sit on top kayak

17 Reasons Why I’m Choosing a Sit-on-Top kayak (and NOT a Sit-in!)

In this post, I’ll reveal my 17 reasons why sit-on-top kayak is a better choice. I’m not saying everyone should get a sit-on-top kayak, this is the post that gives more clues to the kayakers who cannot decide which type of kayak they should shoot for.

Every kayaker will face the same problems. When you decide to buy a new kayak, you’re going to confronted by the seemingly endless styles, designs, and functions.  Choose a long boat for speed? or a short boat for play and tricks. Some kayaks you sit-on-top, some are sit-inside. It seems impossible to make a decision!

When I ready to purchase my first kayak, at the time, I’m heavily researching the differences between Sit-on-top and Sit-Inside kayak. Whatever your preference is, the more important is that the kayak is suitable for your intended purpose.

Base on the researches I did, there are so many good reasons to choose a Sit-on-Top kayak that you might want to know. Here is the list.



Your choice of kayaks will be led by your primary intention of use.

A sit-on-top kayak can be used for a variety of purposes.  The same boat could be used for fishing, surfing in the ocean, floating on a lake, or navigating the currents and eddies of mild whitewater.  Sit-insides tend to be more suitable for specific purposes, making them less versatile.



Kayakers usually have a much easier time on a sit-on-top for several reasons.  

Because there are no sides to a sit-on-top kayak, there is more space and room for movement than the confines of a sit-inside.

Footrests are easily adjustable allowing a range of options. You are free to sit cross-legged, stretch your legs out, or dangle them over the side to put your toes in the water. The ability to change position helps relieve the pressure and tension from sitting too long in the same position. (Check out this article: How to choose a Kayak seat)

Seats on a sit-on-top are molded in the top of the kayak. They tend to be shallow but offer a minimal amount of back support. Sit-insides require a tighter, more complicated and expensive outfitting designed to restrict your movement for greater maneuverability.

Sit-insides can often feel cramped because sitting in the same position may be more uncomfortable over longer periods, particularly for older arthritic paddlers. 


No Confinement

Beginners generally don’t like closed in spaces.  

The fear, particularly for a newbie in a whitewater kayak which requires a spray skirt, is that they won’t be able to get out. Since all boats on the water are dynamic situations, flipping over at some point is a certainty.

Although exiting the kayak while upside down and underwater is easy (gravity does most of the work for you), it can be an uncomfortable disorienting experience you may wish to initially delay or avoid. (Check out this article: Do kayaks flip over easily? )

While overcoming this fear through continued practice and experience is surmountable, newer paddlers may benefit from gaining confidence on the water without having to confront their initial fear of confinement.



Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be wider than sit-insides which makes them relatively more stable and less likely to flip causing you to take a swim.

Generally, the wider the boat, the more stable it will be. A more stable boat is less easy to flip. Kayaks are usually stable as long as your center of gravity is over the center of the boat. But invariably at some point, you are likely to lean just a little too far off center due to a rock, the current, or reaching for something, and you’ll find yourself in a tipping position.

Stability is important to the fisherman, in a sit-on-top kayak, they can put their legs over the edge into the water for added balance and stability while casting or reeling-in the fish. The legs can be used turn the kayak without a paddle, allowing use of both hands.


Ease of Getting On and Off

Without walls, the open design of the sit-on-top makes getting on or off a snap.

You simply slide on and off which is accomplished easily enough whether you’re embarking or disembarking on shore, or deciding to take a swim in the middle of a lake.  

To get back on, you pull yourself front first over the center of the seat until you can flip over and swing your legs on the top. Simple as that!



A sit-on-top kayak is usually equipped with scupper holes(resource: What Are Kayak Scuppers Holeswhich allow water that gets onto the boat to drain back out.

Water, by its nature, will seep inside your kayak even though you’re enclosed in a sit-inside with a spray skirt designed to keep you dry. Many paddlers will carry a sponge, or periodically paddle to shore, standing the boat on end to empty the kayak through a drain plug in the stern. If you should flip and swim, a sit-inside will fill with water which has to be emptied. (Check out this article: Emptying Water out of a Boat)


No Roll Necessary

If your intent is to tour open water or paddle whitewater, mastery and continued practice to roll your kayak back upright is a skill you will want to learn as soon as possible.  Learning to roll is essential for a sit-inside whitewater or touring kayak. Draining the boat isn’t practical while on the river, or even in the middle of a lake, usually making a trip to the shore necessary.

Your friends will only enjoy practicing their rescue skills only for so long before they tire of rescuing you at the expense of their own pleasure.  

Thigh straps are an option for stability in whitewater, making a sit-on-top rollable, but it’s not necessary.


No Spray-Skirt Needed

Spray-skirt will keep you from getting wet. But, with a sit-on-top kayak, you aren’t worried about keeping dry.  

You just assume you’re going to get wet. Although spray skirts (and helmets) are optional for some recreational sit-inside kayaks, they are mandatory equipment for any whitewater paddling.

More equipment costs more money, and you can easily spend an extra $250 for a helmet and spray skirt to paddle a sit-inside.



Safety on the water is always the paramount concern. A sit-on-top kayak is a relatively safer choice.

Things can happen quickly, particularly on moving water. Undercut rocks, strainers, and the potential for foot entrapments can present life-threatening dangers for even the most experienced paddlers.

Newbies and nervous paddlers will be relatively safer with a sit-on-top where they can easily jump off or climb back without extended rescue assistance by fellow paddlers.


Self Rescue

So what happens when you’re in the middle of the river and find yourself in the water flipped over from being off balance, or hitting a sharp eddy line?  

If you were in a sit-inside, it’s nearly impossible to right and drains the kayak without assistance, and you will usually require a tow to shore.  Hopefully, you’ve at least held on to your paddle.

With the sit-on-top, you can easily flip it over and slide back on, taking far less time and energy, or assistance from your fellow safety paddlers.



A sit-on-top kayak is unsinkable. (Unless you try really hard to.)

Absent a spray skirt and an effective roll, when a sit-inside kayak tips over, it fills with water.  At this point, you become a swimmer and it becomes a submersible. Flotation refers to airbags which can be put in the bow or stern of a sit-inside to lessen the amount of water into your boat. But flotation is an added expense and drastically decreases your storage capacity.

Sit-on-tops, on the other hand, are naturally buoyant by design. There is no place to fill up because the hull is hollow and closed.


Easier to Clean

Whether you store your kayak outside or in a garage, mice and spiders will usually discover the interesting corners and enclosed areas of sit-inside boats. For some, it’s bad enough that you can’t see your legs inside of a sit-inside. It’s much worse when you feel something crawling up your unseen leg. (Glad that Never happen to me.)

Dirt and leaves will collect in or on your boat.  And there’s usually mud from shores and banks that you track when you board.  

Sit-on-tops are so easy to clean with a broom, or a hose, or by just flipping them over on the water. Sit-insides need to be hosed down inside and out and stood up to drain.


Easier Access to Gear

While a sit-inside might have more storage space, access can be difficult, particularly while you are in the boat. Sit-on-tops are easy to load and provide quicker access to gear, water bottles, lunches, or fishing poles by simply turning and reaching around. 


Less Expensive

The price range for a new kayak is between $200 and $1500. Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be less expensive because they are more basic and don’t require specialized features such as seating, thigh braces, and drain plugs, or storage hatches.

Generally, lower end boats are more basic and usually of lower quality. Higher end boats will have additional features such as comfortable seating, specialized storage spaces…etc.

A good recommendation is to demo the kayak before you buy it. Friends or outfitters are happy to let you borrow or rent a kayak from them to try it out.  That way you can make sure the boat is suitable for your needs. If you’re on a tight budget, used boats are plentiful, and cost about half the price of a new kayak.  (Resource: Tips For Buying a Used Kayak)


Generational Appeal

Many people find that kayaks are like potato chips: one is never enough!  Whether you want to take your younger children or your older parents out for a float or easy river paddle, a sit-on-top is a good general purpose boat to have on hand because it’s suitable for any age.


Beginner Friendlier

Hey, new kayaker! Grab a paddle and PFD (life vest), adjust the foot pegs, and you’re good to go with a sit-on-top kayak!

No experience necessary.  No need to take a lot of time to adjust the seat and outfitting to fit your size. No need to practice a wet exit, or learn to roll. No worries about capsizing since you can just climb back on the boat. No need for extended swimming or rescues. No worries about sinking your new kayak.

Without the extra issues inherent in paddling a sit-inside, you are more free to focus on the ultimate reason for paddling which is having fun.



Fun, for a kayaker, is the excitement and enjoyment of being comfortable on the water with minimal stress and worry.  

By alleviating many of the extra concerns of confinement, rolling, comfort, and safety, the sit-on-top kayak enables the paddler, and particularly newbie kayakers, to be more relaxed, enjoying a much shorter learning curve with much less stress and worry.

Fun is being immersed in nature surrounded by beautiful flora and wildlife with serene and scenic vistas of pristine water.

Fun is the camaraderie you’ll discover with fellow paddlers in a welcoming community who are eager to give you pointers and to watch your back.

Choose a kayak that will maximize your fun.  A sit-on-top is an excellent choice!

You can check out my another post: My Top Picks for Sit on Top kayaks



There are many reasons to choose a Sit-in-Top kayak. In fact, most full-time Kayakers end up with multiple kayaks in their collection, and there’s a good reason for that.  However, I strongly believe that you should consider the sit-on-top to be your first kayak.

What benefits have you found of a Sit-on-Top over a Sit-Inside kayak?  I’d love it if you’d contribute #18 to this list in a comment below.

Hope you find this post helpful, if you find anything wrong or outdated, also leave your comment below. I’ll update as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading, Happy kayaking.


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