Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-in Kayak-The Ultimate Debate And The Final Winner

Even though the variety of kayaks may be overwhelming, especially for an entry-level kayaker, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to decide when shopping if you’re only making a choice between a sit-in and a sit-on-top kayak.

It goes without saying that you also need to take a look at the materials (vinyl, fiberglass, metal), length, widths, shape. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to which of the two main designs you’re going with: the sit-in or the sit-on-top.

At glance, a sit-in kayak is rather a traditional option and it’s the most common picture of a kayak. The high rim around the cockpit (for attaching a spray skirt), the opening on top for easier entry/exit- are the main features of the sit-in kayak. The sit-on-top kayaks come with the same hull shape as the sit-in models, but you’re not going to sit snug inside the boat, but on a molded-in depression on top.

In order to get a better understanding of each model, let’s go over the details for both the sit-in and sit-on-top models.

What are the main features of sit-on-top kayaks?

Entirely sealed and giving you the possibility to roll them back over if they capsize, without even filling up with water, the sit-on-top kayaks make a great choice for many. The easy climbing in/out of the SOT kayak, the versatility and the stability are just few of the benefits to name when it comes to this type of kayaks.

Here’s a closer look at the sit-on-top models:

  • They’re similar to the surf boards, standing out as versatile anglers that work great for the recreational paddling
  • They ensure easy access to gear and offer plenty of storage options for your fishing gear

They feature a wide and flat hull, which increases the stability. Virtually unsinkable, even if you topple over, you may very easy flip them back. If there’s any water inside the cockpit, it’s going to drain through the scupper holes immediately. You may stand up on a SOT kayak (here’s a great recommendation for the stand-up kayaks, but also haul things or reel in big fish

  • Most of the time, they’re thinner and made with less materials. Therefore, shipping them is a bit easier
  • They make a great choice for fishing, touring, surfing and even scuba diving.
  • You should use them on warm tropic weather or if you find yourself to be a bit on the anxious side of things.

What are the downsides of sit-on-top kayaks?

Bells and whistles aside, there are some minor flaws to consider about the sit-on-top kayaks. They may not be deal breakers, but they can surely help you make the clearer idea about them:

  • They feature molded tops, which in fact means less space for storing gear (it’s good space, but not enough at times). in addition, your gear may not be protected from the elements, as opposed to the sit-in models.
  • They’re a bit trickier on the water, which is why they’re wider. This is supposed to compensate for the paddler’s high center of gravity. This is going to make the paddling a bit more challenging.
  • They’re quite exposed to constant drip from the paddle and wave splash which makes them a bad choice for the strong current or the difficult weather.
  • As the seat is mounted above the hull, it’s going to take a lot of space when hauling the kayak, especially if you’re planning to carry the vessel on a car roof

Why go with a sit-on top kayak?

Now that you know a thing or two about its features, let’s see what are the main benefits of SOT kayaks:

  • They’re virtually unsinkable

The wide and open cockpit are the main reasons for the impressive stability of the SOT kayaks. Add the air between the inner and outer hulls and you’re going to get to understand why the risk for sinking is zero. This is why they make a great choice for fishing. Some models are also self-bailing as they come with holes that let water drain right through them.

  • Capsizing is less dangerous

Kayaking is all about staying safe at all time. The SOT kayaks make a solid choice for entry-level kayakers and children, simply because they present minimal risk for getting trapped inside if it rolls over (you don’t want to overspend when getting a kayak for your children, so take a look at a good selection of kayaks that come for less than $500

Should a SOT kayak capsize, you’re just going to fall off and swim back to hold onto your boat. Getting it upright is going to be easy as it’s not going to fill with much water.

  • The storage space isn’t that bad

If you have a dog, you can also take it on your SOT kayak. As this type of kayak is buoyant, you shouldn’t stress much about the weight. Use all the dry storage hatches, elastic ropes and space between your legs for storing your essentials.

  • They’re comfortable and easy to use

One of the best things about the SOT kayaks is the comfort they provide. If you’re a big guy (here’s a nice variety of kayaks for you to take a look at ), or have limited flexibility, a SOT kayak may feel a lot better. they’re by far the most user-friendly types of kayaks. They provide easy entry/exit, they’re highly stable and you feel so free while paddling them. They make the best choice for children and anxious paddlers.

What are the main features of sit-in kayaks?

The traditional and going back ages of use by the Arctic and subarctic people, the sit-in kayaks made quite the impression with their sleek profile. They may be sea or whitewater kayaks, but plenty are used for recreational purposes too.

A recreational sit-in kayak is around 12ft long or less so it’s similar to a SOT kayak in terms of size. It presents a broader beam and the cockpit is quite big.

Here are the details:

  • As it has a lower center gravity, it’s easier to paddle a SIK (sit-in kayak) than a SOTs. It’s also faster than a SOT
  • It’s a better choice for the more seasoned paddler as it implies a lot of control, handling and tractability over the vessel. It’s also an amazing option for the passionate kayaker that is looking for a long kayaking experience. You may use it in the spring and fall alike.
  • It ensures good access to the whole hull and nice space for storing your fishing accessories, without the tie downs. It actually provides more dry storage space, protecting your gear and essentials from the environmental elements.
  • Its cockpit is enclosed, which means that the paddler is going to be protected from the splashes. There are no drain holes in the bottom of the cockpit, therefore the whole compartment is going to remain dry the whole time.

What are the inherent flaws of sit-in kayaks?

The sit-in kayaks have their downsides and even if you’re not going to change your mind after checking them, it’s always a good idea to have the whole picture:

  • You’re not going to have much access to your items placed on the back deck. You’re not going to have access to the items in dry storage either
  • You’re not going to have that much freedom for moving. Getting in/out of the kayak isn’t that easy
  • If the weather is hot, you’re going to feel like roasting in a sit-in kayak. And that is without the spray skirt- imagine how it’s going to be when the spray skirt is attached too!
  • When the SIK topples over, it’s going to be a bit challenging to solve the problem as the kayak is going to fill with water (no holes, remember?)

Why use a sit-in kayak?

The SIK make a great option for the dedicated paddlers that are ready to take the whitewater rapids and the long kayaking experiences. Their closed cockpit design is going to keep one dry at all time and ensure a nice comfort throughout the whole experience. The storage space for your food or essentials isn’t bad at all either.

This type of kayak is a solid option for the recreational purposes. Any entry-level kayaker is going to want to become a better paddler on rough waters, in which case the SIK make the better option.

Here are some advantages of sit-in kayaks:

  • As the closed cockpits is built directly into the hull of the kayak, you’re going to be sitting closer to the water, but this doesn’t mean that you’re going to get wet anytime soon. By contrary, the chances for you to get wet when paddling a SIK are slim.
  • The stability is great in the case of SIK. As it sits right at the water line, you’re going to achieve better control, whereas the risk for tipping over is going to decrease.
  • Thanks to the closed cockpit, you’re going to feel a lot more comfortable and definitely dry while paddling. A SIK is also going to keep you warm in colder water, which counts so much during the whitewater season.
  • You should absolutely go with a SIK model if storing and keeping your gear dry is fundamental for you. Not only that a SIK is going to provide you enough storage space, but it’s also going to store it in a dry way.

Who’s the winner?

If you know exactly what you need and look for in a kayak, the one that fits the best your skills and needs is the winner. Both of the models comes with ups and downs which only puts more pressure on your call. As it’s up to you where, when and how you’re going to paddle your kayak!