Sit In vs. Sit On Kayak: Which One to Choose?

If you have tried kayaking before, you know there are two main options for choosing a kayak. It is either you are choosing a sit-in kayak or a sit-on kayak. Each of these kayaks would have pros and cons. So, it is necessary to learn more about them before making up your mind about which is the best option to consider.

Below is a guide on sit-in vs. sit-on kayaks. By the end of the guide, you will have an idea about where each kayak would be ideal. Let us get started.

Sit-Inside Kayaks

The sit-in kayaks have an enclosed cockpit, unlike what you get with the sit-on kayaks. The enclosed cockpit will protect the paddler from the elements such as wind, water waves, sun, and more.

These kayaks will also have a lower center of gravity that would provide the user with better secondary stability.

Advantages of a Sit-inside Kayak

  • The biggest pro is that you get more protection from the elements than when using the sit-on kayak.
  • Having a low profile makes this kayak type less prone to cases of weathercocking thus, you use less energy to paddle through the water.
  • The lower center of gravity means that you never have to worry about easily capsizing into the water all the time. You would also have better control for faster maneuverability of the kayak.
  • The sit-in kayaks would also have hatch covers. The work of these covers is to help have dry storage space for your cargo.
  • The enclosed cockpit can also come in handy to install kayak spray skirts to help keep the paddler dry and water from getting into the kayak.

Disadvantages of a Sit-inside Kayak

  • Novice paddlers might feel confined in the enclosed cockpits for the first few times they are using such a kayak
  • It is harder to re enter such a kayak after it capsizes
  • The sit-in kayaks are often more expensive than the sit-on-top kayaks

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

As the name suggests, the user on the kayak would be sitting on the top of the kayak just above the water surface. The design also leaves you with no enclosed cockpit. So, the paddler would always be in the open compared to the sit-in kayak.

Advantages of a Sit-on-top Kayak

  • One of the top benefits is that the paddler does not feel trapped in the kayak in case it capsizes.
  • These kayaks would have a higher center of gravity and a wider beam. This makes it have better stability initially. Also, the kayak is likely to remain upright while paddling.
  • In case you end up capsizing, you will always have an easier time getting off the kayak and still get back on top.
  • Such a kayak would have numerous applications in addition to kayaking. Such include surfing and fishing.
  • Most sit-on-top kayaks would also be cheaper than sit-in kayaks.

Disadvantages of a Sit-on-top Kayak

  • As much as such kayaks would have better initial stability, secondary stability is not the best
  • Having wider beams means that there is the need for more effort to paddle these kayaks
  • Since there is no cockpit, the user is mostly exposed to the elements. You are likely to get wet easily.

What are the Similarities and Differences Between Sit-in and Sit-on kayaks?

To help you understand the differences and similarities better, I will look at the two kayak types based on various aspects. They include;

– Stability

Stability mostly depends on the kayak width. If two sit-in or sit-on-top kayaks have the same width, they would have similar stability. Nevertheless, that is not the only thing that affects kayak stability.

The location and height of the seats would also affect stability too. For a kayak having a higher sitting position, then it will be less stable. This is for the case of sit-on kayaks. Some compensate by being wider so that stability can be better. A good example is the size of a fishing kayak.

The shape also determines stability. If you have a boxier kayak, it would be more stable than a narrow kayak.

The touring kayaks are mostly narrower. As such, they can be less stable. Since there are many kayak types in the market, always pick the one that is worth your application.

– Design

Under design, you have to look at the differences between the two in terms of width, length, and rocker.

In most cases, a longer kayak would be faster than a short kayak. This is something you can quickly note when you jump from a kayak of length 10 feet to one that is 12 feet or more.

As for turning, a shorter boat would always turn faster. That is why the recreational sit-in kayaks would be faster to turn. As much as the long kayaks are faster, they can be slow to run.

The width is also an important factor in design. Most sit-in kayaks are narrower. This means you will move through the water faster than the wide sit-on kayaks.

– Kayak Performance

Performance for a kayak is more than its speed on the water. It is not going to matter if it is a sit-on or a sit-in kayak; so long as it is longer, the speed is faster than when using a shorter and wider kayak.

Even with the increase of speed with the increase in length, there is still a limit too. Even the racing kayaks can be as long as 18 feet, but that is how much far they can go. When a kayak is too long, it becomes harder to maneuver too.

– Storage options

There is no doubt that when it comes to storage, the sit-in kayak would be better. You are likely to have hatches for storing sensitive items and additional gear if you are going for a long day paddling adventure.

The sit-on kayaks would not have the same kind of flexibility when you seek the best storage. They would mostly not be the best if you need to have an overnight camping trip in your kayak.

You may want to be careful so that you do not overload the kayak. This means keeping the gear weighs within the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit.

Sit-in vs. Sit-on Kayaks: Which one suits beginners?

When you are a beginner at paddling, there is not much difference whether you pick a sit-in kayak or sit-on kayak. They will both be hard to balance, reenter, and so much more. It is best to seek the help of a professional before you can start kayaking.

What is crucial is that you consider the overall safety while kayaking. You may always want to consider PFDs so that you do not end up drowning.

Beginners are also advised to take their time to learn more about the paddling styles. They will come in handy to help you paddle better.

If it is your first time paddling, start on calm waters. Practicing calm waters will help you get better at kayaking before you head into the rough waters.

Sit-in vs. Sit-on Kayaks: Which works well for ocean paddling?

For this scenario, sit-on kayaks would be a better option. This is because they will not easily fill with water, and you can reenter the kayak easily even after it capsizes. The same cannot be said for the sit-in kayaks.

The sit-in kayaks, as much as they might have cockpits for better protection from the elements, but this design makes it hard to paddle on oceans.

It is worth pointing out the sit-in touring kayaks. These will have a better design aimed at making them good at paddling in oceans. So, always look at the design before picking the best kayak for ocean paddling. If you are not sure, go for the sit-on kayak.

Sit-in vs. Sit-on Kayaks: Which is great for fishing?

Anglers generally prefer using sit-on kayaks. This is because they would have an open deck making it easier to cast your lines, fight and land the fish, among other things.

The sit-on kayaks are also wider in most cases. This means you end up with a more stable kayak. That is what you need when you need to remain still and stable while fishing.

Some anglers prefer to remain dry and protected from the elements. It is why some might look for sit-in recreational kayaks and use them for fishing. Well, if you want to fish better, sit-on kayaks will always be better.

Sit-in vs. Sit-on Kayaks: Which would be better for tandem paddling with two people?

This section does not have a clear winner. It is all about picking based on personal preference. If you are in the market for something that would be drier and mostly used in shallow water, the sit-in kayak would be a great choice.

If you need to go deeper into the water with cases of choppy water, the sit-on kayak would be ideal.

Make sure to look at the position of the paddlers. The design should help keep them in the right position to ensure syncing of their paddles generally.


How does the kayak length affect speed?

The speed largely increases with the increase in the length of the kayak. However, there is a limit too. If the kayak is too long, it becomes harder to maneuver.

Will the sit-in kayak be more stable than the sit-on kayak?

The stability largely depends on the design, width, and other aspects too. However, a sit-in kayak is more stable as the center of gravity is lower.

Are cheap kayaks worth buying?

Well, you may want to stay away from cheap kayaks. This is because they do not have the best durability, and sometimes, they are hard to control. Make sure you invest your money in a top-rated kayak so that you are also safe while kayaking.


If you are going to choose between these two options, consider something that fits your goals and needs. Let us say you are going kayaking for several days; then, you will need more storage room. That is how you end up with a sit-in kayak. If you like ocean paddling or fishing, sit-on kayaks are better. As you can see, the choice varies based on your kayaking needs.

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