Updated on: September 19, 2022 12:30 PM PST
A sit on top kayak is a fun and affordable way to explore calm lake waters, cruise the current of a rolling river, or tour the coastline of the ocean. Beginners and experienced paddlers enjoy the open freedom of a sit on top kayak.
Many different adventures await, such as floating with friends, riding tandem with your partner, journeying long-distance down a river or coastline, or quietly fishing a hidden cove.
We’ll explore the best sit on top kayaks and review their advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re in the market for a sit on top kayak, but you just don't know where to start looking, this guide will help. We’ve ranked our top five sit on top kayaks - with a budget option, a tandem option, inflatable, fishing and recreational, as well as five other great runners-up you should check out!
|Sun Dolphin Bali 10’||10’||30”||44 lbs||395 lbs||Check Price|
|Emotion Spitfire||9’||31”||45 lbs||350 lbs||Check Price|
|Ocean Kayak Malibu Two||12’||34”||57 lbs||425 lbs||Check Price|
|Sevylor Quikpak K1||8.6’||36”||18 lbs||400 lbs||Check Price|
|Lifetime Tamarack Angler||10’||36”||60 lbs||500 lbs||Check Price|
|Perception Pescador 10||10’6” inches||32”||57 lbs lbs||325 lbs||Check Price|
|Perception Tribe 9.5||9’5”||31.25”||46 lbs||300 lbs||Check Price|
|Pelican Sentinel 100x||9.5’||30”||44 lbs||275 lbs||Check Price|
|Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120||12’3”||31”||63 lbs||350 lbs||Check Price|
|Ocean Kayak Frenzy||9’||31”||43 lbs||325 lbs||Check Price|
|Vibe YellowFin 100||10’||32”||57 lbs||375 lbs||Check Price|
|Eddyline Caribbean 12||12’||30”||45 lbs||300 lbs||Check Price|
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10’ is a great beginner kayak that is lightweight and stable. It is ideal for calm or flat water and the short length makes it maneuver well.
A comfortable open deck means more space to move and the Bali has multiple storage options with a central dry hatch, two bungee storage areas, and a unique PAC - portable accessory carrier - that is watertight and saves space as you pull it behind your kayak.
|10’||30"||44 lbs||395 lbs||Price|
The SunDolphin Bali 10 SS is a stable kayak that is inexpensive and spacious making it a perfect beginner kayak option. You can throw in your dry bag and gear with a dry storage compartment and two areas of bungee deck rigging.
An additional PAC (portable accessory carrier) attaches to the rear of the kayak and holds additional gear that floats behind your boat.
The wide open design makes for easy entry and dismount from the kayak and plenty of room to move, and adjustable foot braces ensure you’re positioned for efficient paddling. A paddle holder will secure your paddle for hands free activities like photography or fishing.
The SunDolphin is built from Fortiflex polyethylene for a durable hull to withstand frequent bumps and shallow rocks. The seat has a padded back and there is additional padding on the side for your thighs for increased overall comfort.
The Emotion Spitfire is a great recreational kayak that anyone in the family can use. It is wide and stable with comfortable seating to spend the day on the water. Ample storage space means you can pack your cooler and snacks to kayak until sunset.
|9’||31"||45 lbs||350 lbs||Price|
The Emotion Spitfire has a wide and stable hull that is perfect for beginners or for general recreational use. It has molded foot holds for a comfortable paddling position as you sit in the padded seat with padded backrest.
Bungee storage space in the front and rear combined with a central dry hatch means you can secure your gear and valuables easily.
The Emotion Spitfire hull is designed from high-density polyethylene for a durable and lightweight kayak. Chines are ridges in the hull design that help stabilize the kayak so it can tackle small waves and rougher water.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a great tandem sit on top kayak that can also be paddled solo. A wide open deck includes adjustable seats for tandem paddling with room for a third person or dog in between. One seat can also be removed to paddle solo.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a great beginner kayak with excellent stability, and it has everything needed for a comfortable ride with your child or partner.
|12’||34"||57 lbs||425 lbs||Price|
The Malibu Two is a sit on top kayak with a sturdy build, easy to get onto and off, with great stability for beginners. It has adjustable comfort plus seats that can be placed in three possible seat wells. You can paddle tandem, paddle solo with a central seat position, or include a third rider in the middle.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two has a skid plate to protect the keel, and overlapping foot wells provide a comfortable foothold while you paddle. Gear straps ensure your valuables stay secure. It comes with an option of up to three hatches for additional storage.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is made with a durable, single layer polyethylene molded hull. Toggle handles on the nose and rear make it easy to carry it to the water with additional molded handles on each side, and it comes in four possible color combinations.
The Sevylor Quikpak K1 is an inflatable sit on top kayak that is lightweight and easy to transport to remote mountain lakes or distant rivers for your next adventure. It deflates down to load into a backpack that can be carried to the water’s edge, then you can simply inflate it and hop on the water.
The Sevylor Quikpak has a padded seat and backrest and adjustable footholds. There is bungee storage space on the nose for your gear and it even has a cup holder for your beverage!
|8.6’||36"||18 lbs||400 lbs||Price|
The Sevylor Quikpak K1 weighs only 18 pounds and deflates to fit nicely in the included backpack so it can travel anywhere and take up little storage space. It comes with all you need to hit the water; with a paddle, backpack, and inflation pump.
The Quikpak K1 has a padded seat with a backrest and adjustable foot holds for a comfortable ride. A cargo net front storage area ensures your gear won’t fall overboard, and a cup holder allows you to float with a beverage within reach.
The Quikpak K1 is made with 21 gauge PVC construction with multiple air chambers. This provides the reliability that in the unusual event of a puncture to the hull, another inflated chamber will keep you afloat. A tarpaulin bottom helps resist puncture from rocks or underwater sticks.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a durable tandem sit on top kayak that performs well, with good tracking due to its hull design. It has a weight capacity of 500 pounds and can be paddled tandem or solo. The spacious hull and weight allowance makes it ideal to load your tackle box, cooler, and fishing gear.
|10’||36"||60 lbs||500 lbs||Price|
The Lifetime 10 foot Two Person Fishing Kayak has a weight capacity of 500 pounds and provides a stable ride with decent tracking. The hull is designed for better tracking and it can be paddled tandem or solo. The shorter hull makes it easy to maneuver and turn while the flat bottom ensures its stability.
The Lifetime includes two seats with padded backrests. It’s decked out for fishing with three fishing rod holders and a rear storage hatch for gear. It comes with two paddles and a paddle clip.
Made from high density polyethylene HDPE to resist UV fading or damage, the Lifetime is durable and resistant to damage. It is blow-molded into the hull design and includes multiple footrest positions for comfortable paddling.
Molded carry handles at the front and rear work to easily carry your boat to the water.
If our top five categories of sit on top kayak still doesn’t quite fit what you’re looking for, don’t worry. We also recommend you check out these five favorites - with offerings from trusted brands like Pescador and Vibe, we think these kayaks are definitely worth considering.
The Perception Pescador 10 is a versatile sit on top kayak that has tons of open space and room for storage to make it great for recreational use, fishing, or river cruises. It is not a fast kayak, but it has decent tracking on the water.
A comfortable ventilated seat with adjustable foot holds means you can find the perfect seating position. The kayak is stocked with storage space with a dry hatch, bungee storage, and molded fishing rod holders.
|10’6||32"||57 lbs||325 lbs||Price|
The Perception Pescador 10 performs well with good tracking in multiple types of water including lakes, calm rivers, or ocean bays. Comfort is guaranteed with an adjustable seat that is padded with ventilation to avoid overheating. Adjustable foot rests conform to short or tall riders with ease.
The Perception Pescador 10 can be rigged with fishing gear and with gear tracks along the edge to attach fish finders and two molded fishing rod holders carry your pole until you find the perfect location. A sealed hatch in the front means you can tuck away valuables to keep them dry and a rear bungee storage area allows additional gear. A cup holder keeps your beverage nearby on a hot day.
The Pescador is crafted with a single piece of rotomolded high density polyethylene to make it lightweight and durable. A skid plate on the bottom allows you to drag your kayak without fear of irreparable damage.
The Perception Tribe 9.5 is a great recreational sit on top kayak with excellent tracking and the ability to maneuver. A framed seat with adjustable foot rests ensures that you’re comfortable as you paddle with friends. Large bungee storage areas and a dry hatch provide space for your gear.
|9.5’||31.25"||46 lbs||300 lbs||Price|
The Perception Tribe 9.5 is a roomy sit on top kayak that tracks well and has decent maneuverability. It has a framed and adjustable seat that folds down for storage and molded footholds to fit paddlers of most any height.
Large front and rear storage areas can hold your cooler, tackle box, or dry bag. A small dry hatch is conveniently located in the middle to keep your cell phone dry but easy to access.
The Tribe is built with high density polyethylene and is rotomolded into a durable kayak. The construction makes the Perception Tribe abrasion and UV resistant.
The Pelican Sentinel 100x has more capacity for speed than its competitors due to the twin arched hull design. It tracks well and provides a comfortable ride with an adjustable, high-back seat and adjustable foot rests.
The Pelican has a removable rear storage hatch that will secure into place with bungee tie downs. A paddle rest allows for hands-free activity and you have a handy spot to rest your beverage.
|9.5’||30"||44 lbs||275 lbs||Price|
The Pelican Sentinel 100x is a stable sit on top kayak with the potential for more speed than its competitors. It has a stable hull design with twin arches and multiple chines to allow for better tracking and maneuverability.
The Ergolounge seating system provides a high backrest and padded seat for comfort, and molded footrests to fit any height. A paddle rest allows for hands-free activity, and a cup holder holds your beverage. A removable storage compartment in the rear is secured with bungees.
The Pelican Sentinel 100x is constructed with a unique UV resistant material called RAM-X that is triple layer polyethylene that is durable and lightweight. An anti-slip carpet provides a comfortable spot to stand or for your dog to join the ride.
The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is a stable sit on top kayak with decent tracking. It has many options that make it an ideal fishing kayak with accessory rails to attach fishing gear, spacious mesh storage area, and room to stand while you cast and reel in the big fish.
It has a comfortable, padded seat that is adjustable and foot rests also adjust to your height. The Tarpon 120 has a durable build and is perfect for lakes, rivers, and slow moving waters.
|12’3||31"||63 lbs||350 lbs||Price|
The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is a stable sit on top kayak that tracks well. It is stocked with many great features to make it ideal for fishing; with room to stand on the deck, a central removable dry box for valuables, side storage pockets, and a large rear storage for coolers or tackle.
The seat is comfortable, with good airflow to keep you cool, and adjustable foot rests make for easy paddling. Other extras include a water bottle strap, three accessory rails to attach accessories such as fish finders or rod holders, and a paddle holder.
The Wilderness Tarpon comes in four striking color combinations: mango, breeze blue, fossil tan, and galaxy. It has a durable molded hull of lightweight polyethylene, and a skid plate to protect the base when dragging your kayak across the sand.
The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a compact recreational sit on top kayak ideal for smaller paddlers. It has a long central keel to help it track well and makes it great for surf as well as calm water paddling. A comfortable seat adjusts to fit your size and large front and rear storage areas mean you can throw in your cooler and snacks for a long day on the water.
|9’||31"||43 lbs||325 lbs||Price|
The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a sit on top kayak that is great for calm water but capable of tackling some ocean surf. It has a tri-form hull for excellent stability and a large keel to keep it tracking straight.
A four way adjustable seat is comfortable enough to paddle all day. A large recessed front and rear storage area are secured by bungees. The kayak is considered “compact” so large paddlers might not fit as well.
The Ocean Frenzy has a rotomolded polyethylene build for durability that is still lightweight. The wide deck has room for freedom of movement. It is lightweight enough to throw on your car to transport and to easily carry to the water.
The Vibe YellowFin 100 is a sit on top kayak with a pontoon hull for a stable glide. The Vibe is ready for your next fishing trip, with large bungee storage wells, four rod holders, watertight hatches, and tackle tray holders.
The Vibe has a framed Hero seat that is ventilated so you won’t overheat and the deck has a slip resistant coat to keep your feet planted as your reel in the fish.
|10’||32"||57 lbs||375 lbs||Price|
The Vibe YellowFin 100 has a short wide hull that makes it a stable option for beginners and to load your fishing gear. Ride in comfort with a mesh framed Hero seat with a high back, and rest your beverage in a molded cup holder.
The Vibe has gear tracks to attach fishing accessories and four molded fishing rod holders. A rectangular mount allows attachment of fish finder and two bungee side mounts will secure your paddle while you fish. There is tons of storage with two 8 inch hatches with a waterproof bag, a large rear bungee storage area, and tackle tray holders.
The Vibe YellowFin is crafted as a single piece of rotomolded polyethylene and has a slip resistant deck. The pontoon style hull makes it stable and quiet on the water.
The Eddyline Caribbean 12 is a sit on top kayak that performs well in quiet lakes as well as flowing rivers. The hull is designed for tracking and stability.
The Eddyline Caribbean 12 has a higher price tag than others due to the high quality materials with a carbonlite hull with fusion welded seams. The build makes it perform better on the water than its closest competitors, with excellent durability.
|12’||30"||45 lbs||300 lbs||Price|
The Eddyline Caribbean 12 has a stable hull designed for excellent tracking and speed. A large cloth seat is durable and breathable and adjustable footrests fit to your height. Accessory rails along the side provide attachment points for fishing rod holders or fish fingers.
There’s room to store your cooler and dry bag in a large rear storage well with bungees to secure it, and a central small dry hatch for small gear and front large dry hatch provide additional storage space.
The Eddyline Caribbean 12 is constructed from carbonlite or proprietary composite ABS to make it perform better on the water, but also make it more expensive. Fusion welded seams add to extra durability for long term kayak use.
The paddler sits on top of a sit on top (SOT) kayak, instead of sitting in an enclosed cockpit of a sit inside kayak.
There are a few advantages and disadvantages to a sit on top kayak, and by reviewing these, you can hopefully determine if a sit on kayak is meant for you.
A sit on top kayak is easier to step into from the dock or shoreline, and it is easier to re-enter after taking a swim.
Sit on top kayaks are typically wider than sit inside models, and this makes them more stable. The stability of a SOT kayak means they’re great for beginners and used for general recreational use.
Sit on top kayaks are simply designed and crafted from inexpensive plastic materials to make them more affordable.
With a wide open deck, you have more room to attach your cooler, dry bag, or tackle box. Many models will have watertight storage hatches, fishing rod holders built into the deck, and extra space for your dog to ride along.
On a hot summer day, a sit on top kayak has open space to feel the breeze without being confined inside a stuffy cockpit.
When on a sit on top kayak, you have the freedom of open space with room to stretch your legs, and you’re not restricted like a sit inside version. You can even stand up on some sit on top kayaks, which makes them perfect for fishing.
When you’re out in the open, you have the potential to get splashed or wet on a sit on top kayak. This is probably not an issue on a hot day, but it’s not ideal when the weather turns cold.
As mentioned above sit on top kayaks are wider and more stable than a sit inside, making them slower on the water. For most kayak activities such as recreation and fishing, this is not an issue. But if you want to tour long-distance, you will probably lag behind your friends.
The freedom of sitting in an open space comes at the price of no shelter from the sun. Even on a cloudy day you are at increased risk of sunburn and exposure to the elements - so plan accordingly!
When buying a sit on top kayak, you’ll quickly see that there is a multitude of various shapes, sizes, and styles to consider. We’ll review each feature to consider so you can choose wisely.
Kayaks can be designed for a single rider but can also be tandem to allow two or three riders. Some tandem kayaks have adjustable seats that can be rearranged or removed to convert to one paddler. This would allow more storage capacity in the additional space and might be preferred for activities such as fishing or paddling with your dog.
Expense and storage space is also a consideration in determining whether to buy a tandem or solo kayak. If you have many family members that want to paddle, then a tandem allows multiple riders with one purchase instead of buying multiple kayaks. A tandem is typically longer, and it might be more difficult to store, but it still might be easier than storing two boats.
Many materials might be used to construct a kayak, but the most common are polyethylene and ABS. Polyethylene is durable and inexpensive, but it will be heavier than ABS and susceptible to UV degradation over time.
ABS is used in high-end kayaks because it is lighter, stronger, and more durable, but it is also more expensive.
An experienced kayaker will look for a kayak that performs well in their preferred environment, but a beginner will mostly want stability.
Sit on top kayaks are usually ideal for flat water such as lakes, slow river currents, or a calm bay. If looking for a kayak to battle whitewater, a sit on top kayak would not be preferred and could risk your overall safety.
The longer the kayak, the faster it will move in the water, so kayaks designed for touring long distances will be long and narrow. A wider kayak will be more stable. Most sit on top kayaks intended for recreational use will have a wide, short hull.
When determining the appropriate weight capacity you’ll need, don’t forget to figure in the weight of your cooler, tackle box, or additional dry bag. If you overload your kayak’s weight limits, you will ride lower in the water and be more likely to capsize.
Don’t forget that after a great day on the water, you have to load your kayak and carry it home, and then you must find a spot to store it until your next adventure. A tandem kayak will be longer but it might take up less space than two smaller kayaks.
Store your kayak out of the sun to prevent UV degradation of the plastics. You might need a roof rack or trailer to transport your kayak to the water. If you’re looking to travel with your kayak, consider an inflatable kayak that can deflate to transport in your trunk.
The more specialized a kayak is for touring, whitewater, or fishing, the more expensive it will be. An inexpensive kayak might float like a more expensive model, but might not contain extra features like rod holders, dry hatches, or comfortable seating.
The materials of construction typically determine its overall expense. A cheaper model might be fine for general recreational use, but it might be worth splurging for higher quality construction and better performance if you plan to kayak long-distance or spend endless days in your boat.
For the average day of kayaking with friends, accessories might not be a big consideration, but if you’re fishing, touring, or spending hours on the water it’s something to research.
Some kayaks come with the storage space to bungee down a cooler to carry your snacks and drinks, attachment points to connect a fishing rod holder, or dry hatches to keep your valuables protected.
Some kayaks include skegs or rudders for better tracking, while others require a separate purchase. You won’t get far without a paddle and not all kayaks come with the paddle included. These are all things to research before your kayak purchase.
Because sit on top kayaks come in multiple varieties and styles, finding the best sit on top kayak depends on what you’re looking for. The best fishing sit on top kayak is the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 because it is an inexpensive stable kayak with the storage space and rod holders to set you up to catch fish.
The prize for the best recreational sit on top kayak could go to many models, but the Emotion Spitfire and Ocean Kayak Frenzy provide a wide stable hull with the maneuverability for general use. They have comfortable seats and lots of storage space to pack your cooler and snacks for a great day.
The best tandem sit on top kayak is the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two because it has a wide open comfortable deck space with a smooth ride for calm water. There is storage space to load your gear and the seats adjust so you can even paddle solo.
Sit on top kayaks are typically used for recreational use, and their stability makes them a great option for beginners. They are easy to get into and off of and provide a wide open space to stay cool on a hot day. Sit on top kayaks have ample storage space so they are ideal to load a cooler and tackle for a day of fishing.
Before entering your kayak, make sure you are wearing a PFD and your gear is secured. Pull your kayak to the water’s edge and put half of the boat in the water while the other half is secure on the land.
Straddle the kayak with a leg on each side as you hover over the seat. Crouch down and lower your bottom into the seat, and it might help if someone stabilizes the kayak for you. Bring your legs inside the kayak and rest them securely against the side padded area.
Push your feet into the foot braces until your legs are straight and the braces click into place. Use your paddle to push off the land and shimmy yourself into the water, or you can have a friend push you off to launch.
The speed in a sit on top kayak depends on the experience of the paddler and the water environment. Typically a sit on top kayak will not perform as well as a sit inside kayak, but a longer kayak (more than 10 feet) will have more speed.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS or the Emotion Spitfire 9 are ideal sit on top kayaks for beginners because they are stable, inexpensive, and easy to use. The Sun Dolphin Bali has a wide open cockpit that is easy to board and disembark, and the padded seat and side walls ensure a comfortable ride. It is an ideal kayak for slow or flat water where speed is not necessary.
The Emotion Spitfire has comfortable padded seating and ample storage space for your cooler or gear. Its stability is ideal for a lazy day paddling on a lake or in a slow river current.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is an inexpensive sit on top fishing kayak with everything you need with comfortable seating, ample storage, and stability. The Wilderness Tarpon 120 has a higher price tag but has added accessory rails to attach your fish finder or rod holders and additional dry hatches to store your favorite tackle.
The best sit on top kayak for dogs is one with plenty of stability and deck space for a comfortable ride for both you and your pet. The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a nice option as a tandem kayak with tons of deck space, because it has adjustable seats to allow you to paddle solo with your dog by your side.
The Pelican Sentinel 100 is another sit on top kayak perfect for your dog because of the wide open deck space with anti-slip carpeting. Your dog has the space and a comfortable foothold to stay securely at your side.
There are two inexpensive sit on top kayaks on our list that have all you need for a fun day kayaking. The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is a great beginner kayak with a stable design for calm waters and has a wide open deck space, comfortable seating, and storage space to throw in snacks and a cooler.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is a tandem sit on top kayak with storage space and fishing rod holders to keep your gear secure while you hunt for the perfect fishing hole.
Whether you’re looking for a tandem sit on top kayak to paddle with your partner or you’re searching for a fun recreational sit on top kayak to paddle with friends, hopefully this article provides the information needed to find a perfect match.
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