fantastic tandem kayak and value for money
Check Latest Price
Best Premium
Driftsun Teton 120 hard shell recreational tandem kayak
Driftsun Transparent Crystal Clear Tandem Kayak

Driftsun’s Transparent Crystal Clear Tandem Kayak is something truly special. The transparent body allows you to be completely immersed in the water, so you can see everything you’re paddling over. If you are after something unique, then this is the kayak for you!

Why we like it:

  • Transparent hardshell
  • Unique and clear, perfect for exploring marine life
Check Latest Price

Kayak Type Weight Weight Capacity Reason to Consider Price
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10Blue aruba 10 sit in recreational kayak Hardshell 40 lbs 250 lbs Perfect for rivers and lakes $799
Perception Joyride 12Perception joyride 12 sit inside kayak with selfie slot Hardshell 54 lbs 350 lbs Great for flatwater $679
Terravent Folding Lightweight KayakTerravent folding lightweight kayak Folding 46.3 lbs 330 lbs Made for travelling $899
Lifetime 90899 Payette 98Lifetime 90899 Payette Orange Sit In Kayak Hardshell 49 lbs 250 lbs Excellent tracking $549
Pelican Maxim 100XYellow Pelican Maxim Sit in Recreational Kayak Hardshell 39 lbs 275 lbs Advanced maneuverability $877
Intex Explorer K2Intex Explorer Inflatable Kayak Inflatable 30.6 lbs 400 lbs Fantastic tandem kayak and value for money $200
Aquaglide Noyo 90 Inflatable KayakAquaglide Noyo 90 Inflatable Kayak Inflatable 21 lbs 250 lbs Great portability $399
Oru Kayak Foldable KayakOru kayak foldable lightweight kayak Folding 20 lbs 300 lbs Super compact $850
Advanced Elements Advanced FrameAdvanced Elements Convertible Elite Kayak Inflatable 52 lbs 550 lbs Top quality tandem kayak $999
Driftsun Transparent Crystal Clear Tandem KayakDriftsun Teton 120 hard shell recreational tandem kayak Transparent Hardshell 48 lbs 425 lbs Unique and clear, perfect for exploring marine life $1600

Why Choose A Sit-In Kayak

A sit-in kayak gives you a low center of gravity, therefore a greater level of stability when compared to a sit-on top kayak. You can also perform more efficient turns and take on rougher water conditions, helping you to remain upright even in the roughest of seas.

Sit-in kayaks are also super popular for colder waters as the water is generally kept away from your legs and seat area, keeping you dry. 

Paddling a kayak is just as relaxing as taking out a SUP. You’re exercising in a natural space, soaking up vitamin D, and releasing endorphins (the happy hormone). What more can you ask for?

Best Sit-In Kayaks For All Budgets

Want to know all the details before you buy? From weight capacity to comfort, learn all there is to know about these ten best sit-in kayaks.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

Sun Dolphin’s Aruba 10 is designed for lakes and rivers. This recreational kayak has a paddle holder, as well as adjustable seat and foot braces, to make your ride the most comfortable as possible.

Blue aruba 10 sit in recreational kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 14″ (41cm)
  • Materials: Rugged UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene
  • Limited lifetime warranty included
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Large and open cockpit
  • Perfectly balanced across bow and stern
  • Protective thigh pads, adjustable seat, and adjustable foot braces

What we don't love:

  • Surprisingly low weight capacity

Sun Dolphin has a whole range of both sit-in and sit on top kayaks, perfect for everyday fun and fishing expeditions.

Perception Joyride 12

Perception’s Joyride 12 is a fantastic kayak for casual paddling on calm water. It can handle open ocean and surf, however, do expect to have some water come inside the boat. There is a fantastic storage space behind the cockpit with a latched cover to keep your gear safe.

Perception joyride 12 sit inside kayak with selfie slot

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 15.25" (39cm)
  • Materials: UV, impact and abrasion resistant
  • Product warranty included
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Choice of funky colors to pick from
  • Plenty of storage areas upfront and behind
  • Convenient drink holder and phone holder in the front cockpit

What we don't love:

  • The paddle is not included in the price

Perception has a range of recreational kayaks to choose from, all with a fantastic choice of colors in the main body. The Joyride 12 is one of the best sit-in recreational kayaks available.

Terravent Folding Lightweight Kayak

Terravent’s Folding Lightweight Kayak is perfect for anyone who needs a travel-friendly sit-in kayak. The durable material is inspired by origami, folding down to a compact parcel around the size of a large duffel bag! If you don’t mind the unfolding and construction time adding to your session, then this is a superb option to consider.

Terravent folding lightweight kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 13.8” (35cm)
  • Materials: Durable honeycombed polypropylene
  • 6-month warranty period
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Strong design that can be folded into a compact package (33.8 x 28 x 11.8 inches) to fit in a travel bag
  • Versatile performance to keep up with an active lifestyle
  • V-shaped hull and upturned bow for reduced water resistance

What we don't love:

  • Added time to assemble and pack away after each session

Overall, Terravent’s folding kayak is a fantastic piece of kit. It’s lightweight, compact, and travel-friendly. And yet it’s still super durable and ready to take bumps and scrapes along the way. 

Lifetime 90899 Payette 98

Lifetime’s 90899 Payette 98 is a fantastic piece of kit, with a large cockpit and comfortable backrest. With this much space, there is no limit to how long your paddling journey can be! And what’s more, the carefully crafted hull and design provide excellent performance and tracking.

Lifetime 90899 Payette Orange Sit In Kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 14” (35.5cm)
  • Materials: blow-molded high-density polyethylene
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Comes with a paddle included
  • Deep hull channels for effective tracking and performance
  • Easy carry handles at bow and stern

What we don't love:

  • Awkward to empty water while sat inside

For efficient and effective paddling, look no further than this recreational kayak. The Lifetime 90899 Payette 98 is suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers.

Pelican Maxim 100X

Pelican’s Maxim 100X is a lightweight sit-in kayak best suited for intermediates. The hull is shallow and carefully crafted to provide good performing tracking and maneuverability. 

Yellow Pelican Maxim Sit in Recreational Kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 14” (35.5cm)
  • Materials: durable high molecular weight polyethylene
  • Warranty included from the manufacturer
  • Made in Canada

What we love:

  • Super lightweight and easy to carry with T-bar handles at bow and stern
  • Storage hatch with bungee cord and mesh deck cover included
  • Adjustable and ergonomic seat and backrest

What we don't love:

  • Not enough stability for complete beginners

Pelican have thoughtfully designed this sit-in kayak. The cockpit table includes a bottle holder, comfortable footrests, and a drain plug to prevent water infiltration.

Intex Explorer K2

Intex’s Explorer K2 is an inflatable tandem recreational kayak. This tandem kayak is perfect for sharing fun and adventure with a friend. There is a removable skeg for added stability and to help turn this inflatable kayak.

Intex Explorer Inflatable Kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 1’6” (50.8cm)
  • Materials: heavy-duty puncture resistant vinyl
  • Warranty from the manufacturer
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Inflatable. Take it anywhere, perfect for road trips and vacations.
  • Tandem option so you can share the adventure
  • Super comfortable seats with a supportive backrest

What we don't love:

  • Seat designs are not very adjustable so may be too low for smaller paddlers

This tandem kayak is great value for money. If sharing your adventure with friends and slow moving rivers sound like your kind of thing, then this is the perfect kayak for you.

AQUAGLIDE Noyo 90 Inflatable Kayak

Aquaglide’s Noyo 90 is one of the best inflatable kayaks on the market. This is a fantastic entry level kayak designed for users to gain confidence and build up their skill level. 

Aquaglide Noyo 90 Inflatable Kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 35” (88.9cm)
  • Materials: PVC and fabric cover
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Made in China

What we love:

  • Beginner friendly shape perfect for building up confidence and improving skill
  • Portable and super lightweight
  • Recreational design with quick release fin, drain plug, Boston valve, zip open dry compartments for storage, accessory strap, molded handle and D rings

What we don't love:

  • Type 2 kayak (with a fabric cover) can cause difficulties with drying the inflatable kayak

This kayak is ideal for day trips out on the water. Because it’s inflatable, there are no limitations where your adventure can take you.

Oru Kayak Foldable Kayak

Oru Kayak’s Foldable Kayak is innovative in design, created with the modern kayaker in mind. This kayak folds up into a compact parcel that easily fits in the trunk of your car, so you can go anywhere.

Oru kayak foldable lightweight kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 11” (28cm)
  • Materials: Durable honeycombed polypropylene
  • 1-year warranty
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Origami inspired design for easy traveling
  • High weight capacity, ideal for taking a doggy companion
  • Sleek design durable materials, and reliable in performance

What we don't love:

  • Takes time to construct the first few times before you master the technique

Once you’ve learnt how to construct the kayak (and fold it back down again), there will be nothing stopping you from getting out on the water.

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame is a convertible tandem kayak worth considering. You have the option to fold down the seat to make it a single kayak for days when you want to ride solo. Otherwise, grab a buddy and enjoy the adventure with a friend.

Advanced Elements Convertible Elite Kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 13.78” (35cm)
  • Materials: PVC and fabric cover
  • Warranty included from the manufacturer
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Tandem kayak with folding seats to convert into a single kayak
  • Bungee deck lacing storage system 
  • Durable and tough material suitable for rough and rugged conditions

What we don't love:

  • Type 2 kayak (with a fabric cover) can cause difficulties with drying the inflatable kayak

Just make sure you take the time to dry the kayak off thoroughly before deflating and storing this kayak.

Driftsun Transparent Crystal Clear Tandem Kayak

Driftsun’s Transparent Crystal Clear Tandem Kayak is something truly special. The transparent body allows you to be completely immersed in the water, so you can see everything you’re paddling over. If you are after something unique, then this is the kayak for you!

Driftsun Teton 120 hard shell recreational tandem kayak

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Height: 12” (30.5cm)
  • Materials: UV resistant Polycarbonate sheeting and features marine grade corrosion-resistant hardware
  • Warranty included from the manufacturer
  • Made in the USA

What we love:

  • Crystal clear transparency, perfect for watching the fish swim underneath you
  • Strong build quality 
  • Retractable aluminum tracking skeg

What we don't love:

  • Expensive price tag (however reflected in the quality)

If budget is no issue for you, consider this kayak from Driftsun. Just imagine paddling over Florida’s reefs or sharing the Alaskan waters with seals beneath you.

Buyer’s Guide: Key Features To Consider When Buying Recreational Kayaks

Three men riding kayaks

So what do you need to look out for when buying a kayak? Firstly, you need to start with the types of kayaks and the performance level you need. Don’t forget about the materials, dimensions, and overall comfort. 

Find a kayak that ticks all your boxes, and you’ll be well on your way to having a fantastic adventure.

Type of Kayak and Performance

Ocean kayaking or fishing? Tandem or solo? Whitewater kayaks or something built for slow moving rivers? The type of kayak you choose really does make a difference to the design and shape of your kayak. 

If you’re a first-time buyer, or are after an all rounder type, then try to stick to recreational kayaks to give you the best of both worlds. 

Tandem kayaks are built to have two paddlers in the boat, sometimes more for even larger kayaks! Double the paddle strength does not mean double the speed. Single kayakers average 3 mph, while tandems average 4 mph due to the increased weight load.

Materials

The materials used to make kayaks affect the performance, speed, and tracking. 

Traditional hardshell kayaks are made from high-density polyethylene that is both rugged and durable. They are designed to take a bump or two while crashing down rapids.

Inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly popular. The best inflatable kayaks use similar technology to iSUPs. Drop-stitch PVC creates a strong and stable boat that is just as good, if not better, than hardshell types.

Dimensions

Kayaks vary in size, just as we range in height and weight. Generally speaking, recreational kayaks are wider and shorter than expedition types. The added width gives you increased stability, allowing you to take the kayak in a variety of water conditions.

A good length for a one-person beginner kayak is around 10 feet. 

Weight Capacity and Stability

Man and woman paddling tandem kayak

Stability comes from the surface area covered by the water. Therefore, the wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. 

Weight capacity is important to note. This not only refers to the paddler’s weight but also the combined weight of the gear you are hoping to take with you. 

Perhaps you are hoping to cast your line and try fishing from the kayak. Or maybe your dog goes everywhere with you. Just be sure you’ve considered the combined total and don’t exceed the recommended weight capacity.

Seat and Footrests

The kayak seat needs to be comfortable. After all, you’re planning on having epic adventures, so having a numb-bum is not wanted! 

Some kayaks feature adjustable seats which are great for finding the right position for you. You also don’t want the seat to be too low into the body of the kayak, otherwise, this will affect your paddling technique.

Footrests are another consideration. Again, adjustable designs are best to find the best positioning for your height. Overall, this will make your adventures far more enjoyable and comfortable.

Storage Space 

How much storage space do you have available? If you are fortunate enough to have a super large garage or under decking storage, then there is little limitation to what kayak you can have. Ideally, you need enough space to install a wall rack to safely store your kayak and allow it to dry out.

If you are limited to space, then perhaps a folding or inflatable kayak is a good way to go. Both of these types of kayaks are fantastic for space-saving as well as portability.

Additional Accessories

As you progress your skills and gain more experience with your kayak, you may start to think about additional accessories. Having these in mind when buying a kayak can help you in the long run:

  • Spray skirts
  • Paddle holders
  • Back support
  • Leg supports
  • Fishing rod holders
  • Action camera mounts

SUP Alternative To Sit On Top Kayak

Woman paddling inflatable SUP

Still not convinced by sit-in kayaks? If you’ve got a SUP already, then you can easily convert your board into a sit-on-top kayak to mix it up a little. 

Here is all you need to convert your SUP into a kayak:

Top Safety Tips For Sit-In Kayaks

Regardless of your skill level or experience, there are some basic kayak safety rules that all boaters should follow to keep themselves safe, as well as others around them.

  1. Always check weather conditions. Winds can pick up throughout the day and will affect your paddling session.
  2. Know the water temperature before setting out. You may need to wear a wetsuit for cold water or a long sleeve rash guard for sun protection.
  3. Follow any boating rules for the area you are paddling, being aware of other vessels around you.
  4. Never exceed the recommended weight capacity.
  5. Always wear a PFD.
  6. Tell friends your plans if going for a remote expedition.
  7. Know where your launch and exit sites are before entering the water.
  8. Avoid paddling in conditions that are out of your comfort zone.
  9. Stay hydrated and take a water bottle with you.

FAQ’S

🏆 Is a sit on top or sit-inside kayak better for fishing?

Sit on top kayaks are the preferred choice for fishing. Generally, these kayaks have more space on a flat deck surface for you to bungee down fishing gear. Anglers can also stand up to get a better vantage point or elevated pull on the rod. Sit-inside kayaks can be limiting in movement.


👍 What are the benefits of sit-inside kayaks?

Sit-inside kayaks keep you dry (as long as you don’t capsize or paddle in majorly rough waters), and therefore warm. These kayaks also provide a lower center of gravity in the water. This means the paddler can lean further into turns to have a greater level of maneuverability. 


🏝️ Do I need a life jacket for a sit-inside kayak?

Life jackets/PFDs are always recommended when paddling a kayak. Depending on the state laws of where you are paddling, you may have to wear a PFD by law as well.


❓ Is a sit-in kayak more stable than a sit on kayak?

Sit on top kayaks have a higher center of gravity which means they ‘wobble’ easily. Sit-in kayaks however have a much lower center of gravity which translates to greater stability when paddling.


📦 Can you stand in a sit-in kayak?

Sit-in kayaks are designed to be sat in – it’s in the name. If you try to stand up, you’ll likely lose your balance and fall into the water. The hull shape does not lend itself to give a flat platform for paddlers to stand like that of stand up paddle boards.


📦 What is a spray skirt or spray deck?

A spray skirt or spray deck is an attachment that fits around the waist of the paddler and the edge of the cockpit. This accessory is used by whitewater kayak users to stop water from entering the boat. Beginners often find these difficult to use as they have the feeling of being trapped. 


📦 What is the average cost of sit-inside kayaks?

The average cost of sit-inside kayaks is between $700-900 USD. There are cheaper and more expensive options available. However, the average mid-range price of some of the best sit-in kayaks will provide you with a reliable boat for recreational use.

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.


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