Sit-in vs Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Today we’re going to discuss the merits of recreational kayaks, both from a sit-in perspective and a sit-on-top’s perspective. Sit-in kayaks are characterized by a low center of gravity. They’re wide and stable, have a generous cockpit for ease of entry and exit, typically have a high back seat, could be framed like a Jackson or an Liquidlogic, could also just be a high back with lots of adjustability. They’re relatively lightweight in compared to a recreational sit-on-top kayak, but they’re definitely more efficient moving through the water due to their sharper bow entry on the ends, allowing them to cut through the water more efficiently. Some are going to have features like a Scag. There’s a fin that drops out of the bottom of the boat.

Other popular styles of recreational kayaks are thermoformed. It’s a two halves of ABS plastic formed together. They give you a much lighter weight boat. Sit-in kayaks are lighter than sit-on-tops, in any regard, just due to less plastic in their manufacture. But these thermoform boats can be 20 to 30 pounds lighter than a comparable length sit-on-top. They’re also shiny and bright, have great UV resistance, and they’re relatively durable despite their lightweight nature.

Other sit-in varieties include hybrid canoe/kayaks, like a Wilderness Systems Commander, the Jackson Kilroy, or the Native Ultimate FX12. All have high back adjustable seats. All are extremely stable to the point that you can stand in these boats, but like any other sit-in, they will hold water if you tip it over.

Sit-on-tops, on the other hand, like this Tarpon from Wilderness Systems or a Manta Ray from Liquidlogic and Native, are characterized by a wide open cockpit, self-bailing. The scupper allows water to drain out, allowing you to paddle it in almost any type of conditions, from ocean to lake to river. Any water that comes in over the side of the boat would drain out, leaving you wet, but the boat empty. Also, high back seats, which are nice and comfortable and adjustable for just about any paddler. These two models are recreational, and there’s also a fishing sit-on-tops. They give you a lot more gear-carrying capacity and weight-carrying capacity for all types of paddlers.

Here in an Attack 120 by Wilderness Systems, frame seat gives you a higher vantage point. It’s also a high and low and recline. Lots of attachment points for rod holders, fish finders, all kinds of accessories. Some are pedal driven, like this Liquidlogic Manta Ray or this Radar 135 from Wilderness Systems. Again, gear tracks allow for a myriad of accessories to be placed on the boat for ease of access, and also in this Coosa HD from Jackson. Lots of attachment points. Many of these boats are set up for micro anchor power poles and have rod holders installed in the back for rods, nets, anchors, et cetera.

Which is Best Sit in or Sit on Top Kayak?

Before answering the question “Which is Best Sit in or Sit on Top Kayak?” I would like to express my gratitude to Bryan Ward. His article “Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks” helped me a lot in preparing this material.

Although sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks have different designs, they share some common similarities, with the major difference being that sit-in kayaks have an enclosed cockpit, while sit-on-top kayaks have an open cockpit.

Choosing the best one among the two designs comes down to your preference and your intended use. To help you decide, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each design.

Sit-in Kayaks

• They have a better build quality and can perform much better than sit-on-top kayaks in most scenarios.
• They have a cockpit rim, where you can attach a spray skirt to prevent water from getting into the kayak.
• The storage space is located inside the enclosed cockpit area, and some models come equipped with waterproof storage compartments.
• They come in many varieties, each excelling in different tasks. You can get one suitable for anything from whitewater kayaking, long distance travel, wilderness exploration, or even casual use.

• They can fill up with water or sink when they flip. Spray skirts help minimize the amount of water getting in, but it all depends on the spray skirt’s quality and its compatibility with the kayak.
• They tend to be more expensive than sit-on-top kayaks. However, you can get a cheap entry-level kayak, but the more specialized designs cost much more.
• You need to purchase a spray skirt separately if you wish to stay dry.
• They require more skill to navigate than sit-on-top kayaks.

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

• They are quite affordable, making them an excellent choice for an entry-level kayak.
• They don’t sink when they flip. This is because they are entirely enclosed in plastic.
• They are very stable, making them perfect for beginners.
• They come equipped with scupper holes that drain water from the cockpit.

• They don’t do well in rough waters and long-distance travel. They are, therefore, only suitable for calm waters near the shore.
• They have limited storage space.
• There are pretty limited in their use. Most sit-on-top kayaks can only be used for leisure purposes.
• You stand a chance to lose your cargo in the event of a flip.

Till next time, stay safe and happy paddling.

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