Sit-on-Top Vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks

kayak image by Greg Pickens from

If you are new to kayaking, choosing the right type of kayak can seem overwhelming. Kayaks come in various widths, lengths and shapes. They are made from many types of materials, including metal, vinyl and fiberglass. Choosing among these features depends largely on how you plan to use the kayak. For example, a kayak built for distance paddling can be difficult to control in rough rapids. Another factor to consider is whether to buy a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak. Both types have distinct advantages and disadvantages.


A sit-in kayak features a seat that is inside the kayak, according to Adventure Times Kayaks. There is an opening on top of the kayak for the paddler to climb in and out of the vessel. Some sit-in kayaks have water skirts over the opening to help prevent water from entering the kayak.

A sit-on-top kayak features a seat that is mounted above the hull, rather than inside it. The top of the hull is typically solid, with small holes or channels designed to drain water from the top of the kayak.


According to the Paddleshack website, sit-on-top kayaks are appropriate for inexperienced paddlers, especially those who have not perfected techniques to avoid rolling the kayak. They are also appropriate for anglers because they are stable when stationary.

Sit-in kayaks are appropriate for more experienced paddlers who need greater control over the vessel. They also work well for avid kayakers who want a long kayaking season, because paddlers can be use them in spring and autumn weather.


Generally, sit-on-top kayaks are more cumbersome on the water than sit-in kayaks, according to Paddle Shack Kayaks. They are typically wider than sit-in kayaks to compensate for the paddler's higher center of gravity. This can make sit-on-top kayaks slower and more difficult to paddle.

The lower center of gravity of sit-in kayaks typically make them faster and easier to control.

Gear Storage

Because sit-in kayaks offer access to the entire hull, they are better for storing gear without tie-downs. Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, have molded tops, providing less space for storing gear. Also, gear can be protected from the elements in a sit-in kayak but is exposed on a sit-on-top model.

Hauling and Storage

Because the seat is mounted above the hull on a sit-on-top kayak, it takes up more space during hauling and storage than a sit-in kayak. This can make hauling a sit-on-top kayak more difficult, particularly if you are hauling the vessel on top of a passenger car. A sit-on-top kayak is also more difficult to hang on a wall, which can create storage problems if you have a small garage or limited storage space.