Do you daydream about paddling around rivers and streams from the comforts of a kayak? Maybe you’re a wildlife photographer, a fisherman, a diver, an explorer, or a swimmer who needs a kayak to pursue your passions. If you’re an adventure addict who needs a recreational kayak that can carry gear, we’ve found the best sit on top kayak for you.
Sit on top kayaks are often better than other enclosed or traditional kayaks because they’re easier to get in and out of, and generally more durable. Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’ve found the best sit on top kayaks for all types of paddlers. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose a sit on top kayak and show you our favorite models of the year.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST SIT ON TOP KAYAK
SIT ON TOP KAYAKS 101
4 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST SIT ON TOP KAYAK
The benefit of a sit on top kayak compared to traditional kayaks, where your legs are enclosed in the hull, is that sit on top kayaks are generally safer. If you fall off or tip over, you can simply swim away from the sit on top kayak and climb back on. Traditional kayaks require self-rescue techniques and are meant for more advanced paddlers.
Before buying a sit on top kayak, think about what you’ll mainly use it for.
Are you a fisherman? Then you’ll want a sit on top kayak that is capable of carrying gear, has fishing pole holders, and is comfortable to sit in for long periods of time. Check out our guide on the best fishing kayaks.
KAYAKING WITH DOGS & PARTNERS
If you want to paddle with a partner or bring your pet and kids along for the ride, a sturdy, two to three seat kayak is the best option. This way, you can spend one on one time while exploring with your family. If the thought of paddling with your pooch makes your heart sing, you’ll have to read our guide on how to kayak with a dog.
Or maybe you want to go on a full-blown expedition, packing all of your supplies and food with you. A sit on top kayak is a great choice for this as well, thanks to its durability and size. In an article by Tim Holtey, you can learn all about packing your kayak for a camping trip.
DIVING & SWIMMING
Divers, swimmers, and spearfishermen will do well with a sturdy and durable overall kayak. Scuba divers, like fishermen, will want a kayak with ample storage space. Even if you get a sit on top kayak that’s specifically for one purpose, you can easily use it for many more as they’re all pretty versatile.
2. SIZE AND WEIGHT
As a general rule, longer and narrower kayaks tend to be great for speed while shorter and wider kayaks tend to be better for stability. Kayakers wanting to speed over flat water should choose a longer kayak while those paddling in the surf should opt for the shorter kayak.
Most paddlers learn to stabilize quickly, so it’s not too important to choose a very wide and stable kayak unless you’re carrying children or a lot of gear. Choose a kayak that is a little bit beyond your ability level, even if you’re a beginner, so that you can grow into it. REI has a great resource on paddling techniques that will help you progress quickly.
If the kayak is too heavy, you might have trouble transporting it alone — keeping you out of the water. Kayaks around the 40-pound range tend to be shorter and easier to maneuver, so go for a smaller one if you’re planning solo expeditions. If you do get something heavy, save your back by investing in a kayak trolley. Fortunately, we’ve written an entire guide that shows you all the ways you can transport your kayak.
3. NUMBER OF PADDLERS
Some kayaks accommodate multiple people. This is a great option for families, couples, and those wanting to take their pets and children for a paddle. Many two-person kayaks can be adjusted to just suit one paddler. You can also find solo kayaks that have a small space for a child or dog that work well for when you want to paddle with a pal, too.
Don’t choose a multi-person kayak if you won’t be kayaking with multiple people most of the time. In many cases, having two solo kayaks is better than having one two-person kayak. Then, you can carry more gear on two solo kayaks than on one tandem kayak, and won’t be paddling a clunky, slow, kayak during the times you’re solo paddling a tandem kayak.
You can have the best, most expensive, and fastest kayak on the market, but if it’s not comfortable, you won’t be using it. Check that the kayak has a supportive seat and plenty of foot space. Many kayaks now even have options to in other positions than just sticking your legs straight forward. It’s even worth investing in extra seat padding if you know you’ll be kayaking often.
Small kayaks are great for transport and agility, but might be too cramped for taller or larger paddlers. Likewise, shorter paddlers might be scooting around a kayak that’s too big. Don’t make the mistake of choosing something based on price or size if you’ll want to turn back after fifteen minutes of paddling because of discomfort. The only pain you should feel is the burning in your arms and abs from a killer workout.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/aodaodaod
SIT ON TOP KAYAK REVIEWS
1. BEST SIT ON TOP KAYAKS FOR FISHING
OLD TOWN PREDATOR PEDAL
BEST FOR: High performance fishermen
WEIGHT: 117 lbs
PROS: Petal drive can reach speeds up to 5.5 mph, comfortable, tracks well, raised seat for better casting
CONS: Expensive and heavy
PERCEPTION PESCADOR PRO 10
BEST FOR: Solo fishermen casting a line in flat water
WEIGHT: 57 lbs
PROS: Can handle up to 325 lbs of weight, stable, durable, plenty of space for tackle and gear
CONS: Center console a bit bulky and might get in the way of quick movements
BEST FOR: Fishermen who want a very tailored and top-of-the-line kayak
WEIGHT: 69 lbs
PROS: Stable enough to fish while standing, comfortable, plenty of storage space
CONS: Expensive price might be a deal-breaker
2. BEST SIT ON TOP KAYAKS FOR OVERALL
WILDERNESS SYSTEMS TARPON 120
BEST FOR: Kayakers like photographers or fishermen looking to explore flatwater with a lot of gear
WEIGHT: 63 lbs
PROS: Ample storage space, smooth turning despite its large size, comfortable seats
CONS: Foot pocket area uncomfortable for some
RIOT ESCAPE 12
BEST FOR: Kayakers who dive, fish, and explore
WEIGHT: 66 lbs
PROS: Tracks great despite length, stable, speedy, comfortable seat setup, comes with rudder
CONS: Too long to navigate narrow passages like rivers or streams
MALIBU MINI-X RECREATIONAL
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BEST FOR: Kayakers of all abilities and hobbies wanting a great value kayak
WEIGHT: 40 lbs
PROS: Great value, suits divers, fishermen, and enthusiast paddlers, very sturdy, fits large people despite being a mini size
CONS: Hard to get the kayak to speed
3. BEST SIT ON TOP KAYAKS FOR FAMILIES
OCEAN KAYAK MALIBU TWO XL
BEST FOR: Families kayaking in flat water
WEIGHT: 68 lbs
PADDLERS: 2 adults plus one child or pet
PROS: Spacious, sturdy, comfortable, and perfect for families
CONS: Weight might make it hard for a single person to transport in and out of the water
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BEST FOR: Families or partner kayakers tight on space and budget
WEIGHT: 60 lbs
PADDLERS: Can fit up to three people
PROS: Low price, great for families, sturdy, versatile
CONS: Three people might be a bit cramped, not the best with speed
4. BEST BUDGET SIT ON TOP KAYAKS
OCEAN KAYAK FRENZY
BEST FOR: Kids or beginners looking for a stable starter kayak
WEIGHT: 43 lbs
PROS: Stable, durable, comfortable, beginner friendly
CONS: Too limiting for serious kayakers who might get frustrated with slow speed
PERCEPTION ACCESS 9
BEST FOR: Kayakers on a budget looking for a great value and reliable kayak
WEIGHT: 42 lbs
PROS: Sturdy, great value, lightweight, ample bungy tie-down storage space
CONS: Could use a dry bin, seat and backrest uncomfortable for some