Sit-on-Top VS Sit-Inside Kayaks

Sit-on-Top VS Sit-Inside Kayaks

Kayaking has taken the outdoor adventure world by storm. There is serious appeal to having a boat and not having a trailer to pull around. Kayaks can be strapped to the roof of a sedan and offer hours’ worth of boating fun even in shallow rivers. We are going to look at sit-on-top vs sit-inside kayaks in this article. Each have benefits to the kayaking aficionado.

Sit-on-top kayaks

The sit on top kayak is designed so that the kayaker sits on top of a plastic bed which features a seat and back rest. You do not sit your body inside of the kayak but literally sit on top of the concaved bed built into the top of the kayak.

These kayaks often have lots of deck storage space and work well for people who are looking to use their kayak for fishing.

Advantages of a sit-on-top kayak

Storage – Probably the greatest advantage of the sit on top kayak is the ability to maximize storage on your craft. You can pile on fishing gear, camping gear and even comfort items. The design of the kayak makes it less prone to tip overs which means you can feel comfortable about your gear not being tipped.

Price – Another massive pro of the sit on top kayak is the fact that these are made of much less material and a much simpler process so the kayaks are cheaper. You can save hundreds of dollars by using sit on top kayaks over sit inside. Even a starter kayak can be expensive for the average person who is trying to explore on a tight budget.

There are some sit on top kayaks that cost a lot of money but the cheapest way for you to get onto the water is going to come in the form of a sit on top kayak.

Buoyancy – Because of the design, the sit on top kayak is nearly impossible to sink. This is because of the design which creates a tough outer shell, wide design, and small area of empty space. If you are worried about tipping a sit inside kayak you should consider starting with a sit on top kayak.

Disadvantages of a sit-on-top kayak

Wide Beam Design and Speed – You will never move as fast in a sit on top kayak as you will in a sit inside design. This is because the wide beam will take much more effort to cut through the water in comparison to the sleeker design of the sit inside kayak.

The sit inside kayak literally puts your body into the water, though it is protected by the hull of kayak.

Maneuvering – A sit inside kayak allows you to use your legs and your core to maneuver the vessel from inside the cockpit. This is something you miss out on when you are on a sit on top kayak. You cannot maneuver the way you would with a sit inside and that has to do with the fact that you cannot use your legs to control the kayak as much.

Paddling Effort – Because of its design, the sit on top kayak floats higher on the water’s surface and this makes it subject to the water and even the wind much more. This means that you are going to need to exert even more effort to control the kayak. In tough conditions it can be a downright struggle to control a sit on top kayak on big water.

Exposure – While it’s obvious, sitting on top of a kayak rather than within the cockpit is going to expose you to things like sun and wind. That might not be an issue, or it might. Some people take kayaks out in the winter to hunt ducks and you do not wanna be on a sit on top kayak in January sitting on the bank of a cold river.

Sit-inside kayaks

Sit inside kayaks are designed for the rider to sit half of their body inside the hull of the kayak. These kayaks are streamlined and the type that you would use to face down rapids in a rushing river. That doesn’t mean that these aren’t great kayaks for fishing, too. The sit inside kayak is a multi-use boat that gives you many options.

Advantages of a sit-inside kayak

Control – The sit inside kayak is much easier to control than a sit on top. When you settle into a kayak your legs are surrounded by the hull and you can press your knees against it. That pressure with your legs and your core gives you great control of the kayak. If you have a strong core you can really maneuver the vessel.

Lower Center of Gravity – There are a number of benefits that go with this low center of gravity. You have better secondary stability with a low center of gravity. That lower center of gravity also allows you to perform sweeps and hard turns in the water. This is something you cannot do with a sit on top kayak.

The sit inside kayak can be used to cut through rapids while a sit on top kayak would not be able to handle rapids and would likely toss you off it.

Better Dry Storage – While the sit on top kayak has lots of space on top for storage, a sit inside kayak offers up sealed storage that will keep what you need to store dry. On adventures like kayak camping trips you are going to be taking gear and clothing that you will want to stay dry.

You can also store extra things inside cockpit if you are really pressed for storage. The biggest benefit here is that most of your storage options in a sit inside kayak are dry storage options.

Disadvantages of a sit-inside kayak

Paddling Challenges – When you are new to kayaking the sit inside kayak puts you deeper into the water than you might be used to if you paddle things like canoes. You will have new muscles to train, and it will be a struggle at first to get used to paddling from inside the cockpit.

More Expensive – The sit inside kayaks are amazing vessels. There is a reason the design is so popular and effective on rough water. People kayak in the ocean! Because of this, sit inside kayaks cost much more than sit on top kayaks.

The price difference can be substantial. If you are on the fence you might consider trying the sit on top first to save some money.

Tough to Stabilize in Still Water – When you are carving up those rapids in the sit inside kayak the handling and the low center of gravity are all on your side. Funny enough, in calmer waters you need to control your kayak because it will have more of a tendency to roll and that could lead to you capsizing.

This is a problem in the early days but before long you will become better at controlling the kayak no matter what kind of water you are in.

Capsize Challenges – In a sit on top kayak you can tip but you can flip the kayak and get right back on. The sit inside kayak is a much different animal. It is not so easy to slip back into the cockpit of a sit inside kayak. This can be potentially dangerous if you are in rough water.

You also need to get the water out of the kayak cockpit, too. That might mean you need a powered bilge pump. A capsize is a big issue in a sit inside kayak.

Sit-on-Top VS Sit-Inside Kayaks

Key Comparisons

Cockpit: Sit Inside Kayak – You get much more control and coverage from the sit inside cockpit.

Stability: Sit On Top Kayak – The sit on top kayak is a much more stable ride and best for newbies.

Comfort: Sit On Top Kayak – There is something about sprawling out on the sit on top kayak in the summer that is simply perfect.

Gear Storage: Sit Inside Kayak – You can store more gear on a sit on top, but your gear will be Fdry and safer inside a sit inside kayak.

Length: Sit inside Kayak – Sit inside kayaks are longer

Price: Sit On Top Kayak – They are much cheaper than sit inside kayaks

Use: Sit On Top Kayak – The sit on top kayak lends itself to many more uses than the sit inside kayak.


Which is better sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak?

Having any kind of kayak is a great way to explore the outdoors. However, if you are starting off new with kayaks it would be better to begin using a sit on top kayak. This is a cheaper option, and it is more forgiving in the kind of waters that you are going to explore as a novice. You will not likely hit the rapids on your first outing.

Sit-on-top kayaks perform best in calm water, this gives you the ability to integrate other things into your kayak experience. Fishing and kayaking go hand in, and you will have a much better time if you are on a sit on top kayak.

Are sit on top kayaks good for the ocean?

There are sit on top kayaks that are designed for the ocean. These are your best option if you plan on taking a sit on top kayak into the ocean. You should also do some due diligence on the “ocean” that you are visiting.

Kayaking the Bahamas is a lot different than kayaking the Outer Banks in North Carolina. No matter what type of surf you are dealing with you can buy a sit on top kayak that will stand up to that kind of water.

Which Kayak has the most comfortable seat?

Comfortable seating is very much a preference. For those who like to sit upright with a lot of support and good posture, the seats that can be installed on sit on top kayaks can be incredibly supportive. While a sit inside kayak can be incredible if you prefer a little more slouch in your seat.

Keep in mind there is a massive market for universal kayak seating. This means that you can outfit your kayak with basically whatever kind of seat you like.


Kayaking can expand your outdoor realm. Coasting across the water with paddle in hand you realize that nothing is off limits. Suddenly, the best fishing holes are just a few paddles away. The island campsites are just down stream and you don’t need a bridge or to get soaked to enjoy these.

Sit on top kayaks are cheaper and they give you great stability and plenty of deck space for storing things like fishing gear. They are harder to paddle compared to a sit inside kayak and you will struggle in rougher waters. However, they might be the best fit for you.

Sit inside kayaks are always going to work well for the boater that enjoys speed, control and doesn’t have a problem with spending $500. You will need practice if you want to use a sit inside kayak to its full potential.

Do not be discouraged in your early days. You might tip over and you might struggle with the type of kayak that you have chosen. It’s like anything else. In the early days you are going to be learning how to maneuver the kayak and that will take most of your attention.

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