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Choosing The Right Kayak: Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-Inside

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When deciding on a kayak the biggest question that most people have is, what is better a sit-in kayak or a sit-on-top kayak? There is not straight yes or no answer to this question. It all depends what kind of kayaking you plan on doing and how you plan to use the kayak. In this article we will examine the pros and cons and discuss what activities, climates, and conditions are best suited for each kayak design.

PROS: Sit-On-Top Kayak

The biggest advantage of a sit-on-top kayak is the ease of getting in and out of the kayak as well as the simplicity of self-rescue.


Sit-on-top kayaks are completely sealed top and bottom and do not retain any water taken on whether it be rain, water splashing up into the kayak, or even if you flip the kayak. Any water that does come into the kayak is quickly drained through drain holes called scuppers, which allow water to drain right back through the bottom of the hull.


When it comes to self-rescue, if you flip your kayak in a sit-on-top kayak it is very simple and no special self-rescue skills are needed. Most people can master a quick self-rescue with a sit-on-top- kayak with little practice. All you have to do is flip your kayak back right side up and climb back on. You will never have to worry about your kayak filling up with water and getting the water back out of your kayak.


The low flat design of most sit-on-top kayaks is very helpful when getting in and out of the kayak. It is very easy to lower yourself onto the seat and swing your legs on board. It works just as easy getting out. I personally recommend sit-on-top kayaks for anyone with limited mobility.

CONS: Sit-On-Top-Kayak

The biggest con of a sit-on-top kayak is that the open design leaves you completely exposed to the elements. There is no cockpit to protect you from rain, wind, or cold weather like you would have in a sit-inside kayak design. Also, with sit-on-top kayaks waves can wash over the decks and into your lap and those scupper holes that work so well to drain your kayak sometimes allow water back into your kayak.


If you are planning to use your kayak in a colder climate or expect to be out in rainy and windy conditions I would recommend going with a sit-inside kayak as it will allow a much dryer and comfortable kayaking experience when exposed to cold, wet, and windy conditions.

PROS: Sit-Inside-Kayak

As opposed to the sit-on-top kayak, sit-inside kayak designs offer the most protection from the elements. Sit-in kayaks ensure water is kept out of the hull unless you tip over or are caught in a downpour. They can also be fit with a spray skirt to keep drips, rain, and cold breezes out of the kayaks. This makes sit-inside kayaks the ideal choice if you plan to be kayaking in cold, rainy, and or windy conditions and protection from the elements is paramount.

CONS: Sit-Inside Kayak

The biggest downside of a sit-inside kayak is that they can take on a lot of water if they are capsized and make self-rescue much more complicated and difficult compared to self-rescue with a sit-on-top kayak.


Touring sit-inside kayaks typically have two bulkheads limiting the amount of water getting into the boat which allow the kayak to be paddled even with a large amount of water in the kayak. This makes touring sit-inside kayaks much better suited and safe for paddling in open water compared to recreational sit-inside kayaks.


Recreational sit-inside kayaks typically have just one or no bulkheads at all. Recreational sit-inside kayaks are best suited for paddling close to a shore that way if things go bad and you take on a large amount of water you can get the kayak to shore empty it out and get back on the water quickly and safely.


Anyone planning on using a sit-inside kayak should educate themselves and practice some specialized self-rescue skills specific to sit-inside kayaks.

Which Kayak Is More Stable?

Both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks are stable. Stability of a kayak has everything to do with the width of a kayak and the height of the seat. The wider the kayak is the more stable it will be generally. The height of the seat is also a major factor in determining the stability of a kayak. Seats that are positioned higher above the waterline make a kayak less stable and seats mounted lower make a kayak more stable. Fishing kayaks typically have seats that are mounted higher to allow for better casting and therefore the kayak is typically wider to make up for the raised seat position.


Essentially both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks can be very stable or less stable. It all depends on the design width and the seat positioning of each particular kayak.

Ocean Kayaking: Sit-On-Top or Sit-Inside Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are much better suited for ocean kayaking. Since they do not retain water getting past the white water (wave breaks) will be much easier and you will not run the risk of taking on water in your kayak.

Which Is Better For Fishing?

Generally speaking, most fishing kayaks are sit-on-top kayaks because they give the paddler better mobility for casting and landing fish. Fishing kayaks are typically wider and some even offer standing platforms. All of these features give the edge to sit-on-tops when it comes to fishing. However, some sit-inside kayaks have been designed to give anglers a decent kayak fishing experience while also protecting them from the elements unlike sit-on-top kayaks.

Our Recommendation For Kayaking In North Myrtle Beach & Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Here at Trailblaze Adventure we are located in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and offer kayak rentals and kayak tours in the local area for tourists and locals. When it comes to choosing a kayak best suited for kayaking in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach we highly recommend sit-on-top kayaks. All of our tour and rental kayak fleets are sit-on-top kayaks. We find that the climate along the South Carolina coast is mild and typically warm, so we do not need the added protection from the elements that a sit-inside kayak offers. Whether you want to kayak parts of the Waccamaw River, Intercoastal Waterway, or the Salt Marsh and Hogs Inlet in Cherry Grove sit-on-tops offer you the most comfort and flexibility. Since North Myrtle Beach & Myrtle Beach are coastal towns some kayakers like to venture out into the ocean. A sit-on-top is a must for getting through the white water and past the wave breaks into the ocean as they do not take on water and are very easy for self-rescue if you do tip over.

When deciding on a kayak whether it is a sit-inside kayak or a sit-on-top kayak it all depends on where you plan on using it and for what purpose you plan on using the kayak. If you are going to be kayaking in a colder climate you will want more protection from the elements making a sit-inside kayak a much better choice for you. If you are in a warm environment and do not want to worry about your kayak taking on water or a complicated self-rescue, then a sit-on-top kayak is a much better fit for you. Each kayak has its pros and cons and they are both better suited for certain climates and activities than the other.

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