Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top Kayak: Which One is Better?

Sit on top kayak vs sit inside kayak

When you’re shopping for kayaks, one of the first things you’ll notice is the two different types. The first is a kayak that you sit inside of, and the second is one where you sit on top of the boat. If you’re a newbie, you might start to wonder what the differences are and if one is better than the other. Not to worry, though, because we have the information you need to make the right decision in the end. If you’re more than curious about a sit-inside vs. sit-on-top kayak, just keep reading because below are a few of the differences between the two.

The Main Differences

You can usually tell just by looking at a kayak what type it is. A sit-in kayak always has an enclosed cockpit that allows you to ride safely regardless of where you are. With this type of kayak, you can rest your arms and you are protected from being too wet thanks to the siding and the other parts of the kayak. On the other hand, a sit-on-top kayak has a cockpit that is open. You therefore get an airier feel when riding, and you even get a better view simply because the cockpit doesn’t feel confined.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that a sit-on-top kayak is much wider than a sit-in kayak. Why? Because if it wasn’t, you’d probably capsize on a regular basis. Sit-on-top kayaks have an average width of around 34 inches, as compared to the sit-in kayaks, which average 18 or 24 inches. This wider design makes a sit-on-top kayak a little less stable when moving. If you experience choppy or turbulent water, the sit-on-top can also capsize. In fact, both kayaks can capsize if given the right conditions.

Physical Characteristics

Since you’ll be transporting your kayak from one location to another, you’re likely wondering how lightweight it is. Even though the sit-on-top kayak is wider, it is still much lighter than the sit-in types. This is because the sit-on-top kayak generally doesn’t have a lot of extra features like the sit-in type generally has. Simply put, the sit-in kayak is narrower but heavier because it tends to have features such as several storage compartments, some rod holders, and maybe even other items.

As far as its comfort level, the sit-in kayak is generally more comfortable than the sit-on-top kayak. For one thing, the sit-in kayak allows you to rest your torso and your arms because of its sides, which are very close to you. Because the sit-on-top kayak is so wide, it is sometimes more difficult to get your body comfortable, especially your arms and hands. Then there is the seat, which is usually more comfortable with a sit-in kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks usually have seats made from hard fabric or some type of plastic, whereas seats in sit-in kayaks are usually very soft.

What About Speed?

Because of its narrower design, the sit-in kayak tends to be faster. If you’re into racing your kayak against a friend’s boat, the sit-in kayak is always going to be faster. That’s not to say that the sit-on-top kayak is slow. It is, in fact, speedy when you want it to be, but just don’t expect to race the two types of boats and have the sit-on-top kayak win! Of course, if you put a motor on it, the sit-on-top kayak can travel at roughly 12 miles per hour, which isn’t bad.

In addition, keep in mind that a sit-in kayak can accommodate more seats than the sit-on-top kayak. You often see sit-in kayaks that have 2-3 seats, whereas sit-on-top kayaks only have one. But if you’re going to ride with a partner, make sure you check out the weight limit of the kayak, which varies with each one. In general, sit-in kayaks usually have a weight limit of 500-600 pounds, with the sit-on-top kayaks having a weight limit of only 350-400 pounds. It’s crucial that you abide by these numbers so that you are safe when riding.


So, if you’re still wondering what type of kayak to buy, keep in mind that if you’re going to go kayak-fishing, a sit-on-top kayak is usually better. If you’re a beginner, the sit-in kayaks are usually recommended. At the same time, sit-in kayaks are also great for people who want a friend to go along with them or for an experienced whitewater kayaker. If you’d like to have more information on the two types of kayaks, you’d be wise to visit a sporting goods store and try both of them out so you’ll know what you’re getting.

Kayaking is a very fun and popular sport, and now that you know a few important differences between a sit-in kayak and a sit-on-top kayak, it should be a little easier to decide which one is right for you.