Whether you’re new to kayaking or desire a specific use from your vessel, sit on top kayaks are a relatively recent innovation with an immense number of benefits. An excellent choice for both novices and experts alike, we’ve rounded up the best sit on top kayaks to get you out on the water in no time!
Fishing, touring, recreational use, and paddling in pairs, this list rounds out a wide array of kayaks that are sure to help you get the most out of your days on the water. In our expertly crafted rundown of the top 10 sit on top kayaks, we’ve focused on key details and specific applications to make sure you get exactly the boat you need.
Pro Tip: So what’s with those numbers next to kayak model? It’s an easy way to know a kayak’s length! A 9.5 means the kayak is 9 ½’ feet in length while a 106 means the boat is 10’ 6”.
For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:
Quick Answer - The Best Sit On Top Kayaks
- Hobie Mirage Passport
- Perception Tribe 13.5
- Pelican Premium The Catch 110
- Perception Access 9.5
Comparison Table - Best Sit On Top Kayak
|Hobie Mirage Passport||12||34”||Solo||Pedal||$$$||4.6|
|Perception Tribe 13.5||13’ 6”||33.75"||Tandem||Tandem||$$||4.5|
|Pelican Premium The Catch 110||10’||34"||Solo||Recreational / Fishing||$$||4.3|
|Perception Access 9.5||9’||31"||Solo||Recreational||$||4.1|
Reviews - Best Sit On Top Boats for Kayaking
Hobie Mirage Passport
- Length: 12
- Style: Pedal
- Type: Solo
- Weight Capacity: 400 lbs.
- Width: 34”
- Roomy Cockpit Accommodates A Variety Of People
- Stores Easily And Can Be Transported Atop Vehicles
- Seat Doubles As A Beach Chair When On Land
BEST FOR: HANDS-FREE CRUISING
Truly a work of genius, Hobie has expanded what’s possible on the water by letting creativity take the forefront. Your legs are the strongest muscle group in your body, meaning you can pedal a kayak much further and more efficiently than with a traditional handheld paddle.
The Mirage Passport uses a unique pedal system to control two fins beneath the boat that propel the kayak forward. This brilliant design is similar to the way fish use their fins and is free from getting caught in underbrush the way propeller systems do.
Hobie includes an easily accessible quick-release rudder to help steer you in the right direction and even includes a paddle! The most striking point for the Mirage Passport is its opportunity to be used by people who may be missing a limb or two, thereby playing their strengths.
Perception Tribe 13.5
- Length: 13’ 6”
- Style: Tandem
- Type: Tandem
- Weight Capacity: 500 lbs.
- Width: 33.75"
- Backed By A Manufacturer’s 5-Year Warranty
- Self-Bailing Scupper Holes Easily Drain Water From Boat
- Extra-Padded Seating Provides A Comfortable Ride For Two
BEST FOR: PADDLING IN PAIRS
Whether you’re bringing along a friend for a casual paddle or teaching a child the joys of kayaking, the Tribe 13.5 Tandem makes the most out of its whopping 13 ½ foot length.
With plenty of room aboard, this kayak is a great choice for families with smaller children. There’s an extra third seat in the middle and a 4th child can easily be tucked in the front! The Tribe also sports cargo bungees in both the front and rear, making snacks, water, and gear quickly accessible.
The Tribe’s 500 lb weight capacity lends itself to performing more like a canoe than a kayak when fully loaded, but also means that you’ll never have to leave that cooler full of goodies behind.
Pelican Premium The Catch 110
- Length: 10’
- Style: Recreational / Fishing
- Type: Solo
- Weight Capacity: 350 lbs.
- Width: 34"
- Adjustable Footpegs Help You Dial In The Perfect Fit
- Polyethylene Construction Increases Durability While Staying Light
- Stand-Assist Strap Helps Anglers Get In The Perfect Standing Position
BEST FOR: VERSATILITY
Suitable for fishing, day trips, lazy rivers, and open bays, this kayak is quite “The Catch”! Its wide ranging versatility packed into just 10 feet make this boat the ideal companion for the generalists out there.
Rail mounts for gear make this rig expandable and customizable to whatever activity tickles your fancy and the four built in fishing rod holders give you the comfort to move freely about the cabin. Rear deck bungees make lashing down extra stuff a breeze while maintaining quick access.
The sides of the cockpit sport creatively placed deck lashings for holding a paddle when not in use or clipping gear for immediate retrieval. Lastly, the seating system has 2 positions that allows you to choose just the right angle.
Perception Access 9.5
- Length: 9’
- Style: Recreational
- Type: Solo
- Weight Capacity: 250 lbs.
- Width: 31"
- Includes A Paddle
- Padded High-Back Seat Is Comfortable And Supportive
- Front And Rear Cargo Bungees Make Stowing Gear A Breeze
BEST FOR: THE BUDGET CONSCIOUS PADDLER
For those just entering the sport of kayaking, a streamlined design like the Access 9.5 provides the perfect entry point for the budget conscious paddler.
Bells and whistles cost extra but needn’t hold you back from splashing through rivers and relaxing amongst nature. By simplifying the construction, Perception is able to offer a quality kayak at an affordable price, giving you access to the water that you crave!
At just 9 feet in length and 50 lbs in overall weight, the Access can easily be loaded onto smaller cars. Its molded-in seat rest, foot pegs, and carry handles translate to durability, giving you peace of mind and washing away the worries of accidentally breaking “extra” parts.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING KAYAKS
It’s important to keep in mind where you will be doing most of your paddling as it will help inform your purchase. We suggest doing a little research on the bodies of water in your area (or where you plan on paddling) to help determine the right kayak for you.
As a general rule, small rivers tend to move quicker than larger rivers, and sit on top kayaks can be used in up to Class II rapids. They’re a great way to learn a local river and are easy to recover if flipped. The self-bailing scupper holes found in sit on top kayaks are also a huge advantage when small rapids wash over the deck. The strategic holes let water drain back out of your boat without any extra effort.
LARGE RIVERS AND LAKES
Larger rivers and easy going lakes tend to be slow moving and can easily be handled by a sit on top kayak. These locations offer the widest variety of activities and are great for fishing, touring, day trips, and overnight camping. Any of the kayaks on this list would fit in perfectly in this setting.
Most sit on tops should be able to handle the average sized lake. The larger the lake, the more boat you’ll need – more length and width will help keep you feeling stable. Fishing sit on top kayaks excel in this environment as they are made to handle heavy gear and keep paddlers stable. If the lake produces waves with whitecaps, then it’s too big – sorry, Great Lakes!
This is where sit on top kayaks are pushed to their upper limit but still have a place. If you’re kayaking in warmer waters and don’t mind swimming, or if you’re paddling in the coastal inlets that tend to be calmer, then a sit on top kayak will work great.
When it comes to sit on top kayaks, there are 5 unofficial categories that help determine the best use. Although sit on tops are technically their own category, there are still enough differences among sit on tops to classify them for a best use.
Recreational sit on top kayaks are the perfect boat for the casual paddler and the generalist interested in using their vessel for a variety of different uses. Characterized by a wider frame, recreational sit on tops provide more stability while paddling and entering/exiting the boat.
Sit on tops that fall into the touring kayak category tend to be longer and slightly narrower than their recreational counterparts. Filled with an ample amount of storage space, these boats typically have a large semi-dry storage hatch in the bow for packing overnight gear such as sleeping bags, hammocks, and tents.
These are an awesome choice for families looking to introduce their children to the sport and also serve well for paddling pairs who’d like to save money rather than buying two individual kayaks. Tandem sit on tops are usually long and wide, lending themselves to extra stability.
Typically outfitted to handle a variety of gear, fishing sit on top kayaks boast generous weight capacities and typically offer an aggressive seat position to reel in your next catch. Numerous and creative storage options abound on these vessels, making it a breeze to keep equipment readily accessible at all times. Color schemes are typically earthy colors and/or camouflaged.
Relatively new to the world of paddling, pedal kayaks are an increasingly popular choice amongst casual paddlers. Relying on a bicycle-like pedal system, these sit on top kayaks allow you to leverage the body’s strongest muscle group to achieve your destination and are usually paired with a rudder to aid in steering.
These are best used in wide, open spaces where tight turns aren’t necessary. Also, due to the heavy overall weight of pedal kayaks, it’s best to use a trailer or truck for transportation as rooftop racks will prove difficult to transport safely.
A kayak’s front end.
A kayak’s rear end.
The act of being flipped over while paddling.
The underside of an aquatic vessel.
The topside of a boat where the paddler sits and gear can be stored.
The seating area from which kayakers control their vessel.
A compartment where gear and belongings may be stored.
The tactical placement of rope/bungees that can be used to lash down gear, belongings, and an extra paddle.
SELF-BAILING SCUPPER HOLES
A passive system of drainage holes that allow water to pass through the kayak to prevent it from flooding and sinking. These are especially useful in rough conditions that wash water aboard your craft and after capsizing.
How straight a vessel can go when paddling.