Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Which is Best?

You might want Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top or fun, but which one is right for you? A long time ago, a surfer from California made a new kind of kayak. He cut a hole in a surfboard and sat on top of it. His name was Tim Niemier. He later used plastic to make more kayaks that were cheaper and easier to get. Many people liked his kayaks and used them for fishing.

Before that, people used kayaks that had a closed cockpit. They had to sit inside the kayak. This was how the old people from the Arctic did it. But Niemier’s kayak changed how people fished from kayaks. His kayak was called a sit-on-top kayak. It became viral. There are many kinds of sit-on-top kayaks now. We will help you find the best ones.

When deciding between a sit-inside and a sit-on-top kayak, there are several factors to consider that relate to their design, stability, performance, and intended use. Sit-inside kayaks enclose your lower body within the hull of the kayak. This creates a feeling of security and protection from the elements. 

The enclosed cockpit also enables more efficient paddling, allowing the boat to glide smoothly through the water. However, the trade-off is that sit-insides are more difficult to get in and out of, especially if they capsize. Beginners may find it tricky to perform a wet exit. Storage space is also limited.

What Are the Differences Between Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top Kayaks?

There are many kinds of kayaks for different water uses. But most kayaks are either sit-inside or sit-on-top. Sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks are similar in some ways. They both have a top and bottom part, a front and back end, a place to sit, and sometimes a place to keep things. They both can fit one or two people, and you use the same kind of paddle for both.

The main difference is that Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top has a top part that covers your legs, but Sit-on-top kayaks do not. You need to know more about their differences before choosing the best kayak for you.

Recreational kayaks are good for quiet lakes or slow rivers. Sit-on-top kayaks are great for beginners who might need to get on and off the kayak often. Touring kayaks, or expedition kayaks, are made for longer trips, have lots of storage, and can go straight in rough waters.


The main thing that makes sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks different is the place where you sit. A sit-on-top kayak has no cover on the top, so you sit on the open part. A Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top has a cover that goes over your legs. You have to put your feet in a hole to get in. You can also use a cloth that stops water from getting in. A sit-on-top kayak does not need that cloth because it has small holes that let water out.

Other than that, many things are the same for both kayaks. A longer kayak goes faster but turns slower. A wider kayak is more steady but goes slower and is harder to steer. These things are true for both Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top.

You can use a thing that helps you steer with both kayaks, and both have a seat and a place to rest your feet. A sit-inside kayak might also have a place to rest your knees that helps you steer.


Stability means how steady the kayak is. It depends on how wide the kayak is – the wider it is, the more steady it is – and how the bottom part is shaped. It also depends on how high you sit – the higher you sit, the less steady the kayak is.

In a sit-inside kayak, you sit low, near the water. This makes you more steady. In a sit-on-top kayak, you sit higher, especially in fishing kayaks that have seats on top. That is why sit-on-top kayaks are usually wider at the front and back than sit-inside kayaks. This makes them more steady to balance the higher seat.


Performance means how fast the kayak can go and how hard you have to paddle to make it go and keep going. For example, you can go farther with less work in a long and narrow kayak than in a short and wide kayak.

If a sit-on-top and a sit-inside kayak are the same length, they should go at the same speed. But sit-on-top kayaks are usually wider, so you have to paddle harder to make them go as fast.

How You Sit & How You Feel Some people like sit-on-top kayaks better. This is because you have more space to move. You can stretch your legs, sit different ways, or put your feet in the water.

Sit Inside vs Sit On Top Kayaks – Which Is Better For You?

Sit-on-top kayak seats also make your back feel good. You don’t need to wear a cloth that stops water from getting in, so you can have a seat that supports your whole back. You can still have a nice seat in a sit-inside kayak, but you can only have a low seat or a strap for your back.

 The lightest kayaks

are at least 20 pounds, but most kayaks are heavier. Sit-inside kayaks are usually lighter than sit-on-top kayaks, but it depends on what they are made of.

Sit-on-top kayaks can usually carry more things than sit-inside kayaks. But you have to be careful not to carry too much. Your weight and the weight of your things must be less than the limit for the kayak.

Where You Put Your Things If you want to go on a long trip or have a snack on the water, you need to think about where to put your things. Both sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks have places to put your things, but sit-inside kayaks have more places that keep your things dry.

Sit-on-top kayaks

have a hole in the back with ropes, where you can tie your things. Some sit-on-top kayaks also have a hole in the front and a small box in the middle. You can get your things easily when you are on the water.

Sit-inside kayaks

also have ropes where you can put a small bag or a jacket, but most of the space is under covers in the front and back. Some sit-inside kayaks also have a small cover near the seat.

If your covers and seals are good, your things should stay dry inside the covers. But you can’t get your things when you are on the water, and you can only bring things that fit in the covers.

How Much You Pay Many kayaks are not too expensive for beginners and experts, but sit-on-top kayaks are usually cheaper than Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top. But you can also find used sit-inside kayaks that are not too expensive.

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

Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top

Sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks are good and bad in different ways. These are the main things to think about when you want to pick one.

Sit-Inside Kayak Pros

  • More protection from wind, rain, and splashes
  • Stay drier compared to sit-on-tops
  • Faster paddling speed and better tracking
  • More control for tricks and rolls
  • Internal storage space for gear

Sit-Inside Kayak Cons

  • Can feel confined and uncomfortable
  • Difficult to get in and out of the cockpit
  • Need to learn wet exit skills in case of capsize
  • Harder to flip over and re-enter after capsizing



  • Very stable and easy to get in/out
  • Virtually unsinkable and self-bailing
  • Great for beginners and recreational paddling
  • Allow freedom of movement for fishing, photos, etc.
  • The open cockpit provides comfort for all sizes


  • No internal storage, must use waterproof bags
  • More likely to lose gear if capsized
  • Less protection from wind, rain, and splashes
  • Scupper holes allow water to splash up into the boat
  • Not ideal for cold water or climates
  • Heavier and slower than sit-inside kayaks

Which Type of Kayak Should You Choose?

Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top

Some kayaks are sit-inside and some are sit-on-top. Both are good. You should pick the one that works for you. Think about what you want to do with your kayak: go fast, go far, catch fish, or have fun. How much stuff do you need to carry? Also, think about how good you are at kayaking. Can you get in and out of a sit-inside kayak easily?

Who Are Sit-Inside Kayaks Best For?

Sit-inside kayaks are a good option for:

  • Intermediate to advanced paddlers looking to improve their skills. A sit-inside kayak allows you to practice rolls and other techniques.
  • Beginners who want to progress to a more advanced kayak in the future. Start on a sit-inside to learn proper paddle strokes and wet exits.
  • Paddling in cold weather climates. The enclosed cockpit provides more warmth and protection from the elements.
  • Kayak touring, racing, or longer expeditions. Sit-insides are faster and allow you to carry more gear.
  • Whitewater rapids. Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top give you better control in river rapids.

It’s recommended that first-time or young paddlers take courses to learn basic safety before using a sit-inside kayak. Their specialized design requires some instruction. But with proper lessons, sit-inside kayaks can be suitable for many beginners too.

Who Are Sit-on-Top Kayaks Best For?

Sit-on-top kayaks are great choices for total beginners or kids learning to paddle. If you want to teach yourself without taking classes, these are the safest options.

They also work well for casual paddling in warm weather. People who live where it’s hot can use sit-on-tops for summer fun. These kayaks are handy for fishing trips since you can easily move around. 

They are also good picks for paddling alone, thanks to being stable and hard to sink.

The open seats make sit-on-tops comfortable for all sizes of paddlers. Storage on top is easy to reach while kayaking too. Beginners will feel at ease in these stable, easy-to-get-in and-out kayaks. Sit-on-tops are ideal for having summer fun on the water even with zero experience.

Which Is Better for Beginners?

Beginners can start on either Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top or sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-on-tops are often recommended because you don’t need to know wet exits.

Consider how you plan to use the kayak:

  • If you want to paddle long distances, race, or do whitewater, start with a sit-inside. It will suit those needs better.
  • If you mainly want to fish or paddle recreationally, a sit-on-top is fine for a beginner.
  • For casual paddling close to shore, sit-on-tops are easier to start with.
  • If you want to progress to advanced kayaking later, begin with a Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top to learn key skills like rolls.

Think about your goals and needs. This will help decide if a Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top or sit-on-top is best for a beginner paddler.

Which Is Better for Fishing?

Most paddlers would agree that sit-on-top kayaks are better choices for fishing trips. The open deck allows you to freely move around to cast your line or grab gear without worrying about capsizing. Since sit-on-tops are so stable, you can stand up to spot fish or leverage your casts without taking an unexpected swim. 

Their design also makes it easy to add accessories like rod holders, higher seats for sight casting, pedal drives to keep hands free, and standing platforms for increased visibility. Major fishing kayak manufacturers take advantage of the open sit-on-top platform to integrate the features anglers need. 

So if you plan to spend your time on the water landing catches instead of paddling distances, a sit-on-top kayak will serve you best. Their unmatched stability and customizable deck space maximize your fishing time by keeping you dry while providing everything you need at your fingertips.

Q: What’s better, a sit-in or sit-on kayak?

Sit-in kayaks have more room inside and go faster in a lighter boat. Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top are more steady, more cozy, and simpler to get on and off. Sit-on kayaks also have more ways to add things like rods and other stuff. Most people who fish like sit-on kayaks more.

Q: What is the best sit-on-top kayak?

You need to think about where you fish and how you move the kayak. Pick a strong kayak with good parts. A cozy seat lets you fish all day and a steady boat lets you stand and fish. People who fish need a lot of stuff, so the best sit-on-top kayak for fishing has a big space in the back for a box, a cooler, or a tank. You can also put more things and machines on the kayak easily.

Q: What size kayak should I get for my height?

How big and heavy you are is important for a sit-on-top kayak, but not for a sit-on-top. Sit-on-top kayaks can change the seats and feet places to fit people of different sizes.

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